Liturgy and Worship Practices at Old St. Joseph’s Church
The most important thing we do as a parish community is to gather each week on the Lord’s Day and celebrate Eucharist together as one Body. The Church tells us:
The celebration of the Mass, as the action of Christ and the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the center of the whole Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually. [General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), #16
At the Eucharist we recall and make present and deliberately and freely choose to participate in the mystery by which we are saved, that is, the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. We become the Body of the One we remember and whose flesh and blood we eat and drink.
So that we can celebrate this central Mystery in as meaningful and effective a manner as possible, the Church insists that those responsible for the planning of liturgy ensure that:
The entire celebration is planned in such a way that it leads to a conscious, active and full participation of the faithful both in body and in mind. (GIRM #18)
This “conscious, active and full participation” is the standard by which we judge all that we do in the liturgy. In the spirit of promoting this full, active and conscious participation and after consulting with many persons who are knowledgeable and engaged in liturgy, we at Old St. Joseph’s Parish have initiated several changes in the way we celebrate Eucharist. You may have noticed these as you have participated in our celebration. These changes and the rationale behind them are described below.
One Bread, One Cup
The Eucharist is the source and sign of our unity as the Body of Christ, members united together with our Head. We symbolize and the Spirit accomplishes in us this unity when we all partake of the one loaf and the one cup. In the liturgy, using one plate or bowl and one cup during the Eucharistic Prayer helps this symbol to work. The use of multiple cups or several plates or ciboria before the distribution of Communion obscures the sign of the one bread and the one cup. Indeed, the Church’s current “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion.” state very clearly:
The presence on the altar of a single chalice and one large paten can signify the one bread and the one chalice by which we are gathered ‘into the one Body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.’ (Norms, #32)
The Norms state that, after the breaking of the consecrated bread:
The priest or deacon] pours the Precious Blood into enough additional chalices as required for the distribution of Holy Communion.This action is usually carried out at the altar so that the sharing of all from the one cup is signified. (Norms, #37)
Accordingly, at OSJ we intend to place only one cup and one plate of bread on the altar at the Presentation of the Gifts. At Masses where one cup is not large enough to contain the quantity of wine needed for communion, a separate cruet or decanter – but not another cup – containing additional wine to be consecrated will be placed on the altar, along with the one cup at the Presentation of the Gifts.
We intend not to bring additional plates and cups until the Fraction Rite when the consecrated bread and wine are distributed among those plates and cups for distribution to the Assembly.
In this way, we hope that the symbol of the “one body that is broken and the blood that is poured out” will be clearer to the Assembly and that they may participate more fully and consciously in the celebration.
We are aware that the most recent instruction from the U.S. Bishops is that those who celebrate Eucharist bring as many cups to the altar at the Presentation of the
Gifts as are needed for the distribution of Communion so as to minimize the possibility that consecrated wine will be spilled. However, we have determined that our need here at OSJ is not so much recognizing and reverencing the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine, but recognizing and reverencing the Real Presence in our Assembly. Accordingly, we intend to manifest as clearly as possible through our ritual practice that we are One Body.
Reception of Communion from the Table
The climax of the celebration of the Eucharist is our reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus at the Communion Rite. In receiving Communion, we express in dramatic fashion our desire to be transformed into the Body of Christ and to be united with Jesus in his self-offering to the Father. Having participated in this particular offering at this particular time and place, we eat the Body and drink the Blood of the Christ so that we may become the very mystery we celebrate. This is indicated most clearly when we receive the bread and wine consecrated and offered in the Eucharist in which we are participating. The General Instruction makes this point very clearly:
It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and.they partake of the chalice, so that even by means of the signs Communion will stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated. (GIRM, #85)
In no way does this practice deny the abiding presence of the Lord in the Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. Rather, as the GIRM suggests, the intent is to fully enhance the experience of participating in this particular sacrifice. To receive Communion from hosts consecrated at another Mass is to separate communion from sacrifice when in fact they are intimately bound together.
Therefore, at OSJ we intend to consecrate sufficient bread and wine to meet the needs of the Assembly during the Communion Rite we will use the reserved Sacrament only when necessary.
The Presentation of the Gifts
When we come to Eucharist, we bring ourselves to the table of sacrifice and unite our own self-offering with the Lord’s. In the early Church, the community brought the necessary elements for the sacrifice from their own homes. The community also brought forward food and other materials for the poor. By restoring this rite to the reformed liturgy at Vatican II, the Church clearly declared the importance of this practice for the full sign value of our celebration:
It is praiseworthy for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. They are then accepted at an appropriate place by the priest or deacon and carried to the altar. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and spiritual significance.
It is well also that money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, should be received. These are to be put in a suitable place but away from the Eucharistic table. (GIRM, #73)
Therefore, at each celebration of the Eucharist at OSJ, we intend to present the money collected at that celebration to the priest together with the gifts of bread and wine.
The Use of Silence
In the Eucharist we enter into the celebration with our bodies and our voices. The Eucharistic celebration also requires our silence.
Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times. Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. (GIRM, #45)
One of these “designated times” is during the Liturgy of the Word when we, as a community, listen to the Word of God proclaimed. We are called to listen attentively to the Word as one Body and take it into our hearts so it becomes a vital part of who we are. Consequently, the Church teaches:
The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation.During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence.in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. (GIRM, # 56)
Therefore, at OSJ we intend that there be a significant period of silence after the proclamation of each reading, after the Psalm Response also and after the homily to allow for silent reflection on the Word just proclaimed. We intend that there be a significant period of silence following the distribution of Communion to allow for silent personal prayer.