Tuesday, July 15, 2003

More Reader Comments

Comments in blue, replies in black.

What still isn't clear to me, from your recent blog post, is whether you actually agree with Shawn's main proposition--that people should follow the local customs on posture for the time being--or whether you advocate following one's own personal sensibility regardless of venue.

In my parish, it's not uncommon to kneel, and everyone kneels after the Agnus Dei and continues kneeling until the priest sits. I know a priest who is furious over the idea of kneeling to receive, and if I were in his Church I wouldn't dream of it. I'm trying to be worshipful and reverent, not disgust people and send them into rages. Perhaps it's my style of writing, but I find that it's difficult for me to convey the fact that I'm not saying kneeling is inherently morally superior to standing. I'm only saying that there's great value in it; that it's definitely allowed when receiving communion under §160(2) and the CDWDS' protocol; and, that it's currently allowed after the Agnus Dei due to the problems I've pointed out with the Bishop's non-use of §43. Given that argument, and as I indicate below, I don't think I can consistently argue that one must always kneel or that, even if one is a "kneeler," he should do so whenever and wherever without regard to the sensibilities of one's brothers, sisters, and fathers in the faith.

As far as I know, there is not yet a single document from the CDWDS which advocates the latter. Nor will there ever be. There is, however, the following passage from Ecclesia de Eucharista which seems relevant to the issue of kneeling to receive communion in defiance of the liturgical norm:

Grrrrrr! In view of the CDWDS' protocol, the appropriate posture to receive communion is standing unless the communicant chooses to kneel.

"I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated. The Apostle Paul had to address fiery words to the community of Corinth because of grave shortcomings in their celebration of the Eucharist resulting in divisions (schismata) and the emergence of factions (haireseis) (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34). Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church. Precisely to bring out more clearly this deeper meaning of liturgical norms, I have asked the competent offices of the Roman Curia to prepare a more specific document, including prescriptions of a juridical nature, on this very important subject." (Ecclesia de Eucharista, Chapter 5, verse 52)

First, this was written by the Pope whose Congregation for the Doctrine of Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments says that kneeling to receive communion is completely appropriate. Second, the USCCB began with the position that kneeling is "not a licit posture for receiving holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States of America unless the bishop of a particular diocese has derogated from this norm in an individual and extraordinary circumstance." Third, the CDWDS demanded that US-GIRM §160(2) be written to allow communion to Catholics who kneel, saying that the USCCB must "introduce a clause that would protect those faithful who will inevitably be led by their own sensibilities to kneel, from imprudent action by priests, deacons or lay ministers in particular, or from being refused holy Communion for such a reason as happens on occasion." That's as reported by the National Catholic Register in this story. I may have an obligation to be as Catholic as the Pope, but I'm under no obligation to depart from his decisions in the cause of being "more Catholic" than he is. The Holy Father has exercised his sovereign ordinary jurisdiction over my Bishop and all the bishops in the United States to insist that I be allowed to kneel when receiving communion. I can only conclude that a "violation" of whatever "norm" §160(2) may be said to represent is not the kind of transgression which brought St. Paul's fiery condemnation on the Corinthians' heresies and scandals -- unless, of course, you want to say that the Pope condemns heresies and schisms in encyclicals but winks at them in the Curia.

Let's look at something else from Ecclesia de Eucharistia. It adumbrates some of my later comments on "Edification and Kneeling" but it's worth looking at while we're on the subject of traducing the nature of the Mass:

The mystery of the Eucharist ­ sacrifice, presence, banquet ­ does not allow for reduction or exploitation; it must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion or in a prayerful moment of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass. These are times when the Church is firmly built up and it becomes clear what she truly is: one, holy, catholic and apostolic; the people, temple and family of God; the body and bride of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit; the universal sacrament of salvation and a hierarchically structured communion.

-- Ecclesia de Eucharistia, ¶ 61 (2003) (emphases original and supplied)

Now our Bishop has decreed that we're to stand and sing continuously after the Agnus Dei. In other words, his directive denies Catholics the opportunity for intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion. Standing and singing "Gather Us In" is by no stretch of the imagination "intimate converse with the Lord." It is public, uniform, and conducted according to the will of whatever "music director" or "liturgist" is picking out the communion song for this week. If anything in this whole mess is worthy of a "fiery condemnation," the campaign to eradicate this tender intimacy is certainly among the top four or five candidates.

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