Clarification on the Proper Posture and Sign of Veneration for Reception of Holy Communion
In recent weeks, the Secretariat for the Liturgy has received several inquiries concerning both the proper posture for and the form of veneration to be made prior to receiving Holy Communion. This issue is directly addressed by the adaptation of number 160 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved by the USCCB and confirmed by the Holy
See. That adaptation reads as follows:
The norm for the reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses ofPosture
the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied
Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances
should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with
the proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.
When receiving Holy Communion standing, the communicant bows
his or her head before the sacrament as a gesture of reverence and
receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated
host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand at the
discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received
under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the
It should be noted that the General Instruction o the Roman Missal assigns to Conferences of Bishops the decision as to whether the faithful should stand or kneel at the time of reception of Holy Communion. (no. 43 §2) The Bishops of the United States have decided that the normative posture for receiving Holy Communion should be standing.
Kneeling is not a licit posture for receiving Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States of America unless the bishop of a particular diocese has derogated from this norm in an individual and extraordinary circumstance.
The provision which follows this section is provided for those extraordinary circumstances when a communicant acts in contradiction to the decision of the bishops. Under no circumstances may a person be denied Holy Communion merely because he or she has refused to stand to receive Holy Communion. Rather, in such instances, the priest is obliged to provide additional catechesis so that the communicant might better understand the reason for the Bishops' decision to choose standing as the normative posture for receiving Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States of America.
Sign of Veneration
In a similar way, the General Instruction (no. 160§2) assigns to Conferences of Bishops the responsibility to determine "an appropriate gesture of reverence" to be made before receiving the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, in the dioceses of the United States of America, the communicant is directed by this particular law to "bow his or her head before the sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receive the Body of the Lord from the minister."
Uniformity in Posture
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal emphasizes that in matters of gesture and posture "greater attention needs to be paid to what is laid down by liturgical law and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite, for the sake of the common spiritual good of the people of God rather than to personal inclination arbitrary choice" (Girm, no.42)/ Throughout their consideration of GIRM numbers 43 and 160, the Bishops repeatedly recalled the need for uniformity in all prescribed postures and gestures.
Such uniformity serves as a "sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered for the sacred Liturgy" and it "both expresses and fosters the spiritual attitude of those assisting" (GIRM, no. 42). Likewise, a lack of uniformity can serve as a sign of disunity or even a sense of individualism. A particular example of this disunity has been cited by many of the Bishops in regard to a diversity of postures during the Eucharistic Prayer, "the center and summit of the entire celebration" (GIRM, no. 78). Thus, the variation from kneeling as the uniform posture during the Eucharistic Prayer is permitted only "on occasion" and when the circumstances found by GIRM (no. 43) are clearly present.
In describing the indispensable role of the gathered faithful at Mass, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal presents them as "a holy people, a chosen people, a royal priesthood" who "give thanks to God and offer the Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him and learn to offer themselves" (GIRM, no. 95). Two responsibilities grow from this noble identity: "fostering of a deep sense of reverence for God as well as developing charity towards their brothers and sisters who share with them in the celebration" (GIRM, no. 95). Such a sense of reverence for God and charity for the other members of the liturgical assembly is concretely manifested by a unity in word, song, posture and gesture. Thus, this section concludes that the faithful are to shun any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have the one Father in heaven and therefore are all brothers and sisters to each other" (GIRM, no. 95).
The Diocesan Bishop and the Missale Romanum, editio typira tertia
Among the most significant changes in the third edition of the Missale Romanum is the addition of an eighth chapter to the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (GIRM) under the title, "Adaptations which are the Competence of Bishops and Conferences of Bishops."
The revised Institutio Generalis describes the Diocesan Bishop as "the high priest of his flock...from whom, in some sense, the life in Christ of its faithful is derived and is dependent, must foster, govern and watch over the liturgical life in his diocese" (GIRM, no. 367; see Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 41). The Institutio Generalis, while noting that it is "his primary task is to nourish the priests, the deacons and the faithful with the spirit of the sacred Liturgy," (GIRM, no. 367) describes four ways in which the diocesan Bishop is called upon to exercise this governance in the implementation of the revised Missale Romanum:
Concelebration: The diocesan Bishop may issue norms in accord with the law regulating "the discipline for concelebration in all churches and oratories of his diocese" (GIRM, no. 202). USCCB Guidelines for Concelebration may be of assistance to diocesan bishops in developing such particular norms for their dioceses. The guidelines may be found at: /liturgy/current/concel.shtml.
Service at the Altar: The diocesan Bishop is also charged with regulating the functioning of altar servers (GIRM, no. 107). The Guidelines for Altar Servers, prepared by the Committee on the Liturgy in 1994, may of be assistance to the Diocesan Bishop in developing such norms. This document may be found at: /liturgy/current/servers.shtml.
Holy Communion under Both Kinds: The diocesan Bishop may establish norms, within the limits of universal and particular law, for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds in his own diocese (GIRM, no. 283). Such norms regulate every celebration of the Eucharist within each diocese, "even in the churches of religious orders and at celebrations with small groups" (GIRM, no. 283). At the heart of such norms will be the particular application of the faculty granted to diocesan Bishops to give permission to all priests in charge of individual communities to allow the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds at each priest's individual discretion, "provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of the profanation of the Sacrament or that the rite would be difficult to carry out on account of the number of participants or for some other reason" (GIRM, no. 282). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, charged with determining the "methods of distributing holy Communion to the faithful under both kinds," (no. 283) has recently promulgated Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America (/liturgy/current/norms.shtml), which provide particular law in this regard and can be helpful to Diocesan Bishops in developing diocesan norms.
