Purification of Sacred Vessels in U.S.

And More on the Baptism and Presentation of Our Lord

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ROME, FEB. 12, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. I am not an instituted acolyte. In December we had training in the new procedures for purifying and cleaning chalices, ciboria and other vessels used in Communion. We have been told that there have been more changes and we are to receive new training. Can you provide any information on recent changes? -- F.C., Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey

A: The changes probably referred to a letter from the Holy See which indicated that the expired temporary indult (or special permission) which allowed extraordinary ministers in the United States (unlike elsewhere) to assist in the purification of the sacred vessels would no longer be renewed.

Thus the purification must be carried out by the deacon or, in his absence, by an instituted acolyte or eventually by the priest himself.

This indult was first granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments on March 22, 2002, for a period of three years. The official letter granting the indult said, in part: "[F]or grave pastoral reasons, the faculty may be given by the diocesan bishop to the priest celebrant to use the assistance, when necessary, even of extraordinary ministers in the cleansing of sacred vessels after the distribution of Communion has been completed in the celebration of Mass. This faculty is conceded for a period of three years as a dispensation from the norm of the Institutio Generalis, edition typica tertia of the Roman Missal."

When the indult expired in March 2005, the U.S. bishops' conference requested an extension, but no immediate action was taken due to the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI. Finally, in 2006 the prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship informed the president of the U.S. episcopal conference that the Holy Father had deemed it opportune to deny request for renewal.

The text of the letter is as follows:

CONGREGATIO CULTO DIVINO ET DISCIPLINA SACRAMENTORUM


Prot. n. 468/05/L Rome, 12 October 2006

Your Excellency,

I refer to your letters of 9 March 2005 and 7 March 2006, in which, in the name of the Conference of Bishops of which you are President, you requested a renewal of the indult for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to purify the sacred vessels after Mass, where there are not enough priests or deacons to purify a large number of chalices that might be used at Mass.

I have put the whole matter before the Holy Father in an audience which he granted me on 9 June 2006, and received instructions to reply as follows:

1. There is no doubt that "the sign of Communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 281; Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 390).

2. Sometimes, however, the high number of communicants may render it inadvisable for everyone to drink from the chalice (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 102). Intinction with reception on the tongue always and everywhere remains a legitimate option, by virtue of the general liturgical law of the Roman Rite.

3. Catechesis of the people is important regarding the teaching of the Council of Trent that Christ is fully present under each of the species. Communion under the species of the bread alone, as a consequence, makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace (cf. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, no. 1729; General Instruction of the Roman Missal, nos. 11, 282). "For pastoral reasons", therefore, "this manner of receiving Communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1390).

4. Paragraph 279 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal directs that the sacred vessels are to be purified by the priest, the deacon or an instituted acolyte. The status of this text as legislation has recently been clarified by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. It does not seem feasible, therefore, for the Congregation to grant the requested indult from this directive in the general law of the Latin Church.

5. This letter is therefore a request to the members of the Bishops' Conference of the United Status of America to prepare the necessary explanations and catechetical materials for your clergy and people so that henceforth the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 279, as found in the editio typicatia of the Roman Missal, will be observed throughout its territories.

With the expression of my esteem and fraternal greetings, I remain, Your Excellency,
Devotedly yours in Christ,

+ Francis Cardinal Arinze
Prefect

Monsignor Mario Marini
Under-Secretary

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Follow-up: Baptism and Presentation of Our Lord

After our Jan. 29 column on the dates of celebration of the feasts of Christ's baptism and presentation, an attentive Illinois priest advised me regarding a small historical inaccuracy.

He writes: "It was actually in 1955 that the general decree 'Cum Nostra' of the Sacred Congregation of Rites suppressed all octaves except those of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. As a result, Jan. 13, the former octave of the Epiphany, became the commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, celebrated with the rank of a double major (according to the classification then in force). The texts of the Mass and office remained the same, though, until 1970 (SRC, 'Cum Nostra,' No. 16). Although the baptismal theme figures prominently in the Eastern liturgy of Epiphany and wasn't entirely absent from the Roman liturgy, there was no 'pre-existing memorial of Christ's baptism' as a distinct feast in the Roman rite before 1955. Pope John XXIII's motu proprio 'Rubricarum Instructum' in 1960 and the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal merely codified the changes that had been introduced earlier by Pope Pius XII."

The original question about the feasts also brought to mind another query from a Pennsylvania priest regarding this year's calendar.

The priest asked: "In 2008, All Saints' Day is a Saturday. In the United States, it is not a holy day of obligation that year. All Souls' is Sunday. The All Souls' commemoration replaces the regular Sunday Mass. What Mass is then celebrated on Saturday evening, November 1, 2008, the vigil Mass for Sunday? There is no vigil Mass for All Souls."

While All Saints' may not be a holy day of obligation, it is still a solemnity listed in the general calendar. It thus has precedence over the commemoration of the Faithful Departed, which is a celebration in a class of its own.

The Liturgy of the Hours is taken from All Saints', although where the custom exists of celebrating public vespers for the dead after the vespers of All Saints', this custom may be maintained. Likewise, when Nov. 2 falls on a Sunday, the Liturgy of the Hours is that of the current Sunday although it may be substituted by the office for the dead in public recitation.

If we may be guided by the indications offered in Rome's liturgical calendar, then all Masses offered on Nov. 1 would be those of All Saints'.

The usual indication of the Saturday evening Mass is missing, and the celebration of the commemoration of the Faithful Departed is celebrated only on Sunday, Nov. 2.

The calendar also suggests that even though this commemoration falls on a Sunday, in virtue of its unique character, the Glory and Creed are omitted.

Since All Saints' is not a day of obligation, and has all the characteristics of a Sunday, I believe that a diocese could decide that those who attend evening Mass on Saturday, Nov. 1, have fulfilled their Sunday obligation even though the Mass formulas are those of All Saints'.

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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.