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Getting "out of hand"?

In a Jan. 11 post I noted thata bishop from Kazakhstanwrote an essay in the Osservatore Romano about the superiority of receivingcommunion on the tongue, while kneeling. As with most posts on liturgy, it occassioned a good deal of comment,and many informative historical references. In those comments there seemed to me to be a notable effort to keep the bishop's piece in perspective, and avoid prophecies about the rollback of Vatican II.And yet...CNS has a story saying the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments"thinks it is time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand." Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don makes his comments in a preface to a book by that same Kazakh bishop who wrote in the OR. Given the Archbishop's role--he has used the bully pulpit recently to decry "obstructionist" bishops who he says are blocking implementation of the Latin Rite motu proprio that will correct "abuses"--this does seem like an undeniable sign of a back to the future push. On one level, I am not surprised, as it reflects the thinking of the current pontificate. But Benedict has also been careful about "disorienting" the faithful with yet more changes, even if he would like to implement them. Restoring a separate Latin rite, as the motu proprio did, for a smallminority of Catholics attending their own Mass is one thing. Making everyone go back to kneeling and receiving on the tongue--or simply indicating that the current practice is less reverential--seems far more controversial.


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I would agree with Andrew (angry or not, I think it's a good comment) that we must not overlook the parsimonious explanation of this proposal, which is that it is about the larger battle over Vatican II (as Ranjith states explicitly) rather than a esoteric debate about adults and infants and lactating hosts, or bleeding, depending on which symbol is preferred. Going to arguments over which is more reverent--hand or tongue--is a relevant outgrowth of the topic, as per David Nickol and Sean. The clear answer from almost everyone here (I can find no comments supporting communion on the tongue as the sole means for properly receiving, though I may have overlooked something) is that the Archbishop is wrong. Everyonehere seems to indicate that there should be the option (as in deed there is now, with the exception of the kneeling part, though that happens all the time in my parish anyway). In light of this, and the absence of any hard data, whether one posture is more reverent or not seems fated to be an academic argument. Clearly Christians since St. Cyril's day have very reverently received communion in the hand, and still do today. I think I am reverent (and am probably less so when I have to receive on the tongue because I have an armful of toddler--probably not the attitude Ranjith has in mind). And certainly the old days of receiving on the tongue was no guarantee of reverence. There was a great deal of ritualism and outright superstition and silliness back then--Don't crush the Body of Christ with your teeth! He has to melt in your mouth! Has Catholic belief in the Real Presence diminished from 1950? From 1900? It is surely far higher here in the US than it was in the 19th century, when many immigrants were largely ignorant of the most basic doctrines of the church, and of communion. But hard data is hard to come by, and what do people mean when they are asked about the "Real Presence"? And what is the connection with how communion is distributed? I suspect the kind of reverence has changed--and in a good way. But I suspect it is also as deep as ever. Less fearful, perhaps. Is that good thing?

Whoa! With all due respect, I don't see that much consensus here. The consensus I do see is-high clericalism: bad-community: good-devotion to God: goodEvery liturgical gesture expresses. Posture vis-a-vis another expresses relationship. So the question is, which gestures adequately describe, and foster, our dignity as members of the Body, love for one another, and devotion to God?

Kathy, you said you take comunion in the hand, and you like the option. So I assume you are doing the most reverential thing, no? And also that you want the option. As for what is the most reverent posture, again, it becomes an academic exercise, since history has shown both are possible and the Church has decided that both are good. It becomes a matter of personal preference, like the Latin Mass, and nothing objectively superior or inferior. So wouldn't adopting Ranjith's proposal mean the Church was (gasp here) wrong?

Mr. Austin: You might try taking a course in not jumping to conclusions. The reason the young priest would be hurried along by the legendary pastor, Msgr. Dinneen, was that to accommodate the 30,000 people coming for Mass, he had to schedule them every thirty mintues, and the newly ordained priest was disrupting the schedule. It was not very kind of you to assume that it was because the pastor wished to rush off to Mass.And, of course, St. Agnes was not typical, even in the archdiocese of New York. I was simplty reminded of it when I wrote about the lengthy formula that used to accompany the distribution of Communion.

