The Eucharist Teaching #2: We’re All in This Together
Have you ever been at Mass somewhere, and you were simply baffled by some of the things the priest was doing? And a thought went through your head like, “Why don’t priests just pray the Mass the way it’s laid out?” Now, of course, there are parts of the Mass where the priest has a great deal of freedom: which Eucharistic prayer to use, how to phrase the prayer after the intercessions, using the shorter or longer version of a reading. But in general, each person present at Mass enters into the liturgy of the whole Church, not a private liturgy. This is important. At Mass, each person present enters into the liturgy of the whole Church, not a private liturgy.
That’s how Catholic liturgy works. Present tense. That’s how it works now. But before Vatican II Catholics could do their own private thing at Mass. They could give the responses, or not. Before Vatican II, Father prayed the Mass and Catholics in the pews watched him do it. They didn’t have to give responses if they didn’t want to. It was a matter of personal preference.
That was then. These days, personal preference about how to pray the Mass means nothing. Zero. Consider an 80-year-old priest who was trained to pray the Mass in Latin, and who’s now doing the weekend Masses for a parish even though he’s retired. In the Latin Mass, the priest would go to the altar after Communion and recite a second Gospel, called the “Last Gospel.” If that 80-year-old priest really feels in his heart today that he should still do another gospel after Communion, should he be doing that? No. But if he says, “That’s the way I was taught to pray the Mass,” should he do a second gospel at Mass on the weekend? No. What he was taught back then is beside the point. Priests should pray the Mass as it is currently given us to pray it. Is there anyone here who disagrees with that? Is there anyone who thinks that priests should pray the Mass however it suits them?
Okay. But fair is fair. If there’s a Catholic in the pews at Mass who really feels in their heart that they should genuflect before receiving Communion instead of bowing, should they be doing that? No. But if they say, “The nuns taught me to kneel when receiving Communion,” should they kneel to receive Communion? No. Remember the 80-year-old-priest. We pray the Mass as it is currently given us to pray it. The posture for receiving Communion in the United States today is standing. So, is there anyone here who thinks that priests have to pray the Mass the way they’re supposed to, but that the people in the pews don’t?” Good. Because fair is fair; we’re in this together.
The main thing to remember when receiving Communion is that you have a response to give: a bow, and saying “Amen.” ‘We know that, Father.’ I don’t think we do, because a response comes after. Every time you say “Amen” at Mass, it’s designed to come after something else. For example: “We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.” After. But what happens all the time in the Communion line is the response being given at the same time. Don’t bow, and don’t say ‘Amen’ until after you hear “The Body of Christ,” or “The Blood of Christ.” Saying “Amen” signals agreement to something that’s said. Which means that it has to wait until the thing that’s said, is said. Actually, people are also bowing when they’re still second or third in line. So, first the minister of Communion speaks, and then you respond.
Next week we’ll look closely at receiving Communion in the hand and on the tongue.