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Instruction on Eucharistic Worship

by Catherine Frakas 28 Feb 2003

Instruction on Eucharistic Worship Sacred Congregation of Rites 15 August 1967 Introduction Part I—Some general principles on mystery of Eucharist Part II—Celebration of the Memorial of the Lord Part III—Worship of the Eucharist as a permanent Sacrament Endnotes Introduction 1. Recent Documents of the Church Concerning the Mystery of the Eucharist The mystery of the Eucharist is the true center of the sacred liturgy and indeed of the whole Christian life. Consequently the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, continually seeks to understand and to live the Eucharist more fully. In our own day the Second Vatican Council has stressed several important aspects of this mystery. In the Constitution on the Liturgy the council recalled certain facts about the nature and importance of the Eucharist.(1) It established principles for the reform of the rites of the sacrifice of the Mass so as to encourage the full and active participation of the faithful in the celebration of this mystery.(2) It also extended the practice of concelebration and Communion under both kinds.(3) In the Constitution on the Church the council showed the close and necessary connection between the Eucharist and the mystery of the Church.(4) Other documents of the council frequently stressed the important role of the Eucharistic Mystery in the life of the faithful.(5) They showed its power to reveal the meaning of man's work, and indeed of all created nature, since in it natural elements, refined by man, are changed into the glorified Body and Blood.(6) Pope Pius XII had prepared the way for many of these statements of the council, especially in the encyclical letter Mediator Dei, (7) while Pope Paul VI in the encyclical letter Mysterium Fidei(8) has recalled the importance of certain aspects of Eucharistic doctrine, of the real presence of Christ in particular and the worship due to this sacrament even outside the Mass. 2. The Need to Retain an Overall View of the Teaching Contained in These Documents In recent years then, certain aspects of the traditional teaching on this mystery have been the subject of deeper reflection throughout the Church and have been presented with new zeal for the greater spiritual benefit of the faithful. Undertakings and research in various fields, particularly the liturgical and biblical, have greatly assisted this process. From the doctrine contained in these documents it is necessary to formulate practical norms which will show the Christian people how to act in regard to this sacrament so as to pursue that knowledge and holiness which the council has set before the Church. It is important that the mystery of the Eucharist should shine out before the eyes of the faithful in its true light. It should be considered in all its different aspects, and the real relationships which, as the Church teaches, are known to exist between these various aspects of the mystery should be so understood by the faithful as to be reflected in their lives. 3. The Principal Points of Doctrine in These Documents Among the doctrinal principles concerning the Eucharist formulated in these documents of the Church, the following should be noted as having a bearing upon the attitude of Christians toward this mystery, and, therefore, as falling within the scope of this instruction. The Son of God in the human nature which He united to Himself redeemed man and transformed him into a new creation by overcoming death through his own death and resurrection (cf. Gal. 6:15; II Cor. 5:17). For by giving His Spirit He mystically established as His body His brethren gathered from all nations. In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe; for through the sacraments they are joined in a mysterious yet real way to the Christ who suffered and is glorified. (9) Therefore Our Saviour at the Last Supper on the night when He was betrayed instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood so that He might perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries till His coming. He thus entrusted to the Church, His beloved Spouse, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal meal in which Christ is eaten, the mind filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory given to us.(10) Hence the Mass, the Lord's Supper, is at the same time and inseparably: —A sacrifice in which the Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated; —A memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, who said do this in memory of me (Luke 22:19); —A sacred banquet in which, through the communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the People of God share the benefits of the Paschal Sacrifice, renew the New Covenant which God has made with man once for all through the Blood of Christ, and in faith and hope foreshadow and anticipate the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father, proclaiming the Lord's death till His coming.(11) In the Mass, therefore, the sacrifice and sacred meal belong to the same mystery—so much so that they are linked by the closest bond. For in the sacrifice of the Mass our Lord is immolated when he begins to be present sacramentally as the spiritual food of the faithful under the appearances of bread and wine.