Fr O'Leary asked rhetorically what was unauthorized about the introduction of communion in the hand given that "Paul VI allowed bishops to allow it [with] papal permission in each case". In response I would say that Pope Paul VI offered bishops the possibility of permission only because there were already bishops allowing communion in the hand, and he wanted to somehow regularize the situation. It seems that the illegal introduction of communion on the hand was considered a relatively insignificant violation: Since this was an ancient practice patristic precedent, neither Pope Paul nor anybody else thought that it would lead to a lack of faith in the Eucharist. But, I happen to think that the way communion in the hand was introduced in the West, it did lead to certain laxity about belief in the Real Presence. I do not think that is necessarily the case in other parts of the word, such as the Archdiocese of Bombay in India, where communion in the hand was allowed only in the 1990s. For example: On my last visit to Mumbai, I frequently noticed communicants examining their hands to make sure that they had consumed all the particles. When I returned to North America I kept an eye out for this, but I seldom saw anyone do it. Communion on the hand has indisputably contributed to carelessness about fragments of the Host, which contributes to a diluted doctrine of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ. With respect to the difference between "taking" and "receiving" I tend to side with Kathy on the symbolism, but I don't have much to contribute to the debate about it. I just want to share a curiosity that I have noted: In Nigeria, where I spent the greater part of my childhood, communion was (and I believe still is) only given on the tongue. I never once heard the expression "take communion" from a Catholic. Catholics, I understood, always "received" communion, whereas Protestants "took" it. Perhaps the commonality of "taking communion" in North American Catholic parlance has to do with the longstanding dominance of Protestant culture. I'm not sure if this has any deeper significance, but I thought it was an interesting observation.

Does anyone really think that when Jesus said "Take, eat" he meant "open your mouth and stick out your tongue".

That's "labete, phagete" for you Hellenists.

David Nickol, I think your point is well taken, but I don't know if you can establish a nexus between reciving communion in the hand and decrease of belief in the real presence, but whenever there is change, there always possibilities "things may change and go a little too far," but that doesn't mean you go backward. Just last week or so they had a conference for Christian Unity, and we used talk about Ecumenism. In doing these thing do you weaken the belief in the doctrines that are unique to the Catholic Church. I think that's a real "Maybe". Does that mean you stop doing them. I'm sure some would say "yes". We live in a more extensial world than we did in 1940 and 50. Maybe that contributed to the change in attitude toward the Real Presence. Who knows? You can't go backwards just because of dangers and problem. You must fight forward. Find solutions. Build a stronger faith. I think literalists in the show where you go when you go backwards.

PS I'm sorry. I hit the send button too fast. That should be Literalist in interpretation of the Scriptaures.

In fairness to Archbishop Ranjith, he seems to be advocating only a "reconsideration" of the discipline, not calling for its abandonment, and saying the practice should only be discontinued "if necessary" - presumably after due consideration, discussion and debate. Who can object to a responsible reconsideration? It could be a good thing, particularly if it leads people to a renewed appreciation for the many meanings and graces of the Eucharist.What interests me is his narrative of how communion in the hand came about: "a practice that was 'introduced abusively and hurriedly in some spheres' and only later authorized by the Vatican." I'm sure that's an accurate summary, and it parallels developments such as permitting females to serve at the altar (and to proclaim the readings?). It seems that not everything in liturgy is top-down, despite truckloads of Vatican rubrics, canons, decrees and directives. Genuine, organic development still happens, such that the Vatican is obliged from time to time to hurry to the front of the mob so that it may lead them. There is a tension in liturgical matters that can be healthy between regulation "from above" and variation "from below". So long as the folks in Rome show a modicum of forebearance (as, istm, they do for the most part in liturgical matters) and the folks in the pews are willing to submit to just authority, matters get settled with relatively little fanfare and fuss.

Joseph,I think "take, eat," includes "take and eat within the ecclesia," "take and eat and know what you are doing."Probably human beings can't live in astonishment all the time. "Yeah, yeah, another beautiful baby," says the obstetrician. But the Eucharist is a mind-blowing thing. It ain't a walk in the park.

