Friday, May 17, 2013
Pius X's Daily "Fix"
I encourage people to come to daily Mass, I celebrate Mass daily, I think going to Holy Communion daily is a good thing but it was not always thus.
St Pius X, that arch-innovator, not only changed the order of the sacraments placing First Confession and First Holy Communion before Confirmation but also made the daily celebration of Mass - and consequently the daily reception of Holy Communion - for priests a norm. Until then daily attendance at Mass was usual but the reception of Holy was not. There are older priests in my diocese who remember ancient priests in my diocese in the 1950s who only celebrated Mass on a Sunday, or when they were bound to do so by the Code of Canon Law because of piety not impiety, trusting in the judgement of the Church rather than their own feelings of worthiness or otherwise.
St Theresa of Lisieux was one of the few nuns in her convent who was given permission by her confessor to receive daily. Before the Reformation it was not unusual for a gap of several months to elapse between a priest's ordination and his first Mass, When some of early followers of Ignatius of the Loyola introduced the novelty in Rome of daily reception St Philip Neri introduced the (novelty) of daily Confession.
The Venetian Ambassador to Henry VIII's court remarked on the piety of the English, their attendance daily at Mass and Vespers but even so they seemed to receive Holy Communion only once a year. The Lateran Council of course had introduced the Paschal Precept of annual reception of Confession and Holy Communion but the emphasis was the reception of Holy Communion, Confession was always the preparation for Holy Communion.
I don't know how common Martin Luther's practise in his early days was (if it is correctly reported) that he would interrupt his Mass when he celebrated and go to Confession immediately before the Consecration, even if this a myth, the story illustrates that the expectation was that priest should be in a perfect state of Grace, with no attachment to sin, in order to celebrate, similarly there was the expectation that those who communicated were in a similar state.
Though the Lateran talks about an annual reception of Holy Communion: the ancient Tradition of the Church was that a once in a lifetime reception of Holy Communion was all that was necessary for salvation. In Spain until almost modern times and in the Orthodox world still, even in the Romanised Rites, Holy Communion is always giving as part of the Baptism, after Confirmation, in the case of infants. The pastoral presumption in many places is that although the child may attend the Liturgy all their life they will rarely, if ever Communicate.
Holy Communion does not "indelibly" mark the soul but initiation does, as does a single encounter with Christ in the scriptures, it is life changing.
As good and pious the practise of daily Communion is, it tends to set up a tendency where it almost becomes a necessity to have a daily "fix" to maintain a spiritual life, rather than understanding a single Communion is a life changing event. Pius X would have understood Holy Communion as signifying a state that already existed, of perfect Communion with Christ, we seem to have moved quite some distance from that and seem to be moving further away from it.
Expecting people to receive or to be able to receive daily and at every Mass has made the Church either a place for Saints - and consequently not for sinners or a place were Holy Communion is about ordinariness, and reception without thought or understanding, preparation or thanksgiving, and where attendance at Mass is meaningless without Holy Communion.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake