Ensuring Enough Hosts for Good Friday

And More on Morning and Evening Prayer

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ROME, MARCH 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.



Q: If a priest is pastor of more than one parish church and divides up the celebration of the Easter triduum among these parishes, should he, for the liturgical action on Good Friday, consecrate extra hosts on Palm Sunday at the church where the Good Friday liturgical action is celebrated? Or should he transport extra hosts for the liturgical action in his car from the church where he celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper? Would it be permitted to allow the faithful to venerate the cross on Good Friday after the Stations of the Cross celebrated at a time and church distinct from the primary liturgical action of Good Friday? Would this veneration as devotion, not as liturgical rite, be inadvisable because it could confuse people? -- B.K., Garnett, Kansas

Q: I am a pastor in a sub-parish. A few days before Holy Week, two of my parishioners asked, "Father, is it possible for someone to come to the church on Good Friday with his or her own cross and, when it is time for veneration, do an act of veneration from where he or she is?" They asked me this (one of them was a nurse) for hygienic reasons: Some people might have a contagious disease. I tried to tell them that it is more appropriate to use one cross, and that is an act of faith, believing that our salvation came from one cross. And it is that same faith which prevents us from getting any contamination. My answer seemed not to satisfy them. -- J.C., Morogoro, Tanzania

A: As these questions relate to Good Friday, I will attempt to handle these together.

There is certainly a difficulty with a priest who has two or more parishes, but I fear that the solution proposed is not legitimate.

The 1988 circular letter "Paschales Solemnitatis" and the norms of the new Latin Missal are clear that the Mass of the Lord's Supper and the Good Friday service are related in such an intimate way that they should generally be celebrated in the same church. The document states:

"46. The Mass of the Lord's Supper is celebrated in the evening, at a time that is more convenient for the full participation of the whole local community. All priests may concelebrate even if on this day they have already concelebrated the Chrism Mass, or if, for the good of the faithful, they must celebrate another Mass.

"47. Where pastoral considerations require it, the local Ordinary may permit another Mass to be celebrated in churches and oratories in the evening, and in the case of true necessity, even in the morning, but only for those faithful who cannot otherwise participate in the evening Mass. Care should nevertheless be taken to ensure that celebrations of this kind do not take place for the benefit of private persons or of small groups, and that they are not to the detriment of the main Mass.

"According to the ancient tradition of the Church, all Masses without the participation of the people are on this day forbidden.

"48. The Tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration. Hosts for the Communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration. A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for Communion on the following day.

"49. For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation, seriousness appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined so that all abuses are avoided or suppressed. When the tabernacle is located in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare the place of repose and adoration there.

"53. It is more appropriate that the Eucharist be borne directly from the altar by the deacons, or acolytes, or extraordinary ministers at the moment of communion for the sick and infirm who must communicate at home, so that in this way they may be more closely united to the celebrating Church.

"54. After the post-Communion prayer, the procession forms, with the crossbar at its head. The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by lighted candles and incense, is carried through the church to the place of reservation, to the singing of the hymn 'Pange lingua' or some other eucharistic song. This rite of transfer of the Blessed Sacrament may not be carried out if the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion will not be celebrated in that same church on the following day.

"55. The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.

"The place where the tabernacle or pyx is situated must not be made to resemble a tomb, and the expression 'tomb' is to be avoided. The chapel of repose is not prepared so as to represent the 'Lord's burial' but for the custody of the eucharistic bread that will be distributed in Communion on Good Friday.

"56. After the Mass of the Lord's Supper the faithful should be encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which has been solemnly reserved. Where appropriate, this prolonged eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the Gospel of St. John (chapters. 13-17).

"From midnight onwards, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity, because the day of the Lord's passion has begun."

Therefore, since the tabernacle should be empty before the Mass of the Lord's Supper, it would not be correct to use hosts from Palm Sunday.

While the above norms do not positively exclude the possibility of privately bringing the hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lord's Supper to another church for Good Friday (thus eliminating the possibility of having an altar of repose at either church), the general sense of Norm 54, as well as the description of the rites in the missal, presuppose that both rites are celebrated in the same church.