(12) It was for this purpose that Christ entrusted this sacrifice to the Church, that the faithful might share in it both spiritually, by faith and charity, and sacramentally, through the banquet of holy Communion. Participation in the Lord's Supper is always communion with Christ offering Himself for us as a sacrifice to the Father.(13) The celebration of the Eucharist, which takes place at Mass, is the action not only of Christ but also of the Church. For in it Christ perpetuates in an unbloody manner the sacrifice offered on the cross,(14) offering Himself to the Father for the world's salvation through the ministry of priests.(15) The Church, the spouse and minister of Christ, performs together with Him the role of priest and victim, offers Him to the Father and at the same time makes a total offering of herself together with Him. Thus the Church, especially in the great Eucharistic prayer, together with Christ, gives thanks to the Father in the Holy Spirit for all the blessings which He gives to men in creation and especially in the Paschal Mystery, and prays to Him for the coming of His kingdom. Hence no Mass, indeed no liturgical action, is a purely private action, but rather a celebration of the Church as a society composed of different orders and ministries, in which each member acts according to his own order and role.(17) The celebration of the Eucharist in the sacrifice of the Mass is the origin and consummation of the worship shown to the Eucharist outside Mass. Not only are the sacred species which remain after Mass derived from the Mass, but they are preserved so that those of the faithful who cannot come to Mass may be united to Christ and His Sacrifice celebrated in the Mass, through sacramental Communion received with the right dispositions.(18) Consequently the Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and the summit of the whole of the Church's worship and of the Christian life. The faithful participate more fully in this sacrament of thanksgiving, propitiation, petition, and praise, not only when they wholeheartedly offer the Sacred Victim, and in it themselves, to the Father with the priest, but also when they receive this same Victim sacramentally. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that all the faithful ought to show to this most holy sacrament the worship which is due to the true God, as has always been the custom of the Catholic Church. Nor is it to be adored any the less because it was instituted by Christ to be eaten. (20) For even in the reserved sacrament He is to be adored (21) because He is substantially present there through that conversion of bread and wine which, as the Council of Trent tells us,(22) is most aptly named transubstantiation. The mystery of the Eucharist should therefore be considered in all its fullness, not only in the celebration of Mass but also in devotion to the sacred species which remain after Mass and are reserved to extend the grace of the sacrifice.(23) These are the principles from which practical rules are to be drawn to govern devotion due to the sacrament outside Mass and its proper relation to the right ordering of the sacrifice of the Mass according to the mind of the Second Vatican Council and the other documents of the Apostolic See on this subject.(24) 4. The General Intention of This Instruction For this reason the Consilium set up to implement the Constitution on the Liturgy, on the instructions of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, has prepared an instruction setting out such practical rules of this nature as may be suitable for the present situation. The particular purpose of these rules is not only to emphasize the general principles of how to instruct the people in the Eucharist, but also to make more readily intelligible the signs by which the Eucharist is celebrated as the memorial of the Lord and worshipped as a permanent sacrament in the Church. For although this sacrament has this supreme and unique feature, that the author of holiness is Himself present in it, nevertheless, in common with the other sacraments, it is the symbol of a sacred reality and the visible form of an invisible grace.(25) Consequently the more intelligible the signs by which it is celebrated and worshipped, the more firmly and effectively it will enter into the minds and lives of the faithful.(26) Part 1—Some General Principles of Particular Importance in the Catechesis of the People on the Mystery of the Eucharist 5. What Is Required of Pastors Who Are to Give Instruction about This Mystery Suitable catechesis is essential if the mystery of the Eucharist is to take deeper root in the minds and lives of the faithful. To convey this instruction properly, pastors should not only bear in mind the many aspects of the Church's teaching, as contained in the documents of the magisterium, but in their hearts and in their lives they must be open to the spirit of the Church in this matter.(27) Only then will they readily perceive which of the many facets of this mystery best suits the needs of the faithful at any one time. While recalling all that was said above in no. 3, one should take special note of the following. 6. The Mystery of the Eucharist as the Center of the Entire Life of the Church The catechesis about the Eucharistic Mystery should aim to help the faithful to realize that the celebration of the Eucharist is the true center of the whole Christian life both for the universal Church and for the local congregations of that Church. For the other sacraments, as indeed every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are linked with the Eucharist and are directed toward it. For the Eucharist contains the entire spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself, our Passover and living bread, offering through His flesh, living and life-giving in the Spirit, life to men who are thus invited and led on to offer themselves, their labors, and all created things together with Him.