Ensuring Enough Hosts for Good Friday

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Ensuring Enough Hosts for Good Friday


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

Q: If a priest is pastor of more than one parish church and divides up the celebration of the Easter triduum among these parishes, should he, for the liturgical action on Good Friday, consecrate extra hosts on Palm Sunday at the church where the Good Friday liturgical action is celebrated? Or should he transport extra hosts for the liturgical action in his car from the church where he celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper? Would it be permitted to allow the faithful to venerate the cross on Good Friday after the Stations of the Cross celebrated at a time and church distinct from the primary liturgical action of Good Friday? Would this veneration as devotion, not as liturgical rite, be inadvisable because it could confuse people? — B.K., Garnett, Kansas

Q: I am a pastor in a sub-parish. A few days before Holy Week, two of my parishioners asked, "Father, is it possible for someone to come to the church on Good Friday with his or her own cross and, when it is time for veneration, do an act of veneration from where he or she is?" They asked me this (one of them was a nurse) for hygienic reasons: Some people might have a contagious disease. I tried to tell them that it is more appropriate to use one cross, and that is an act of faith, believing that our salvation came from one cross. And it is that same faith which prevents us from getting any contamination. My answer seemed not to satisfy them. — J.C., Morogoro, Tanzania

A: As these questions relate to Good Friday, I will attempt to handle these together.

There is certainly a difficulty with a priest who has two or more parishes, but I fear that the solution proposed is not legitimate.

The 1988 circular letter "Paschales Solemnitatis" and the norms of the new Latin Missal are clear that the Mass of the Lord's Supper and the Good Friday service are related in such an intimate way that they should generally be celebrated in the same church. The document states:

"46. The Mass of the Lord's Supper is celebrated in the evening, at a time that is more convenient for the full participation of the whole local community. All priests may concelebrate even if on this day they have already concelebrated the Chrism Mass, or if, for the good of the faithful, they must celebrate another Mass.

"47. Where pastoral considerations require it, the local Ordinary may permit another Mass to be celebrated in churches and oratories in the evening, and in the case of true necessity, even in the morning, but only for those faithful who cannot otherwise participate in the evening Mass. Care should nevertheless be taken to ensure that celebrations of this kind do not take place for the benefit of private persons or of small groups, and that they are not to the detriment of the main Mass.

"According to the ancient tradition of the Church, all Masses without the participation of the people are on this day forbidden.

"48. The Tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration. Hosts for the Communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration. A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for Communion on the following day.

"49. For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation, seriousness appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined so that all abuses are avoided or suppressed. When the tabernacle is located in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare the place of repose and adoration there.

"53. It is more appropriate that the Eucharist be borne directly from the altar by the deacons, or acolytes, or extraordinary ministers at the moment of communion for the sick and infirm who must communicate at home, so that in this way they may be more closely united to the celebrating Church.

"54. After the post-Communion prayer, the procession forms, with the crossbar at its head. The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by lighted candles and incense, is carried through the church to the place of reservation, to the singing of the hymn 'Pange lingua' or some other eucharistic song. This rite of transfer of the Blessed Sacrament may not be carried out if the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion will not be celebrated in that same church on the following day.

"55. The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.

"The place where the tabernacle or pyx is situated must not be made to resemble a tomb, and the expression 'tomb' is to be avoided. The chapel of repose is not prepared so as to represent the 'Lord's burial' but for the custody of the eucharistic bread that will be distributed in Communion on Good Friday.

"56. After the Mass of the Lord's Supper the faithful should be encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which has been solemnly reserved. Where appropriate, this prolonged eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the Gospel of St. John (chapters. 13-17).

"From midnight onwards, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity, because the day of the Lord's passion has begun."

Therefore, since the tabernacle should be empty before the Mass of the Lord's Supper, it would not be correct to use hosts from Palm Sunday.

While the above norms do not positively exclude the possibility of privately bringing the hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lord's Supper to another church for Good Friday (thus eliminating the possibility of having an altar of repose at either church), the general sense of Norm 54, as well as the description of the rites in the missal, presuppose that both rites are celebrated in the same church.

If the people of all the parishes cannot come together for a single celebration, then the possibility remains of requesting permission from the bishop of celebrating a second Mass of the Lord's Supper and consequently two celebrations of the Passion on Good Friday. It is certainly very taxing on the priest but is probably the best pastoral solution.

The celebration of the Easter Vigil is not associated in this way and may be celebrated independently of the other two functions. For how to set up the paschal candle in churches where the vigil is not celebrated, we suggested a possible solution on April 11, 2006.

With respect to the question of the veneration of the cross, the document indicates the following:

"68. For veneration of the cross, let a cross be used that is of appropriate size and beauty, and let one of the forms for this rite as found in the Roman Missal be followed. The rite should be carried out with the splendor worthy of the mystery of our salvation: both the invitation pronounced at the unveiling of the cross, and the people's response should be made in song, and a period of respectful silence is to be observed after each act of veneration — the celebrant standing and holding the raised cross.

"69. The cross is to be presented to each of the faithful individually for their adoration since the personal adoration of the cross is a most important feature in this celebration; only when necessitated by the large numbers of faithful present should the rite of veneration be made simultaneously by all present.

"Only one cross should be used for the veneration, as this contributes to the full symbolism of the rite. During the veneration of the cross the antiphons, 'Reproaches,' and hymns should be sung, so that the history of salvation be commemorated through song. Other appropriate songs may also be sung (cf. n. 42).

"71. After the celebration, the altar is stripped; the cross remains however, with four candles. An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord's cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it, and spend some time in meditation.

"72. Devotions such as the Way of the Cross, processions of the passion, and commemorations of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not, for pastoral reasons, to be neglected. The texts and songs used, however, should be adapted to the spirit of the Liturgy of this day. Such devotions should be assigned to a time of day that makes it quite clear that the Liturgical celebration by its very nature far surpasses them in importance."

On the basis of these last two numbers I suggest it is inadvisable to combine the veneration of the cross with the Way of the Cross in any way, as it is more than likely to confuse the faithful.

Also, questions of hygiene should not be neglected in rites such as the veneration of the cross. If an objective danger exists, then proper measures should be taken to avoid contagion. God will not necessarily offer his protection in all such cases.

The solution, however, is not for each person to bring his or her own cross, as this would weaken the symbolism of the rite of veneration, but rather to substitute another gesture of veneration that does not require physical contact. The missal itself proposes the gesture of a simple genuflection before the cross as a possible sign of veneration, as well as other gestures belonging to the local culture.

Therefore, in areas where there is a fairly high risk of contracting a disease, the pastor could suggest the possibility that each person may make a genuflection or some other suitable gesture before the cross instead of the customary kiss.

Some readers asked about the rules of fasting. We dealt with this subject on March 14 and 28, 2006. ZE07032727

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Follow-up: Ensuring Enough Hosts for Good Friday [4-17-2007]

After our piece on the Good Friday services (March 27) a reader from France wrote: "My friend who lives in the south of France was telling me that her parish holds an ecumenical service for Good Friday — they alternate between the Catholic Church and the Protestant church each year for the service. Since it is being followed for many years, she was quite surprised that others have Good Friday services only in the Catholic Church. Now the question is: Is this possible? What about the distribution of Communion?"

Our correspondent was right to wonder as to the legitimacy of this practice. Catholics and Protestants may certainly come together on Good Friday to share the Scriptures as a common spiritual good. These moments of sharing, however, may never substitute such an important liturgical celebration as the Passion on Good Friday.

The practice of the French parish almost certainly means that Catholics who participate in the Protestant service are deprived of Communion as well as the veneration of the cross, as this rite would be unacceptable to most Protestant sensibilities.

It would also violate the liturgical law mentioned last time that intimately associates the celebration of the Lord's Supper with that of Good Friday.

Finally, several readers asked if confessions were not allowed on Good Friday. As mentioned in our follow-up of April 27, 2004, no such prohibition exists and several Church documents expressly approve the practice. ZE07041729

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