A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH

Previously Consecrated Hosts for Concelebrants

ROME, 12 OCT. 2004 (ZENIT)

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: Is it necessary, for validity, that priests who concelebrate consume the species consecrated during the Mass being celebrated, or is it permissible for them to receive hosts from the tabernacle (consecrated previously)? J.F., Boston, Massachusetts

A: If by "validity" you mean the validity of the Mass itself, then the Mass is not invalidated by a concelebrating priest receiving Communion from previously consecrated hosts.

However, it is an illicit act that contravenes what is explicitly set forth in the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 98:

"The Communion of Priest concelebrants should proceed according to the norms prescribed in the liturgical books, always using hosts consecrated at the same Mass and always with Communion under both kinds being received by all of the concelebrants."

A key to understanding why this is so is found in the norm that follows in the next sentence of the same number:

"It is to be noted that if the Priest or Deacon hands the sacred host or chalice to the concelebrants, he says nothing; that is to say, he does not pronounce the words 'The Body of Christ' or 'The Blood of Christ.'"

The reason why these words are omitted is because each concelebrating priest truly offers the sacrifice of the Mass and he must complete his part of the sacrifice by partaking of both species offered at that Mass just as if he were celebrating alone.

In some very exceptional circumstances a concelebrating priest (never a priest celebrating alone) may be granted an indult to omit one species, for example, if he developed an allergy to all grape products. But I can think of no situation which would justify a priest partaking of the Eucharist consecrated in a previous Mass.

Even if by some oversight insufficient large hosts were consecrated for all concelebrants nothing impedes breaking those available into smaller particles. ZE04101224

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Follow-up: Previously Consecrated Hosts [from 10-26-2004]

Following our response regarding concelebrants receiving previously consecrated hosts from the tabernacle (see Oct. 12) a Canadian reader asked about using the tabernacle to distribute Communion for the faithful.

She writes: "I understand that the core of Sunday Eucharist is the taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine. I truly appreciate this and experience this theological and liturgical understanding as most nourishing to mind, body and soul. However, I always cringe when I see the weekly 'trek to the tabernacle.' Even though in our parish those who wish to receive Communion place a host in the ciborium at the entrance to the church (which then gets taken up at the offertory along with the wine), the reserved sacrament in the tabernacle is always brought forward. The result is often that more hosts are placed back in the tabernacle than were taken out. I have several problems with this:

"Does the use of consecrated hosts at Eucharist not fracture the Eucharistic sacrifice, i.e., some will receive Communion from that particular Mass and others from a previous Mass? Does this not violate Jesus' command to 'take, bless, break and share?' Would we serve leftovers at our home if we had a freshly cooked meal ready to be enjoyed?

"We also have regular services of the Word with Communion when our parish priest is absent. Since unfortunately the reserved sacrament is already used in the Eucharistic celebration itself, it adds to the confusion in the faithful about the distinction between Eucharist and the lay-presided service of the Word with Communion. It would greatly help our catechesis if the hosts in the tabernacle are not used during the Sunday Eucharist and thus would get a stronger connection with non-Eucharistic services."

I had already partially dealt with this topic in the column of Feb. 17, when I wrote:

"The Church's magisterium has several times expressed a strong preference for 'that more perfect form of participation in the Mass by which the faithful, after the priest's Communion, receive the Lord's Body from the same Sacrifice' (see the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 13). Thus, insofar as possible the faithful should receive Communion from hosts consecrated during the Mass itself and not just receive from the tabernacle.

"This practice requires a greater effort on the part of the priest and those who assist him in preparing the celebration. It is usually achievable after a while as the number of communicants at most parishes is fairly regular.

"A sufficient number of hosts should be reserved in the tabernacle to ensure that none ever be deprived of Communion due to miscalculation. And it will be sometimes necessary to use the tabernacle in order to renew the reserved hosts."

To this statement I would add a couple of comments in the light of what our reader mentioned.

Her expression about "serving leftovers" is rather unfortunate and theologically incorrect. While the sign value of receiving a host consecrated in the same Mass is certainly more perfect, the Mass is always the same unique sacrifice of Christ. So those who receive from the tabernacle receive the same Christ fruit of the same sacrifice.

The image she uses is perhaps an illustration of the inherent dangers of overemphasizing the meal aspect of the Mass (while not denying the reality of this meal or sacred banquet aspect).

From a pastoral standpoint I consider very perceptive her observation that in situations where the rite of Holy Communion in the Absence of a Priest is common, then the use of the tabernacle for Communion at Mass could contribute to confusion as to the role of priest and lay extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

Priests should be especially careful in similar circumstance to do all that is possible to stress the unique character of the Mass with respect to other rites, which can never really substitute for it.

Another reader, a priest, asked: "Our parish has had a number of consecrated hosts left in the pews and on the floor recently after Sunday Masses. We believe it is due to Communion in the hand. Do you know if the pastor of the parish can establish the rule in his parish: 'Communion on the tongue only'? Or can his bishop grant this to a parish on a case-by-case basis? Or does it have to go through the bishops' conference if his country has the indult?"

In principle the communicant who receives in the hand should communicate immediately and in front of the minister.

The faithful need to be reminded of this norm every now and again, so as to prevent accidents due to absent-mindedness or carelessness.

My own experience is that a priest can usually keep control, out of the corner of the eye, so to speak, so that the faithful do communicate in the proper manner.

Only rarely have I had to call attention to someone to ensure that they had consumed the host.

In one area that had suffered several attempts to steal hosts for sacrilegious purposes it became necessary for someone to flank the priest to ensure that Communion was consumed.

This said, if the solution of the faithful communicating immediately were to prove insufficient, then the diocesan bishop would have the authority to derogate the permission for receiving on the hand.

In some circumstances for example, an outdoor Mass celebrated on uneven terrain even the priest celebrant could prudentially opt only to administer on the tongue for that occasion in order to limit the danger of hosts falling to the earth. ZE04102622
 

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