(28) The Eucharist both perfectly signifies and wonderfully effects that sharing in God's life and unity of God's People by which the Church exists.(29) It is the summit of both the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and the worship which men offer to Christ and which through him they offer to the Father in the Spirit.(30) Its celebration is the supreme means by which the faithful come to express in their lives and to manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the true nature of the Church.(31) 7. The Mystery of the Eucharist as the Focal Point of the Local Church It is through the Eucharist that the Church continually lives and grows. This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local congregations of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are called churches in the New Testament. These are, each in its own place, the new People, called by God in the Holy Spirit and in all fullness (cf. I Thess. 1:5). In them the faithful are gathered by the preaching of Christ's Gospel, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated, 'so that through the Body and Blood of the Lord the whole brotherhood is united.' (32) Every gathering around the altar under the sacred ministry of the bishop (33) or of a priest who takes the place of the bishop (34) is a sign of that charity and 'unity of the Mystical Body, without which there can be no salvation.' (35) In these communities, though they may often be small and poor or living amongst the 'diaspora,' Christ is present, by whose power the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is united. For 'the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ has no less an effect than to change us into what we have received'. (36), (37) 8. The Eucharistic Mystery and Christian Unity In addition to those things which concern the ecclesial community and the individual faithful, pastors should pay particular attention to that part of her doctrine in which the Church teaches that the memorial of the Lord, celebrated according to His will, signifies and effects the unity of all who believe in Him.(38) As the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council declares,(39) the faithful should be led to a proper appreciation of the values which are preserved in the Eucharistic tradition according to which our brethren of the other Christian confessions have continued to celebrate the Lord's Supper. For while they call to mind the death and resurrection of the Lord in the Holy Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await His coming in glory.(40) But those who have preserved the sacrament of Order, united with the bishop, have access to God the Father through the Son, the Word incarnate, who suffered and is glorified, by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and attain communion with the Blessed Trinity, becoming 'sharers in the divine nature' (II Peter 1:4 ) . And so through the celebration of the Lord's Eucharist in these individual churches the Church of God is built up and grows, and their communion is manifested through concelebration.(41) It is above all in the celebration of the mystery of unity that all Christians should be filled with sorrow at the divisions which separate them. They should therefore pray earnestly to God that all disciples of Christ may daily come closer to a proper understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist according to His mind, and may so celebrate it as to become sharers in the Body of Christ and so become one body (cf. I Cor. 10:17) linked by the very bonds by which He wishes it to be constituted.(42) 9. The Different Modes of Christ's Presence In order that they should achieve a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist, the faithful should be instructed in the principal ways in which the Lord is present to His Church in liturgical celebrations.(43) He is always present in a body of the faithful gathered in His name (cf. Matt. 18:20). He is present too in His Word, for it is He who speaks when the Scriptures are read in the Church. In the sacrifice of the Eucharist He is present both in the person of the minister, the same now offering through the ministry of the priest who formerly offered himself on the Cross,(44) and above all under the species of the Eucharist.(45) For in this sacrament Christ is present in a unique way, whole and entire, God and man, substantially and permanently. This presence of Christ under the species is called 'real' not in an exclusive sense, as if the other kinds of presence were not real, but 'par excellence'.(46) 10. The Connection Between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist Pastors should therefore carefully teach the faithful to participate in the whole Mass, showing the close connection between the Liturgy of the Word and the celebration of the Lord's Supper, so that they can see clearly how the two constitute a single act of worship.(47) For the preaching of the Word is necessary for the very administration of the sacraments, inasmuch as they are sacraments of faith, which is born of the Word and fed by it.