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Friday, October 07, 2011

Missal translation and communion under both kinds

There are a couple of issues addressed at Pray Tell and dotCommonweal which I find interesting, so I thought I'd just mention them ...

One issue is the missal translation, both the quality of the translation itself, and the manner in which it's been handled. Fr. Philip Endean SJ has a few posts at Pray Tell on the subject, the most recent being about how the use of the new translation is going in the UK - More UK Reactions.

The other issue is about the Phoenix bishop who's withdrawing permission to give communion under both forms to the laity, no more drinking from the cup, his reasons being the risk of "profanation" (spilling the wine), the obscuring of the priest's specialness with the use of lay ministers, the belief privation will make the faithful more conscious of those in poverty, and the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder ... holy mackerel! Rita Ferrone has a detailed and helpful post at dotCommonweal on this - The Case in Phoenix.

Of the two issues, the one I find most interesting is the one about restricting communion to only one kind for the laity, I guess because I'm still learning about communion. When I first read in Ben Witherington's book, Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper, about the Council of Trent's decision to only allow clergy to drink from the cup at mass I was appalled, but it wasn't until reading about Phoenix that I realized this was actually still the policy and that communion under both kinds was now a sort of exception to the rule - in all the time I went to church, both kinds were always offered.

Here's a little from Wikipedia on the history of the practice ...

In the Early Church Communion was ordinarily administered and received under both kinds. That such was the practice mentioned by Paul in I Corinthians 11:28 .... By the Middle Ages, the Church had become, like most of European society, increasingly hierarchical. There was much stress on being holy when receiving Communion, and a greatly heightened appreciation of the sufferings of Christ. This meant that all who approached the altar were to be as pure as possible, and inevitably led to the exclusion of the laity from administering the Eucharist, reserving the practice to the clergy. It is difficult to say when the practice of offering the chalice to the people stopped .... Today .... Regular use of Communion under both kinds requires the permission of the bishop, but bishops in many countries have given blanket authorisation to administer Holy Communion in this way.

There was also a post on this at Whosoever Desires - here's just a paragraph of it ....

Liturgical Minimalism in Phoenix

[...] The reasons to use both species are many. First of all, it plants us firmly in the Jewish roots of the liturgy. A good article on this can be found here. Second, it reconnects us, as Vatican II attempted to do, to the whole rich history of the early Church. For the first thousand years, Christians received under both species. This is not to say that they had any less respect for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Tertullian notes in the 3rd century: "The possibility of letting either our cup or our bread fall to the ground makes us painfully anxious." Yet that did not prevent the reception under both species. It was more the effect of the Gregorian Reforms of the 11th century that created a more rigid class distinction between priest and assembly than any theology that began restricting the reception of the Eucharist to one species .....

Interesting (and to me, depressing) how we've gone from Jesus telling the non-perfect disciples "eat and drink" to the situation in Phoenix.


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