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Friday, April 20, 2007

Why Lay Communion Under Both Kinds Is A Bad Idea

I. The Lord’s command to consume the Eucharist under both species must be fulfilled in order that for the Sacrifice of the Mass to be properly offered. This occurs when the Priest receives from the chalice. This is the reason the server traditionally rings the hand bell at this point (and Irish old men leave the church and go to the pub). Thus the reception of communion under one species by the laity emphasises the doctrine of the Church concerning the objective sufficiency of the sacrifice offered by the priest while communion under both kinds deemphasises it.

II. Because the body and blood are made present under two different species the Lord is present on the altar in immolated form. Nevertheless, it is His living resurrected body that is made present in which body and blood are not separated. Thus, the whole Christ is received body, blood, soul and divinity under either species. These truths are emphasised by the reception of communion under one species by the laity but communion under both kinds deemphasises them.

III. The ministerial and common priesthoods differ in kind and not just in degree and the sacrifices offered by each also differ “Orate, fratres ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem…” These truths are emphasised by the reception of communion under one species by the laity while communion under both kinds deemphasises them.

IV. The laity should not administer communion to themselves as this obscures the nature of our relationship to the sacrifice of the cross and the person of Christ. While the Greeks avoid this through the use of intinction (and indeed all the authorised methods of receiving the chalice until 2000 avoided it) the now-legalised-abuse of the lay communicant taking the chalice in his own hands and administering it to himself falls into precisely this error.

V. According to tradition the sacred vessels when containing the consecrated species ought not to be touched by the hands of anyone less than a deacon.

VI. The danger of accidental profanation is greatly increased.

VII. The administration of communion under both kinds is routinely used as an excuse for the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (which is rightly prohibited).

All this said no harm would be done if the laity received communion under both kinds by intinction in the Greek manner on occasion (which seems to be what the council fathers intended). Obvious occasions would be Corpus Christi or the spouses at a nuptial mass. However, whatever certain bishops may think no one not even a Pope has the power to insist that communion be administered under both kinds as this has been solemnly defined by the Ecumenical Council of Constance.

D626 "Since in some parts of the world certain ones have rashly presumed to assert that Christian people should receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both species of bread and wine, and since they give communion to the laity indiscriminately, not only under the species of bread, but also under the species of wine, after dinner or otherwise when not fasting, and since they pertinaciously assert that communion should be enjoyed contrary to the praiseworthy custom of the Church reasonably approved which they try damnably to disprove as a sacrilege, it is for this reason that this present Council . . . declares, decides, and defines, that, although Christ instituted that venerable sacrament after supper and administered it to His disciples under both species of bread and wine; yet, notwithstanding this, the laudable authority of the sacred canons and the approved custom of the Church have maintained and still maintain that a sacrament of this kind should not be consecrated after supper, nor be received by the faithful who are not fasting, except in case of sickness or of another necessity granted or admitted by law or Church; and although such a sacrament was received by the faithful under both species in the early Church, yet since then it is received by those who consecrate under both species and by the laity only under the species of bread [another reading: And similarly, although this sacrament was received by the faithful in the early Church under both species, nevertheless this custom has been reasonably introduced to avoid certain dangers and scandals, namely, that it be received by those who consecrate it under both species, and by the laity only under the species of bread], since it must be believed most firmly and not at all doubted that the whole body of Christ and the blood are truly contained under the species of bread as well as under the species of wine. Therefore, to say that to observe this custom or law is a sacrilege or illicit must be considered erroneous, and those pertinaciously asserting the opposite of the above mentioned must be avoided as heretics and should be severely punished, either by the local diocesan officials or by the inquisitors of heretical depravity."