I am finally getting around to something Fr. McNamara of the Legionaries of Christ at Regina Apostolorum wrote for ZENIT. He answers liturgical questions.
Something very interesting rises from this Q&A, which I will get to down the line and at the end.
He tackled a question about the elevation:
Both Hands at Elevation of Host
And More on Sacraments and Intentions
ROME, SEPT. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: At the consecration of the bread at Mass, is the priest required to hold the host up with two hands? In our church, the priest raises the host with only one hand in a rather casual manner. This makes me almost cry, as I cannot help but think that this gives a message of irreverence to the church community. I would appreciate your thoughts on this. — K.S., Frankfurt, Germany
A: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal does not give a detailed description of this rite. Nor do the liturgical norms and rubrics surrounding the consecration in the missal explicitly determine that the priest takes the host in both hands. These rubrics are the following:
"1. In the formulas [of the consecration] that follow, the words of the Lord should be pronounced clearly and distinctly, as the nature of these words requires.
"2. The Priest takes the bread and, holding it slightly raised above the altar, continues:
"3 He bows slightly [and says “Take this” etc.]
"4. He shows the consecrated host to the people, places it again on the paten, and genuflects in adoration.
"5. After this, the Priest continues: [“In the same way” etc.]
"6. He takes the chalice and, holding it slightly raised above the altar, continues:
"7. He bows slightly [saying “Take this” etc.]
"8. The Priest shows the chalice to the people, places it on the corporal, and genuflects in adoration."
If we were to limit ourselves to a minimalist interpretation of the rubrics, we would have to say that there is no strict legal requirement to hold the host in both hands.
However, the liturgical norms of the ordinary rite, even though they no longer describe each gesture in detail, tend to presume continuity in long-standing practice. Thus there is every reason to assume that when saying simply that the priest “takes the bread,” the legislator presumes that he will do so with both hands as is obligatory in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. [Interesting. I believe there was once a dubium submitted to the Holy See some years after the Novus Ordo had come in. Because of the squishy, vague rubrics of the Novus Ordo, people were left scratching their heads about how to do things that had not been spelled out with the detail of yesteryear. For example, how did one incense an altar? That was clear in the older form of Mass, but left without specifics in the new, though eventually the Ceremoniale Episcopoum offered some grossly minimialistic advice. In any event, the Holy See (read: Bugnini and crew) responded to the dubium that in cases of doubt it was NOT to be assumed – NOT to be assumed – that things should be done in the old way! Of course in those days the men who had worked in the Consilium precisely to destroy the "Tridentine" mentality and shift the Church’s ecclesiology and liturgy away from what Trent had laid down, had a vested interest in preventing any old from being done. Also, they were heavily invested still in a certain odd view of inculturation. Of course, "not to be assumed" still permits room for old ways… maybe… but that is not what the Congregation was driving at. So, I find this statement of Fr. McNamara very interesting. From his lips to the CDW’s ear.]
This is certainly the most natural practice and it is followed by the overwhelming majority of priests worldwide. Holding the host and chalice in both hands allows for greater pause, reverence and composure in carrying out this rite. As our reader points out, holding up the host with one hand can evoke an impression of nonchalance on the part of the priest with respect to the Eucharist.
On the other hand this practice is perfectly justified when a priest is physically impeded, [Of course… no one is bound to the impossible.] as was the case of Pope John Paul II who held up the host with one hand when he could no longer control both members. In such a case any lack of aesthetics is more than compensated for by the priest’s devotion to his ministry edifying and nurturing the faithful.
Finally, it is important to remember that we are above all before a consecration narrative of the saving events and not before a historical narrative mime or drama. It is therefore liturgically incorrect for the priest to add dramatic gestures that are not described in the rubrics and have no basis in traditional Church practice. [Priests just look silly when they do this.]
Some practices that crept into the liturgy, such as that of breaking the host while narrating Our Lord’s action of breaking the bread, have been explicitly forbidden in the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum."
Others, while not specifically mentioned, fall under the same logic that motivated that prohibition. For example, some priests have fallen into the habit of making a gesture of offering toward the faithful with the host and chalice while saying “Take this, all of you.” The addition of such a dramatic gesture is unjustified from the point of view of the rubrics and tends to be quite distracting. [And silly.]
Above all, however, this action tends to dislocate the fourfold action of the Last Supper that the Church has placed at various moments of the Eucharistic celebration. These four moments are succinctly described by (now Bishop) Peter J. Elliott in his "Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite," (footnote 59): [Interesting]
"(1) The preparation of gifts (he took),
(2) the Eucharistic Prayer (He blessed or gave thanks), and then
(3) the fraction (he broke), and finally
(4) the communion (He gave)."
For this reason I believe that we can affirm that the Roman rite’s characteristic sobriety and lack of dramatic flair [More is less and very often less is more.] is well-grounded in both theology and pastoral good sense.
Summorum Pontificum really shifted the ground on this issue of "what do we do when the Novus Ordo rubrics are vague and squishy"?
I think we must now assue that when there is doubt, we really ought to do it the old way!