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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 04 Jun 2001

Altar Rails QUESTION from Mike Mallinger January 7, 2001 In all my liturgical studies, I've never seen any specific suggestion or requirement to receive communion standing or to remove altar rails from our churches. What have I missed?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on January 22, 2001 Dear Mr. Mallinger:
You will not find any mandate to remove altar rails because there are none. Vatican II never required such a thing. But many bishops have had their parishes remove them anyway. It is a crying shame, not only in what removing them implies (the hidden agenda to it) but also because it ignore the symbolism of what the communion rails provided -- the sanctuary is suppose to be separate. It is sacred space. Sacred means to set aside. The Jewish Temple had such a barrier to set aside the sacred place.
In our pedestrian and sometimes bull-in-a-chine-shop mentality, expecially in the U.S. we have forgotten the meaning of the word sacred.
As to the issue of standing when receiving communion, yes, that is allowed, but some sign of reverence MUST be performed.
Below I have copied one of John Miskell's answers to this question:
The Ceremonial of Bishops, Section II, number 71 is referring to group liturgical processions which is different than that which occurs when the faithful process individually up the aisle to receive Communion. What the individual faithful should be doing at this time is spelled out in Inaestimabile Donum. The English title for this authoritative document is; THE INSTRUCTION CONCERNING WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY. This document says;
When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of adoration. When they receive Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament. This should be done at the right time and place, so that the order of people going to and from Communion is not disrupted. [Inaestimabile Donum] Note that the instruction says that the sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament should be done in such a way as to not disrupt the order of people going to and from Communion. There is no specific requirement to genuflect when receiving Communion but it is clear that a sign of reverence must be shown. This being said, genuflecting and kneeling have always been the signs of Eucharistic adoration in the Latin Church.
One can see from the document that genuflecting or kneeling is what they have in mind; otherwise why would they be concerned with people possibly being disrupted? The choice to genuflect or kneel or to receive on the tongue or in the hand is left up to the person receiving Communion, not the priest. It's similar to whether or not you wish to confess your sins face-to-face or from behind the screen; IT'S UP TO YOU! But common sense has to be exercised
God Bless Bro. Ignatius
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