Universae Ecclesiae 28, the Eucharistic Fast, and You.

I had a post about Univerae Ecclesiae 28 and how the derogation in that paragraph makes it clear that the provisions of Summorum Pontificum exclude female service at the altar in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

The reason for this is that in the De defectibus section in the 1962 Missale Romanum there is a clear prohibition of females serving in the absence of a cleric who would serve.  Since there is a conflict between the liturgical law of 1962 and subsequent liturgical law after 1983, the 1962 is to be followed.

However, a reader asks:

On reading De defectibus (in answering the question regarding altar girls), I naturally read more and in section IX, it mentions the Eucharistic fast from Midnight.

While this is addressed in Canon Law and elsewhere, it seems that since it’s also addressed in the rubrics in force in 1962.  As such, does Universae Ecclesiae now require a eucharistic fast from midnight for the Usus Antiquior?

No.

First, be sure you are reading De defectibus from a 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum and not a previous edition.

Pius XII in 1953 in the Apostolic Constitution Christus Dominus (which Robert Mickens of The Pill might confuse with the Conciliar decree on the office of Bishops) relaxed the fast under certain circumstances.  The same Pius XII with the Motu Proprio Sacram Communionem of 1957 changed the law to require only a three hour fast, regardless of when Mass was celebrated.

The 1962MR version of De defectibus IX, which concerns defects of the disposition of the body, reflects Pius XII’s 1957 legislation.  The Eucharistic fast of the PRIEST is to be three hours.

Let’s see what the De defectibus really says with my translation.

1. Si sacerdos ante Missan non sit ieiunus per tres saltem horas quoad cibum solidum et potum alcoholicum, et per unam saltem horam quoad potum non alcoholicum, non potest celebrare.  Aquae tamen sumptione ieiunum non frangitur.

[If a priest before Mass is not in a state of fasting through at least three hours in regard to solid food and alcoholic drink, and through at least one hour in regard to non-alcoholic drink, he cannot celebrate.  However, the fast is not broken by the taking of water.]

2. Infirmi, quamvis non decumbant, potum non alcoholicum, et veras ac proprias medicinas, sive liquidas sive solidas, ante Misse celebrtionem sine temporis limite sumere possunt.

[The sick, even though not confined to bed, can take non-alcoholic drink, and true and proper medicines, either liquid or solid, before the celebration of Mass without the limit of time.]

3. Enixe invitantur sacerdotes, qui id praestare valeant, ut venerandam ac vetustam eucharistici ieiunii formam ante Missam servent.

[Priests who are able to perform it  are strongly invited to preserve the venerable and ancient form of the Eucharistic fast before Mass.]

First, this concerns priests, not lay people in the congregation.  It concerns the bodily disposition of the priest who says Mass.  Also, don’t freak out about the references to “alcoholic drink”.  Wine is a staple part of a Roman diet. This is the Roman missal, after all.

Also, the Eucharistic fast is not, per se, a rubric, but sacramental discipline.  It pertains even when Holy Communion is distributed outside of Mass. Think of choir members coming after Mass for Communion.

I think the current discipline on the Eucharistic fast in the 1983 CIC of one hour before Communion for Latin Catholics remains.

UE 27 says:

27 – Quoad regulas disciplinares ad celebrationem formae extraordinariae pertinentes, applicetur disciplina ecclesiastica Codicis Iuris Canonici anno 1983 promulgati.

With regard to the disciplinary norms pertaining to celebration of the Extraordinary Form, the ecclesiastical discipline of the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 is to be applied.

So, it seems we follow the 1983 Code when it comes to the fast.

Also, other Churches sui iuris have longer periods of Eucharistic fast.  These rules apply to members of other Catholic Churches even if they are attend Mass in a Latin Church.  Conversely, Latin Church Catholics are not bound to observe, for example, the fast according to the, say, Ukrainian Catholic Church.

The Eucharistic fast seems not to be one of those issues referred to in Universae Ecclesiae 28, but it is covered in UE 27.

A final point.  De defectibus deals also with the disposition of the soul of the priest.

When we consider receiving Holy Communion, we who are persons having both soul and body (angels are persons with soul but no body) must be properly disposed in soul and body.

We are properly disposed in soul when we are baptized and in the state of grace (we are not aware of unabsolved mortal sins) and are not under some ecclesiastical censure which prevents us from receiving.  We are disposed in body when we obey the Church’s laws concerning the Eucharistic fast (one of the Precepts or Commandments of the Church).

The Church’s law sets a minimum limit for the Eucharistic fast.

You can do more.

People who are ill or have some other good reason are dispensed to some degree or wholly.