(48) This is especially true of the celebration of Mass, in which it is the purpose of the Liturgy of the Word to develop the close connection between the preaching and hearing of the Word of God and the Eucharistic Mystery.(49) When therefore the faithful hear the Word of God, they should realize that the wonders it proclaims culminate in the Paschal Mystery, of which the memorial is sacramentally celebrated in the Mass. In this way the faithful will be nourished by the Word of God which they have received and in a spirit of thanksgiving will be led on to a fruitful participation in the mysteries of salvation. Thus the Church is nourished by the bread of life which she finds at the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of Christ.(50) 11. The Priesthood Common to All the Faithful and the Ministerial Priesthood in the Celebration of the Eucharist The more clearly the faithful understand the place they occupy in the liturgical community and the part they have to play in the eucharistic action, the more conscious and fruitful will be the active participation which is proper to that community.(51) Catechetical instruction should therefore explain the doctrine of the royal priesthood to which the faithful are consecrated by rebirth and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.(52) Moreover there should also be further explanation of the role in the celebration of the Eucharist of the ministerial priesthood which differs from the common priesthood of the faithful in essence and not merely in degree.(53) The part played by others who exercise a ministry in the Eucharist should also be explained.(54) 12. The Nature of Active Participation in the Mass It should be made clear that all who gather for the Eucharist constitute that holy people which, together with the ministers, plays its part in the sacred action. It is indeed the priest alone, who, acting in the person of Christ, consecrates the bread and wine, but the role of the faithful in the Eucharist is to recall the passion, resurrection and glorification of the Lord, to give thanks to God, and to offer the immaculate Victim not only through the hands of the priest, but also together with him; and finally, by receiving the Body of the Lord, to perfect that communion with God and among themselves which should be the product of participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass.(55) For the faithful achieve a more perfect participation in the Mass when, with proper disposition, they receive the Body of the Lord sacramentally in the Mass itself, in obedience to his words, take and eat.(56) Like the passion of Christ itself, this sacrifice, though offered for all, has no effect except in those united to the passion of Christ by faith and charity . . . To these it brings a greater or less benefit in proportion to their devotion.(57) All these things should be explained to the faithful, so that they may take an active part in the celebration of the Mass both by their personal devotion and by joining in the external rites, according to the principles laid down in the Constitution on the Liturgy,(58) which have been further determined by the Instruction Inter Oecumenici of Sept. 26, 1964, and the Instruction Musician Sacram of March 5, 1967,(59) and through the Instruction Tres abhinc annos of May 4, 1967. 13. The Influence of the Eucharist on the Daily Lives of the Faithful What the faithful have received by faith and sacrament in the celebration of the Eucharist should have its effect on their way of life. They should seek to live joyfully and gratefully by the strength of this heavenly food, sharing in the death and resurrection of the Lord. And so everyone who has participated in the Mass should be eager to do good works, to please God, and to live honestly, devoted to the Church, putting into practice what he has learnt, and growing in piety. (60) He will seek to fill the world with the Spirit of Christ and in all things, in the very midst of human affairs to become a witness of Christ.(61) For no Christian community can be built up unless it has as its basis and pivot the celebration of the holy Eucharist. It is from this therefore that any attempt to form a community must begin.(62) 14. Teaching Children About the Mass Those who have charge of the religious instruction of children, especially parents, parish priests, and teachers, should be careful when they are introducing them gradually to the mystery of salvation,(63) to give emphasis to instruction on the Mass. Instruction about the Eucharist, while being suited to the age and abilities of the children, should aim to convey the meaning of the Mass through the principal rites and prayers. It should also explain the place of the Mass in participation in the life of the Church.(64) All this should be borne in mind especially when children are being prepared for First Communion so that the First Communion may be seen as the full incorporation into the body of Christ. 15. Catechesis about the Mass Should Take the Rites and Prayers as Its Starting Point The Council of Trent prescribes that pastors should frequently either themselves or through others, expound some part of what is read at Mass and, among other things, explain something of the mystery of this sacrament.