Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

Archive for July, 2008

Concelebrants From Different Rites

And More on Consecrated Hosts

ROME, JUNE 26, 2007 ( Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Are there special norms for the celebration of Mass when priests of different rites concelebrate? — A.E., New York

A: The 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite is silent regarding this subject, but it was specifically addressed in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated in 19–

Canon 701 of this code states: “For a just cause and with the permission of the eparchial bishop, bishops and presbyters of different churches ‘sui iuris’ can concelebrate, especially to foster love and to manifest the unity of the Churches. All follow the prescripts of the liturgical books of the principal celebrant, avoiding any liturgical syncretism whatever, and preferably with all wearing the liturgical vestments and insignia of their own Church ‘sui iuris.'”

Unlike most canons, this one lists no sources for its indications in earlier documents, thus confirming that it was specifically composed to address a relatively new situation. As it is the only norm available, its indications are also applicable to Roman-rite priests.

To this may be added the injunction of the instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” No. 113: “Where it happens that some of the Priests who are present do not know the language of the celebration and therefore are not capable of pronouncing the parts of the Eucharistic Prayer proper to them, they should not concelebrate, but instead should attend the celebration in choral dress in accordance with the norms.”

Therefore a priest, with sufficient dominion of the language, may receive permission to concelebrate in a Mass of a rite different from his own. This permission may be for a specific situation or habitual, as may be the case of some Eastern priests studying or residing in Latin-rite institutes or priestly residences.

The priest should normally participate in the vestments of his own rite, as was clearly visible in Pope John Paul II’s funeral and Benedict XVI’s installation Mass where each of the Eastern cardinals who concelebrated wore his own proper vestments.

Canon 7–2 of the Eastern code, however, allows for exceptions to be made to this rule if proper vestments are unavailable. This could easily happen to an Eastern priest traveling in Europe or America or, less likely, a Latin-rite priest in an Eastern country. In such cases he may concelebrate using Latin or Eastern vestments.

As the canon says, there should be no attempt to syncretize or mix elements of different rites. Only one rite may be followed.

The texts and rubrics of some Eastern rites have been translated into several languages. In some cases these translations are for study purposes only, and priests may never concelebrate using a translation that has not been formally approved for liturgical use by the proper authorities.

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Follow-up: When a Host Isn’t Swallowed

Some readers took umbrage toward the affirmation in our June 12 column on corruption of the host: that Christ’s real presence would no longer subsist in a microscopic fragment of the host.

A clarifying link to an earlier reply was provided in the earlier piece. However, given that not all of our readers have access to the Internet, I will restate the essential point here.

My reply was principally based on an application of the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologiae” III pars q — In the corpus of the fourth article of this question, “Whether the sacramental species can be corrupted,” the Angelic Doctor affirms:

“An accident can be corrupted in another way, through the corruption of its subject, and in this way also they can be corrupted after consecration; for although the subject does not remain, still the being which they had in the subject does remain, which being is proper, and suited to the subject. And therefore such being can be corrupted by a contrary agent, as the substance of the bread or wine was subject to corruption, and, moreover, was not corrupted except by a preceding alteration regarding the accidents.

“Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between each of the aforesaid corruptions; because, when the body and the blood of Christ succeed in this sacrament to the substance of the bread and wine, if there be such change on the part of the accidents as would not have sufficed for the corruption of the bread and wine, then the body and blood of Christ do not cease to be under this sacrament on account of such change, whether the change be on the part of the quality, as for instance, when the color or the savor of the bread or wine is slightly modified; or on the part of the quantity, as when the bread or the wine is divided into such parts as to keep in them the nature of bread or of wine. But if the change be so great that the substance of the bread or wine would have been corrupted, then Christ’s body and blood do not remain under this sacrament; and this either on the part of the qualities, as when the color, savor, and other qualities of the bread and wine are so altered as to be incompatible with the nature of bread or of wine; or else on the part of the quantity, as, for instance, if the bread be reduced to fine particles, or the wine divided into such tiny drops that the species of bread or wine no longer remain.”

Thus, our discussion dealt specifically with the theme of corruption of the host by reduction “to fine particles … that the species of bread no longer remain.”

This is a different question to that of Christ being really present in small particles or fragments of a host while retaining the species of bread. So long as the species of bread remains, Christ is really present and it is even possible to administer Communion to the sick or persecuted using very small pieces of hosts or even drops of Precious Blood.

Thus, while Christ would certainly not be present in microscopic or no longer visible fragments, it is almost impossible to establish a dividing line when dealing with small but visible particles — and the Church has never wished to pronounce on this theme.

In part this is due to the objective difficulty and danger in making such a demarcation, but also so as avoid giving any justification whatsoever for a lackadaisical manner of treating the sacred species.

Even when specifically asked about this question in the 1960s, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith merely recalled the necessity of observing due reverence for all fragments by carefully following all Church norms regarding the purification of sacred vessels and altar linens as well as the proper procedure for cleansing the area if a host should happen to fall to the floor.

I hope that this clarifies Church doctrine on this matter for our concerned readers. As for me, my intention is always to coincide with the Church’s teachings.