I don't know if Joseph Gannon's question is meant for me, but I don't think Jesus meant "open your mouth" when he said "labete, phagete" or rather its Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent. Perhaps I wasn't sufficiently clear. What I meant to point out is that "taking" and "receiving: denote different attitudes, not only different ways of receiving Holy Communion. Whether we receive on that hand or on the tongue, it is important to note that we are always receiving. As I said above, I'm not sure whether there is a causal connection between communion in the hand and the widespread "take communion" attitude. But, I do think the "take communion" attitude is deeply problematic. If communion on the hand turns out to have been a significant influence in causing this, then that would be enough reason for me to reconsider it. Probably not to ban it, since I'm not in favour of hastily prohibiting practices that have been allowed for lengthy periods of time, but to reconsider whether there is need for substantial and focused catechesis on the proper disposition to receive the Eucharist. My personal preference is for a great deal of liberty in this area: My favourite parish in this respect is one where the priests distributes communion at the altar rail, but people are free to receive on the tongue or in the hand. They are free to stand or kneel while they do so, and about equal numbers choose each posture. Kneeling is considerably more important to me than communion on the tongue. However, I always receive on that tongue and kneel only when I can do so without disrupting the procession or causing a distraction...

Jim and Kim:Please document this :What interests me is his narrative of how communion in the hand came about: a practice that was introduced abusively and hurriedly in some spheres and only later authorized by the Vatican. Im sure thats an accurate summary, and it parallels developments such as permitting females to serve at the altar (and to proclaim the readings?)Otherwise it is nothing more than urban legend.

Who can object to a responsible reconsideration?I agree. Lets start with mandatory clerical celibacy, the creeping magisterium, the method for selection of bishops and parish priests, the role and authority of the laity in the non-spiritual aspects of the parish, term limits on the papacy, etc.Im ready when you are.

The problem I have with the expression "introduced abusively" is that it suggests that doing anything not explicitly authorized is always an abuse. It allows no room whatsoever for good development "from below"; yet this is how change normally starts. The history of the liturgical movement is replete with examples. It's an appropriate role for authority to judge and direct developments that arise; this is what the Vatican did in the 1960s. In short, I don't think the Archbishop has made a compelling case for reconsidering the practice now. As David has noted, there is warrant for the practice in tradition. Conversely, there is no warrant for equating it with a lapse in belief, or at least none that anyone here has been able to adduce. Has something changed? In Kazakhstan, perhaps?

I'm also sensitive to certain ironies here. It was not so long ago that there was a great hue and cry for the canonization of Pope John Paul II, yet everyone seems now to have forgotten everything he said. In "Spiritus et Sponsa" he described five "prospects for liturgical renewal": liturgy in service to the new evangelization, recovery of the art of mystagoic catechesis, appreciation for silence, developing a "taste for prayer" through broader use of the Liturgy of the Hours, and the exercise of pastoral guidance in following the norms of the Church faithfully and creatively. This ought to have kept us busy for a generation or two, but no, what we're doing instead is policing "abuses," and revisiting and reviewing critically every decision made since Vatican II.

Alan C. Mitchell:I would refer you to the single most complete primary source about that period: Annibale BUGNINI, La Riforma Liturgica 1948-1975 (Roma: Centro Liturgico Vincenziano Edizioni Liturgiche, 1983). I think pages 623-641 should provide ample documentation. This memoir is available in English translation, but I dont have either the book or the page numbers handy.In addition from the unauthorized introductions in the Netherlands and Belgium, I found an interesting online article from Time Magazine (Monday, November 26, 1973) entitled A Host of Problems, which adds that there were Catholic congregations quietly practicing the hand-to-hand form of Communion even though the US bishops had twice voted down the proposal. See:,9171,908184,00.html

Of course the eucharist is a gift and one receives a gift. But Jesus seemed to be inviting those present to take the bread. I do not see why one cannot take the host and also recognize that one is receiving it as a gift, a gift from the Lord. If someone offers you something as a gift, you may take it from her/him without in any way not also being conscious that you are receiving it.As for belief in the real presence, I do not see that it is affected either way.

