The Forty-Eight Kneel

Catching up on church news after a few whirlwind days, I noticed this piece at CNS about the pope’s communicants receiving the Eucharist while kneeling. Forty-eight communicants? That’s a pretty light load compared to the priest in a large parish. Sounds like the kneeling took some time to arrange.

As the pope prepared to distribute Communion, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar on the basilica steps. The chosen communicants — laypeople, nuns, seminarians, priests and boys and girls who had received their first Communion in their parishes in May — all knelt and received on the tongue.

It strikes me as more of a preconciliar sensibility to note the particular minister distributing Communion. Lest anyone be deceived the priest-centered liturgy is a product of Vatican II, this might be an example in which the clergy usurp the centrality of Christ. Just at the worst time.

I’ve never got the chalice-shaped ciboria. And what about the priest (or seminarian) hovering behind the monsignor/acolyte? Hopefully he has the chalice–though that would be better left to a deacon. If not, I can’t imagine ars celebrandi provides for hangers-on in the sanctuary.

The pope’s liturgist was rather coy about the significance of the kneeling:

(T)he decision “was a solution adopted for (the feast of) Corpus Domini,” but as for the future, “we’ll see.”

We’ll see? Sounds like a bit of liturgical experimentation to me.

(Image credit: CNS/Giancarlo Giuliani, CPP)

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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11 Responses to The Forty-Eight Kneel

  1. Jeff Pinyan says:

    “Sensibility”?

  2. Liam says:

    Todd

    Why are you so snarky on this? It really is unbecoming. Very.

    IIRC, the pope continued to administer communion after those 48.

    Ciboria are very practical, as well as lovely – a twofer. One can get a firmer grip on the stem and thus focus more on the ministration to communicants. So I mystified why the curiosity.

    There’s no substantive innovation to qualify as liturgical experimentation here.

  3. Dustin says:

    Seconding Liam. I’m not sure I follow. I know it can be amusing to snark back at the excesses and exuberances of the reform2 crowd, but I’m having a hard time catching on to your insistence that anything here was experimental. I don’t want to infer anything that wasn’t implied, so you should be a little clearer here about your observations and concerns.

    Or maybe you’re just trying to have fun, I’m not seeing it.

  4. Dustin says:

    “Or maybe you’re just trying to have fun, and I’m not seeing it.”

  5. Todd says:

    Well, yes, this is a bit of fun, but it also indicates a bit of staging that strikes me as less liturgical and more like a choreographed performance. Sure, good liturgy on this scale needs choreography. Maybe the pope needs some special arrangements. Perhaps it’s the way this is written up, but it strikes me as a bit off.

    “IIRC, the pope continued to administer communion after those 48.”

    The “four dozen” are mentioned in the new item. It makes it even more curious: special arrangements for the “48” then keep going. Where in the rubrics do we have this? The clergy distribute Communion; the people receive. Non-rubrical arrangements are kept to a minimum.

    “Ciboria are very practical, as well as lovely – a twofer. One can get a firmer grip on the stem and thus focus more on the ministration to communicants. So I mystified why the curiosity.”

    They look like chalices. It defeats the stated purpose of the Body of Christ looking like real bread to serve it from a vessel from which one would never eat bread.

    I like ciboria. But they make sense when they look more like plates/patens. The beauty and facility of design isn’t limited to imitations of chalices.

  6. Liam says:

    Todd

    You are way overarguing here and it’s not pretty. I’m embarrassed for you.

    Bread is commonly (though not universally) served in bowls – certainly more than on a plate. A bowl with a stem is more secure way to focus on ministration to communicants. In any event, nothing in Vatican II said anything about suppressing or even discouraging the use of such vessels.

    I had elsewhere that the Pope continued to administer communion to the communion procession line after this. I’ve focused on why this group requested this treatment et cet., but it cannot be seriously accounted an innovation or even experimentation in this context.

  7. Liam says:

    Sorry, word wrap without preview led to typos in the second paragraph:

    “I had READ elsewhere that the Pope continued to administer communion to the communion procession line after this. I’ve NOT focused on reading ABOUT why this group requested this treatment et cet., but it cannot be seriously accounted an innovation or even experimentation in this context.

  8. Todd says:

    Liam,

    Okay, your news sources are more complete than CNS. I don’t have any theological condemnation; just observations.

    I stand corrected on bowls. I’d say baskets are most common. My family does fondue fairly often and we use bowls rather than plates.

    Don’t worry about embarassment for my sake. I swing and miss from time to time. You win some; you lose some. You say this isn’t a high moment; I’m inclined to take you at your word.

    For the record, my parishes have always used ciboria, just never in this style. I don’t see chalice-style used often.

    I stand by my statement on the artificiality of Communion to 48 designated people, then others. It strikes me as unusual and a bit contrived. But then again, I wasn’t there, and maybe they need some kind of thing like that for crowd control or security.

    Marini’s comment “We’ll see” was what struck me as having a whiff of experimentation. “We’ll see how it goes this time and maybe we’ll do it more often.” If he had reaffirmed the values of receiving Communion while kneeling, I would have passed over that without comment.

  9. Liam says:

    I will grant you “unusual” in the sense that we haven’t seen this for a while. “Contrived” only insofar as it means that. But communion kneeling has such a long and deep custom in the Western church that it can never authentically be accounted a genuine contrivance or innovation. To say or imply it can is to have historical amnesia. And that kind of amnesia serves progressive liturgy very badly. So this is again a situation where, at a shallow level, we can get in the way of ourselves at a deeper level.

  10. Todd says:

    Let me clarify my stance: I have no problem with kneeling communicants who do so by personal choice or by local custom.

    What seemed curious, even aside from some of us not seeing it in awhile:

    – A different practice for the pope’s communicants than the others.

    – The arbitrariness of the “48.” Why not all of the communicants? Why not all the pope’s?

    – If Marini and B16 want to do this, why the coy comment “We’ll see?” If the practice is worthy, just say so.

    There’s no amnesia here, no wading in shallow water; just a bit of writing that was unclear.

  11. Gavin says:

    I tend to agree with Todd on this, surprisingly. Why kneel for the pope? Why only 48? Why “Oh, it’s Corpus Christi, why not kneel?” as the justification?

    Now I have nothing against kneeling. I don’t prefer one stance over the other, but I do like the look of altar rails. But if they wanted people to commune kneeling, why didn’t they just say “everyone present will commune kneeling as they are able” rather than “First 48 people in line for the Holy Father will kneel”? This all strikes me as showy and over-emphasizing the minister of Communion.

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