One can argue that the Church ought to require more, but the fact is that we have the set of laws we have.

Don’t look down on people who obey the laws they have been given.

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28 Responses to Universae Ecclesiae 28, the Eucharistic Fast, and You.

  1. LouiseA says:

    Regarding this: “true and proper medicines, either liquid or solid, before the celebration of Mass without the limit of time”…

    I have seen people stretch “true and proper” medicines a bit. For example, I would think that sucking on cough drops or chewing gum DURING Mass would break the Eucharistic Fast. Am I wrong?

  2. I don’t consider gum to be a “true and proper medicine”.

  3. LouiseA says:

    Gum was used to “keep from coughing”.

  4. Fr. Basil says:

    I used to keep the Eucharistic Fast from midnight, but have been commanded by both medical and spiritual advisors to do so no longer.

    Some medicines (e.g., indocin) require food or milk for their proper absorption.

    We would all do well to keep the Eucharistic and other fasts more strictly, but we should also remember that we are not under law, but under grace.

    About gum not being “true and proper medicine,” I used to look askance at those who came to Liturgy and even Communion wearing sunglasses in church.

    Then as I approached my cataract surgery and for a time afterwards, I had to wear them myself, even indoors.

    That taught me a lesson.

  5. There is no law prohibiting the use of eye-glasses during Mass.

  6. MJ says:

    A cough drop has medicinal qualities, but gum? I’ve seen folks (in the choir) suck on a cough drop to keep from coughing…I even wondered about that…but gum? I really can’t think of any occasion when gum is medicinally necessary.

  7. MJ says:

    Fr. Basil says, “We are not under law…” Unless I am really mistaken, I believe we are bound to hold to the fast (unless we fall into the exceptions that Fr Z noted).

  8. APX says:

    The only argument I could possible see with gum being permitted is that, unless it’s swallowed, doesn’t constitute food??? I’m not sure, but I remember growing up, my mom used to always give us gum to chew right before Mass started. I used to be quite proud of my ability to receive communion with gum in my mouth without the two mingling. It would have been nice to have some instruction on these types of things growing up.

    One trend I’ve been noticing during this time of the year is having pancake breakfasts right before Mass. I know it’s an hour fast before communion and not Mass, but cutting it so close doesn’t set the greatest example for people, and might make them think they no longer need to fast.

  9. Will D. says:

    but gum? I really can’t think of any occasion when gum is medicinally necessary.

    Chewing gum is surprisingly a very effective way of combating acid reflux. Not that I recommend doing it during Mass, of course.

  10. ALL: GUM TALK is now a rabbit hole. That’s it with the gum talk.

  11. Nathan says:

    Fr. Z: Conversely, Latin Church Catholics are not bound to observe, for example, the fast according to the, say, Ukrainian Catholic Church.

    This is very useful information, Father! I do not attend the Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy very often, but when I have, I have refrained from receiving Holy Communion because I did not know their rules on the Eucharistic Fast (and I knew that, in general, the East fasts from midnight before).

    Is it prudent (rather than licit) for us Latin Rite Catholics to learn and try to follow the Eucharistic Fast of the particular Eastern Rite Catholic Church if we are going to be guests at their Divine Liturgy? [Prudent? That depends on the person. But there is nothing wrong with it, in itself. Perhaps someone might thereby get a deeper sense of what Eastern Catholics experience regularly. Heh heh… they could keep their Lenten fast too.]

    In Christ,

  12. Centristian says:

    I certainly wouldn’t want this to become the next thing that frightens people away from traditional liturgical practices. “One hour fast…unless you go to a Tridentine Mass, in that case three.”

    “Don’t look down on people who obey the laws they have been given.”

    Well said.

  13. MichaelJ says:

    As I understand it, we fast for penance and mortification. I have been told, by many who lived through it, that it was apparently common practice in Catholic Schools to disable water fountains before the morning Mass. While this might be over zealous, it indicates that the driving factor behind the Eucharistic Fast goes beyond penance and mortification. This is further confirmed by the fact that the Eucharistic Fast is only an hour. Any thoughts?

  14. oakdiocesegirl says:

    It has bothered me for some time that, as I attend daily & Sunday Mass, I see many people–& they seem to all be women, for some reason–bringing their water bottles into Mass, taking them out of their purses & putting them next to them in the pew, opening them to drink during the Consecration, even taking a last slurp before jumping into line for Communion! Disrespect aside, Im afraid someday someone will knock one over & make a real mess! I observed this in @ least 3 churches in the Diocese of Oakland, CA. I wish there would be an announcement like:”(Ladies) this is not an auditorium. Leave your water bottles capped & stashed during Mass” Has anyone else noted this phenomenon?

