Why are the Consecration and Communion Rites so much more fulfilling for both priest and laity in the Traditional Roman Rite as compared to the new rite? John E.G. Stone, Executive Director of the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, gave the following lecture in 2004 in St Bernadette’s parish, Ajax, Ontario.
It is not my purpose here to analyse or comment upon the reforms of the Roman Liturgy, following on Vatican II, with their background and many as yet unresolved problems associated with the interpretation of articles 4 through 40 of Sacrosanctum Concilium (Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy), or to call into question the good intentions of the reformers; but to put forward my point of view within the context of authentic Catholic theology regarding those moments at Holy Mass that are specifically concerned with the Consecration and Communion Rites.
Having said this, however, my position vis-à-vis today’s Novus Ordo Missae and the ‘Tridentine Rite’ is that an intimate bond exists between liturgy and the sacred. It seems to me that what were described as extra or non-essential externals to the rite or form contained in the Missale Romanum through the centuries, and certainly following the Council of Trent up to 1967, which the reformers thought needed liturgical pruning, were in fact inherent characteristics of the sacred essence of the liturgy. Features and attributes, external to the rite, such as dignified posture, periods of silence, the quality of sacred music (Gregorian Chant), embroidered vestments, architectural décor and arrangements, simply cannot be dispensed with as unnecessary adjuncts, since, to my mind, they reflect back to God the beauty of His gifts to us, and help us to a greater appreciation of the supernatural.
Today, we hear references to “the Lord’s Supper”, “the Banquet,“ to “Agape”, to the “Sacrificial Meal” and we approach “the table of the Lord”; these are the faint echoes of the rhetoric of Tyrell, de Chardin and the later Rahner. Seldom do we hear reference to the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”, the “Unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary” or “the Altar of Sacrifice.”
Preparations for the rite
Let me then start with a short description and history of some of the vessels and linens used at Holy Mass which are generally called the ‘Chalice Assembly’. Some of us may not have seen them so assembled, because the instruction for their use, although mandated, is generally ignored.
I will begin with the Chalice that occupies the first place among the sacred vessels. It is usually made of precious or semi-precious metals. However, two of the most famous, because they have long been venerated as the Chalice of the Last Supper, are the ‘Sacro Catino’ of Genoa, which is a dish rather than a bowl or cup, about fifteen inches in diameter and made of a material long suspected to be emerald. The other is located in Valencia in Spain, and is made of agate.
Through the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries there were minor changes in the materials and shapes and heights; during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the bowl becomes tulip shaped and the assembly increases in height. Before the Chalice is first used it has to be consecrated.
Next is the Purificator, a rectangular piece of folded linen, laid across the Chalice. While its specific size is not prescribed in the rubrics, it is about twelve to eighteen inches long and ten inches wide; a small cross in red is usually embroidered in the middle so as to differentiate it from the finger towel used at the washing of the hands. The Purificator is used for wiping and drying the Chalice and Paten, and the priest uses it to wipe his lips at communion. Unlike the Corporal and the Pall, it requires no special blessing.
The Paten is a small shallow plate or sometimes a shallow disc, of the same material as the Chalice, upon which the element of bread is offered to God at the Offertory of Holy Mass. In the earlier centuries it was much larger because it was the vessel used to collect the offerings of bread made by the faithful. From about the ninth century, the rubrics for consecrating the bread offered by the faithful gradually changed and the use of these large vessels fell into abeyance. The celebrant then began to use the smaller sized Paten to contain the sacred host and obviate the danger of scattered particles after the breaking of the bread.
You will also notice at Holy Mass that the celebrant carefully uses the Paten to scrape the Corporal, and rubs his thumbs and forefingers over the Paten so as to collect any fragments of the consecrated host that may have accidentally adhered to them. Also called the Paten (or Communion Plate), is the vessel used by the acolyte, held under the chin of the recipient of Holy Communion when the host is placed on the tongue.
We should note that the infallible teaching of Holy Mother Church, is that the whole Christ – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – is present in every fragment or crumb of the consecrated host, and in every miniscule drop of the consecrated wine, so long as they are recognisable by their accidental qualities as bread and wine.
