Genuflections by Concelebrants

And More on Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread

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ROME, JUNE 21, 2005 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

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Q: No. 242 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that at Communion time at a concelebrated Mass, the concelebrants, one after another, come to the middle of the altar, genuflect and reverently take the Body of Christ from the altar and return to their places. This number concludes by saying that concelebrants may also remain in their places and take the Body of Christ from the paten presented to them by the principal celebrant or by one or more of the concelebrants, or by passing the paten one to another. These last two options apply similarly to receiving the Blood of the Lord. These last two options, however, do not make any mention of a reverence (genuflection) to be given by the concelebrants before receiving. Is the genuflection by concelebrants omitted when the last two options are employed, or is the genuflection made with the celebrant when he has finished the prayer before Communion? This would seem to be appropriate, but there is no mention that it should be done. — B.C., New York

A: The reason why no mention is made of reverence or genuflections is probably due to the practical nature of the question at hand.

While all of the options are legitimate modes for concelebrants to partake of Communion, the first form — approaching the altar and making a genuflection — is the most common, liturgically preferable, and most dignified manner of doing so.

The other forms are usually adopted in particular situations such as a large number of concelebrants, constricted space, complex logistics or for some other practical reason.

The motivations that suggest opting for the other forms of Communion oftentimes involve a simultaneous impediment in performing gestures such as genuflections or else doing so would unduly prolong the Communion rite.

They seemingly also impede the possibility of all the concelebrants making the genuflection together. This is an option not considered in the norms as they almost invariably connect the genuflection with the immediate taking of Communion on the part of the priest — and this would not be the case here.

Thus, in writing the norms, the competent authority probably thought best to omit the genuflections from this form of the rite so that it would be as widely applicable as possible and not give rise to endless discussions based on the particular feasibility in each circumstance.

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Follow-up: Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread

Among the readers who responded to our piece on the proper matter for the Eucharistic species and the danger of making it invalid through untoward additions (see June 7) a seminarian from Iowa asked the following:

«What would cause the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to no longer be? You indicated that a host saturated with water would no longer contain the True Presence. However, a while back we had the gluten-free battles, which seemed to indicate even if there is any quantity of gluten in the host the True Presence would exist. How would saturation of the host change this? Furthermore, would there be a similar situation present somehow with the species of wine? It is necessary to add water to wine, but why would too much wine invalidate consecration, and what would be the factor for judging what is too much?»

Although similar, the two situations are not quite the same. The question regarding gluten refers to the minimum requirements necessary for bread to be considered as valid matter for effecting the consecration. The question regarding soaking a host in water or the addition of copious quantities of water to the Precious Blood refer to the integrity of the already consecrated species.

Christ’s presence is tied to the integrity of the species. Once this integrity is gone, then Christ’s real presence also disappears. Thus, although a host soaked in water may retain for a while some of the accidents of bread, it has undergone such a change that removes the presence.

Likewise, if the quantity of water added exceeds that of the Precious Blood, although similar in appearance, it is no longer integrally what it once was.

Although adding unconsecrated wine to the Precious Blood does not change the accidents in any way, I believe the effect is the same in destroying the integrity of the species as after the consecration we are no longer dealing with wine but with the Lord’s Blood.

For precision’s sake I would note that if altar bread were soaked or altar wine severely diluted before the consecration, they would no longer be valid material for confecting the Eucharist. However, if done after the consecration they would not, technically speaking, invalidate the consecration, but rather corrupt the species so that it no longer contains the Real Presence. The holy sacrifice of the Mass would still have been validly celebrated.

This could throw light on a related topic regarding the duration of Christ’s presence in the communicant. It is important to remember that the graces received in Communion derive from the participation in the sacrifice and the act of receiving holy Communion.

The consideration of the actual physical duration of the Real Presence after Communion, while beneficial for personal devotion, makes practically no difference as to the grace received in the act of Communion itself. Thus even if it were true, as some experts sustain, that the disintegration of the host is almost immediate, there would still be multiple motives for remaining in thanksgiving after Communion.

An Arizona reader asked about a practice in her parish. She tells of «extra ciboria (there may be two or more) taken by the server and brought to the far side of the altar and left on the end of the altar. The priest during the time of consecration does not even acknowledge that they are there, and they are not moved to the middle of the altar on top of the corporal for consecration. They are not picked up until Communion by the priest, who then hands the ciboria to the extraordinary ministers of Communion.»

Certainly all hosts to be consecrated should be placed on a corporal, preferably in front of the priest. If the space before the priest is insufficient, then another corporal may be placed on the altar to receive the ciboria. It might be that there is a corporal on the altar not visible from the pews. If there is no corporal, then the practice is liturgically deficient — but it would not necessarily affect the consecration.

For a valid consecration it is sufficient that the priest be aware of the presence of the ciboria and have the intention of consecrating them or has a general intention of consecrating all that has been placed upon the altar for that purpose.

Another reader asked regarding the omission of the rite of adding water to the wine at the presentation of gifts. We have addressed this topic June 29 and July 13 of last year.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country.

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