Rita Ferrone:You raise an interesting question about the way the term abuse is used and the possibility of inadvertently excluding authentic and organic "grassroots" developments in the liturgy. It warrants serious consideration and I want to give it much thought before I comment on it, but for now I just want to thank you for pointing out what is a stake. I do think that you are creating a straw man when you speak of "equating" communion in the hand with a lapse of belief. Neither Bishop Schneider nor Archbishop Ranjith is equating the two, but they are both asking whether one has not contributed to the other. Bishop Schneider also appears to be re-examining the witness of Christian antiquity on the question. Please refrain from hurling ridicule at Bishop Athanasius Schneider on the grounds that he is serving the Church in Kazakhstan. A look at his curriculum vitae suggests that your disdain is rather unjustified. The bishop was born in Tokmak, Kyrgyzstan, to parents of German origin. As a child he immigrated back to Germany. In 1982 he joined the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross in Austria. He studied philosophy in Rome and theology in Brazil, where he also eventually obtained a doctorate in Patristic Theology. After serving in a seminary in Brazil and doing pastoral work in Austria, he moved to Karaganda, Kazakhstan, where he served as spiritual director of the seminary and chancellor of the diocesan curia until his appointment as auxiliary bishop in 2006. He served as auditor at the Synod on the Eucharist in 2005. He was formerly secretary of the liturgical commission of Kazakhstan and is now general secretary of the episcopal conference. Besides Central Asian languages, he speaks German, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, French and English. So, it is rather uncharitable to assume that "that Archbishop Ranjith had to go all the way to Central Asia to find some bishop crazy or bored enough to make an issue out of this." Given that we are talking here about an erudite polyglot who has lived and ministered in three continents, perhaps he really does have his finger on the pulse of world Catholicism!Finally, I would hope that we have not forgotten "Spiritus et Sponsa." I haven't, but I don't think my commitment to the agenda laid out by Pope John Paul II excludes me being open to a reconsideration of certain aspects introduced in the 1960s in the name of liturgical reform.

Joseph Gannon:The Greek "labete" like the Latin "accipite" can mean both "take" and "receive". When I say to you "take this" the sense is that you are receptive, so you're quite right that one can simultaneously both take the a gift and receive it as a gift. Any dictionary will say that. However, I hope that you would agree that common parlance usually sees taking as very different from receiving. This is what I was getting at. As I said before, I'm not sure that the use of the phrase "to take communion" can be equated with a mentality that subconsciously excludes receptivity, but I do think such a mentality is present although I can't estimate quite how widespread it is. This is the disposition of those who think that they can claim the Eucharist as their right. My claim is that this mentality is inimical to belief in the real presence because one who has realized that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of the Lord, substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, realizes that this is a gift that must be received -- and perhaps also taken, but never only taken without receiving. (Incidentally, as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, I think people who seize the Eucharist from the hands of the minister are usually acting out of nervousness or unfamiliarity rather than the "taking" mentality.) Also, I don't think that communion on the hand can be equated with the mentality I am criticizing since, when I am preparing children for their First Communion and training altar servers, I regularly encounter children whose families have taught them to "take communion by mouth." But, Kathy's post about the symbolism of taking rather than receiving made me wonder if there is not some connection, and prompted me to think back to my experience in Nigeria. Anyways, I don't know if I'm making myself any clearer, but I thought it was worth one last attempt to elucidate the train of thought that was sparked by Kathy's post.

Alan Mitchell gave me a bit of homework, which Kim was kind enough to do. I'd like to add that the Holy See acknowledged in 1969 that "certain communities and in certain places this practice [of communion in the hand] has been introduced without prior approval having been requested by the Holy See, and, at times, without any attempt to prepare the faithful adequately." (Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, instruction Memoriale Domini, 5/29/69)., inasmuch as I've both quoted EWTN in a favorable light and construed Archbishop Ranjith benignly in this thread, and those two facts taken together may suggest a certain sympathy for Bishop Schneider's thesis, let me just state for the record that I have no objection to communion in the hand. :-)

Point of interest: Would those who consider "abusive" the spread of communion in the hand and altar girls before those practices were formally authorized also be of the opinion that the use of the Old Rite Latin Mass before the recent motu proprio was also a liturgical abuse? And if so, would that not also raise questions about the re-authorization of the Latin Mass, just as Archbishop Ranjith is doing with communion in the hand?