  15. JaneC says:

    Oakdiocesegirl,
    I have noticed this too, and was annoyed when I first noticed it, but I have since received my admonishment and I urge you not to judge. Water is not forbidden as part of the fast. Even if it is not a hot day (or not hot indoors), there are some medical conditions and medication side-effects that cause things like dry mouth, which can be very uncomfortable but a simple sip of water brings temporary relief.

  16. Fr. Basil says:

    \\There is no law prohibiting the use of eye-glasses during Mass.\\

    There’s no law against wearing shorts and skirts that just barely hide one’s gluteus maximus, either. Alas, I’ve seen it done more than once in the Eastern parish I attend. (And I’m not presently in a position to do something about it.)

    Both this dress and sunglasses can demonstrate a too-casual attitude towards the Eucharistic Sacrifice. And both can be because of reasons that I don’t need to know, because God sees their hearts and I don’t.

    That’s the point I’m trying to make.

    **While this might be over zealous, it indicates that the driving factor behind the Eucharistic Fast goes beyond penance and mortification.**

    My understanding of the Eucharistic fast is that it is in honor of Our Lord, making the Holy Gifts the first food taken that day. (Small children before their first confessions are not required to fast in Orthodoxy.)

    Eastern and Western Christians have different ideas about the purpose of fasting, which should be the subject of another thread.

    ||Fr. Basil says, “We are not under law…” Unless I am really mistaken, I believe we are bound to hold to the fast (unless we fall into the exceptions that Fr Z noted).||

    Let me clarify. I was suggesting that for devotion’s sake we should fast LONGER than merely one hour or more strictly than the minimum the Churches require for Lent (for example), I’m not saying we should violate the Church’s rules on a mere whim.

    To answer Nathan’s questions, the Eucharistic FAST for Eastern Catholics IN THE UNITED STATES is the same as for Latin Catholics. However, we are urged to keep the stricter tradition (that is, from midnight) as far as our circumstances permit. (An Evening Liturgy or Presanctified Liturgy would involve fasting from noon if possible; this same practice is followed by Orthodox in the USA.)

    THIS is what I meant by “under grace”.

  17. James Joseph says:

    Gosh! So much for my old practice of fasting beginning Thursday night.
    Now that I am fat maybe I should start that up again.

    All kidding aside, quit stuffing your face.
    Fasting is how we sock it to the devil.

  18. Elizabeth D says:

    I think drinking water in church is always inappropriate unless there is a serious health need, I even think choir members should aviod it insofar as possible (I am in a choir and simply never would bring a bottle). The church is a place of prayer. Does someone who brings a water bottle into church as defense against physical dryness have a commitment to perevering in prayer through spiritual dryness? Is it asking too much to have a sip outside, either before or after Mass? Unless someone has a pretty serious health concern, they normally are not going to get that dehydrated within an hour or two. The priest never has water, as far as I have ever seen, even if he is singing the Mass and gives a long homily.

    By the way, I am not commenting on whether it is a sin, though I have been advised it sometimes is.

  19. ikseret says:

    UE 27 would also seem to cover deacons distributing holy communion at the TLM.
    The rite seems to presume only priests touch the sacred host directly. But, CIC names the deacon as ordinary minister of holy communion.

  20. padrealex says:

    You will be disappointed, but if you use now this correct argumentation against the old Eucharistic fast, then you have to change your juridical comment against altar girls. Also the question of female servers / altar girls in a normal parish belongs to the disciplinary matters: so you have to take again the CIC 1983 with its authentic interpretation. As you admit now, “De defectibus” scoops from the CIC 1917, which is no longer valid for the forma extraordinaria. So using “De defectibus” against altar girls, is a short circuit. This question is rather a pastoral than a juridical one, because we should always consider the feelings of the traditional faithful. The juridical answer is: only the altar services which are traditionally absolutely connected with the old structure of the minor orders are not allowed for female servers. Greetings from Father Alexander Pytlik

    [I disagree that the sex of the servers is part of disciplinary law. De defectibus is a mixture of disciplinary law and ritual law, and we have to pick through to determine which norms are which. The Eucharistic fast is clearly disciplinary.

    The sex of a server, however, is not disciplinary law. The rubrics in the 1962 Missal state “servus accepit birettam, osculans manu“. It does not either say clearly or remotely mean “servus vel serva accepit birettam…”

    It is precisely the sort of law spoken of in UE 28.

    The notion that servus can also be female is, on the face of it, absurd, and it never occurred to anyone back in the day.