(65) Pastors should therefore gently lead the faithful to a full understanding of this mystery of faith by suitable catechesis. This should take as its starting point the mysteries of the liturgical year and the rites and prayers which are part of the celebration. It should clarify their meaning and especially that of the great Eucharistic Prayer, and lead the people to a profound understanding of the mystery which these signify and accomplish. Part II—Celebration of the Memorial of the Lord I. Some General Norms Regarding the Celebration of the Memorial of the Lord in the Community of the Faithful 16. The Common Unity to Be Shown in the Celebration Since through baptism there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor freeman, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus (cf. Gal. 3:28), the assembly which most fully portrays the nature of the Church and its role in the Eucharist is that which gathers together the faithful, men and women, of every age and walk of life. The unity of this community, having its origin in the one bread in which all share (cf. I Cor. 10:17), is arranged in hierarchical order. For this reason it is necessary that each person, performing his role as a minister or as one of the faithful, should do all that the nature of the action and the liturgical norms require of him, and only that.(66) The outstanding example of this unity may be seen in the full and active participation of the entire people of God . . . in the same Eucharist, in a single prayer, around the one altar where the bishop presides, accompanied by his priests and ministers.(67) 17. The Community Should Not Be Disrupted, nor the Faithful's Attention Diverted In liturgical celebrations, the community should not be disrupted or be distracted from its common purpose. Care then must be taken not to have two liturgical celebrations at the same time in the same church, since it distracts the people's attention. This is above all true of the celebration of the Eucharist. That is why that disruption of the congregation is to be assiduously avoided, which, when Mass is celebrated with the people on Sundays and feast days, is caused by the simultaneous celebration of Masses in the same church. As far as possible it should be avoided on other days as well. The best way of achieving this, is, in accordance with the law, for those priests to concelebrate who want to celebrate Mass at the same time.(68) Likewise, when Mass is being celebrated for the people, in accordance with the public timetable of the church, baptisms, marriages, exhortations, and the common or choral recitation of the Divine Office are to be avoided. 18. An Awareness of the Local and Universal Church Community Is to Be Fostered In the celebration of the Eucharist, a sense of community should be encouraged. Each person will then feel himself united with his brethren in the communion of the Church, local and universal, and even in a way with all men. In the sacrifice of the Mass in fact, Christ offers Himself for the salvation of the entire world. The congregation of the faithful is both type and sign of the union of the whole human race in Christ its Head.(69) 19. Welcoming Strangers to the Local Celebration When any of the faithful take part in a Eucharistic celebration outside their own parish, they will follow the form of celebration used by the local community. Pastors should do what they can to help faithful from other areas join with the local community. This is above all necessary in city churches and places where many of the faithful come on vacation. Where there are large numbers of emigrants or people of another language, pastors should provide them at least from time to time with the opportunity of participating in the Mass in the way to which they are accustomed. Steps should be taken however to enable the faithful to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Mass which pertain to them.(70) 20. The Care to Be Taken by Ministers in Celebrating the Liturgy To encourage the active participation of the people and to ensure that the celebrations are carried out as they should be, it is not sufficient for the ministers to content themselves with the exact fulfillment of their role according to the liturgical laws. It is also necessary that they should so celebrate the liturgy that by this very fact they convey an awareness of the meaning of the sacred actions. The people have the right to be nourished by the proclamation of the Word of God and by the minister's explanation of it. Priests, then, will not only give a homily whenever it is prescribed or seems suitable but will ensure that whatever they or the ministers say or sing will be so clear that the faithful will be able to hear it easily and grasp its meaning; and they will in fact be spontaneously drawn to respond and participate.(71) The ministers should undergo a careful preparation for this, above all in seminaries and religious houses. 21. The Canon of the Mass In Masses celebrated with the people, even when not concelebrated, it is permissible for the celebrant, if it seems opportune, to say the Canon aloud. In sung Masses (Missae in cantu) it is permissible for him to sing those parts of the Canon which are at present allowed to be sung in a concelebrated Mass (Ritus servandus in concelebratione Missae, nos. 39, 42) in accordance with the Instruction Tres abhinc annos of May 4, 1967, n. 10. In printing the words of consecration the custom of printing them in a way different from the rest of the text should be maintained, in order that they may stand out more clearly. 22. The Mass on Radio and Television

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