If the people of all the parishes cannot come together for a single celebration, then the possibility remains of requesting permission from the bishop of celebrating a second Mass of the Lord's Supper and consequently two celebrations of the Passion on Good Friday. It is certainly very taxing on the priest but is probably the best pastoral solution.

The celebration of the Easter Vigil is not associated in this way and may be celebrated independently of the other two functions. For how to set up the paschal candle in churches where the vigil is not celebrated, we suggested a possible solution on April 11, 2006.

With respect to the question of the veneration of the cross, the document indicates the following:

"68. For veneration of the cross, let a cross be used that is of appropriate size and beauty, and let one of the forms for this rite as found in the Roman Missal be followed. The rite should be carried out with the splendor worthy of the mystery of our salvation: both the invitation pronounced at the unveiling of the cross, and the people's response should be made in song, and a period of respectful silence is to be observed after each act of veneration -- the celebrant standing and holding the raised cross.

"69. The cross is to be presented to each of the faithful individually for their adoration since the personal adoration of the cross is a most important feature in this celebration; only when necessitated by the large numbers of faithful present should the rite of veneration be made simultaneously by all present.

"Only one cross should be used for the veneration, as this contributes to the full symbolism of the rite. During the veneration of the cross the antiphons, 'Reproaches,' and hymns should be sung, so that the history of salvation be commemorated through song. Other appropriate songs may also be sung (cf. n. 42).

"71. After the celebration, the altar is stripped; the cross remains however, with four candles. An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord's cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it, and spend some time in meditation.

"72. Devotions such as the Way of the Cross, processions of the passion, and commemorations of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not, for pastoral reasons, to be neglected. The texts and songs used, however, should be adapted to the spirit of the Liturgy of this day. Such devotions should be assigned to a time of day that makes it quite clear that the Liturgical celebration by its very nature far surpasses them in importance."

On the basis of these last two numbers I suggest it is inadvisable to combine the veneration of the cross with the Way of the Cross in any way, as it is more than likely to confuse the faithful.

Also, questions of hygiene should not be neglected in rites such as the veneration of the cross. If an objective danger exists, then proper measures should be taken to avoid contagion. God will not necessarily offer his protection in all such cases.

The solution, however, is not for each person to bring his or her own cross, as this would weaken the symbolism of the rite of veneration, but rather to substitute another gesture of veneration that does not require physical contact. The missal itself proposes the gesture of a simple genuflection before the cross as a possible sign of veneration, as well as other gestures belonging to the local culture.

Therefore, in areas where there is a fairly high risk of contracting a disease, the pastor could suggest the possibility that each person may make a genuflection or some other suitable gesture before the cross instead of the customary kiss.

Some readers asked about the rules of fasting. We dealt with this subject on March 14 and 28, 2006.

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Follow-up: Ending the Morning and Evening Prayer

After our March 13 column on morning and evening prayer, a reader from Honduras asked: "Regarding morning/evening prayer during holy Mass: Does either M/E prayer begin immediately after the sign of the cross or after the penitential rite? Does not the M/E prayer supplant the penitential rite? Do the rubrics for M/E prayer during holy Mass oblige everyone or can the bishop 'do whatever he wants'?"

When either morning or evening prayer is joined to Mass it may begin in one of two ways. Nos. 93-94 of the introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours outlines the procedure. While these rubrics allow for some flexibility, as universal law they oblige everybody including bishops:

"93. In particular cases, if circumstances require, it is possible to link an hour more closely with Mass when there is a celebration of the liturgy of the hours in public or in common, according to the norms that follow, provided the Mass and the hour belong to one and the same office. Care must be taken, however, that this does not result in harm to pastoral work, especially on Sundays.

"94. When morning prayer, celebrated in choir or in common, comes immediately before Mass, the whole celebration may begin either with the introductory verse and hymn of morning prayer, especially on weekdays, or with the entrance song, procession, and celebrant's greeting, especially on Sundays and holydays; one of the introductory rites is thus omitted.

"The psalmody of morning prayer follows as usual, up to, but excluding, the reading. After the psalmody the penitential rite is omitted and, as circumstances suggest, the Kyrie; the Gloria then follows, if required by the rubrics, and the celebrant says the opening prayer of the Mass. The liturgy of the word follows as usual.

