Liam alerted me to a development in a diocese nearby to me.
(I)n the absence of a priest to offer Mass, the distribution of Holy Communion on weekdays in the parish church during a “Communion service” will no longer be permitted.
Archbishop Sample likely does not fall into the category of liturgical progressive. But it has been mostly from the mouths and writings of liturgical progressives that the “Communion Service” has been questioned, criticized, and otherwise limited. In my younger days, I would have been more a firebrand on this topic, hanging, as I did, with the post-conciliar generation of liturgy folks. “Poor theology,” I heard. The archbishop echoes this, though with some traditional language:
When we go to Mass, we are there to do much more than just receive Holy Communion. We participate actively and consciously in the offering of Christ, the Paschal Victim, through the hands of the priest, who ministers in the very person of Christ at the altar. From this sacramental offering, we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, thus culminating our participation in the paschal mystery being celebrated.
So far, so good. Then this:
This is the way the Church has always viewed this. The Church never envisioned breaking them apart by distributing Communion outside of Mass. This is only done for the sick and those otherwise unable to participate in the Sunday Eucharist. To do otherwise is very poor sacramental and Eucharistic theology.
I’m not so sure the Church has always seen it this way. It may be poor theology related in stories, but contacts have told me of Communion distributed before and after Mass, after Confession, and at other occasional times, before and (gasp!) even after Vatican II. Maybe Tridentine Missals weren’t so fussy about the practice or pre-conciliar priests not deeply read in the Latin.
I do know that the Catholic laity have long nurtured a connection to the Eucharist outside of Mass: adoration, processions, hymns derived from popular piety, plus the ancient tradition of bringing Communion to the sick. This may well be a difficult thing for some in western Oregon to endure. Receiving Communion is an opportunity for piety more than theology or even liturgy.
I wasn’t so sure about how the alternative is presented:
The faithful can also gather for other forms of prayer, and our Office of Divine Worship has prepared a prayer service for such occasions that include parts of the Liturgy of the Hours with readings from the Mass of the day. This is a way to experience another form of the Church’s liturgical prayer.
The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours allows for the fusion with the Mass. I suppose the liturgy described in number 94 or 95-97 would apply, minus the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The celebration of Mass involves the placement of the Gospel Canticle after Communion. To respect the order of Lauds or Vespers with regard to the elements of the Mass, my own thought would be to place the Canticle, Intercessions, Lord’s Prayer, and final prayers and blessing after the Gospel reading. Or the homily, if given or permitted.
I do think it’s important to recognize that this is not a “prayer service” except in the more general way that any worship, including the Mass, is a service of prayer. Liturgy of the Hours with the daily Lectionary falls into the category of liturgy, an official adaptation of the Church’s official liturgy.
How do you readers see this? Do you think it will deepen Eucharistic spirituality and formation? Create distress that might alienate?