I suppose "abuse" is an imprecise word (which I don't ordinarily use, btw) but what I believe it refers to here is a practice unauthorized by the proper authority. This is a relevant Canon: Since the sacraments are the same throughout the universal Church, and belong to the divine deposit of faith, only the supreme authority in the Church can approve or define what is needed for their validity. It belongs to the same authority, or to another competent authority in accordance with can. 838 3 and 4, to determine what is required for their lawful celebration, administration and reception and for the order to be observed in their celebration. (841)The Missal of 1962 was authorized by an indult given by the proper authority.


Recommend following article:Mark Francis, "Beyond language," THE TABLET (July 14, 2007).Available at registration required (last I knew).

Just to speculate a little further on the question of innovation.Historically what has happened in the Latin Rite (as distinct from most of the Eastern rites, which have been remarkably preserved through the centuries) is, innovations occur. This is the "organic development" of the liturgy that the traditional liturgists actually approve of. Innovations occur on the local level. Bishops and popes find out about them. They either approve or disprove.One example of an approval precipitated the East-West schism of 1054. The addition of the expression "filioque"--"and the Son"--to the Nicene Creed began as a pious practice in Toledo. In Spain. It caught on, became a custom, and was not only approved but mandated. Now there was a lot more going on in disagreements between the East and West, but the "assasination of Archduke Ferdinand" moment of the schism was this imposition of liturgical novelty on the Greek-speaking Church by Rome.An example of a disapproval was the tossing out by Trent of an enormous body of musical literature, developed for the Mass, called the Sequences. We still have 5 sequences but we're missing, for example, most of the works of the prolific and poetically admirable Adam of St. Victor. It's a great loss, in a way, but the Council judged (rightly I think) that the Gospel processions that the sequences accompanied were taking over too much time in the Mass. The proportions of the Mass, in terms of time, had radically changed. I can understand that it seems unfair that on the local level, we stick our necks out, making innovations, and in the end everything is judged--and that this is exactly the way things are supposed to go ordinarily. However, I think it should be acknowledged that we've lived through some embarassingly interesting liturgical times in the last 42 years. Innovations have been developed often without rationale. It's not too surprising that there would be some reaction.

David,If Summorum Pontificum was not motivated in part by a desire to regularize in some way the unauthorized celbration of the Pius V mass, the indult granted by John Paul II was. As stated in Summorum Pontificum:But in some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms. These had so deeply marked their culture and their spirit that in 1984 the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, moved by a concern for the pastoral care of these faithful, with the special indult 'Quattuor abhinc anno," issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted permission to use the Roman Missal published by Blessed John XXIII in the year 1962."No small numbers" is telling. Of course, under the indult, one needed permission of the local bishop. Also, the indult only permitted masses using the John XXIII missal. Was that requirement always followed? Was permission always sought form the local ordinary? There are anecdotes to that effect, but I do not know how reliable they are.In relation to the return to the John XXIII missal (the extraordinary usage) one thing that I have not seen discussed much is the use of scripture in that mass. The lectionary was on a one year cycle, as opposed to a three year cycle under the Novus Ordo. Most of the readings during the year were taken from the New Testament. The Church under that "usage" is biblically impoverished in my opinion. That seems however not to be a big concern of Benedict's.

I knew this thread would go on and on.I want to thank Andy for referencing Christian Unity wek in Rome where Cardinal Kaspar (per John Allen) hoped we'd all (Christians) share at the table of the Lord by 2050.In the meantime, we make mountains out of rubrical molehills - hung up(if I can repeat) on rubrical and canonical dithering.I canno tbeleive the exegesis of becomin gas little childrenhby some here . Of course we should be guiless as doves too (but sharp as sepents.)Just think...

Was all this "organic development" over the centuries good?What do we mean by "good?"Was it "good" then?Is it "good" today?In his contribution about the liturgy in the old Catholic Encyclopedia (1910), Adrian Fortescue acknowledged the reality of development within the context of worship: "All ceremonial evolves gradually out of certain obvious actions done at first with no idea of ritual, but simply because they had to be done for convenience." He noted that "the fundamental outline of the rite of the Holy Eucharist was given by the account of the Last Supper." Over the centuries, the simple and humble in the liturgy became the elaborate and royal. Regardless of intervening attitudes, beliefs, and practices between the Last Supper and the Novus Ordo, what do we understand the eucharist to be and to mean today?As I've noted on a separate thread, the Middle Ages would see the gradual but certain "objectification" of the eucharistic bread/wine. The consecrated host became an "object" of belief. Surely, the earliest Christians did not have monstrances, benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, etc. On the other hand, they had community (with all the disagreements, arguments, joys, frustrations, etc. that community would imply).Let's not overlook the development of a clerical culture facilitated by cultural changes --- that would be eventually to our detriment!Is eucharist an "object" or have deeper meaning?

