Father Richard Barrett answers readers' questions
Cardinal Hume, before he died said that receiving Communion in the hand was partly responsible for a decline in reverence for the Eucharist. How was Communion in the hand instituted?
THE FATHERS at Vatican II had discussed whether it might be possible to return to the ancient practice of the Church to receive Communion in the hands. Then it was granted to some episcopal conferences in 1969 and was regulated by two instructions from Rome, one Memoriale
Domini (25.V.1969) and the other Immensae Caritatis (29.1.1973) as well as by the Ritual published on June 21 1973. A letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1985 (Le Saint Siege, 3.IV.1985) reminded the bishops of the how and when of the practice.
It made seven points which, if observed, would guarantee reverence for the Eucharist: a) the faithful should make a throne of their hands to receive the Eucharist (St John Cluysostorn describes how it is done in Homily 47, pg 63, 898); b) they should respond with "amen" as an affirmation of faith; c) the host should be consumed before returning to one's place; d) there is to be nothing resembling self-service in the liturgy; e) the hands should be clean as a mark of respect; t) there should be an attitude of respectful faith and g) the faithful should still enjoy the freedom to receive in the traditional manner on the tongue.
The Cardinal's observation was very much a pointer at bad practice that sometimes goes unchecked by pastors who have the obligation to ensure reverence towards what Paul VI, in his encyclical Mysterium Fidei, said was the physical "reality" of Christ's presence in the Eucharist. As a reaction to abuses some pastors prescribe that children should receive in the traditional manner until they are old enough to appreciate further what it is they are receiving. Clearly this advice would have found a favourable resonance with the cardinal. though they are not the same but different. In what sense is the Eucharist an unbloody sacrifice?
IthNADVERTENTLY the reader has stumbled upon one of e great theological black oles of the Reformation period. It is easy enough to feel lost in the intricacies of the arguments to and fro that filled the halls of the Council of Trent on the Catholic side, without knowing that there existed a Lutheran side to the debates as well, which stimulated the conciliar reaction of the Catholic Church. Synodal theologians from Bologna in August 1547 had looked into the propositions of the chief reformers regarding doctrine on the Mass and the Sacrament of Orders, and the Council of Trent continued the enquiries and responded authoritatively.
The 21st session of the Council of Trent produced canons and anathemas on the reception of Communion under both ldnds, and Communion for children under the age of discretion. The disciplinary implications of the reformers' opinions seemed to be a pressing matter for concern. In the 22nd session of the Council, held on September 17 1562, the doctrine on the sacrifice of the Mass properly speaking was considered. The key words appear in chapter one on its institution, when the council fathers state that the same sacrifice of the Cross is at once represented and its memory endures in time through the Eucharist. In this divine sacrifice, which the Mass represents, the same Christ is contained and offered who was offered on the cross (Heb. 9:14.27).
On the one hand the Mass is not a repetition of the sacrifice of Calvary, such that one could say there are many Calvaries, and on the other hand it is not simply a meal that is more about passover than crucifixion. It is rather a representation in time and space of the one trans-historical event. The catechism uses this word "representation" with emphasis. One sacrifice, but the method of offering differs. Christ's oblation was bloody on the cross, his continuation of that oblation through the Eucharist is unbloody (una enim eademque est hostia... qui se ipsum tune in cruce obtulit sola offerendi ratione diversa).
Lutherans get upset about the devaluation of the sufficiency of the offering of the cross by a doctrine of the Eucharist sacrifice which speaks of repetition. The catechism is more faithful to the text of the Council of Trent and the thoughts of the council fathers when it uses the word "representation". The eucharistic sacrifice then is a sacramental sharing in the mystery of the cross and is therefore a mediated reality that is not a bloody repetition of that experience. It is unbloody because it is a sacrament of the New Covenant and the embodiment of the worship of the Father "in spirit and in truth".
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The Catechism says that the Eucharist and Calvary, are part of the same sacrifice, but that Calvary is a bloody sacrifice and the Mass is an unbloody one. This makes it sound as