The Pall is a small square of stiffened linen ornamented with a cross which is placed over the Paten and Chalice. It requires to be specially blessed before first use. Its principal function is to prevent insects and dust from falling into and contaminating the contents of the Chalice. It was not always of this shape, but was always made either of linen or hemp. There were always two Corporals used on the altar; one upon which the Chalice and Paten were placed, and the other covering them. Towards the end of the eleventh century, the one covering the Paten and Chalice was folded into a square; this folded Corporal became the Pall.
So, we have the Chalice, Purificator, Paten and Pall, over which is placed the Chalice Veil of comparatively recent format. Originally, the Chalice and the Paten were brought to the altar in a silk sack called the ‘Sacculum’; it was probably in the sixteenth century when the Chalice Veil replaced the ‘Sacculum’. The veil is usually of the same colour and material as the vestments to which it belongs.
Next we have the Burse, which as its name might suggest, is a receptacle resembling a purse. It is usually made of two pieces of covered cardboard about eight inches square and bound on three sides, leaving the fourth open to receive the Corporal. While its optional use dates back to the fourteenth century, its use became mandatory in the seventeenth. The material covering the Burse is usually of the same material and colour as the Chalice Veil.
And finally, we come to the Corporal. There is firm evidence that as early as the fourth century it was a prescribed altar linen, probably in the form of a fourth altar cloth that covered the whole altar. However, during the ensuing centuries, it got smaller, and about the eleventh century it seems to have taken its present size, which is usually about fifteen inches square or an oblong, fourteen by eighteen inches, but it must be of a sufficient size to accommodate all the sacred vessels to be used at Holy Mass, including any Ciboria brought from the Tabernacle for the distribution of Holy Communion.
It is to be made of the purest and finest linen, because it is upon this linen that the consecrated species are placed during Holy Mass; and it represents the Shroud in which Our Lord’s body was wrapped for burial. It is to be specially blessed before first use. There is to be no ornamentation, since this would present some difficulty when collecting the fragments. When it becomes unfit for use, it is to be burnt.
So much then for the ‘Chalice assembly’. Let me now put all this within an historical and cultural context, because I believe that it is very important for us to recognise the absolute awe and reverence paid to Christ in the gestures accompanying the words of Consecration – the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into His Body and Blood – and how they were exalted in those early years.
It is of interest to note that this word ‘transubstantiation’ was first used in theology in AD 1140 in a work attributed to Pope Alexander III, before he became Pope. The idea for the word had occurred previously. It defines the original Latin ‘conversio’ and the Greek ‘metabole’.
Symbols and the sacred
The Church, from Her earliest days, imitating Her Founder, has used cultural traditions and symbols, as He did in His parables, in the highest form of Her cultic rite of adoration and worship (known as ‘latria’) in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Another context, then, is that of change. So let me make this point now: nobody seriously claims that whatever changes have been made in the Liturgy after Vatican II have made the rite invalid.
But we see that while keeping the essence of the Sacrament during the consecration, the alterations affect most of the other parts which include not only the ‘accidentia remoto’ but also the ‘accidentia proxima vel essentialia’ that include the Offertory, the Canon and the framework and relationship within which the words of consecration are pronounced.
We, therefore, cannot ignore that the importance for man of the ‘sacred’ in signs, traditions, symbols, words, sound, silence, fire, water and space capable of expressing the presence of the Divine, has not changed in modern times. I want to stress here, how very important these are in the Church; they are present in the administration of all the Sacraments and Sacramentals, but particularly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These reach all peoples and penetrate all cultures, even to sanctifying the soul. For example, at the opening of the Holy Door for the Jubilee Year 2000, it was decorated with flowers, and fragrances to honour the symbol of Christ, the Universal Door of salvation.
Let me go back to the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries to see how important the Church considered signs. The elevations of the Host and Chalice were performed, not because of a theological question as to the precise moment of transubstantiation, but rather to solve the pastoral problem of people venerating the Host and Chalice before the words of consecration were pronounced, and so that they would not be confused as to the proper moment to display their devotion. At that time, the rubrics indicated that the priest would only make a medium bow after the consecration of each species, and not a genuflection. It is also at this time that the instruction ‘Indutus planeta’ was given for the priest to hold his thumbs and forefingers together after the consecration of the host.
