We come to the end of our examination of Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. It’s an overlooked rite, relatively speaking, for the common practice of distributing Communion outside of Mass, not to mention Eucharistic worship.
Its texts and prayers give a two-fold emphasis on the Eucharist as sacrifice and meal. Not surprising, since outside of the celebration of Mass, one might expect the aspect of spiritual nourishment to come to mind.
While some might be alarmed that the ground of the Mass as sacrifice is being trod upon, the combined practices of frequent reception of Communion, the call for Communion services when the priest is not available, and the tradition of Eucharistic adoration, reinforce somewhat the personal dimension of Christian spirituality. People see themselves less as participants in a ritual sacrifice than observers. Where they are engaged is on the level of incarnation, the making physical of the substance of Jesus, Also the spiritual benefits the laity derive from receiving, or just watching and communing.
The language of the Church’s official prayers and the selection of readings show a balance between sacrifice and meal. It’s largely left to individual lay people, pastors, and parishes to align to that balance or stray from it.
The issue of Communion services in the Rockville Center diocese touches on our discussions. Remember HCWEOM 26 when it describes the long rite for receiving Communion outside of Mass:
26. This rite is to be used chiefly when Mass is not celebrated or when communion is not distributed at scheduled times. The purpose is that the people should be nourished by the word of God. By hearing it they learn that the marvels it proclaims reach their climax in the paschal mystery of which the Mass is a sacramental memorial and in which they share by communion. Nourished by God’s word, they are led on to grateful and fruitful participation in the saving mysteries.
Note what it says:
- The purpose is to nourish the people on the Word of God.
And what it doesn’t say:
- These services are not intended to be part of a schedule. They would occur when a regularly scheduled Mass is not able to be provided. Bishop Murphy distinguishes between Sunday and weekday Communion services, but that distinction isn’t borne out in the rite. If a parish had a regularly scheduled weekday Mass and the pastor was ill or perhaps out of town, a long rite Communion service would be appropriate. However, a regular day off might not be within the guideline given in the rite.
The wording is curious about the scheduling of the distribution of Communion. The rite presumes a priest’s presidency at such liturgies. That would leave aside the issue of lay people presiding.
Any last comments on HCWEOM before we move on to the ordination rites?