Dear Father Komonchak,'Twas you not I who suggested that the pastor was hurrying the new priest along to accommodate the 30,000 people. Having been a parishioner of St. Agnes in the 1950s, I permit myself to doubt the number of 30,000 but perhaps age is making me forgetful. Were you a priest at St. Agnes? It is not [laus Deo] a Jesuit parish. Please do not bother to answer. I have about given up reading this thread which has gone quite academical.

Mr. Austin: I didn't say anything about lunch--that was your guess.No, I was never assigned to St. Agnes. I am not a Jesuit (laus Deo). I can vouch only for the fact that I heard that for Holy Days of Obligation--not Sunday Masses--that many people would commonly attend Mass there.

Gabriel:Im finally getting around to this:Those who have a problem with the infantilization of being fed might consider that we [as did our parents and grandparents] address priests as father, as we address the first person of the Trinity in the Lords prayer.I suggest to you that the use of the word father to refer to priests is significantly different than calling the first person of the Trinity, Father. I recommend that you read this and the verses around it: Matthew 23:9.

At the risk of throwing this thread in another, but very related, direction, I would like to pick up on something Bob Nunz noted above; namely, that Cardinal Kaspar has a hope that all Christians will be able to share at the Communion table by 2050. I was wondering what he could possibly be thinking, as I see the obstacle to such a reality to be primarily a Catholic insistence that Real Presence be defined in terms of transubstantiation (please note, I am not claiming that this is an unreasonable position). It is my understanding that as far back as the ealiest years of the Reformation there was an effort by many, including one Martin Bucer, to compromise on this issue by agreeing in the real presence of God in the eucharistic celebration, and by also agreeing that the manner of the real presence being actualized would not be specified, leaving all to have their own understanding of this mystery. The Catholics simply could not go with this as they were committed to transubstantiation. If my history books are correct, this single issue, rather than justification by faith, or sola scriptura, was the primary stumbling block preventing a coming together of the Catholic and reforming traditions.My questions are twofold: 1) Does Kaspar know something that is not well publicized such that some movement on this impasse is conceivable? and 2) much more controversial, how important is the real presence/transubstantiation distinction to dotCommonwealers?For what it's worth, in my church [Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)] all Christians are already welcomed at the communion table, but, I know, it's not REALLY/valid communion.

Joe,I think that your information on transubstantiation is a little too unnuanced. As I understand it, we're required to believe that the bread and wine are gone, and the Body and Blood are there, stably. But I don't think that we have to use that particular word or philosophical background.However much Trent commended it, it does not (to my reading) require it.About Kasper: The big energy in ecumenism has to do with something called "communion ecclesiology." A lot of people think that this is the key to all of our ecumenical problems. Don't ask me what "communion ecclesiology" means because I'm not sure anyone really knows. Just kidding. John Zizioulas (Orthodox) and after him Paul McPartlan (RC) are two of the leading names, and when they use the expression I think they mean something particular and meaningful about what it means to be one in Christ, who is one with the Trinity.However, as Lawrence Cunningham, in his 2001 Commonweal review of Dennis Doyle's book Communion Ecclesiology, writes, "Use of the term is not without peril. Noted ecclesiologist Joseph Komonchak has argued that in order to avoid two conceptual pitfalls--that communion ecclesiology denotes vague feelings of fellowship or, oppositely, a highly mystified church unrooted in history--it is necessary to define what communion ecclesiology is (and is not). Should, for example, communion ecclesiology start from the exigent reality of the local church and circle out to the universal church, or must we give priority to the universal church replicated in the local communion? What is the precise relationship between the church and the larger culture? Is that relationship to be counter-cultural or dialogical? To what degree can communion ecclesiology deal with the historical reality of the church's human failings? Different theologians respond to these and other questions in quite different ways."A recent accord I have studied, between 2 major Christian US bodies, uses the expression "communion ecclesiology" throughout, but never once defines it. I think this is the stage of the discussion that we are in. I'm not convinced that this is the saving framework, though if definition becomes more clear, I believe it could be useful. I would imagine Kasper would be sympathetic to this framework, which seems to be energizing many of the ecumenical discussions.

