It is so very important to subject GIRM to the most careful scrutiny as it is written to advance novel theological and liturgical concepts while attempting to pretend that the Novus Ordo Missae is a continuation of an unbroken liturgical tradition.
Paragraph 85 of GIRM reads as follows:
"It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the priest himself is bound to do, may receive the Lord's body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the instances when it is permitted, they share in the chalice. Then even through the signs communion will stand out more clearly as a sharing in the sacrifice actually being offered."
Comment and Analysis:
There is a lot going on in this paragraph, and none of it is Catholic. The desire to have Catholics receive Holy Communion from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that they "share in the chalice" is a not-so-subtle indication that the sacrifice actually is not complete until the people, veritable concelebrants by virtue of their active participation, have communicated from the hosts consecrated at the Mass they are hearing and have themselves communicated from the chalice of the Most Precious Blood (a quaint phrase, I suppose, in the minds of the authors of GIRM and in the minds of the geniuses at ICEL who translated GIRM into English). The people must participate in almost everything a priest does save for the actual words of consecration themselves. Everything else, however, is to indicate the extent to which the people exercise priestly functions little different from those of the presider.
Furthermore, the mania for having the people receive our Lord's Most Precious Blood as the "fullest sign" of Holy Communion has nothing to do with Catholic tradition or theology whatsoever. As noted earlier, we receive the totality of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ when one particle of a consecrated Host touches our tongues. There are three ideological (and heretical) reasons to promote the reception of our Lord's Most Precious Blood as an ordinary practice during Sunday and ferial Masses. The first reason relates, as noted, to he belief that the sacrifice, if any, is not complete until the people themselves have done their priestly duty. The second is to blur the distinction between the priesthood of the ordained priest and that of common priesthood of the faithful by means of baptism. The third is to promote the use of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, who have proliferated to such an extent that one parish, Saint Brigid's in Westbury, New York, has over 300 such ministers (something that the publisher of a magazine called Eucharistic Minister, based in Kansas City, Missouri, did not believe until I documented it for him back in 1993).
There was actually a time in the early 1980s that the matter of Communion under both Species was discussed several times at the annual meeting of what was then called the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now called the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Some bishops were steadfast in their opposition to Communion under both Species. When push came to shove, however, Rome collapsed and gave permission for Communion under both Species as an ordinary routine even in ferial (weekday) Masses. It turns out that the original GIRM itself had given permission for Communion under both Species for every Sunday Mass, something that a lot of bishops were unaware of at the time (precisely because they had never read GIRM).
Communion under both Species was a very hot issue during the three months I spent as a seminarian at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, during the Fall of 1981. Having taken a leave of absence from my position at Nassau Community College, to which I returned in the Fall of 1982 before relinquishing my position for a colleague without a job who had a family to support, I took a number of courses in theology, including Introduction to Liturgy. The course was taught by a priest who had taken it upon himself in the 1950s to turn the altar around at Notre Dame Church in upper Manhattan near Columbia University. He was very much in favor of Communion under both Species.
"You ninnies," he bellowed during one class. "The Queen of England has been receiving the Blood of Christ for nearly 400 years." I could not let that one stand. "Father," I said matter of factly, "the Queen of England has not been receiving the Blood of Christ for 400 years. The Anglicans do not have valid orders. They do not offer a valid Mass. An Anglican 'bishop' or 'priest' is just a layman with no more power to offer Mass than President [Ronald] Reagan." He was not pleased with my unsolicited intervention, as I am sure that the neoconservatives in the Church who want to believe that GIRM and LA will make everything well again are not pleased with this continuing analysis.
Paragraph 86 of GIRM reads as follows:
"During the priest's reception of communion, the communion song is begun. Its function is to express outwardly the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to give evidence of joy of heart and to highlight more the 'communitarian' character of the communion process. The song continues while the Sacrament is being ministered to the faithful. But the communion song should be ended in good time whenever there is to be a hymn after communion. Care must be taken that cantors are also able to receive communion conveniently."
Comment and Analysis:
While it is part of Catholic tradition in a Solemn High Mass or a Missa Cantata for there to be singing while the faithful are receiving Holy Communion, the commencement of singing while the priest is completing the Sacrifice by his own reception of Holy Communion is another Novus Ordo novelty, one that is now insisted upon by GIRM, perhaps with an eye to undermining any remaining vestiges of the belief that the communication by the priest is any more significant than that of the faithful themselves. Furthermore, the faithful never sang while processing up to receive Holy Communion in the Traditional Latin Mass. They attempted to recollect themselves to make the best Communion they can, understanding that it could very well be their last reception of Holy Communion in this vale of tears. They listened as members of a choir or a schola sang a reverent hymn which expressed the beauty and the solemnity and the joy of being able to receive our Lord in Holy Communion.
The Novus Ordo changes all of that quite deliberately. The purpose of the singing which is supposed to begin when the priest receives Holy Communion (and which continues as the faithful themselves sing up a little storm as they process to the "communion station") is to "highlight more the 'communitarian' character of the communion procession." That's right, the communitarian character of the communion procession. This has been highlighted so successfully in the past thirty or forty years that people feel free to engage in protracted conversations with their neighbors as they go up to the "communion station" to feed themselves with the "bread" and "wine" handed to them by their fellow parishioners. Communitarian character? GIRM's only words betray it right here, ladies and gentlemen. Far from being an effort to maintain an unbroken liturgical tradition, GIRM is an effort to legitimize a Protestant concept of community worship to supplant what must be dismissed as the archaic "individualism" of the ignominious, fruitless preconciliar era.
Each individual communicant receives our Lord individually. This is so because he is an individual human being. He is judged at his own Particular Judgment individually by God. He is responsible for his own actions. And although it is true that he is part of the Church Militant on earth and worships together with others, it is also true that the encounter he has with our Lord in Holy Communion is profoundly personal, not communitarian. Our sole focus should be on our readiness and right disposition to receive the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in His Real Presence. Our focus must be Christocentric, not anthropocentric. No wonder the altar rails have been stripped out of most of our churches and kneeling and reception of our Lord on the tongue are to be condemned as unworthy of the sophistication of modern man.
Alas, if the song sung during the reception of Holy Communion is to highlight the communitarian nature of the Mass, then it need not be Christocentric. The song should be an upbeat and joyful celebration of ourselves and our essential goodness. This spirit of communitarian "awareness" is almost totally indistinguishable from the spirit of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's belief in the innate goodness of human nature, a nature so essentially good that it does not need grace to help it grow in perfection. Indeed, each person is himself a little god who should take care to worship himself and pamper himself. This is reflected by the universally insipid (sometimes heretical) music which is played in one parish after another. It has given rise to folk Masses, rock Masses, country and western Masses, rap Masses (yes, rap Masses; I know a priest in New Jersey who told me he wanted to compose a rap Mass for black and Puerto Rican parishioners), Polka Masses, and just plain silliness and profanity in the context of what the Church still purports to be the unbloody re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the God-Man to the Father in Spirit and in Truth. Is it any wonder that belief in the Real Presence has waned? Is it any wonder that reverence and a spirit of recollection have disappeared from most Catholic parishes?
Calvary was no joke. It was solemn. Our sins put God to death. The insipid, profane, sacrilegious music in our churches today puts the notion of the Mass as a sacrifice to death.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
Next Friday: Part Forty
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives