Multiple Communions on Good Friday

Author: Father Edward McNamara, LC


Multiple Communions on Good Friday

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

ROME, 13 March 2018 (ZENIT)

Q: Given that a priest may, in some cases, celebrate the Good Friday liturgy multiple times (per Paschalis Solemnitatis, No. 43); given that the Good Friday liturgy is not a Mass and thus is not a sacrificial act requiring the celebrant’s consumption of the victim for its integrity by divine law; and given the norm of Canon 917 (as authentically interpreted): “A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 921, §2” — may/must the priest take Communion during the second Good Friday celebration? May others (e.g., a deacon who assists in both services) also receive Communion a second time? — G.S., Washington, D.C.

A: Paschalis Solemnitatis, No. 43, says:

“43. It is fitting that small religious communities, both clerical and lay, and other lay groups should participate in the celebration of the Easter Triduum in neighboring principal churches.

“Similarly, where the number of participants and ministers is so small that the celebrations of the Easter Triduum cannot be carried out with the requisite solemnity, such groups of the faithful should assemble in a larger church.

“Also, where there are small parishes with only one priest, it is recommended that such parishes should assemble, as far as possible, in a principal church and participate in the celebration there.

“On account of the needs of the faithful, where a pastor has the responsibility for two or more parishes in which the faithful assemble in large numbers, and where the celebration can be carried out with the requisite care and solemnity, the celebrations of the Easter Triduum may be repeated in accord with the given norms.

“So that seminary students ‘might live fully Christ’s paschal mystery, and thus be able to teach those who will be committed to their care,’ they should be given a thorough and comprehensive liturgical formation. It is important that during their formative years in the seminary, they should experience fruitfully the solemn Easter celebrations, especially those over which the bishop presides.”

With respect to Good Friday it also says:

“59. On this day, in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist: Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the celebration of the Lord’s passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration.”

We are dealing with a special, indeed unique, case. However, I would say that in my opinion, the answer would be negative and that the pastor would not receive Communion twice on this day.

First of all, as our reader points out, except in danger of death, canon law foresees the possibility of a second Communion only within the context of a Mass, and this is not a Mass.

Second, whereas at Mass the priest must always communicate in virtue of his ministry, in this case there is no intrinsic need to take a second Communion. Likewise, in the rare case that he celebrated a third celebration of the Passion, it would be clear that a third Communion would go against the law. Therefore, the priest’s reception is not essential to the Good Friday celebration.

Third, in 1955 Pope Pius XII restored the possibility of receiving Communion during the celebration of the Passion on Good Friday after many centuries in which it was not distributed. The intention for this change was: “[A]bove all: that, devoutly receiving the Body of the Lord, delivered up for all on this day, they [the faithful] may obtain more abundantly the fruits of Redemption.” The faculty, however, was, and still is, restricted to participation within this celebration except for the sick. Because of these restrictions it would appear that the Church’s mind on this matter would not favor multiple Communions on this day.

Finally: if a priest must celebrate more than one celebration of the Passion it is: “On account of the needs of the faithful.” Although he probably derives much spiritual profit from his dedication, his primary motivation is that of serving the faithful.

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