Thursday, September 19, 2002

Reverence for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament

Emily Stimpson asks on HMS Blog:

In the days before the Council, was there a deep desire among Catholics to rip out the altar rails, stand before the priest, and receive the Eucharist in the hands? How did people react when that change came?

I only ask, because the University, in response to a recent statement from the bishops, is cracking down on students who genuflect before or kneel during reception of the Eucharist. The majority of students here are not happy about that. We all grew up doing the shuffle, shuffle routine and find genuflecting or kneeling far more helpful in preparing our bodies and souls to receive Christ. I still haven’t quite figured out why the Church did away with this form of reverence in the first place, and am curious to hear your thoughts, memories, etc.

From what I understand, the norms call for an act of reverence prior to receiving the communion. They don't say what that act of reverence is. The bishops have the authority to regulate that norm. They have ruled that kneeling or genuflecting is not an appropriate act at that time because it is disruptive and calls too much attention to one's self (at least it would at most parishes).

Prior to Vatican II the act of reverence was to kneel at the altar rail and stick out your tongue. After the Council many parishes did away with the altar rail and began the queue. I'm fortunate enough to attend a parish that still has and uses the altar rail, although I'm not adverse to using the queue, especially here at the seminary where there is no rail.

What are acceptable acts of reverence? For one of the Church fathers it was holding your two hands together in the shape of a cup in which to receive and worship our Lord. For myself, I prefer a (permissible) profound bow when I have to use the queue.

I am actually of the opinion, though, that the kneeling and reciting of the "Domine non sum dignus" qualifies as an act of reverence.

This reminds me of a debate that erupted in the early years of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. The question arose: If the bishop were to tell a prayer group to stop praying in tongues, should they stop? There was a fairly heated debate about this one, some groups opting for (theoretical) defiance because tongues was so obviously from the Lord. The other group (whom I agree with) said, "No, as Catholics we have to submit to legitimate pastors, then if we disagree with their pastoral judgment we need to take advantage of legitimate channels to voice our disagreement."

Long and short of it: The bishops have the authority to regulate this norm and the students and others owe them the obedience due legitimate pastors. They also have the canonical right to express their concerns about the regulation to their pastors. I think it is not a legitimate option to publicly defy the clear directive of the bishops

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