By Father Edward McNamara, LC
ROME, October 14, 2014 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: At a recent priests meeting someone asked if concelebrating priests should genuflect before taking the chalice, especially if they have already consumed the sacred host. — J.F., Boston, Massachusetts
A. The logistics of priests' communion during concelebration is governed by some basic rules, but at times some adaptations have to be made in virtue of particular local circumstances such as the space available and the number of priests.
First of all, we can examine the basic rules as found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
"240. While the Agnus Dei is sung or said, the deacons or some of the concelebrants may help the principal celebrant break the hosts for Communion, both of the concelebrants and of the people.
"241. After the commixtion, the principal celebrant alone, with hands joined, privately says the prayer Domine Iesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God) or Perceptio Corporis et Sanguinis (Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy).
"242. When this prayer before Communion is finished, the principal celebrant genuflects and steps back a little. Then one after another the concelebrants come to the middle of the altar, genuflect, and reverently take the Body of Christ from the altar. Then holding it in their right hand, with the left hand placed below, they return to their places. The concelebrants may, however, remain in their places and take the Body of Christ from the paten presented to them by the principal celebrant or by one or more of the concelebrants, or by passing the paten one to another.
"243. Then the principal celebrant takes a host consecrated in the same Mass, holds it slightly raised above the paten or the chalice, and, facing the people, says the Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God). With the concelebrants and the people he continues, saying the Domine, non sum dignus (Lord, I am not worthy).
"244. Then the principal celebrant, facing the altar, says quietly, Corpus Christi custodiat me ad vitam aeternam (May the body of Christ bring me to everlasting life), and reverently receives the Body of Christ. The concelebrants do likewise, communicating themselves. After them the deacon receives the Body and Blood of the Lord from the principal celebrant.
"245. The Blood of the Lord may be received either by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon.
"246. If Communion is received by drinking directly from the chalice, one or other of two procedures may be followed:
"a.The principal celebrant, standing at the middle of the altar, takes the chalice and says quietly, Sanguis Christi custodiat me in vitam aeternam (May the Blood of Christ bring me to everlasting life). He consumes a little of the Blood of Christ and hands the chalice to the deacon or a concelebrant. He then distributes Communion to the faithful (cf. above, nos. 160-162).
"b. The concelebrants approach the altar one after another or, if two chalices are used, two by two. They genuflect, partake of the Blood of Christ, wipe the rim of the chalice, and return to their seats.
"c. The principal celebrant normally consumes the Blood of the Lord standing at the middle of the altar.
"d. The concelebrants may, however, partake of the Blood of the Lord while remaining in their places and drinking from the chalice presented to them by the deacon or by one of the concelebrants, or else passed from one to the other. The chalice is always wiped either by the one who drinks from it or by the one who presents it. After communicating, each returns to his seat.
"247. The deacon reverently drinks at the altar all of the Blood of Christ that remains, assisted, if necessary, by some of the concelebrants. He then carries the chalice over to the credence table and there he or a duly instituted acolyte purifies, wipes, and arranges it in the usual way (cf. above, no. 183).
"248. The Communion of the concelebrants may also be arranged so that each concelebrant communicates the Body of the Lord at the altar and, immediately afterwards, the Blood of the Lord. In this case the principal celebrant receives Communion under both kinds in the usual way (cf. above, no. 158), observing, however, the rite chosen in each particular instance for Communion from the chalice; and the other concelebrants should follow suit.
"After the principal celebrant's Communion, the chalice is placed on another corporal at the side of the altar. The concelebrants approach the middle of the altar one after another, genuflect, and receive the Body of the Lord; then they go to the side of the altar and consume the Blood of the Lord, following the rite chosen for Communion from the chalice, as has just been said.
"The Communion of the deacon and the purification of the chalice take place as already described.
"249. If the concelebrants' Communion is by intinction, the principal celebrant receives the Body and Blood of the Lord in the usual way, but making sure that enough of the precious Blood remains in the chalice for the Communion of the concelebrants. Then the deacon, or one of the concelebrants, arranges the chalice as appropriate in the center of the altar or at the side on another corporal together with the paten containing particles of the host.
"The concelebrants approach the altar one after another, genuflect, and take a particle, dip it partly into the chalice, and, holding a purificator under their chin, consume the intincted particle. They then return to their places as at the beginning of Mass.
"The deacon also receives Communion by intinction and to the concelebrant's words Corpus et Sanguis Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ) makes the response Amen. The deacon, however, consumes at the altar all that remains of the Precious Blood, assisted, if necessary, by some of the concelebrants. He carries the chalice to the credence table and there he or a duly instituted acolyte purifies, wipes and arranges it in the usual way.”
Thus, according to No. 246, the concelebrants do genuflect before partaking of the chalice even though they have already consumed the sacred host.
This would mean that, in those cases where the concelebrants take the host at the altar before the principal celebrant says: “Behold the Lamb of God” (No. 242) and also consume the chalice at the altar, they make two genuflections.
It is not specified whether priests make a genuflection if the hosts and/or the chalice are brought to them at their places. In most cases it is probable that the very need that demands that the hosts be brought to the priests in their places would also preclude each one making a genuflection before taking the host.
The rubrics do not explain the reason for the genuflections before both host and chalice — which are not made by the principal concelebrant. I would hazard a guess that, since it is probable that priests who received the host at their places omit the genuflection, then establishing a genuflection before taking the chalice at the altar assured that they could make this visible act of reverence and adoration at least once.
Although it is always preferable that the concelebrants approach the chalice at the altar, there might be circumstances where the number of concelebrants or the lack of space could make this very impractical or take an inordinate amount of time. For example, even great Roman basilicas such as St. Paul's and St. John Lateran's have relatively small altars which are difficult to approach from more than one side.
There are, therefore, other possible procedures for the communion of large numbers of concelebrants. Deacons or concelebrants go in pairs to the other concelebrants. One brings the paten with the hosts, the other the chalice and purificator. The concelebrants either consume first the host and then take the chalice or, as would be more common in this situation, they dip the host in the chalice. Before he consumes the Eucharist, each concelebrant says quietly, "May the body and blood .…"
A rarer situation is when the space between rows of priests makes it impossible to move between them, for example, if priests are in choir stalls or a stadiumlike arrangement. Thus, although it is not specified in the liturgical books, I think it would be allowable for the pairs of deacons or concelebrants to take up a fixed spot toward which the concelebrants approach, genuflect if possible, and take the host and dip it in the chalice. I have observed this method used with reverence at some major events.
In these cases, those presenting the hosts and the chalice never say anything. Concelebrants take the host from the paten themselves and do not receive it from another minister.