    It is only a matter of time before we will have a clarification on this point.]

  21. Thanks for the clarification, Father. :-)

    I am one of those who think that in theory the older fast would be great, but in practice I am pretty happy that we now only have an hour fast. It is possible that I would have been dispensed from the longer fast on medical grounds anyway, but it is just easier and nicer not to have to worry about whether breaking a fast is justifiable or not. After all, very few people need to break the present Eucharistic fast, and certainly not myself.

    I definitely do admire our forefathers and mothers (though to find my Catholic foreparents you would probably have to go back a few centuries), and I regret to some extent the fact that we modern Catholics are often so lax and lacking in discipline, my own lazy self not getting around to doing that much more than I am required to even though I know the rules are a bare minimum and there is nothing per se preventing me from practising penance so the remedy is in my own hands!!! However, I must admit that I am rather grateful for the present day rules for the bare minimum of the Eucharistic fast and also the greater number of Masses at different times of the day.

    As far as I understand, the present day rules for the Eucharistic fast, at least relaxation introduced by Pius XII, was influenced by the dire need in the modern times for the graces available in the reception of Holy Communion. Would that be correct? After all, we may say that, while our lives are so much easier than our forefathers in many ways, we are experiencing a concentration and synthesis of heresies disseminated at an alarming pace not only without but within our own ranks. And we have to suffer through various liturgical disasters that we would hardly be able to bear left to our own devises, though this was hardly part of the conscious consideration behind relaxing the fast at any stage….

  22. MJ says:

    Fr Basil, thank you for the clarification. I do believe there is a law…well, not a law but at least a Papal guideline…against wearing shorts and skirts that just barely hide…anyway, there is a guideline.

    I wanted to comment on the water in church – I sing in our parish choir, and occasionally I will see a choir member bring a water bottle into the choir loft and take a sip or two during Mass. I have mixed feelings about this. Last year there was a pregnant lady in the choir, and she always brought a water bottle – but she always seemed flushed and overheated (she was a great addition to the singing so I totally understand her wanting to be up there!), so I didn’t think her bringing water was a problem. The mixed feelings I have are about a non-expecting non-sick person bringing water…if it’s necessary to wet the throat so they can sing, okay, but sometimes I think the water-drinking is more of a statement…like, “I have a great voice and it needs water so I’m gonna take a sip”. Don’t know if that makes sense…but another example – a year and a half ago I sang with a choir that performed Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. For anyone who is familiar with that piece, it’s exhausting and extremely difficult to sing. Even with that said, I think I only sipped water right after the Gloria, and then at intermission. So I guess what I’m trying to say that I think water if absolutely necessary is okay, but the times when it’s absolutely necessary seem to me to be limited.

  23. “sometimes I think the water-drinking is more of a statement…like, “I have a great voice and it needs water so I’m gonna take a sip”. Don’t know if that makes sense…but another example – a year and a half ago I sang with a choir that performed Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. For anyone who is familiar with that piece, it’s exhausting and extremely difficult to sing. Even with that said, I think I only sipped water right after the Gloria, and then at intermission. So I guess what I’m trying to say that I think water if absolutely necessary is okay, but the times when it’s absolutely necessary seem to me to be limited.”

    I think your first example is a huge overreach of trying to read the motivation of others. And it is kind of contradicted by your second example, although I see the point that you were singing a challenging pice. Yet, you did not allow the fact that you did not have the constitution to sing it without drinking water at any stage keep you from singing it. So, not being able to judge the state of other people’s mouths and throats, why should you think that other people drinking water (an allowable liquid within the hour of the Eucharistic fast also for people who are not sick even if one should attempt not to drink it at church) at less challenging pieces indicate that they are being somhow prideful. How do you know that the need they have for water while singing the regular setting of the Mass is not similar to your need when singing a more challenging piece? Perhaps it is even greater.

    For me, for instance, it is extremely challenging at times to remain even at Mass without taking a sip of water. Yet, I try to do so, though I always keep a bottle in my bag and take a sip just before going in. If I have to take a sip during Mass, I try to do so at the least ‘irreverent times’. It is possible that a person looking on would think how horribly neglectful and irreverent I am being, knowing nothing of the times when I have really wanted to and have not taken that sip of water and knowing nothing of the reasons why I take that sip of water. I would not dream of singing at Mass without water. Yet, you could not tell from looking at me that I have the constitution I have (and believe me, it is not just in church that I always keep water close by!).

