Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore (NSW) has circularised his diocese on changes due in the Mass on Pentecost Sunday, 11 May. In his circular he also provides clear directions on proper Mass participation that have tended to be confused or disregarded in recent years. The following is the text of Bishop Jarrett's circular.
In the weeks ahead in each parish, and for uniform implementation throughout the Church in Australia, everyone at Mass will be asked to make two changes during its celebration.
The Holy See has approved an English translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal which guides the way we celebrate the Eucharist and accompanies the third Latin edition of the Missale Romanum.
All of the provisions of the new General Instruction come into force in Australia on the Solemnity of Pentecost, 11 May 2008.
At present when the priest invites the people to pray at the preparation of the Gifts we remain seated until we have responded 'May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands to the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and the good of all His Church.' And then we stand for the Prayer over the Gifts.
You will now be asked to stand at the moment the priest returns to the centre of the altar after washing his hands and invites you to pray: 'Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.'
Having stood, we respond, 'May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands ...'.
In the Catholic liturgy there are two postures for praying: standing and kneeling. Each reflects something of our relationship with God and helps define that relationship.
To stand in response to the priest's invitation is a sign of our readiness to enter into the Great Prayer of the Mass which is now to follow, and which the priest will pray, in the person of Christ, on behalf of the whole assembly.
To stand is to make a formal recognition of the importance of that invitation.
The second change
At the time of receiving Holy Communion, the procession of communicants to the altar is a very important ritual act in the celebration of Mass. It is the time when those disposed to receive the Eucharist come forward consciously as the Body of Christ to receive the Body of Christ.
An individual sign of reverence when the congregation receives Communion standing has long been directed, but not always applied. For a long time many people have been in the habit of genuflecting out of reverence when approaching, just as the celebrant is directed to do before he receives Communion.
Of course they may continue doing this as their gesture of reverence. What is new is that the Bishops of Australia have specified that approaching communicants should make a bow in reverence to the Mystery that they are to receive.
This is understood as a bow not just of the head, but of the body. An appropriate place for making your gesture of reverence is as you come level with the front of the pews, before moving out to the space in front of the minister of Communion.
In Australia until 1975 Catholics received Holy Communion in the manner common throughout the Church over the centuries. Receiving the consecrated Host directly on the tongue still remains the 'default' Catholic way of doing so.
However, in September 1975, among the various liturgical changes and alternative customs that came into use in the 1960s and 1970s, the Bishops of Australia received permission from the Holy See to offer communicants who wished to do so the alternative of receiving Holy Communion on the hand. The free choice was given to, and still remains with the communicant, to receive either on the tongue or in the hand.
At the time, official directions were given as to how receiving in the hand was to be done. While for the most part these have been reverently observed up to the present, it is also evident that some communicants are unaware of the correct procedure and others appear confused as to what they should do. Hence a review is timely.
Priests, parents and RE teachers are asked to attend to this within their areas of responsibility.
The procedure for receiving Holy Communion in the hand is as follows:
1. Having made your gesture of reverence, come forward and stand in front of the priest or minister of Communion.
2. Put forward both hands, slightly raised, the left palm across the right.
3. When the Host has been placed on your left palm and you have answered 'Amen', step to the side, and still facing the altar, use your right hand to place the Host in your mouth.
4. After having received the Host, turn to go back to your place, or if receiving from the Chalice, go to the other minister of Communion. Many communicants are in the habit of making the Sign of the Cross after receiving the Eucharist, which is a very reverent and appropriate gesture at this point.
Please note: Both hands are to be used, and the Eucharist is to be received in the mouth before communicants turn away to return to their place. Communicants unable to use both hands should consider receiving in the traditional way on the tongue.
Communicants receiving in the hand should also be aware of the possibility of small fragments breaking off the Host and remaining on their palm. These also should be consumed.
At Masses where Holy Communion is administered under both kinds, communicants may also choose to receive the Precious Blood. Having consumed the Host, the communicant moves to the minister with the Chalice.
In Australia the Precious Blood is generally given by drinking directly from the chalice, which the communicant holds with both hands. The alternative is to receive both Host and Precious Blood together by intinction directly onto the tongue from the same priest or minister of Communion.
Though it may have been done in some places in the past, what has never been permitted is for communicants to take the Host across to the chalice and themselves dip it in the Precious Blood and so receive.
More about posture
In Australia, the congregation kneels during the Eucharistic Prayer after the Sanctus, and throughout the Consecration until after the Great Amen. On some occasions, by reason of health, lack of space or other good reason kneeling may be difficult or impossible.
In such cases, apart from those compelled by reason of health to sit, all remain standing throughout the Eucharistic Prayer.
The General Instruction specifies that 'those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the Consecration' (n. 43).
Especially in the case of large Masses celebrated in school halls where kneeling may not be possible, priests, catechists and teachers should instruct the young people to remain standing and to bow deeply after each Consecration. In these instances, it may be advisable for the priest to use one of the shorter Eucharistic Prayers.
Speaking of Christians at worship, St Paul exhorts that 'everything be done with propriety and in order' (1 Cor 14:40). In the same spirit, the above liturgical instruction is given for implementation within the Diocese.