Communion Under both Species

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A commenter asks:

When I was younger, I'm 50, we didn't have anything to drink at Communion. All we got was the dry wafer.
Why & when did they change it?

Short answer:

WHY: To encourage fuller participation in the Mass by Catholics.
WHEN: After the Second vatican Council.

I sorta knew the answer off the top of my head, but thinking about it made me realize it's been a long time since I read any of the Church's liturgy documents, so just for fun, I decided to reseach a slightly more thorough answer.

Long answer:

From the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sancrosanctum Concilium, (herafter SC).

55. That more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's body from the same sacrifice, is strongly commended.

The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact (40), communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism.

The paragraph above doesn't state a reason for allowing Communions under both species, but it appears as one of several revisions that aimed to foster a fuller, more active inward and outward participation in the mass by the people. As SC puts it:

48.The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, [38] they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.

Under this reasoning, it is desirable to receive both the consecrated bread and wine as a fuller participation in the Eucharist, symbolically speaking, even if only permitted in limited circumstances.

We also see in SC 55 that the Council encouraged the reception under both species with a reference to the Council Trent's dogmatic principles. What are those principles?

From The Council of Trent's Doctrine on Communion under Both Species:

CANON I.—If any one saith, that, by the precept of God, or, by necessity of salvation, all and each of the faithful of Christ ought to receive both species of the most holy sacrament not consecrating; let him be anathema.

CANON II.—If any one saith, that the holy Catholic Church was not induced, by just causes and reasons, to communicate, under the species of bread only, laymen, and also clerics when not consecrating; let him be be anathema.

CANON III.—If any one denieth, that Christ whole and entire—the fountain and author of all graces—is received under the one species of bread; because that—as some falsely assert—He is not received, according to the institution of Christ himself, under both species; let him be anathema.

So Trent was concerned with the truths of faith that Christ is wholly present - body, blood, soul and divinity as the saying goes - in each species, and that one need not receive both species to receive Christ fully.

So a strict application of SC would only allow communion under both forms in very limited circumstances. However, the key here is that the circumstances are up to the bishop to determine based on guidelines from the Vatican. So what are the Vatican's guidelines?

From the current General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) (The GIRM is a sort of an instruction book on an instruction book, providing further explanations and instructions on the prayers and actions in the Roman Missal, which is a more bare-bones text that pretty much says what to say or do and when to say or do it.) Emphasis mine:

Communion under Both Kinds

281. Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clear expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the relationship between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Father's Kingdom.105

282. Sacred pastors should take care to ensure that the faithful who participate in the rite or are present at it are as fully aware as possible of the Catholic teaching on the form of Holy Communion as set forth by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. Above all, they should instruct the Christian faithful that the Catholic faith teaches that Christ, whole and entire, and the true Sacrament, is received even under only one species, and consequently that as far as the effects are concerned, those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any of the grace that is necessary for salvation.106

They are to teach, furthermore, that the Church, in her stewardship of the Sacraments, has the power to set forth or alter whatever provisions, apart from the substance of the Sacraments, that she judges to be most conducive to the veneration of the Sacraments and the well-being of the recipients, in view of changing conditions, times, and places.107 At the same time, the faithful should be encouraged to seek to participate more eagerly in this sacred rite, by which the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is made more fully evident.

283. In addition to those cases given in the ritual books, Communion under both kinds is permitted for

Priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate Mass;

The deacon and others who perform some duty at the Mass;

Members of communities at the conventual Mass or "community" Mass, along with seminarians, and all who are engaged in a retreat or are taking part in a spiritual or pastoral gathering.

The Diocesan Bishop may establish norms for Communion under both kinds for his own diocese, which are also to be observed in churches of religious and at celebrations with small groups. The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the priest to whom, as its own shepherd, a community has been entrusted, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite's becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or some other reason.

In all that pertains to Communion under both kinds, the Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America are to be followed (see nos. 27-54).

So the norms from the Holy See can be seen as encouraging a more robust interpretation of SC, which is why we now see so many Catholic parishes regularly distributing the Eucharist under both forms. But again, we see a warning not to let the doctrine of Christ's real and complete presence in each single species be confused or forgotten. We also see here a reference to the logistical problems of Communion under both kinds.

There is, as with so many other things, a divide among Catholics over this issue. Many Catholics appreciate the fuller symbolism of receiving the Eucharist as the Apostles and early Church did: in both species.

On the other hand, many tradition-minded Catholics see the normalization of reception of both species as a blurring of the theological doctrine of Trent which is still the doctrine of the Catholic Church: that Jesus is present entirely when you receive simply the bread.

There are also the logistical considerations referenced in the GIRM. For example: estimating how much wine is needed, managing the length of time it takes to distribute, and taking care to treat the consecrated wine with the reverence due to God.

Personally, although I enjoy receiving under both forms and appreciate the opportunity when it arises, I have a deep sympathy for the doctrine argument. it's hard to imagine that most Catholics understand that they are not "missing out" on something other than symbolism when they only receive under one species.

Whatever my or anybody else's opinions may be, it seems clear that the instruction in GIRM 282 about the need for catechesis on the truths of the Eucharist is one that sorely needs attention.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on July 8, 2006 8:12 AM.

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