Kitchen Catechism: Featured Articles
by Lois Donahue
PART III - For a long time Christians had been receiving Holy Communion under both species, however, there began to be concern about the lack of reverence for the Real Presence. Consequently, it became the custom to place the Host on the tongue and, again reflecting reverence, to kneel when receiving Communion. With the acceptance of the fact that Christ was wholly present under both the bread and the wine, it wasn’t long, for practical reasons as well as for the possible need for reverence, that the use of the Chalice by the laity began to disappear.
In the eleventh century there were controversies, even heresies, denying the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Church responded by emphasizing the truth of His Presence. In fact, at that time a Bishop ordered that immediately after the Consecration, the Host be elevated so that the congregation could adore the Blessed Sacrament. One result of such over emphasis was that people came to think of the ‘adoration’ with its graces and blessings to be equal to receiving Communion.
The reality that the Mass was a ‘true presence’ began to overshadow the truth that it was equally a true sacrifice and the sad result was that the people seemed to all but abandon the practice of receiving Holy Communion. I have the feeling that about then the Holy Spirit did some emphasizing of His own because it wasn’t long before a Church Council "found it necessary" to oblige Catholics to receive Holy Communion during the Easter season. Then again, when ‘non believers’ challenged what the Church taught, the Council of Trent "defined as a dogma of faith the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial nature of the Mass".
"Any change to the structure of the Mass was forbidden". Also, translating certain prayers of the Mass into the common language of the people was prohibited. (However, in l897 Pope Leo XIII did grant permission for the faithful to hear those parts of the Mass in their own language.)
Reading about the Council of Trent mentioned above, I came across the following which, although not specifically telling of ‘changes’ in the Mass, were evidently decisions made by the Church in response to questions about things obviously connected to the Mass.
Christ remains in the consecrated Host even after the Mass is finished.
Christ is totally present under the form of both bread and wine.
If a person receives Communion under only one form, that person still receives Jesus.
Only an ordained priest has the power to offer the Mass.
For various reasons, in the centuries following the Council of Trent there seems to have been very little participation of the laity in the Mass. It has been said that some of the signs of this tendency were -- the ‘clothes’ worn by the priest became more decorative - his prayers were said in almost a whisper and he used a language with which the people were not familiar – the altar railing seemed to be somewhat of a barrier between the people and the priest – the people no longer brought up their ordinary bread for consecration; instead unleavened bread in the shape of coins were consecrated – little by little the congregation began to feel, to some extent at least, like silent spectators.
Unfortunately as a consequence of all of this, fewer and fewer people were receiving Communion. Awareness of this undoubtedly prompted Pope Pius X to issue his degree "On Frequent and Even Daily Communion" in l905. Five years later he lowered the age for reception of First Holy Communion to the age of reason (about seven years old) and insisted that receiving Communion was a fitting and necessary participation in offering Mass. So began the very successful entry of laity participation in the Mass. Then came Vatican II and reform, which some have said, had never been seen before in the history of the Mass.
Those of us who have lived from Vatican II until now have certainly seen many changes connected with the Mass. To mention some ---- Eucharistic Ministers, Lectors and Altar Servers, both male and female – evening Masses – only one hour fast before receiving Communion – altars and tabernacles moved – wider variety of music -- liturgical dance. After all these years there are still agreements and disagreements regarding interpretation of the ‘reforms’ of Vatican II pronouncements. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is in charge of what conclusions will be reached.
It is interesting that even now more changes have been and are being considered. So our Church continues to adapt, in an approved manner and with the reliable guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the circumstances of time and thereby will offer others an opportunity to report on "The Mass" in coming centuries.
Let me end my simple talk about the Mass with four words I once read in hopes they will touch your mind and your heart as they did mine.
"MASS" SAYS WE’RE CATHOLIC
Now just a couple of ‘tack-on’ things. A priest once told me to remember this -- change does not necessarily mean what went before was wrong it only means the Holy Spirit allowed the change. For what reason we may not know or if we were told we might not understand. If we don’t understand, it is perfectly acceptable to question but we must seek answers from the official voice of the Church which comes to us from the Vatican in Rome. Then he added this. There is sometimes an inclination to use some change in the Church with which we disagree as an excuse to ‘lose faith’. That’s pretty much a time for some open, honest and persistent prayer.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
NEW AMERICAN BIBLE
THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA FOR HOME AND SCHOOL
THE MARYKNOLL CATHOLIC DICTIONARY
MODERN CATHOLIC DICTIONARY (Harden)
CRUDEN’S COMPLETE CONCORDANCE
A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE (McKenzie)
VISUALIZED CHURCH HISTORY
HOW THE MASS CAME TO BE
SINCE THE LAST SUPPER