    Just a little thought: I dare say that it is highly likely that my need for water may be as great while singing a simple gregorian setting as a person with a normal constitution in relation to their water needs would experience in singing a longer and more complex piece. But, for all I know, you might conclude if you were looking at me drinking water that it was somewhat an issue of pride or blatant carelessness even if my needs at that stage may actually be as great as another person’s need under more strenuous circumstances.

    It is good to discuss at times the need to think twice before even doing what is strictly speaking allowable but against the perfect keeping of the fast and the perfect exterior reverence at Mass. It certainly has helped me to think more about what I endure or face before having a sip at Mass and it has caused me to become more careful about it than I used to be when I did not think that much about it and did not consider that it could be irreverent when not needed. So, it is good to bring up the topic and to help people discern and consider.

    It is not so good constantly to read into the motivation of others when they are doing what may not be commendable but what is neither intrinsically evil nor prohibited by the discipline of the Church. I particularly do not understand it when one is speaking about the practice of choirs who are not easily visible and whose ability to do their best in terms of singing is not irrelevant to the reason for their being there in the first place. Would a dizzy and nauseated chorist with a parched throat and a pervading and deteriorating feeling of weakness in every limb give greater glory to God? Well, in terms of penance (which would then be voluntary in foregoing what is allowed and would not certainly not be sinful in those circumstances), perhaps so. In terms of the beauty of the liturgy to which the choir has the ability greatly to add to or detract from, not so much. And in this context, one should think a little before saying it’s almost better such people stay away. Some choirs are really small and it would be a real loss to the choir to lose even a fairly mediocre voice!

    Everybody always speaks of how if it is really necessary, then it’s OK. But they pay little attention to the fact that they are not always in a position to tell whether the person needs that sip of water or not and the default position appears to be that if we cannot clearly tell from the appearance of the person, then surely there must be some wrongful motivation at play.

  24. “And in this context, one should think a little before saying it’s almost better such people stay away. Some choirs are really small and it would be a real loss to the choir to lose even a fairly mediocre voice! ”

    It just struck me that I had worded this a little mistakenly. Of course, MJ has not said that a person who needs water should rather stay away if they are not of the quality of the pregnant lady in question. It’s just spinning on from the point of MJ’s aside of understanding why the pregnant lady wanted to be there and I want to point out that I am not implying that MJ would want people to stay away from choirs simply due to needing water if they are less than superb. :-)

    I also obviously take on board the fact that MJ did except people who really need a sip of water to keep singing, but I think that too often, and indeed in the case of MJ’s post, one appears to go on from there to assuming that nobody really does if one doesn’t need it oneself or if it is not blatantly obvious (as in the case of the pregnant lady). In other words, I largely agree with MJ’s statement that it should be because there is an actual need to do so if one is to drink water during Mass, but I think that the tendency in the comments about those who do implies that there is little leeway given to people for whom it might be necessary but who do not strike one as if they might need to drink water. This is not just a tendency in MJ’s post, but in many posts on this subject in various places. So my post is more to the point that it is not that easy to tell and one cannot necessarily judge from one’s own constitution.

  25. MJ, I also see that I mistook the singing of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis as being during Mass! Sorry about that. Well, in that case there would have been no reason not to drink during it at any rate. It still does not follow that the constitution of others who do not immediately look ill is similar.

  26. Centristian says:

    Perhaps I am missing something but the whole exchange about water seems perplexing in light of the fact that there is no prohibition against drinking water before or even during Mass. That being the case, what difference does it make what one’s motivation is? No justfication is necessary, whatever the reason.

  27. Centristian, you are right that there is no prohibition. And I used to think that it really doesn’t matter. Now I think, however, that it is more fitting not to drink water during Mass unless there is some need for it. By need, I do not tend to interpret preventing near death due to actual dehydration, but some need such as pain relief or relief of somewhat considerable discomfort, relief of a feeling of weakness, a somewhat more severe dry mouth/throat discomfort, relief of dizziness, nausea etc.

    I also think, for instance, that it is more fitting, if possible, to receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue even at an OF Mass and even if it is allowed to receive standing and on the hand. Since this has to do directly with how one receives Our Lord Himself, I believe this is more important than the water issue, but it’s just an example of how one may think that a course of action that is allowed still can be less fitting or less perfect, and even in a sense not OK, unless there is a reason to take advantage of the fact that it is allowed. Of course, with things that are allowed, the bar is much lower than for things that are not allowed, and I do not think that one can talk of sin (unless perhaps one acts against what one is strongly convinced is more fitting and does not have a good reason for doing so).

  28. Of course, I also actually do not think it is fitting to try to assess the motivations of others in these matters. But to speak about the subject theoretically and what is the better way to proceed in these matters is different entirely.