Why No Litanies at a Wedding

And More on Masses for the Living and the Dead

ROME, JUNE 19, 2007 ( Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: When can litanies be used? Can they be adapted into liturgical celebrations that do not, as such, call for it? Why are they used and for what purpose? The litany is used during baptism, ordination, during blessings and consecrations of places (churches) and people, during the Easter Vigil, etc. The specific situation I am referring to is during a marriage. A marriage is a key moment in a couple’s life and they take on a distinctive vocation. I understand the litany is used to recognize, to call on the saints to pray for those being ordained or professed as religious, but the rite does not provide for the litany during the marriage ceremony. If there is one vocation which needs the explicit assistance of the saints, then I think it would be the married vocation. It seems odd that at each of the other major points in a person’s life, the litany is sung, but not at the wedding. Would it be appropriate to include a litany of the saints during the rite of a marriage? As the litany could include the formula for the general intercessions, would you see it appropriate to replace the general intercessions with the litany of the saints? — J.M., Sydney, Australia

A: The litany (from the Greek “lite,” or prayer) was a simple and popular form of collective prayer which in the early Church was used before the dismissal of catechumens who could not assist at the prayers of the faithful. Usually a deacon or reader would enumerate a series of simple petitions and the people would respond with a phrase such as “Pray for us.”

The origin of the litanic prayer is obscure, and forms of this prayer existed also in Jewish and pagan culture. There is early evidence of the use of the litanic form of prayer in Rome from before the year 225.

The litany of saints is divided into two elements: the invocation of a list of saints, and a series of invocations addressed directly to God which are almost certainly much older that the list of saints.

While the practice of a short list of saints written in Greek may have begun in Rome under Pope Sergius (687-701), it would appear that the litany as we know it today developed in eighth-century Ireland and England from whence they returned to continental Europe a hundred years or so later.

While the litany is found in several various rites, this did not conform to a set plan. Rather, it developed independently in each rite over a different time scale, the earliest evidence of its use being for the baptismal liturgy.

Their essential function is to implore the saints’ intercession and God’s protection before a particular moment or rite of special significance. They are also sometimes used in processions; for example, a special litany of the saints sometimes accompanies the entrance procession for some especially significant and solemn papal celebrations.

The rite of marriage probably never had a litany because the fixing of the essential lines of this rite antedates the introduction of the litany by several centuries.

While the idea of introducing a litany within the context of a wedding is not without merit, it would not be correct to independently replace the prayer of the faithful for a litany of the saints, as this would alter the established rite of Christian marriage.

Since marriage is one of those rites where the bishops’ conference enjoys fairly wide leeway in adapting to local needs, it would not be unthinkable for a particular national conference to propose to the Holy See the introduction of some form of litany.

There would be no particular difficulty, however, in including some form of petition to the saints within the context of the prayer of the faithful. For example, a petition could ask something like: “For N. and N., that they may imitate in their lives those saints who have been sanctified in the married state, especially Sts. Priscilla and Aquila, Sts. N. and N., etc., whose intercession we also invoke this day.”

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Follow-up: Masses for the Living and the Dead

Some readers responded to the question (June 5) on whether Mass offered for the living was more efficacious than that offered for the dead.

A meticulous reader did an online search for the supposed quotes of St. Anselm and Pope Benedict XV and turned up several pages that all provided the same quotes, including the same grammatical errors: “A great Doctor of the Church, St. Anselm declares that a single Mass offered for oneself during life may be worth more than a thousand celebrated for the same intention after death,” and “Pope Benedict XV tells us, ‘The Holy Mass would be of greater profit if people had it offered in their lifetime rather than having it celebrated for the relief of their souls after death. … The fruits of the Sacrifice of the Mass are in effect much greater efficacy [sic] during one’s life than after one’s death because the application which is made to those well-disposed among the living is more direct, more certain and more abundant.'”

As our reader points out, none of these sites provide bibliographical references to the sources of these quotes. And an electronic search of St. Anselm’s works failed to find any text corresponding to the supposed quote.

This does not prove that the quotes are false, nor that they are doctrinally groundless. But it does remind us to be wary of uncritically using the Internet as a source of knowledge, and to always attempt to verify our sources.

A correspondent from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, asked: “Several people have told me that having Mass offered for a living person is ‘more efficacious’ than if that person attended Mass himself. How would you respond to this statement? I would think that attending the holy sacrifice of the Mass oneself, if not prevented by some serious reason such as poor health, would be more efficacious.”

In general we should avoid focusing the question of the efficacy of a Mass in such a way that reduces, commodifies or limits the infinite efficaciousness of Christ’s holy sacrifice.

It is like asking which is more efficacious, driving oneself or having someone drive for you? In the end the important thing is reaching your destination.

God’s granting of grace cannot be standardized. Whether a person receives more spiritual benefit from attending Mass or from having someone offering a Mass for him depends on a plethora of factors ranging from God’s liberality to the person’s subjective willingness to correspond to the gift of grace.

If any difference might be found it is that, for Catholics, attending Mass (unless legitimately impeded) is a necessary means of spiritual progress and even a necessary means of salvation. Having Mass offered for one, however, does not enjoy the same degree of necessity and some people could even reach sanctity even if nobody ever remembered to offer a Mass for their benefit.