|ROME, 12 OCT. 2004 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: Is it necessary, for validity, that priests who concelebrate consume
the species consecrated during the Mass being celebrated, or is it
permissible for them to receive hosts from the tabernacle (consecrated
— J.F., Boston, Massachusetts
A: If by "validity" you mean the validity of the Mass itself, then the
Mass is not invalidated by a concelebrating priest receiving Communion
from previously consecrated hosts.
However, it is an illicit act that contravenes what is explicitly set
forth in the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 98:
"The Communion of Priest concelebrants should proceed according to the
norms prescribed in the liturgical books, always using hosts consecrated
at the same Mass and always with Communion under both kinds being received
by all of the concelebrants."
A key to understanding why this is so is found in the norm that follows in
the next sentence of the same number:
"It is to be noted that if the Priest or Deacon hands the sacred host or
chalice to the concelebrants, he says nothing; that is to say, he does not
pronounce the words 'The Body of Christ' or 'The Blood of Christ.'"
The reason why these words are omitted is because each concelebrating
priest truly offers the sacrifice of the Mass and he must complete his
part of the sacrifice by partaking of both species offered at that Mass
just as if he were celebrating alone.
In some very exceptional circumstances a concelebrating priest (never a
priest celebrating alone) may be granted an indult to omit one species,
for example, if he developed an allergy to all grape products. But I can
think of no situation which would justify a priest partaking of the
Eucharist consecrated in a previous Mass.
Even if by some oversight insufficient large hosts were consecrated for
all concelebrants nothing impedes breaking those available into smaller
* * *
Follow-up: Previously Consecrated Hosts [from 10-26-2004]
Following our response regarding concelebrants receiving previously
consecrated hosts from the tabernacle (see Oct. 12) a Canadian reader
asked about using the tabernacle to distribute Communion for the
She writes: "I understand that the core of Sunday Eucharist is the
taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of the Body and Blood of Jesus
Christ in the bread and wine. I truly appreciate this and experience
this theological and liturgical understanding as most nourishing to
mind, body and soul. However, I always cringe when I see the weekly
'trek to the tabernacle.' Even though in our parish those who wish to
receive Communion place a host in the ciborium at the entrance to the
church (which then gets taken up at the offertory along with the wine),
the reserved sacrament in the tabernacle is always brought forward. The
result is often that more hosts are placed back in the tabernacle than
were taken out. I have several problems with this:
"Does the use of consecrated hosts at Eucharist not fracture the
Eucharistic sacrifice, i.e., some will receive Communion from that
particular Mass and others from a previous Mass? Does this not violate
Jesus' command to 'take, bless, break and share?' Would we serve
leftovers at our home if we had a freshly cooked meal ready to be
"We also have regular services of the Word with Communion when our
parish priest is absent. Since unfortunately the reserved sacrament is
already used in the Eucharistic celebration itself, it adds to the
confusion in the faithful about the distinction between Eucharist and
the lay-presided service of the Word with Communion. It would greatly
help our catechesis if the hosts in the tabernacle are not used during
the Sunday Eucharist and thus would get a stronger connection with
I had already partially dealt with this topic in the column of Feb. 17,
when I wrote:
"The Church's magisterium has several times expressed a strong
preference for 'that more perfect form of participation in the Mass by
which the faithful, after the priest's Communion, receive the Lord's
Body from the same Sacrifice' (see the General Instruction of the Roman
Missal, No. 13). Thus, insofar as possible the faithful should receive
Communion from hosts consecrated during the Mass itself and not just
receive from the tabernacle.
"This practice requires a greater effort on the part of the priest and
those who assist him in preparing the celebration. It is usually
achievable after a while as the number of communicants at most parishes
is fairly regular.
"A sufficient number of hosts should be reserved in the tabernacle to
ensure that none ever be deprived of Communion due to miscalculation.
And it will be sometimes necessary to use the tabernacle in order to
renew the reserved hosts."
To this statement I would add a couple of comments in the light of what
our reader mentioned.
Her expression about "serving leftovers" is rather unfortunate and
theologically incorrect. While the sign value of receiving a host
consecrated in the same Mass is certainly more perfect, the Mass is
always the same unique sacrifice of Christ. So those who receive from
the tabernacle receive the same Christ
fruit of the same sacrifice.
The image she uses is perhaps an illustration of the inherent dangers of
overemphasizing the meal aspect of the Mass (while not denying the
reality of this meal or sacred banquet aspect).
From a pastoral standpoint I consider very perceptive her observation
that in situations where the rite of Holy Communion in the Absence of a
Priest is common, then the use of the tabernacle for Communion at Mass
could contribute to confusion as to the role of priest and lay
extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
Priests should be especially careful in similar circumstance to do all
that is possible to stress the unique character of the Mass with respect
to other rites, which can never really substitute for it.
Another reader, a priest, asked: "Our parish has had a number of
consecrated hosts left in the pews and on the floor recently after
Sunday Masses. We believe it is due to Communion in the hand. Do you
know if the pastor of the parish can establish the rule in his parish:
'Communion on the tongue only'? Or can his bishop grant this to a parish
on a case-by-case basis? Or does it have to go through the bishops'
conference if his country has the indult?"
In principle the communicant who receives in the hand should communicate
immediately and in front of the minister.
The faithful need to be reminded of this norm every now and again, so as
to prevent accidents due to absent-mindedness or carelessness.
My own experience is that a priest can usually keep control, out of the
corner of the eye, so to speak, so that the faithful do communicate in
the proper manner.
Only rarely have I had to call attention to someone to ensure that they
had consumed the host.
In one area that had suffered several attempts to steal hosts for
sacrilegious purposes it became necessary for someone to flank the
priest to ensure that Communion was consumed.
This said, if the solution of the faithful communicating immediately
were to prove insufficient, then the diocesan bishop would have the
authority to derogate the permission for receiving on the hand.
In some circumstances
for example, an outdoor Mass celebrated on uneven terrain
even the priest celebrant could prudentially opt only to administer on
the tongue for that occasion in order to limit the danger of hosts
falling to the earth. ZE04102622