The Roman missal
I am now going to spend some time on the Missale Romanum and the instructions contained therein. I should point out that in these early years there was no formal printing of a Missale Romanum in one book. The first one was printed in Milan under Pope Innocent III in 1474. Others followed in 1497, and in 1504 a more complete volume was printed by Bishop John Burckard, a Master of Ceremonies under several Popes, titled Ordo Missae Ioannis Burckardi.
Following Bishop Burckard’s edition, others appeared in 1507, 1515 and 1526, right up to 1562. But nothing definitive or authoritative was published until the Council of Trent in 1570. A revised edition came out in 1604 under the aegis of Pope Clement VIII, and yet another in 1634 under Pope Urban VIII. These latter editions were concerned principally with the minutiae of the rubrics rather than doctrinal content. Another authoritative edition was made in 1898 under the auspices of Pope Saint Leo XIII.
Since then, there have been several other revisions, such as the revision of the music made by Pope Saint Pius X in 1906 and those of Pope Pius XII in the restoration of the Holy Week ceremonies, and Blessed Pope John XXIII’s rubrical reforms of 1961 that were promulgated in the Missale Romanum of 1962. There was yet another revision in 1965 immediately following the close of Vatican II, and one in 1967 that remained in force until the promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s Novus Ordo in 1970.
Let me now quote from Bishop Burckard’s Missale of 1504, because much of what he put together as rubrics with respect to the consecration of the Host and Chalice remained in force until 1967, a period of 463 years.
Consecration of the Host:
Just before the “Qui pridie…” (“The day before He suffered”) is said, the priest wipes his thumbs and forefingers on the Corporal.
Consecration of the Chalice:
I think it is important for us to consider now the usual English translations of the words of consecration: “This is My Body” in the first sentence and “This is the chalice of My Blood of the new and eternal covenant: the mystery of faith: which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins” in the second. The translation of the Latin word “enim” does not appear in these or any other English translations. That word means “in fact; truly; indeed”. Thus, the celebrant, who acts ‘in persona Christi’ – in the person of Christ – is saying: “Yes, this is in fact and indeed My Body and in fact and indeed My Blood”.
Now back to the Ordo Missae. In 1570, Pope Saint Pius V issued his Missale Romanum, which was really an updated version of Bishop Burckard’s, but added an introductory document called ‘Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae’. This included further details as to the manner of consecration, the ringing of the bells and the use of incense on more solemn occasions. This is the situation as it stood until Vatican II; let us now look at the rubrics of the Novus Ordo Missae some four hundred years after that of Pope Saint Pius V and note the differences.
Novus Ordo compared
Doing away in the new rite with the joining of the thumbs and forefingers after the consecration, and the post-communion ablution, presupposes that no particles of the host have remained on the fingers, or if they have, they have been shaken off on to the Paten, and thus the ablution over the fingers is unnecessary for all practical purposes. What seems to have been overlooked was the symbolic power of these gestures, that once consecrated hands touched the sacred host, they could not touch anything else until they were purified. I will raise this point of consecrated hands again when I talk about the Communion Rite.
The words of consecration in the new rite have been expanded to almost a narrative form, despite the plea in 1984 by Pope Paul VI who said: “The words of consecration are not to be recited simply as a narrative, but with the special, conscious emphasis given them by a celebrant who knows he is speaking and acting ‘in the person of Christ.’ ”
Up until the 1967 Ordo, the words of consecration were spoken directly, that is physically, over the bread and the wine. Today, there is, to my knowledge, no such instruction. I have a problem with priests who wave the elements around in the air while speaking the words – has a consecration really taken place? Many times, after the consecration of the Chalice, the Pall is not used to cover it, which makes it appear that the Pall is optional.
The genuflections before the elevations of the Host and Chalice have been omitted. Only the genuflections after each Elevation remain; this seems to indicate a lack of reverence for the most sacred. The consecrated Host is now placed on the Paten and not on the Corporal. The possible ways of ringing the bell are no longer prescribed and the number has been reduced from six to two.
