Friday, July 15, 2005

regaining a sense of the mystery of the Eucharist

For October's Synod of Bishops, Rome has put out a working paper which says in part that many Catholics these days are losing a sense of the mystery of the Eucharist and the conversion necessary prior to receiving communion.

An article from the Tablet descibes the working paper (called an instrumentum laboris ) by saying that "The paper underlines that it is an act of 'personal dishonesty' and a scandal for people to receive Communion if they are divorced and remarried, deny church teaching, or publicly support immoral choices. It also stresses the need for eucharistic celebrations to recapture the sense of the sacred and for priests to act less like 'showmen' who draw attention to themselves." Well, I'm all for less showmanship.

Additionally, according to the Tablet, "Among other concerns it [the working paper] lists 'improvisation during the Eucharistic Prayer', the failure of 'celebrant and ministers to use proper liturgical vestments' and 'inadequate catechesis for Communion in the hand and its proper distribution'".

Yeah, I remember being assigned to a parish as a student and one of the priests there never looked at the Sacramentary during the Eucharistic Prayer. He made up his own. The result is that the assembly couldn't participate. He had altered the usual verbal cues that the assembly listens for in order to know that it's their turn to repond. You know, cues such as, "The Lord be with you," and "Through Christ our Lord," and others. So, we in the assembly couldn't pray, we couldn't respond because the priest had tinkered with the prayers, and we were unsure if it was our turn to respond. It was frustrating. So, if you are a priest and you are reading this, take note. If you think you are doing the laity a service by amending the Prayers so as to make it sound better, you're sadly mistaken.

However, there are at least two things in the working paper that gives me pause. According to the Tablet, some of the things mentioned in the paper include the observation that “bringing the faithful in too close proximity of the altar and the tendency to turn the altar around to face the people … might not sufficiently safeguard a sense of the sacred." I think I disagree there. As someone born after the Second Vatican Council, I wouldn't relish the sight of the priest turning his back (or my turning my back as priest) to the people. And yes, I have sound theological foundation for saying that.

Anyway, I think the greater need here is regaining the sense of the Real Presence of Christ at the Eucharist. That sense is one of the things that distinguish the Catholic Mass.

Read the Tablet here.

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