Church Buildings: The diocesan Bishop is called upon to establish norms concerning the "construction and ordering of church buildings, in consultation with his Diocesan Commission on Liturgy and Liturgical Art" (GIRM, no. 291). While the diocesan Bishop is responsible for the approval of all matters having to do with liturgical spaces, particular note is made in the revised Missale Romanum of his role in choosing the place for the reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist (GIRM, no. 315). Diocesan Bishops may find the recently approved USCCB guidelines on art, architecture and worship, Built of Living Stones, to be helpful in this regard. A three hole punch edition of Built of Living Stones has been prepared by USCCB Publications with the specific intention of facilitating the incorporation of diocesan norms in this regard. The document may also be found at: /liturgy/livingstonesind.shtml
Norms Derived from Particular Law
In addition to these acts of governance, the adaptations to the Institutio Generalis for the dioceses of the United States, promulgated by a decree of Bishop Wilton Gregory, USCCB President, on April 25, 2002, places three additional areas under the authority of the diocesan Bishop:
Posture: "The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise" (GIRM, no. 43§3, USA).
Liturgical Music: The chant or song at the entrance of Mass (GIRM, no. 48, USA) or during the reception of Holy Communion (GIRM, no. 87, USA) may, as a third option, be taken from a collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the USCCB or the Diocesan Bishop. Likewise, the responsorial antiphon and psalm may be taken from a collection approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop (GIRM no. 61 §4, USA).
Days of Prayer: The Diocesan Bishop may designate "days or periods of prayer for the fruits of the earth, prayer for human rights and equality, prayer for world justice and peace, and penitential observances outside Lent (GIRM, no. 373, USA).
June Meeting of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy
Members, consultants and advisors of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy met in Dallas Texas on June 11-12, 2002. In addition to reports on the Continental Congress of National Liturgical Commissions, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, the National Hispanic Institute for Liturgy, and the Task Group for the Revision of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, the Committee took the following actions.
1. Lectionary for Masses with Children
Having approved a report of the Task Group on Children and the Liturgy, the Committee re-constituted the members as an ad-hoc task group for the revision of the Lectionary for Masses with Children (LFMC). The Task Group will revise the introduction to the LFMC, incorporating insights gained from thirty years of pastoral experience with the Directory for Masses with Children and undertake a revision of the LFMC based on the NAB translation used for the Lectionary for Mass. This revision will involve the abbreviation of texts, alteration of the cursus and variation in syntax and vocabulary for the more difficult words and phrases, as appropriate for a liturgical assembly comprised largely of children.
2. De Ordinatione
The Committee also conducted an initial review of the ICEL translation of De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum, et Diacanorum. On September 20, 1997, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote to the presidents of the Conferences of Bishops where English is spoken and informed them of impossibility of confirming the ICEL translation. Following consultations with the Committee on the Liturgy, the ICEL Episcopal Board approved a further revision of it's translation of De Ordinatione in March, 2000. Subsequently approved by five member Conferences, the translation was submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments(CDWDS) for confirmation.
On April 9, 2002, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, Prefect of DWDS wrote to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, USCCB president (Prot. N. 552/02/L), and the presidents of the other major Conference of Bishops where English is spoken, noting that in derogation of Liturgiam authenticam No.89 the Congregation had completed a revision of the ICEL translation which it presented for consideration by the member Conferences. The Congregation expressed a willingness to grant confirmation to the emended text, but did not exclude the possibility of Conferences introducing furtherdirections or changes to the text, though noting that such changes might delay confirmation.
The Committee conducted an extended discussion of the text and commissioned a subcommittee of four Bishops (Bishop Blase Cupich, chairman, Archbishop Justin Rigali, Bishop Donald Trautman, and Bishop Allen Vigneron) to revise the text in the light of the Committee's analysis. The subcommittee met in Washington D.C. on July 19, 2002 and prepared recommendations to be considered by the full Committee at a special meeting in Chicago, Illinois on August 9, 2002.
3. Five Year Review of the Lectionary for Mass
In course of the their 1997 consideration of the revised text of the Lectionary for Mass (in consideration of the Sunday readings), and again in 1999 (in consideration of the weekday and other readings), the bishop members of the USCCB voted to "authorize, after a period of five years, a full review of the Lectionary with a view to its possible updating." Following consultations with the Eucharist and Liturgical Year Committee of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, and the Ad Hoc Committee for the Review of Scripture Translations, the committee approved a review instrument for distribution to all USCCB Liturgy bishops and pastors in the diocese of the United States of America.
The review will be placed on the meeting of the November, 2002 agenda of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for approval. Should the review receive the approval of the USCCB, a joint Task Group of the Committee on the Liturgy and the Ad Hoc Committee for the Review of Scripture Translation will be established for the final preparation of the instrument, together with a report to the USCCB, including recommendations for future revisions of the Lectionary for Mass
The Committee also approved an edition of the Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass, incorporating USA adaptations from the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, for publication by USCCB Publications. Two documents on liturgy and healing from the USCCB Committee on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal were also discussed, along with plans for the publication of the Leccionario for the Dioceses of the United States of America
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