Food for thought

A monk of Douai currently teaching and working in Rome is Fr Paul Gunter. Apart from being Vice-President of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome, he is also a Consultor to the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. He has recently written a short piece on the reception Holy Communion under both kinds which is available to read online.

When reading it note the distinction that emerges between the fullness of the sign of Holy Communion, and the fullness of grace in Holy Communion. The two are not the same thing. For the fullness of the sign to be effected it is necessary only that the priest celebrant receive both species; for the congregation it may be desirable, but it is not thereby necessary. That is because in either species, the Host or the Blood, the fullness of grace is contained and is bestowed (whether it is also received in its fullness is up to the individual!). So to receive the fullness of the grace of the Eucharist it is necessary only to receive one or other of the species. To receive only under one kind is not somehow to receive “less” of Christ and his grace.

Which raises the question of the use of gluten-free hosts. Since the Church makes it clear that valid eucharistic bread must be unleavened wheaten bread, it is highly doubtful that wheat-free hosts can actually become the Body of Christ. Far easier for all involved, and more certain for the communicant, is to receive from the chalice. Even in parishes in which the chalice is not normally offered, it should be possible to ask the celebrant before Mass to receive from the chalice to compensate for gluten intolerance. Most priests I imagine would be open to this.

Fr Paul also makes the point that “fullness of sign” refers also to fidelity to the Church’s liturgical books and their rubrics, as well as to the understanding of the Eucharist in the full gamut of Tradition, and not just to a particular period of the Church’s teaching. This includes the teaching of Trent that Christ is fully received under either species of Holy Communion alone. It also involves the necessity of ensuring that if the chalice is offered, it is offered and received reverently and without danger of accident or profanation.

Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, recently appointed Nuncio to the Ukraine after a spell in the same role in the West Indies, has found a wonderful short video from St Theresa’s Catholic school in the American diocese of Galveston, Texas. For the last 40 years or so children have too often had banal and vacuous ditties inflicted upon them in worship, in a misguided attempt to accommodate the frailty of their youth and their supposed lack of education and understanding. This little video offers a corrective. The kids are wonderful, especially the third one, who speaks so well we can only hope he is called to priesthood. Out of the mouths of babes and infants…

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