As part of the changes for our liturgical practice, Archbishop Sample wants to clarify the value of daily Mass and what we should be doing when there is no priest present to offer Mass. Commonly, we have offered a communion service presided over by our deacon or, if he is unavailable, a trained layperson. Since the Church has never given an official accommodation for such situations, our archbishop wants us to stop offering communion services in lieu of one of the other great liturgies of our Church, The Liturgy of the Hours, with adaptions for a more extensive use of Scripture from the day's official Scritpure readings. Here's a more thorough reflection by Msgr. Gerard O'Connor, our Director of the office of Divine Worship:
The Most Holy Eucharist, “stands at the center of the Church's life”, since it truly “contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our Passover and Living Bread.” “The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work.” That surpassing gift of the Eucharist is where the Church draws her life, the dynamic force of all her activity and her whole sense of purpose and direction. As the Second Vatican Council proclaimed, the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life”.
Any discussion of weekday liturgical worship must begin by recalling the importance and normative character of daily Mass in the life of every Catholic community. Pope Paul VI recommended that priests “worthily and devoutly offer Mass each day in order that both they and the rest of the faithful may enjoy the benefits that flow so richly from the sacrifice of the cross.”(Mysterium Fidei, 33) Pope John Paul II echoes these words in stating: “We can understand, then, how important it is for the spiritual life of the priest, as well as for the good of the Church and the world, that priests follow the Council’s recommendation to celebrate the Eucharist daily,” and he like many popes before him, states that "priests should be encouraged to celebrate Mass every day, even in the absence of a congregation, since it is an act of Christ and the Church”.
It is important to make the distinction between the celebration of Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion outside of Mass. It is clear that the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of the Eucharist cannot be separated theologically and are only separated temporally due to pastoral necessity.
With regard to the separation of the Sacrifice and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Pope Paul states: “The few things that we have touched upon concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass encourage us to say something about the Sacrament of the Eucharist, since both Sacrifice and Sacrament pertain to the same mystery and cannot be separated from each other. The Lord is immolated in an unbloody way in the Sacrifice of the Mass and He re-presents the sacrifice of the Cross and applies its salvific power at the moment when he becomes sacramentally present — through the words of consecration — as the spiritual food of the faithful, under the appearances of bread and wine.” (Mysterium Fidei, 34)
In the same encyclical Pope Paul makes a distinction between the celebration of Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion: “For such a Mass brings a rich and abundant treasure of special graces to help the priest himself, the faithful, the whole Church and the whole world toward salvation—and this same abundance of graces is not gained through mere reception of Holy Communion.” (Mysterium Fidei, 32)
It is the expectation of the Church that: “The faithful should normally receive sacramental Communion of the Eucharist during Mass itself, at the moment laid down by the rite of celebration, that is to say, just after the Priest celebrant’s Communion.” In fact the Second Vatican Council refers to it as the “more perfect form of participation in the Mass.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 55)
In order to promote this new practice, the office of Divine Worship has crafted a high quality booklet entitled, "Parish Weekday Prayer." Here's a reflection from Msgr. O'Connor on this booklet:
Sometimes the faithful of a parish cannot be present at the Holy Eucharist during the week due to the absence ofa priest or excessive travel requirements. Whilst daily Mass is highly encouraged and considered ideal, sometimes it is not possible. In these circumstances the faithful are likewise encouraged to gather and pray together.
There are many prayers and devotions which are available to a group of the faithful gathered in the absence ofa priest; however the Liturgy ofthe Hours has pride ofplace since it is the 'Prayer of the Church'. The purpose of the Liturgy of the Hours is to sanctify the day and all human activity and this community prayer has a special dignity since Christ himself said: "Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them" (Mt 18:20).'
This book of weekday prayer has been prepared to allow those gathered on the weekdays ofthe Church's year to pray together the Liturgy ofthe Hours in such a way as to incorporate the Sacred Scripture that would be provided during the Liturgy ofthe Word at Holy Mass.
By adapting the Liturgy of the Hours in such a way, the faithful can continue to follow the sequence of readings that are presented to the Church during the liturgical year. This integral reading of Sacred Scripture during the celebration of this adapted Liturgy ofthe Hours is approved by the Archbishop, only for this Parish Weekday Prayer in the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. Although this collection of Parish Weekday Prayer is envisioned to be celebrated in the morning it may also be used at other times of the day.
This change will take effect on June 3rd. Click the following link to download this booklet: Parish Weekday Prayer.
Fr. William Holtzinger