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Overview of the "Redemptionis Sacramentum" Instruction

Jan Vermeer. Christ in the House of Mary and Martha.
(Jan Vermeer. Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. Source)

1) Introduction

On March 25th, 2004, the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published the Instruction called "Redemptionis sacramentum", on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist. The Instruction's text is on the Vatican's web site [www.vatican.va]. What follows is only my summary of some aspects which seem neglected here in Quebec.

2) What must be avoided?

2.1) Priests don't have a right to modify the Liturgy. Neither the priests, nor the deacons, nor the lay faithful may change anything in the official texts of the Liturgy [#59, also #31].

2.2) Laypersons can never say the homily. [#64-66, and #161].

2.3) The Eucharistic Prayer must be said by the priest only. In other words, the lay faithful must never say the "Through Him, with Him and in Him" (Per Ipsum), etc.[#52].

2.4) The homily must contain dogma and morals. The homily must expose what we must believe to be Catholics (dogma) and what we must do to get to Heaven (morals). [#67]

2.5) The priest must never break the host during consecration. It is a serious abuse on the part of the priest to break the host while saying: "He took the bread, broke it", etc. [#55].

2.6) One must not go to communion if in a state of mortal sin. Priests must make sure that people participating in the Mass be made aware of this. [#80-81 and #84]. This rule seems particularly abused during Masses (such as Midnight Mass or Funeral Masses, etc.) where a large number of participants are in fact non-Catholics, or are living in state of continuous mortal sin.

2.7) One cannot refuse to give communion to a faithful who wants to commune on his knees or receive the Host on the tongue. [#91-92].

2.8) One mustn't "run away" with the Host. We have to commune in front of the priest, and only then return to one's place in the pews. The Host must not be given to people who "run away" with it [#92].

2.9) A paten must be used. In order to avoid having the Host or fragments fall to the ground, a paten (a kind of dish) must be held under the Host [# 93].

2.10) Any act of disrespect, voluntary and serious, toward the sacred species, incurs automatic excommunication [# 107].

2.11) Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament outside the Mass must not be discouraged  [#129 and #134-141].

2.12) One cannot forbid a priest to celebrate the Paul VI Mass in Latin. "Except in the case of celebrations of the Mass that are scheduled by the ecclesiastical authorities to take place in the language of the people, Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin" [#112].

Etc., etc.

3) Why must these things be avoided?

Basically, we must avoid liturgical abuses a bit for the same reasons that we must avoid misusing our medication. If we don't respect the instructions for our medications, we risk making our disease worse, or even dying. In the same way, if we improperly use the "liturgical medication", mankind won't be able to heal its spiritual wounds.

Liturgy is a kind of "medication" for the soul, especially the Most Holy Sacrament (which is the source and summit of Christian life, since it is Jesus Christ Himself who is really present in the Eucharist) [#1-2, and #185]. The more we respect the liturgical norms (as much by our exterior gestures as by our interior faith and charity), the closer we'll be to Christ [#5]. In Latin, we say: "Lex orandi, lex credendi", which could be translated as "Tell me how you celebrate your liturgy, and I'll tell you what you believe" [#10]. It is the right of all of Christ's faithful that the Liturgy "should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms." [12]

Priests who "fiddle around" with the liturgy harm the unity of the Church, and deprive the faithful who hunger for God of their spiritual nourishment [#11]. These things are inadmissible and must stop [#4].

4) What should we do if we see somebody violating these rules?

There are so to speak two solutions to this vice: the carrot and the stick. The "carrot" is liturgical and biblical education of the faithful (and reading the official "Redemptionis Sacramentum" Instruction is a good start!), and the "stick" is the denunciation of the guilty so they can be punished according to Canon Law [#170].

Any faithful can and must report liturgical abuses, in a charitable and precise way, first of all to the priest who is concerned, then to the local Bishop, and finally to Rome if the abuse is not corrected [#183-184].

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