Tuesday 14 April 2020

Active Participation

In my missal (inherited from my Father, [Society of St John the Evangelist/Desclée & Co, 1948, with changes post-1956] who bought it in 1973), there is an interesting note with regard to the new liturgy for Palm Sunday.

The english (sic) texts of pp 382 - 558 are those of the "Holy Week Manual" published in 1956 by Burnes and Oates, London, and Desclée & Co, Tournai.

[There is then an overview of the new rite, which concludes:]

In the new rite of "Palm Sunday" the active participation of the people is provided for: -

(1) The blessing of palms is to be done in sight of the congregation and facing it; and for this the people may hold their own palms and have them sprinkled and censed in their places.
(2) The people are to take part in the procession, walking after the celebrant, carrying their palms; and women are not excluded from this procession.
(3) The congregation is to sing the responses, and if possible, the refrain Gloria laus; and it may add the hymn Christus vincit, or another one, in honour of the Christ-King.
(4) The final (new) prayer at the end of the first part of the rite is to be sung facing the people.

I am not going to comment here on the wisdom of these changes, nor the principle apparently established, that the Church could create new rites in this way.

Rather, my attention was caught by the phrase 'active participation of the people.'  This was clearly a key idea of the liturgical movement, and what interests me is how modest were the provisions made for participation, compared to those unleashed by Bugnini after the Council.

Because, and this is the point I wish to make, I was struck by the probability  indeed the near certainty - that when the Council Fathers voted for more active participation, what most will have had in mind is the modest types of provision that they had experienced since the changes of 1955, as listed above.   Clearly there is nothing here that remotely presages what actually was done in the name of that simple phrase.

Sunday 15 March 2020

Why not receive in the hand?

With the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have been requested by our bishop either to receive in the hand or make a spiritual communion.

I am grateful that he did not mandate this, as that would seem to be beyond his authority, but a request is understandable (though I understand that there is no evidence base for it...)

However, I believe that obedience is best practiced when we don't agree with, or sympathise with, the authority; but I am under the authority of my bishop (and he is generally a good chap), so I will obey.

I am also grateful that he explicitly mentioned making a spiritual communion: it makes it clear that he has some understanding of the sensitivities about this issue amongst some of his flock.

For myself, therefore (and I only speak for myself) I shall be making a Spiritual Communion for the foreseeable future.

I have noticed some odd comments on social media about people making this decision, and they show a startling lack of awareness about the considerations that might inform such a decision.

So here are some of the reasons why I will not receive in the hand.

I remember when this was introduced; the arguments used didn't convince me as a teenager: they look even thinner now, with the benefit of experience and hindsight.

Indeed, much of the reasoning seemed completely specious: Communion in the hand, we were told, reminds us that we have become temples of the living God; brings out the truth that we are sharers in Jesus' priesthood; is a more mature and adult gesture...

I defy anyone to justify such twaddle.

Paul VI himself disagreed. In Memoriale Domini, which dealt with this issue (as communion in the hand had been introduced by disobedient priests in Holland and Germany) he insisted on the traditional way of receiving. He polled the bishops of the world, who were overwhelmingly against the innovation, and he reiterated the dangers of communion in the hand, including a decline in reverence and a decline in belief in the Real Presence.

However, in a pastoral gesture, he said that where the practice was already established, the Bishops' Conference, if they wished (by a 2/3 majority) could ask Rome for permission to continue the practice.

Scandalously, not only did the bishops where the practice was established petition Rome, so did many other Conferences. And through this back door, the tradition of the Church and the clear direction from the Holy Father, and the views of the majority of the world's bishops, were all overthrown.

Since then, I have also  learned that the much-quoted lines from St Cyril of Jerusalem were very carefully selected to make it seem as though this were a return to an ancient practice.  But what St Cyril practiced was very different: immediately after the oft-quoted lines about making the left hand a throne, he continues "Then, carefully sanctifying the eyes by touching them with the holy Body...." One can see why the Church developed a more fitting manner of reception... Clearly that is not what was being reintroduced. Instead, what we were being taught to do was exactly what the Protestant reformers of the 16th Century had invented. These reformers, of course, were concerned to eliminate anything redolent of belief in 'a sacrificing priesthood possessing powers denied to the laity, or the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament.'

So, given its genesis in the reformation as a gesture opposing Catholic teaching, its initial introduction in the 60s by disobedient clerics, the clear intention of Memoriale Domini and the world's bishops when the issue was addressed, and the subsequent chicanery of the E&W (and other) hierarchies in introducing this, and distributing dishonest propaganda about it; and finally, given my own observation of the truth of Paul VI's warnings of the probable consequences... no, I will not avail myself of this practice.

(For more information on this, and the source of my direct quotations, see Communion in the Hand and other Frauds, by Michael Davies)