Dignum et Justum Est
In early June, the Holy See made public the Lineamenta, or working outline, for the tenth world Synod of Bishops that will take place in October 2005.
The topic of the Synod is the Eucharist. The Lineamenta reviews essential teaching on the Eucharist, drawing on the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, with liberal quotations of the early Church fathers and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Preface explains the reason for selecting the Eucharist as a topic for the Synod so soon after the encyclical. "The Church is undeniably experiencing a certain 'Eucharistic need' based ... on a Eucharistic practice which calls for a renewed attitude of love that is expressed in acts of faith [in Christ]".
The Preface also asks that "all in the Church" be invited to "enter into discussion". Questions for reflection are appended at the end of the document's seven chapters for this purpose. It seems likely that diocesan bishops will arrange means to receive people's responses by the end of this year.
Promising statements they quote include these:
Chapter Four, "The Liturgy of the Eucharist", is a descriptive guide to the Mass. In this chapter's section on "Holy Communion", the document stresses that one does not take Communion, but receives it, "an act symbolizing the Sacrament's meaning: a Gift received with adoration". [§44]
Sections on "Preparation for Communion" [§41] and "Holy Communion" [§ 43] also strongly emphasize the necessary disposition of the communicant before receiving:
41. ... Grave sins required a canonical penance. The insistence by many Church Fathers on the necessity of a worthy reception of communion proves that the call for the forgiveness of sins, even in the epiclesis after the consecration, is not an invitation addressed to those guilty of grave sin to approach the Eucharist without the foreseen penitence. Even though a person can truly participate at Mass without receiving communion, the integrating but non essential part of the sacrifice, full participation in the Body of Christ should only be done by those who are properly disposed....
I have not read the whole document, and will not have the opportunity to do so very soon, but I also noted the following statement:
The Orientation of Prayer
53. The cosmic conception of salvation which “is visited from on high” (Lk 1:78), inspired the apostolic tradition of orientating Christian buildings and the altar towards the East, so as to celebrate the Eucharist facing the Lord, a custom still followed in the Eastern Churches. “It is not a question, as is often claimed, of presiding at the celebration with the back turned to the people, but rather of guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the Kingdom, invoked in prayer until the return of the Lord”.193
In the Roman rite, the separate locations of the ambo and altar provide a natural variation in focus and attention for the liturgical actions done in these places. The same is true in Eucharistic worship outside of Mass; the faithful, upon entering the Church, turn their eyes toward the monstrance, where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.
This is suggestive of ad orientum posture, but remains a bit mysterious in its precise implications for reform. As is the following, modifying the implication that Communion should be received, not taken:
44. Ancient sources indicate that communion was not taken but received, an act symbolizing the Sacrament’s meaning, that is, a Gift received with adoration. In the Latin rite, where provision is made for communion under two species, Catholic teaching is to be followed.169 In the rites of the Eastern Churches the tradition established in the canons is to be observed.170
There is much to say about this beautiful document -- I am especially happy about the stress laid on the necessary conjunction of adoration and Communion (their supposed incompatibility being the excuse for so many liturgical aberrations). But I have to say that it seems to me that, when it comes to implementation, anything less than crystal clear commandment is going to fall on deaf ears.
As evidence, consider this article on the revision of the bastardized English translation of the Mass that the US Bishops are currently holding up. I am not going to quote this article for fear of throwing all charity to the wind. All I can say is that I am disgusted that our good shepherds -- including ones who are supposed to be 'conservative' -- are still using the term 'pastoral' as an acid to corrode all reverence and piety and hold on to the empty and stultifying inventions of blasphemous hippies. OK, I am going to quote it to show you what I mean:
Just before a vote was taken on the entire proposal, Cardinal George again intervened: . . . "if the translations given us by ICEL, even though perhaps in some ways, marginally perhaps, are more accurate, we make the decision that we would prefer to keep the present translations for pastoral reasons, well that’s a legitimate concern."
I confess it's hard for me to imagine reform without strong disciplinary action from Rome, one that may well result in a lot of well-deserved consternation on this continent -- so be it!