Monday, August 22, 2005

overuse of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

At my parish, I continue to observe two priests and one Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) distributing Holy Communion at weekday Mass. Given the size of the congregation(which can barely fill ten pews) it is obvious that this is in direct contravention of Redemptionis Sacramentum, paragraph 157:

If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it.
I do not see the difficulty in telling EMHCs to turn up for Mass on "standby", with the simple instruction that if there are two priests, don't come forward and distribute Holy Communion. I believe this is something that is quite acceptable to many, once you explain that priests are the Ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, as they alone can consecrate the bread and wine.

I was told that this is something that has to be implemented slowly. I am not convinced that this is is the case - after all it takes merely a simple instruction, as I have argued above. If the EMHC forgets, let the priest tell him to go away. If it is a problem for the EMHC to turn up for Mass only to find himself not needed, well - perhaps then some evaluation of priorities should be in order.

I think I am running out of patience - I came across an old copy of the Catholic News, dated July 2004 where a letter writer mentions this particular abuse. It seems that no one takes notice of these things. Perhaps, to many, liturgical abuses are not an important matter as compared to eg. singing hymns in a language you understand. Nobody protests when Holy Communion is distributed irreverently, they protest when parts of the Mass are sung in Latin. We have got our priorities wrong.


At 3:20 PM, Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

While I agree that there is an over-reliance on EMHC, are you suggesting that just because an EMHC is distributing Communion, this is irreverent? If not, please clarify.

It would help if you explain what you and your colleagues consider "irreverent", as this is quite a emotive and loaded word.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Norman said...

Thanks to Paul Lew. I am pleased to make this clarification.

I certainly don't mean that EMHCs distributing communion = irreverence. What I meant in that specific paragraph is that people tend to complain more about the wrong things (eg. Latin at Mass) than when they see other liturgical abuses eg. those involving the Eucharist.

I should also say that this has been my own observation so far, coming from conversations with other people, including priests.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

What you say is broadly my experience too, but while we are on such matters, may I add that I have observed that people who are very concerned about rubrics, liturgy etc are also disinclined to complain about the scandals of war, violence, poverty, injustice etc in our world.

If we study 1 Corinthians carefully, St Paul specifically rebukes his congregation for their lack of charity and injustice, in the context of the Eucharist.

Liturgical abuses are surely wrong but there are other issues, more pressing in the eyes of the Lord, that we can become blind to.

Please don't misunderstand me. I agree that the Liturgy ought to be celebrated faithfully and reverently and that we deserve to have Mass according to the vision of Vatican II and the GIRM. However, I am also concerned that in all the obsessing over rubrics, we ignore the people around us whose welfare we should 'obsess' over...

I say this from my personal experience, as one who fell in that category.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Andrew B. Magergut said...

To put it bluntly: I disagree with Paul. (Mind you, as regards social justice and the holy mass: I subscribe to the theory that the Novus ordo missae came about as a sacrificial castration of the ritual in order to make up for the collective moral damages of the WW2. But that's another story altogether.) When we are in church we are meant to, as the liturgy of St John Chrysostom has it, 'put away all worldly concerns'(Cherubikon Hymn). We are in the Temple of all places:

Locus iste a Deo factus est, inæstimábile sacraméntum, irreprehensíbilis est. V. Deus, cui adstat Angelórum chorus, exáudi preces servórum tuórum. Allelúja, allelúja. V. (Ps. 137: 2) Adorábo ad templum sanctum tuum: et confitébor nómini tuo. Allelúja.

This place was made by God a priceless mystery, it is without reproof. V. O God, before Whom stands the choir of angels, hear the prayers of Thy servants. Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Ps. 137: 2) I will worship toward Thy holy temple; and I will give glory to Thy name. Alleluia.

(Missa Terribilis est)

I think the above words speak for themselves: all 'social' or mundane concerns, however impending and important should be set aside during the liturgy. Paul, I regret to say you misinterpret charity and the way it works at mass: by this extra-contextual appeal to St Paul you put human charitable intention before God's love as expressed in the Eucharist instituted by Christ Himself. And it is the kind of pronouncements you are making that Paul specifically rebukes in 1 Cor.:
[9] But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
[10] But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
[11] For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
[12] Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
[13] Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
[14] But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
[15] But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
[16] For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...


If you will permit me to draw upon Von Balthasar's exegesis of 1 Cor 11:17-33:

Commenting on vv27-32, Von Balthasar explains: “Here ‘the Body’ can be understood not only as Christ’s personal body but also as his Body, the Church, which is established through the Eucharist.” This ambivalence is deliberate with an emphasis on the latter because Paul expands the image of the Church as Christ’s Body in 12:12-30. This idea is found in Rom 12:4 and Gal 3:16 as well. Von Balthasar goes on: “Thus lack of respect for the Lord’s fellow members at the agape meal stands under the same threat of judgment. The judgment does not lie in Christ’s sacrifice condemning us, but in our miscalculating the enormous distance between his sacrifice and our indifference. We are all ‘unworthy’ (v27) when we partake of the Eucharist, but it is precisely in underestimating this unworthiness that we pronounce our own judgment. Paul says this explicitly [in verse 31]: ‘But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged’. Yet he does not look on this failure to judge ourselves as God’s final word. He does not consider its harmful consequences (death and illness) as God’s condemnation, but rather as the greater Eucharistic love of the Lord disciplining and rebuking us (v32) – which must not, however, allow us to fall back into irreverent carelessness again.”

There is a clear integral link between the community life and the sacred meal in this pericope. The need for self-examination as to one’s attitude towards the community (v28) in order to avoid judgment is clear and this is repeated in 2 Cor 13:5.

...In v26, Paul points out that Christ’s sacrificial death is a great act of love and thus, the Eucharist is the love-feast par excellence. As such, all who partook of it must also be loving people par excellence. Moreover, in 1 Cor 10:16, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Eucharist is about a love-feast that is shared. This sharing was lost when each does as he or she pleases (v21) and hence he gives his practical advice in v33-34 to avoid selfishness in community.

And one should heed the words of Pope John Paul the Great, who said in a homily at Phoenix Park, USA:
"“Our union with Christ in the Eucharist must be expressed in the truth of our lives today – in our actions, in our behaviour, in our life style, and in our relationships with others. For each one of us the Eucharist is a call to ever greater effort, so that we may live as true followers of Jesus: truthful in our speech, generous in our deeds, concerned, respectful of the dignity and rights of all persons, whatever their rank or income, self-sacrificing, fair and just, kind, considerate, compassionate and self-controlled – looking to the well-being of our families, our young people, our country, Europe and the world… The truth of our union with Christ in the Eucharist is tested by whether or not we really love our fellow men and women… whether we practice in life what our faith teaches us.”

And again, the late Holy Father wrote in 'Mane nobiscum Domine':
"There is one other point which I would like to emphasize, since it significantly affects the authenticity of our communal sharing in the Eucharist. It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. In the Eucharist our God has shown love in the extreme, overturning all those criteria of power which too often govern human relations and radically affirming the criterion of service: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mc 9:35). It is not by chance that the Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, but instead relates the “washing of feet” (cf. Jn 13:1-20): by bending down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus explains the meaning of the Eucharist unequivocally. Saint Paul vigorously reaffirms the impropriety of a Eucharistic celebration lacking charity expressed by practical sharing with the poor (cf.1Cor 11:17-22, 27-34)."

It is this authenticity of worship and Eucharistic sharing, which out weighs rubrics which I call our attention to. It is this which is the "mind of Christ", as expressed by His Vicar on earth. By Peter, I stand.


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