22 February 2021

"Communion Procession" in a new Dark Age? (1)

In the middle of controversy about methods of receiving the Holy Communion of Christ's Body and Blood during pandemics, I wonder if, perhaps, it might help to stand back a bit and consider the rituals of Communion in a broader context. I am moved to consider the trendy concept of the Communion Procession!

In the CTS Daily Missal, where one might expect a heading "COMMUNION", there is instead the heading "COMMUNION PROCESSION"; "Communion" has, functionally, become adjectival. Syntactically, this rather teutonic agglutinisation of nouns is a phenomenon which has become very common, and is often found in newspaper headings. "Football Manager" "Rape Victim" "Crash Survivor". Is there any justification in the Ordo Missae itself for this particular insertion? It seems to me strange that emphasis should thus be taken off the centrality of the act of Holy Communion and the weight made to rest upon the act of processing.

But there is reference to the Communion Procession in the IGMR. In its original 1969 version it read (56 (i) "... cantus ad Communionem, cuius est  ... processionem ad Corpus Christi suscipiendum magis fraternam reddere." In 2001, this became " ... cantus ad Communionem, cuius est ... indolem 'communitariam' processionis ad Eucharistiam suscipiendam magis in lucem ponere." This is undoubtedly a strengthening of the idea. As for the idea itself, I can't see much in Jungmann's Volume II to support it.

The propriety of this development seems to me to arise from the process of frequent communion encouraged by S Pius X, and so accentuated since the middle years of the last century that it became  what we Anglicans used to call a "A General Communion". I want to suggest that the impetus given to this by the Holy Pontiff needs to be seen in a particular historical context.

It was in the nineteenth century that Catholicism in many countries was reformed very radically in its social manifestations. Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, presided over a revolution which eliminated the centuries-old peasant Catholicism of Irish culture (elements of which I strongly suspect go back to the sixth century) and finally imposed the discipline ... I nearly wrote 'military discipline' ... of the Counter-Reformation. In particular, out went the 'patterns', the old Patronal Festivals, which although cultic were occasions of every known kind of debauchery. The old Catholicism, in which one went to confession before Easter so as to be in a state of Grace and 'fit' to receive at Easter the Holy Communion which most people did not receive during the rest of the year, was laudably replaced by a new Catholicism in which the clergy were encouraged to strive to ensure that their people were normally, and not just for a few days each spring, in a state of Grace.

I suspect that a connection could be found between this and the general increase in disapproval of adultery, and other sexual sins, in both Protestant and Catholic contexts. As late as the seventeenth century royal courts, nobody failed to believe that adultery was a mortal sin. But equally, it was a cultural assumption that Kings did commit that mortal sin of adultery and even had mistresses en titre, right down - in France - to the accession of the saintly Louis XVI; and acknowledged and ennobled their bastards. I read somewhere of an uxorious German prince who maintained mistresses he didn't sleep with because princely status required it! In England, that culture lasted until William IV in the 1830s; the eldest of his bastards by Dorothy Bland, of Parknasilla in Co Kerry (where Pam and her sons and sons-in-law used to play golf in just about the most scenic 12 hole hotel course there must be anywhere) was made Earl of Munster ... but nota bene ... only the eldest son and only an earl. By the end of the same century it had become unthinkable that Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, certainly one of the hundred most unedifying lechers known to history, should acknowledge and ennoble bastards.

Things had changed.

Dv, to continue.


William Tighe said...

" I read somewhere of an uxorious German prince who maintained mistresses he didn't sleep with because princely status required it!"

I believe that this is a reference to Frederick II and I (so numbered because of his promotion from Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia to "King in Prussia" in 1701; the "in" was replaced by "of" only in 1773), born in 1657, reigned from 1688 to his death in 1713.

Calvin Engime said...

Have you read Paul Bradshaw's paper "Gregory Dix and the Offertory Procession," arguing that scholarship of the last century effectively fabricated an ancient pedigree for a ceremony already introduced for entirely different motives?

davidmorourke said...

About twenty years ago I attended the funeral of a parent of a friend of mine who was also the celebrant of the Mass. Returning to our places after communion we were instructed to stand at our places rather than to kneel in adoration and thanksgiving. I confess I didn't like this so later I asked the priest why we did this. He replied, "Focus on community." Focus on community? Focus on community? Really? Not on Our Lord who we had just received? There's the post Vatican II liturgy for you. I presume as we filed up to receive the Sacrament we were in the Communion Procession.

The Saint Bede Studio said...

Calvin Engime : can it be possible that there is a defect in the scholarship of Gregory Dix? Surely not? ;)