Monday, August 22, 2011
Kneeling or standing?
It is not just the new translations to be introduced the Sunday after next and meatless Fridays from September 16th .
The Bishops have also made adjustments to the manner in which we receive Holy Communion. A new Instruction has been published as follows:
"In the Diocese of England and Wales, Holy Communion is to be received standing, though individual members of the faithful may choose to receive Comrecommended that the faithful bow in reverence before receiving the Sacrament".
munion while kneeling. However, when they communicate standing, it is Some might suggest there is no change here, on the contrary there is a significant change; first of all the Bishops acknowledge the “right to choose” of individual communicants, to follow the special “English indult”, which is the norm in England and Wales or to opt to follow the traditional practice of the Universal Church.
Up until recently our bishops expressed the opinion that to join the Communion “procession”, or queue, was a sufficient sign of reverence, now the “recommend” the faithful to “bow”, as this is just a recommendation, presumably other signs of reverence such as a genuflection or even a prostration are not outlawed, and therefore an acceptable alternative. A bow of reverence in the liturgy is different, deeper, more profound than a bow of acknowledgement, the bow of the head that is expected at the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, or to the server at the incensation is different and has a different meaning to the bow to an altar, the former is a bow of the head the latter a bow of the body. Some bishops and priests might of course just ignore a "recommendation" but would certainly not being acting in the spirit of the Liturgy.
This particular instruction should be seen as part of the trend towards a deeper and more reverent liturgy. It cannot be taken out of the context of the hermeneutic of continuity. The Pope opts not to give Holy Communion according to the “indult”, according to Mgr Guido Marini we are supposed to “observe and learn” from what the Pope does. Though the Pope has “universal jurisdiction” no one has claimed this is what the Pope is exercising when he gives communion kneeling and on the tongue, therefore, presumably, it is the right of every priest, and individual, to do as the Pope does, to take very seriously what the local Conference of Bishops decides, but nevertheless to choose to act according to the Universal norms. The Pope is too gracious a guest, too obedient a son of the Church to defy legitimate local law.
Similarly the recommendation of Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, that Communion should be received kneeling and on the tongue, is presumably a statement that his dicastery would look favourably on any bishop or priest who, with due pastoral sensitivity, chose to follow the Pope’s example. It is either that or he is just being plain unhelpful.
Summorum Pontificum would suggest a bishops’ role is not micromanage the liturgy, a priest has a right to choose the usage in his own parish, for example. So presumably he has the right to decide how communion is distributed in his parish, whether it is appropriate to give it by intinction, under one kind or both.
What is obvious about our bishops’ statement is that it should be seen as movement along with the new translations and the re-introduction of Friday abstinence to express and develop a deeper sense of the Mystery of the Eucharist. No bishop would want to lessen a sense of the Real Presence.
Today, having learnt from the example of the Pope, many priests, especially younger ones, would want to teach people to do what the Pope instructs his communicants to do. Would they be wrong? I suspect many Bishops would think so, it would certainly cause problems between a priest and his bishop.
What a priest has a duty to do is to teach people to receive with proper reverence whether standing or kneeling, in the hand or on the tongue. He should also teach, why Eastern or Byzantine Catholics and why we, in some parts of the West from the 3rd /4th century up until the 70s had a difficulty with any idea of taking communion in the hand: “what previous generations held holy” cannot be easily disregarded or treated with contempt.
It seems to me that both the Pope and the Cardinal Prefect are attempting to create a movement of reverence. Rarely am I critical of the Pope but as far as Holy Communion is concerned it would be helpful if “Rome” did more than signal.
At 1.53.00 the Pope distributes Holy Communion to deacons kneeling, and presumably on the tongue, then proceeds to give communion to ithers in the same manner - concelebrating priests interestingly receive by intinction.
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