"The general intercessions are made in the place and form customary at Mass. But on weekdays, at Mass in the morning, the intercessions of morning prayer may replace the daily form of the general intercessions at Mass.

"After the communion with its communion song the Canticle of Zechariah, Blessed be the Lord, with its antiphon from morning prayer, is sung. Then follow the prayer after communion and the rest as usual."

No. 96 indicates that vespers are joined with Mass in the same manner. Thus whenever one of these offices is joined to Mass the penitential rite is omitted. While the "Lord have mercy" may be omitted it is probably better to sing or recite it.

As No. 93 states, joining the office with Mass is for "particular cases when circumstances require"; it is not foreseen as a daily practice, especially in a parish setting. In this case it is probably better to celebrate both rites separately, omitting only the final blessing and dismissal at the end of the Divine Office.

Another reader, from Oregon, asked: "1) Please, could you explain why the Divine Office used in America is different from that used in other English-speaking [areas]. This may help us understand why there are prayers at the end of every psalm in the American version while in others, including the Latin original, there are no psalm prayers. 2) Please, could you also explain how any of the hours could be combined with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament?"

Since questions of liturgical translation depend on each national episcopal conference, the U.S. bishops decided that they wanted their own translation of the Divine Office. As a result, there are two English-language versions: the four-volume U.S. version and the three-volume version for the rest of the world.

Those who are obliged to pray the Divine Office should normally use the official version for their country. Those who are not obliged, or any English speaker who lives in a non-English-speaking country, may choose either version.

All the same, as the complete breviary is a hefty investment, a priest who, for example, moves to the United States from another country, could continue to use the other English version, or pray the office in his native language or in Latin.

In these cases he should follow the local calendar regarding particular solemnities and feasts, and, as far as possible, particular memorials of saints. This may be done either by borrowing a local breviary for texts that only exist in that version, or using the texts found in the common.

I find that the American version of the English-language breviary is more user-friendly and more up-to-date with the celebrations of the new saints. The other English version has not been updated since the first edition in 1973 but is, in my opinion, a far better translation.

The psalm prayers are mentioned in No. 112 of the introduction: "Psalm-prayers for each psalm are given in the supplement to The Liturgy of the Hours as an aid to understanding them in a predominantly Christian way. An ancient tradition provides a model for their use: after the psalm a period of silence is observed, then the prayer gives a resume and resolution of the thoughts and aspirations of those praying the psalms."

The American editors decided to incorporate the psalm prayers found in the separate supplement into the text of the four-week cycle of psalms. These psalm prayers are always optional and may be omitted. When they are prayed, however, the norms are not clear if the prayer is recited before or after the repetition of the antiphon, as repeating the antiphon is also optional. Either way is probably legitimate.

The Liturgy of the Hours may be prayed before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, but there is no specific ritual that links the two practices into a single rite.

Monsignor Peter Elliott in his "Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite" describes the process with characteristic clarity:

"681. The Liturgy of the Hours, especially Lauds or Vespers, may be celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. In this case, the celebrant goes to the chair to commence the office, described below in Chapter 12. During the incensation of the altar, the celebrant and deacon(s) genuflect together whenever passing the monstrance. The copes, dalmatics and stoles should be of the color of the day or season, but the humeral veil is white.

"743. Vespers or Lauds may also be celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, as indicated in the previous chapter. Unless exposition has already commenced some time before the celebration of the hour, the procession enters, all kneel and the Host is exposed by an assistant deacon or priest. A eucharistic hymn is sung, and incense is offered as usual. Having reverenced the Blessed Sacrament, the celebrant then goes to the chair and commences the office.

"744. At the Magnificat, having prepared incense at the chair, the celebrant and assistants come before the altar, genuflect and kneel while the celebrant incenses the Eucharist. They rise, go up to the altar, genuflect and continue the incensation as usual, and they genuflect together whenever they pass the monstrance.

"745. Clergy and servers should take care not to turn their backs to the monstrance and to maintain a spirit of decorum and prayerful recollection appropriate to the occasion. The final intercessions of Vespers may be made standing before the altar. The final blessing and dismissal are omitted. The eucharistic hymn and incensation of the Host, the prayer and Benediction follow, as described in the previous chapter. Reposition may take place as usual, unless exposition is to continue beyond this liturgical celebration."

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.