Kathy, your background on communion ecclesiology is very helpful. Thanks. However, I confess I find little added nuance with the addition of "were required to believe that the bread and wine are gone, and the Body and Blood are there, stably." I do not want to contest this position, although I do not agree with it, but it does seem to me something of an ecclesiological deal killer.

Joe,I think that's okay, for now.It's not that I'm gloating about it (I hope) but the presence of the living God is not something to negotiate about or to consider sacrificing. Especially if, as I believe, peace among us can only come about by the presence of God, which is multiform but at its most intense and efficacious among us in the Eucharist.

I should be clear, btw, that I don't know what Cardinal Kasper is saying these days, and that I'm just guessing (rather wildly, actually) at his reasons for optimism.

What we are required to do is follow Jesus in loving our neighbor which includes our enemies. Returning good for evil, helping the lowly, healing the sick, visiting prisoners and helping those most rejected by society. We are not required to believe transubstantiation because no one knows what that term means. Thomas attempted to give Muslims an explanation but the hierarchy placed his opinion in stone. This insistence is a priority for those who place dogma over practice of the faith. It is much easier to "believe" dogma than to practice what Jesus preached. Jesus always praised strong belief in God, not a particular tenet.

The one thing that always strikes me about these discussions is what kind of symbols resonate with people. I found the discussion about infants and adults to be completely baffling, and I am still trying to figure out how reverence has become linked to taking communion on the tongue. Hands make us human. Many gestures are associated with a reverential attitude. When I see someone taking communion on the tongue it makes me think of a dog getting a treat from its master. It always makes me cringe.The other thing that hasn't come up: I remember once being told that taking communion was, prior to a certain time, a lot less routine or regular than weekly -- like monthly or eve several times a year. I wonder if this is true, and if so, when and why it changed. Making something pro forma or routine almost always lessens the value of it, whether you kneel or not.

Barbara, its not less valued now. The Eucharist is offered more and people know its their right not the hierarchy's possession. It was, (it wasn't just the fast), the hierarchy's scare tactics and snobbery which distanced communion. This is tied in to the dumb reverence for the clergy where they could take advantage of the people constantly. We are in better times. Unless we pang for the Knights of Columbus and Malta who are part of the old aristocratic, private power order.

Given the strong clericalization in the pre-Vatican II church (and the apparent willingness of not a few bishops and priests to restore and strengthen this communal/sociological mindset in the church), the reference to adults and infants (ordained and non-ordained) makes perfect sense.What does the Catholic Church mean by the "Real Presence?" (Please, no catechism answer; I know the "correct" answer.)What should the Catholic Church mean by the "Real Presence?" If ancient Christians brought the eucharist to those unable to be present at worship (as I think they did, anyway), what belief did such action reinforce: that the sick were members of Christ's body or that the consecrated bread was the Lord's body and blood? Church historian Timothy Thibodeau has referred to the development of the "objectification" of the eucharist during the Middle Ages, and liturgical historian Keith Pecklers has reminded us of the various eucharistic devotions (Corpus Christi processions, benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, etc.) that sprang up during this period. I gather that monstrances made their "debut" during the Middle Ages. As I've mentioned elsewhere, most if not all these practices elevated the ordained and subordinated the laity. The State had its privileged, and the Church likewise. To repeat what I asked the other day: Is the eucharist an "object" of adoration, or does the eucharist convey a deeper meaning? Where do we Catholics put the emphasis? Please note I am not asking an "either/or" question.As I see it, if the eucharist is primarily seen as an "object," I think we have a failure of genuine catechesis.If Vatican II called for renewal/restoration (synonyms), we must take our "cues" from the ancient church and the Last Supper. We must strive for ecclesial community, not a bifurcated clerical-lay divide that took shape during the entire Middle Ages and was crystalized at Trent.For me, kneeling is absolutely out of the question. History shows that institutionally enforced behaviors affect beliefs about one's role in the institution. Under no circumstances would I kneel or stick out my tongue to communicate with the Lord. No way!!!