The modifications in, and the reduction of, these gestures at the most sacred part of Holy Mass would seem to coincide with modern shifts in contemporary understanding in the fields of theology and anthropology – particularly in the areas of cultural customs and relationships – leading to an ‘enlightenment view’ of man as an intellectual and rational being who does not need symbolic repetitive signs and gestures and considers them redundant and superfluous.
To be sure, the reduction of these signs and gestures at the moment of consecration is not the only explanation for the loss of faith and belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but if we agree with the premise that liturgical practice influences belief (lex orandi, lex credendi), then we can draw a logical conclusion that these liturgical changes have in some way contributed to a loss of the sense of the sacred and a corresponding exodus from Holy Mother Church and attendance at Holy Mass.
The Communion rite
We now turn our attention to the Communion Rite that follows the consecration. There is no detailed account in Holy Scripture as to the manner and kind by which Holy Communion was received. However, we can make some intelligent observations.
Our Lord gave the Disciples His Body and Blood – we can see this in Matthew 26, Luke 22 and particularly in John 13:26 when He gave Judas in his mouth the bread He had dipped: that is He fed them.
So, let us take a look at some of the history connected to the Communion Rite at Holy Mass. The Sanctuary was distinctly separated from the remainder of the church. The manner of separation and the boundaries have changed through the centuries, but there is no doubt that there was a clearly defined separation.
At the Council of Laodices in the fourth century, the laity received Communion at the altar. In the seventh century at the Fourth Council of Toledo it was established that priests and deacons would receive in the Sanctuary. From the thirteenth century, a white cloth was spread before the communicants kneeling before the altar, and in the sixteenth century, the cloth was spread on a bench set up outside the Sanctuary. This eventually became the communion rail.
From the third century there is evidence that Communion was given to the laity in the hand. There are various texts dating from before AD 216 through to the Venerable Bede in England in AD 735 indicating distribution of Communion in this manner. However, by AD 800 this manner of receiving Communion was restricted to the clergy and deacons. In AD 906, from the Synod of Rouen came the instruction regarding the duties of the priest at Holy Mass: “He should not give communion in the hand to either a layman or woman, but only on the tongue with the words: ‘May the Body and Blood of the Lord serve to forgive your sins and lead you to everlasting life.’ ” Communion on the tongue is also attested to as the only method in the Missa Illyrica in the Byzantine Liturgy.
There was already witness to Communion on the tongue by St Gregory the Great in AD 604, and according to Mgr Klaus Gamber the abolition of Communion in the hand had already occurred from the fifth century. From the eighth century, Communion by intinction was a common practice in many parishes, with the Precious Blood being given with the aid of a spoon. Although permitted for the laity, Communion by intinction was forbidden to the clergy because of the fear that some drops of the Precious Blood would be spilt. The dish used under the chin became the Communion Paten.
Abuses at Communion
However, for some 1,200 years there was no form of Communion in the hand for the laity in either the East or West. This changed with the promulgation of the Apostolic Instruction ‘Memoriale Domini’ on 29 May 1969 by the Congregation for Divine Worship. (It is interesting to note that the then secretary, and a signatory of the instruction, was Mgr Annibale Bugnini, of whom I will say a few words later on. I believe that it is important for us to know more about this prelate and his part in the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II and its fallout, the bitter harvest we are reaping today).
In this case wilful disobedience by the hierarchy in Holland paid off and Rome agreed to permit Communion in the hand. It was supposed to be limited to those few countries where this was practiced as a matter of disobedience, but it soon spread throughout the whole Church. The apologists for Communion in the hand asserted, and still do, that this was merely a return of an ancient practice. Let us examine this assertion.
Before I go any further, let me tell you that I am not in favour of the reception of Communion in the hand, nor, for that matter, of the use of extraordinary ministers who do not have anointed (consecrated) hands and who neither purify their hands before nor after distributing the hosts.
Going through what Saints Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem and John Chrysostom taught, the Host should be received in the right hand placed over the left hand in the sign of a cross, using it as a Paten, and after a deep bow, the Host together with any crumbs was taken into the mouth. Around the fourth century the hands had to be covered to receive the Host.
