Need your help - comments please


The following text is used during the preparation of the altar when first communions are celebrated at my parish. I'm posting without comment because I'd like to know what you think about it. If you have a few moments, please review and post your reactions below.




READER: Today we shall recall what Jesus and his friends did when they celebrated their last supper. This was the first Eucharist. Jesus ate this meal the night before he gave his life for all of us on the cross.

(Slight pause)

READER: Jesus wants us also to share in his meal. First we need a table. We call it an altar. To prepare the table for a meal, we bring up a table cloth.

(Two children walk up the center aisle bringing the altar cloth. They place the cloth on the altar. One other child brings up the corporal, opens it and places it on the altar. Two parents assist with this.)

READER: The meal Jesus shares with his friends is a special meal of love and thanksgiving. We therefore decorate the altar with flowers.

(Children bring up flowers and place them in front of the altar.)

READER: We also use candles on our altar to show that we are celebrating a special meal.

(Two children bring up tapers. The two parents assist in the lighting of the candles.)

READER: For our meal, we need the food and drink that Jesus used at the Last Supper: bread and wine. Bread gives us the strength to live, and wine helps us rejoice.

(Two children bring up the bread and wine. These gifts are received by the presider. Two other children bring up the collection basket.)

READER: In Jesus’ time, all the people at a meal drank from one large cup to show their union with one another. Let us bring to the table the cup that we use at the meal of the Lord.

(One child brings up the cup and a second child brings up the purificator. Both are received by the presider.)

READER: We have brought to the table of the Lord all that is needed for the meal. But there is no meal without people to eat and drink together. At each Eucharist, we are invited as guests of the Lord. We bring to the meal all that we are and all that we do.

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I think it would go better in the order of worship rather than read aloud. The sense of the sacred takes a back seat to the 'performance' of having so many participate in the liturgy. It's fine and admirable on this special occasion to have so many involved; however, rather than giving a play by play the congregation could be singing along or listening to an offertory hymn. If the choir sang the hymn then the congregation could follow the gestures in their order of worship rather than having a reader proclaim the actions.

I see several problems:

1. There is nothing in the rubrics to suggest that adding something like this is permissible. Faithful application of the rubrics will make the meaning of the Eucharist clear, not adding one's own commentary.

2. Even putting that aside, the focus is on the Eucharist as meal with absolutely no mention of sacrifice.

The constant teaching of the Church on the nature of the Eucharist not only as a meal, but also and pre-eminently as a Sacrifice, is therefore rightly understood to be one of the principal keys to the full participation of all the faithful in so great a Sacrament. - Redemptionis Sacramentum #38.

3. "But there is no meal without people to eat and drink together" is a semi-heretical statement. The Council of Trent, in Chapter 6 of Session 22, condemned the idea that masses where *only* the priest received the Eucharist were wrong and actually commended these masses since the priest was receiving not only for himself but for the faithful as well.


The holy council wishes indeed that at each mass the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire but also by the sacramental partaking of the Eucharist, that thereby they may derive from this most holy sacrifice a more abundant fruit; if, however, that is not always done, it does not on that account condemn as private and illicit those masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally, but rather approves and commends them, since these masses also ought to be considered as truly common, partly because at them the people communicate spiritually and partly also because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church, not for himself only but for all the faithful who belong to the body of Christ.

I won't comment on the specifics, but
just the idea that someone can just
insert this rather long, elaborate
business into the Mass.

From Vatican II's Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium):

22 Section 3: Therefore, no other person*,
not even if he is a priest, may on his
own add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy.

*In context, "no other person" means other
than the Apostolic See, and within certain defined limits, the competent
territorial bodies of bishops.

I'm with the other David on this one. You know a parish is over-staffed when people have nothing better to do than invent gimmicks for a special occasion. First Communion is a sacred and solemn event, not a damn party.

I think they forgot to ask Jesus to come. Sounds like a lot of feel good to me.

Catechesis about the Mass should be done beforehand and not within the rite itself. What is being done is superficial and simplistic. Children making their First Communion deserve more than this. The Mass is more than just a ritual meal or an elevation in stature of the Passover feast. Young children are quite perceptive in realizing the sacrificial nature of Jesus' suffering and death and how He wanted it to be remembered as the Eucharist.

That being said, explaining to the children the theology behind the Real Presence is the most important aspect of any catechesis on the Eucharist. Following that, an explanation of the secondary and practical aspects of the Mass (i.e. the proper names and uses of the sacred linen, vessels and so on) are appropriate, but in a private setting days before the actual celebration. I remember my biggest worry was how the host was going to taste like. My dad calmed me immensely when he said it would taste exactly like the Christmas oplatek.

I honestly wonder WHO the Head of Religious Education intends that this exposition is meant for? First Communion is not an initiation. The knowledge needs to be known and believed in well beforehand. Having so much extra physical activity before the sacred actions of the Mass tends to dull any appreciation of what is actually happening at the altar.

I take special offense of the celebrating priest being mentioned only as presider. That only diminishes the 'in persona' role of the priest in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Its use in the rubrics of this document would confirm that the writer has an imperfect grasp of the clerical state.

Good comments, everybody -- but I think everybody (except Teri) is missing the biggest flaw. To wit: what's with all the "meal" references? Or the "table" instead of "altar"?

Whoever wrote this has an agenda, conscious or not, of preventing the sense that anything transcendant or majestic happens during the Mass. It de-emphasizes, cheapens, and obscures the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

I wouldn't dream of explaining the Mass this way to my kids, none of whom have received First Communion. I want them to think of their first Eucharist as a life-altering event, not as a "special meal." We have special meals all the time at home, for birthdays or saint's feasts. I want them to know that the Mass is something wholly different.

Plenty of mention of bread and wine. Whatever happened to Christ's Body and Blood. This reads like an instruction given at a Protestant Church.

I think it's horrible on so many levels.
Where do I start?

-i don't think it's permissible
-it's part of the continuing dumbing down of liturgy, we don't even understand our symbols and sacraments anymore, so we need a narrator. we're incapable of simply living a tradition.
-it seems to be promoting a specific weak theology of the Mass
-etc. etc.

Just more evidence that if our Catholic culture and tradition is not already sufficiently destroyed, some DRE or liturgist somewhere is working on it.

This kind of stuff makes me angry. How dare they.

Now, that's not fair, Deacon John! :-)

The Evangelical communion services I've attended were much more reverent than this pap: they were simple and based on scripture, and didn't go out of their way to desacralize the event.

The spirit of the Litugy, the spirit of the Latin Liturgy in particular is Noble Simplicity. This baroque accretion (I advise all my trendy DRE's and Sacramental Formation Directors, etc) is what the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy sought to eliminate from the Missal of Paul V. Other objections raised heretofore are affirmed by this writer {That is, me :) }

As far as I can tell, the text above makes no reference to the Old Testament, to sacrifice, and to What the gifts will become.

May I suggest a less bad alternative? The text of the priest's prayers "Blessed are you, Lord God..." has been set to music as a song for the congregation. It's not ideal, but it does no harm to the faith of the children.

Writing from my perspective of an Eastern Orthodox priest, all I can say is that besides the very real issue of how me/we oriented the text is, it is just plain tacky and not well ordered to the worship of our thrice-holy God. My suggestion to the pastor is to do a reverse Nike: Just don't do it.

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This page contains a single entry by John Schultz published on April 28, 2006 9:32 AM.

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