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Liturgy: Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread

6/9/2005 - 6:15 AM PST

(Page 2 of 2)

by suspending its fermentation (by means of freezing or other methods which do not alter its nature).

"D. In general, those who have received permission to use 'mustum' are prohibited from presiding at concelebrated Masses. There may be some exceptions however: in the case of a bishop or superior general; or, with prior approval of the ordinary, at the celebration of the anniversary of priestly ordination or other similar occasions. In these cases the one who presides is to communicate under both the species of bread and that of 'mustum,' while for the other concelebrants a chalice shall be provided in which normal wine is to be consecrated.

"E. In the very rare instances of laypersons requesting this permission, recourse must be made to the Holy See."

The document required furthermore that the ordinary must ascertain that the matter used conforms to the above requirements; that he grant permission only for as long as the situation continues which motivated the request; and that scandal be avoided.

Finally, it disposed that due to the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the priest, those who suffer from a condition that would impede the normal reception of the Eucharistic species may not be admitted to holy orders.

* * *

Follow-up: Blessings for Non-communicants, Continued

The theme of blessings for non-communicants (see May 10 and 24) has struck a chord, albeit a sometimes dissonant one, in many readers. For this reason I will revisit the theme once more.

(Before embarking, however, I would like to thank the kind reader who made me realize that I pertain to the ranks of the grammatically challenged by confusing the first and third person plural in my previous follow-up.)

One reader proposed that accepting the possibility of this blessing of non-communicants went against the principle that "liturgical documents are prohibitive of all that they do not prescribe."

While in no means in favor of liturgical inventiveness, I do not believe this to be a valid principle in interpreting liturgical law.

Liturgical norms have several levels ranging from the Divine decree (such as the essential elements of the sacraments) to precepts descriptive of prevalent customs, the latter constituting the vast majority of liturgical norms.

The different levels do not lessen their value as true laws, which require obedience. But they are usually content to set out a general scheme with no desire to rigidly set every gesture to the exclusion of all others.

For example, in a recent controversy regarding some bishop's forbidding the faithful to kneel after Communion until everybody had received, the Holy See stated: "The … prescription of the 'Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani,' no. 43, is intended, on the one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free."

The same could be said about other acts of private fervor such as making a sign of the cross after receiving Communion.

Since much liturgical law is grounded in custom, canonists generally admit that, according to canons 23-28, some ecclesial communities have the capacity to introduce customs that either interpret the law, or fill a vacuum or silence regarding the law.

Many, but not all, liturgical canonists deny that a community may establish a custom contrary to the law. They also discuss the relative capacity of the diocese or the bishops' conference to introduce customs in liturgical matters.

Even admitting the ability of these entities to introduce customs, since Church law already has official mechanisms for adapting the liturgy to local needs, these should be respected so as to avoid any cause of doubt or unnecessary conflict.

Historically, the use of customs that either interpret the law or establish practices to adapt to situations or conditions not expressly covered by the law, are frequent.

Even in the far more minutely regulated liturgy before the Second Vatican Council there where many particular customs that responded to concrete pastoral needs. For example, in the Baltic country of Latvia, the Catholic minority -- hemmed in on one side by a branch of Lutheranism that conserved many Catholic trappings and on the other by the Russian Orthodox -- developed a strong tradition of congregational singing not foreseen in the rubrics and quite different from the liturgical practice of neighboring Lithuania, where Catholics constituted the majority.

On the other hand, several other readers did express a fear that the introduction of the blessing for those not receiving Communion breached the general liturgical norm that "Therefore, absolutely no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 22).

Here we are on different terrain. Even if we were to accept that the blessing offered to non-communicants could be established as a legitimate custom that responds to new pastoral demands, not foreseen in the law itself, it is clear that it is not incumbent on the individual priest to introduce a novel rite into the Communion procession.

Finally, even if we were to accept the (still hypothetical) legitimacy of this custom, I would be personally hesitant to generalize its use beyond those areas where it has proved a useful pastoral solution to specific problems for relatively small groups.

I also see no pastoral advantage in using it for children before their first Communion. A child who observes parents and siblings approaching the altar should have a greater sense of hope and desire to be able to participate just as they do.

As we mentioned before, a blessing in this case could even weaken the awareness of the greatness and uniqueness of holy Communion. It can also cause pastoral problems insofar as it is an easy custom to introduce but, once in, very difficult to renege upon, due to parental sensitivity.

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Liturgy, Bread, Leaven, Unleaven, Consecration, Eucharist, Mass, Communion

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