There was no Rite of Communion in the hand as practiced today. What I have just described, strictly speaking, relates not to Communion in the hand, but to what is a Communion on the tongue, as described by the Fathers of the early Church, where the right hand acts as a Paten.
Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a piece, fundamental to the essence of the sacramental encounter of the creature with the eternal God: “For that reason, too, it is a part of the basic structure of the Sacrament that it is received, and that no one can serve himself, in the same manner that no one can baptise himself, or can ordain himself a priest, or absolve himself from his sins. For these reasons, it is not only a violation of the external requirements of Canon Law if one passes around the Host himself and takes It himself, but it is also a violation of the innermost structure of the Sacrament.”
It is not a question of a few excesses or misuses here or there – particularly in mega-Masses where large crowds participate and where an obvious carelessness has become the norm – just look at how those who approach the altar behave before and immediately after receiving the Body of Christ. All the dangers listed in ‘Memoriale Domini’, such as reduced reverence, profaning the Sacrament and diluting the Faith, have occurred and continue to occur, and for these reasons the instruction stresses that Communion on the tongue should be preserved.
Why then did all the Churches in the early centuries banish the Rite of Communion in the hand? Because the bad experiences with Communion in the hand in those early years were the same that we are experiencing today.
Let me end on an upbeat with these two quotations about the moment of consecration: “It is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven. It lifts us out of earth and out of self, and wraps us in a cloud of mystical sweetness” (Fr Frederick Faber). And, from an unknown source: “Our Lord came to redeem sinful man. He instituted the precise way His death was to be recalled. There is nothing more awe-inspiring on the face of the earth than the words and the moment of consecration.”
And, as I indicated above, a few words about Annibale Bugnini. He was the architect of the Novus Ordo Missae. But his history and involvement in liturgical affairs go a long way back as Fr Annibale Bugnini, the secretary of the Preparatory Liturgical Commission responsible for the first draft of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and who planted a number of time bombs in the Constitution by means of ambiguous statements and omissions that he and his team would later use to advance their agenda.
Within days of his draft being endorsed by the Preparatory Commission, he was fired by Pope John XXIII from his chair at the Lateran University and from the Conciliar Liturgical Commission. This was his first fall. Then the Rhine group of bishops (cf The Rhine flows into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II by Fr Ralph M. Wiltgen, SVD, Tan Books) used the same people Bugnini had used in setting up the committee in charge of interpreting the Constitution at the end of Vatican II.
Unbelievably, in 1964 Pope Paul VI appointed him to head up what would later become a new Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. He was now at the apex of his power, and for twelve years would take no action against unofficial innovators because they were ‘on the same wavelength’.
In 1976, a dossier appeared on Pope Paul VI’s desk which claimed to prove that the now Archbishop Bugnini was a Freemason, and a second Pope lost confidence in him. The late Mgr Klaus Gamber, whom Cardinal Ratzinger regards as the greatest authority on Catholic Liturgy, declared that the great majority of Council Fathers would not have agreed to the radical changes that Bugnini made in the Holy Mass. The ‘spirit’ wrought in those changes was the spirit of Bugnini, not that of Vatican II.
Re-read the articles of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and pay particular attention to the English wordings in Articles 4, 5, 11, 13, 21, 23, 37 & 38. For instance, you may wonder why Gregorian Chant has virtually disappeared from Holy Mass. You’ll find the answer in Article 11, in the last sentence which reads “…the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the Rite and enriched by It.” The problem is with the word “actively”. In the original Latin of this Article, the word ‘actuosus’, means a ‘sincere interior participation’. Pope Pius XII used the same word ‘actuosus’ to mean that the faithful should unite themselves with the priest at the altar to offer Our Lord to His Father. Bugnini’s team of reformers interpreted the word to mean ‘activus’, a lively exterior participation.
I do not think that we have seen the last of innovations in the Novus Ordo Missae, particularly in the interpretation of the term ‘inculturation’ as it may apply to the cultural mores of African, Indian and other Far Eastern countries. But that is a discussion which must wait for another day.
[Taken from the Latin Mass Society's May 2005 Newsletter.]