Yet another discouraging example of episcopal over-reach, in the interest in trying to impose the illusion of uniformity on the Communion Rite of the Novus Ordo.
The Archbishop of Seattle issued a pastoral letter on liturgy. HERE
Say what you want about the rest of it. This part, however, has the offensive and illusory detail. Let’s look together on page 10.
First we read:
Reception of Holy Communion is a sacred moment of encounter with the risen Lord in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. It is intimate, yet it is not merely individual: This is a communal action. When we go forward to receive Communion, we do so as part of a procession with the whole gathered community. We become what we receive: the Body of Christ. For this reason, unity of posture is important in the Communion procession as well.
First of all, it may be a “communal action” to go forward to receive, but the effects of reception are not the same in those receiving. I quote St. Thomas Aquinas’ Lauda Sion:
Sorte tamen inæquáli,
Vitæ vel intéritus.
|The good receive,
The wicked receive,
But their lot is not the same,
Life or ruin.
|Mors est malis,
Vide paris sumptiónis
Quam sit dispar éxitus.
|Death for the wicked,
Life for the good:
See how unlike the result
from like acts of reception.
I did word searches in the Archbishop’s letter:
reconciliation – 0
penance – 0
confession – 0
sin – 1 (Quote of St. John Chrysostom quoting Scripture)
community – 14 communities – 5
Every reception of Communion in the state of grace builds up the interior life of the communicant.
Every reception of Communion in the state of mortal sin is an additional, compounding sin of sacrilege that imperils the soul.
Every reception of Communion in the state of grace builds the “community” up.
Every reception of Communion in the state of mortal sin tears the “community” down.
And yet in the Archbishop’s letter there is not one mention of of the Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, confession, mortal sins, the state of grace.
But let’s make sure that people are in lockstep in how they walk up to the front of the church so that someone without anointed hands can give them the white thing.
Individuals go to Heaven or to Hell, not groups.
It seems to me that the Archbishop would do well to focus on the spiritual well-being of both individuals and the whole body of his flock by stressing the absolute obligation to receive the Eucharist in the state of grace.
Let’s consider the next part:
As we move in procession to the altar, we bow before receiving the Body or Blood of Christ, and remain standing to receive Holy Communion, whether the host or the chalice. To kneel at this point, or to add other gestures, individualizes the reception of Communion. But this is not the moment for personal expressions of piety, which can distract others and draw attention to ourselves. Rather, reverent in our belief in the Lord’s true presence in the Eucharist, this is the time when we should be most unified as a community. In receiving the Body of Christ, we become one with Christ, and through Christ, one with everyone else who receives the same Eucharistic Lord.
“As we move in procession to the altar, we bow…”. Oh, do we?
And what about this?
“To kneel at this point, or to add other gestures, individualizes the reception of Communion.”
Are you kidding me? Watch a Novus Ordo congregation for a while. People approach for Communion and some bow and some don’t (even after being instructed to). Some put their unwashed left hand over their unwashed right, while others put right over left. Some say “Amen!” loudly. Others, mumble. Some say nothing at all. Some step aside to communicate. Some consume on the spot before moving. Some walk away with Hosts and have to be (I hope) chased down! Others do the one handed thing and then pop them in their mouths like an hors d’oeuvre. Others make the sign of the Cross right away. Others are elaborate and careful. Still others make some sign… I don’t know if it is a cross or not. Some do nothing. Some genuflect immediately before receiving. Others, after reception, say “Thank you!” That’s a favorite.
But the Archbishop is really worried about those who want to kneel to receive being a distraction. They are a distraction from the chimeric fantasy of uniformity of reception. You can hear the “tisk” of disapprobation about what is both the way Catholics have received for many centuries but also what is still guaranteed them by law:
But this is not the moment for personal expressions of piety, which can distract others and draw attention to ourselves.
It’s not time for their expression of piety, but it is time for the Archbishop’s personal preferences about how they ought to receive.
In another section of the letter than follows, he quotes Sacrosanctum Concilium:
Let us commit ourselves to greater fidelity to both the prayers and the rubrics of the Roman Rite, remembering that no person, “not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
“On his own authority”. Shall we at this point remind the readership of Redemptionis Sacramentum 90-92? The Church’s highest liturgical authority legislated for the whole of the Latin Church that the faithful always have the right to receive on the tongue and to receive kneeling.
Archbp. Etienne wants uniformity at Communion. Fat chance. It isn’t going to happen. His energy would be better spent on preaching about the Sacrament of Penance and giving the good example to his priests of hearing confessions before Masses, so that at least those communicants are not likely to be unshriven for only God knows how long.
How about trying to achieve greater unity in reception of Communion in the thing that is, by far, more important: reception of Communion in the state of grace?
But let’s for a moment grant him his premise. Let’s give the importance he wants to give to greater uniformity for the sake of collective identity as the Body of Christ during Mass. We can do that.
That said, after some 5o years of options for the reception of Communion, or attempts to catechize, and then finally to impose the desired uniformity, and while allowing for the obvious exceptions of the elderly or impaired, we come finally to one inescapable conclusion:
To achieve greater unity in the reception of Communion, the only way is…
…reception on the tongue while kneeling.
They very thing that these folks imagine will produce uniformity is precisely the thing that is creating the disunity.
The obvious answer lies in our Traditional practice.