Joseph,In the parish where I grew up the stained glass windows show an 8 foot tall priest bending way down to give Communion to a person kneeling on a surface that is obviously 2 or 3 feet beneath the priest's feet. Obviously there can be exaggerations and abuse.However, there's an old moral theology maxim: Abusus non tollit usum. That is, the abuse does not take away the use. Just because something can be (and even has been) exaggerated or deformed is not a valid argument against legitimate use.The Eucharistic presence is a positive good. Positive goods can be mistreated. Almost anything at all can be used for domination over others. Education, a positive good, can become a weapon. Just as an example. If I may make a suggestion: I think that your most interesting questions have to do with what you call the objectification of the Eucharist. To me this is interesting because once again, it seems to me that what we like to think of as theological arguments having to do with Jesus according to the Gospels instead come down to the same old philosophical dichotomy: is everything fundamentally at rest, or a heraclitean fire?Is the Eucharist the abiding presence or an intimate sharing?

Is it not both?

Kathy, I agree that something good can be abused and that said abuse does not justify negation of the good.In this context, I see the good as the eucharist, not its "objectification." Self-described "orthodox" Catholics emphasize eucharist in the sacrament. Progressives, on the other hand, stress eucharist in community. Catholicism, of course, embraces both meanings. The Middle Ages saw development of various eucharistic devotions and practices that resulted in the "objectification" of the eucharist. Priests and bishops enjoyed "honor by association" in this picture. This ecclesial arrangement would help solidify church stratification. And, of course, we've seen recently what can occur in an institution that elevated the ordained and subordinated the laity. Kneeling at eucharistic reception, no matter the intentions/understandings of priest and communicant, contributes to and is associated with the "objectification" of the eucharist, and the latter necessarily contributes to and reinforces a clericalized church. The documents of Vatican II emphasize community. All of us, ordained and non-ordained alike, constitute the church, the People of God. Given the dangers associated historically with a stratified church and an "objectified" eucharist, Kathy, do we situate the eucharist in a monstrance or in a community? To rephrase your closing question, is the eucharist an abiding presence on the altar or in the community?The issue is one of emphasis, not exclusivity.

A couple of other random thoughts about Archbishop Ranjith:1. In the article linked in the CNS story, he seems to consider it significant that communion in the hand was not authorized by Vatican II. My interpretation of that remark is that he's questioning whether or not the practice is truly grounded in what the liturgical reforms hope to accomplish. Istm it's a fair question. For example, does receiving communion in the hand enable full, conscious and actice participation in the liturgy in a way that reception on the tongue doesn't? It's not self-evident to me that it does. 2. Is it possible that the fact that he is from the Third World, and that most folks in this forum presumably are from the First World, could be a source of disconnect on this issue? Isn't it interesting that both the prefect and secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship are from the Third World, as was Cardinal Medina before them? I wonder if this just a reflection of the traits and abilities of the individual prelates, or if it represents a conscious attempt to inject non-First-World liturgical sensibility into the church?

Regarding the comments of Jim Pauwels:I am in the Third World - In the state of Kerala in India where Christians, though a minority, are still a significant presence. And geographically we are very close to Sri Lanka, Archbishop Ranjit's home country.The majority of people here receive communion in the hand. Kneeling to receive communion? May be I see it once in an year. The motu proprio regarding the Latin Mass is a non event here. No one is asking for the Latin Mass. So I really dont think these are third world sentiments.

Hi, Sunil, thank you for commenting.<>That has been by experience in Chicago, as well.

Sorry for that previous "", for some reason when I cut and paste in this forum, whatever I paste doesn't seem to make it into the blog.I was attempting to quote Sunil's comment, "The motu proprio regarding the Latin Mass is a non event here. May be I see it once a year."

Useful in this discussion might be the comments of Avery Dulles when he was resisting the call to conversion [A TESTIMONIAL TO GRACE 1996]: "While the Protestant churches left me with a sense of mere inadequacy, the Catholic Church I found in many respects positively repellent. I stubbornly resisted the emotion which swept through the edifice at the moment of the Transubstantiation" [p.64]"To advance in the life of grace is to become more childlike" [93].



About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.