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Covid19 & The Mass

Since the Coronavirus Pandemic, or Covid-19 to be exact, began there’s been many changes in our day to day lives, none of these changes are more obvious than in the closing of our churches, and now the reopening in some areas.

Changes in how we celebrate the liturgy

Now that the public celebration of the Mass is coming back to more and more dioceses, the faithful will no doubt notice some changes. Even before the suspension of public Mass due to the coronavirus, there were social distancing measures recommended, and also things like fist bumps rather than handshakes. Now it seems that the exchange of peace will just be omitted from the liturgy altogether, as it was an optional rite to begin with.

Some changes have been met with mixed emotions, but some have been welcomed by the faithful. There’s long been controversy over hand-holding during the Lord’s Prayer. Some people come down hard on it and say it’s a heresy, some say that holding hands is how it’s supposed to be done. Well it appears to have been settled for us, and is one less issue for Catholics to take each other over the coals with.

I’ve said all that to get to the point of this article, and that is the suspension of the Chalice during the Eucharistic Rite. In many parishes that celebrate the Ordinary Form of the Mass, there is often the Chalice of the Precious Blood that is offered along with Our Lord’s Body. Many people avail themselves of this offering, but lots do not. I’m not writing this to argue one way or the other on whether this was the right decision to make, its well within the authority of the Bishop of each diocese to make the Chalice of Precious Blood available to the laity, or to ban its distribution. Since 1970, the Congregation for Divine Worship has left it up to the national Bishop’s Conference of each nation to determine the conditions for the distribution of Holy Communion, and in 1984 the USCCB delegated that authority to each Bishop.

But some people seem to confuse the fact that receiving Holy Communion under both species is necessary or required. They feel that if they aren’t offered the Precious Blood. Is this true? I actually get asked about this all the time, and now that the Chalice is not going to be offered for the foreseeable future in many places, I’m finally getting around to answering it.

Let’s Start With The Catechism

CCC 1390: Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But “the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly” This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.

The Church has a teaching called Concomitance in regards to the Real Presence in both species of the Eucharist. What this means is that Christ is fully and truly present under both the Host and the Precious Blood. You can’t divide the divine essence of God, so you can’t take a Host and break it into pieces and say you’re only now receiving a fraction of Christ. Even a crumb of the Host, or a drop of the Precious Blood, left on the patten, the corporal or in the chalice, is the whole Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

You don’t have to receive the Host to consume His Body, and then drink from the chalice to receive His Blood. By receiving either species, you receive Him fully.

A “Fuller Sign”

GIRM 282: Sacred pastors should take care to ensure that the faithful who participate in the rite or are present at it, are made aware by the most suitable means possible of the Catholic teaching on the form of Holy Communion as laid down 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 hence that as regards the resulting fruits, those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any grace that is necessary for salvation.

Furthermore, they should teach that the Church, in her administration of the Sacraments, has the power to lay down or alter whatever provisions, apart from the substance of the Sacraments, that she judges to be more readily conducive to reverence for the Sacraments and the good of the recipients, in view of changing conditions, times, and places. However, at the same time the faithful should be instructed to participate more readily in this sacred rite, by which the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is made more fully evident.

The Church says that although reception of the Eucharist under both species is not necessary, it does make the symbolism contained in the Eucharist “more fully evident.”

What is this symbolism? The Church isn’t saying that the Eucharist is purely symbolic (so don’t get your pitchforks out yet), but there is an element of symbolism contained in the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, but the reception of the Eucharist also points towards the ends for which we were created; eternal union with God at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

Conclusion

So while the reception, or at least the offering, of the Eucharist under both species is optimal in some situations, it being currently limited is not depriving the faithful.

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