Liturgy: Hosts From the Tabernacle
And More on Female Altar Servers
ROME, FEB. 19, 2004 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.
Q: After the consecration, the Eucharistic minister proceeds to the tabernacle to obtain the consecrated Hosts needed to feed the faithful. He or she opens the door, then genuflects in adoration, and retrieves the container(s) of hosts and leaves the door open, exposing the presence of Jesus. Meanwhile, while this process is going on, the faithful recite the "Lamb of God," after which they kneel in adoration. This has always been the norm. Now, this has been changed to standing, with the option of kneeling or sitting in thanksgiving after the reception of Communion. This is done with the repository door open. I do not see the reason for these changes. Can you clarify? -- J.W., Waterloo, New York
A: There are several points in your question, which I will try to address in order. I hope you will forgive me for bringing in a related theme not explicitly formulated in your question.
The tabernacle is certainly worthy of all reverence and respect as the place where the reserved Hosts are kept for adoration outside of Mass and for distribution, above all, to the sick.
At the same time, the Church's magisterium has several times expressed a strong preference for "that more perfect form of participation in the Mass by which the faithful, after the priest's Communion, receive the Lord's Body from the same Sacrifice" (see the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 13). Thus, insofar as possible the faithful should receive Communion from hosts consecrated during the Mass itself and not just receive from the tabernacle.
This practice requires a greater effort on the part of the priest and those who assist him in preparing the celebration. It is usually achievable after a while as the number of communicants at most parishes is fairly regular.
A sufficient number of hosts should be reserved in the tabernacle to assure that none ever be deprived of Communion due to miscalculation. And it will be sometimes necessary to use the tabernacle in order to renew the reserved hosts.
A further point mentioned in your question refers to the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist going to the tabernacle to retrieve and repose the hosts. This is not the normal practice during Mass.
The GIRM, in No. 162, states: "(If) ... there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. ... These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful."
Likewise, after Communion is completed, No. 163 specifies: "[A]s for any consecrated hosts that are left, he (the priest himself) either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist." If a deacon or other priests are present they may also return the hosts to the tabernacle.
The fact you mention of leaving the tabernacle door open during the distribution of Communion does not usually imply an exposition. Indeed, liturgical law expressly forbids exposing the Blessed Sacrament during the celebration of Mass.
During Communion, Christ is equally present in the distributed hosts and so no special reverence is due to the tabernacle at that moment except for a genuflection by the minister on opening and closing its door, and even these are omitted should the tabernacle be near the altar upon which the Body and Blood of Christ is still present.
It is probably more prudent to close over the tabernacle door during distribution of Communion, if only to prevent flies and other insects from entering. This would be especially advisable if the host used for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament were clearly visible.
With respect to the proper posture during the liturgy of Communion, the GIRM in No. 43 specifies some norms approved by the U.S. bishops. One norm says the faithful should "kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise." A few bishops have determined that the faithful should stand at this moment, and this practice is the norm within those dioceses.
Another phrase of the GIRM, No. 43, caused some controversy. It affirms that the faithful "may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed."
Some liturgists, and even some bishops, interpreted this text to mean that nobody should kneel or sit until everybody had received Communion. The resulting debate led ...
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