23 February 2021

Communion Procession in a new Dark Age? (2)

The thesis I am testing is that the moment when S Pius X started encouraging frequent communion is the moment at which the the mass cultural Catholicism of post-Constantinian Chritianity, in which mass conversions led to a situation in which most people and most societies were not radically 'converted', had been superseded. Some anecdotes from my own unsystematic reading of Irish Church History: a twelfth century Bishop of Ardfert (i.e. Kerry) was reputed to be "chaste". Just think what that implies for the most of the episcopate! I once amused byself by looking at the entries in episcopal registers of the late medieval parochial clergy of Kerry. Time and time again, the record revealed that a cleric was dispensed for illegitimacy. That might mean that most couples were not canonically married and that therefore most children were canonically illegitimate; or, more probably, that these clerics were the sons of priests who naturally planned to inherit their fathers' trade: in either case, it tells us something about society!

But the counter-Reformation implied a clericate different from the medieval priesthood in which a man who could read but had no training could turn up at the Embertide and be ordained (the old system which, like so many of the medieval abuses, survived in the Church of England long after the Catholic Church had moved on). The introduction of seminaries meant a much more professionalised priesthood with an expectation that they would have a more professional attitude to the formation of their laity.

By the time of S Pius X, things were ripe for a new Catholicism in which frequent Confession and frequent Communion could be encouraged. The Dark Ages had finally come to an end. Their ritual marks remained; Communion from the tabernacle rather than within Mass was still common in Oxford Anglo-Catholicism when I was an undergraduate in the 1960s; in both East and West the Body of Christ was not delivered into the hands of the laity; neither was the Chalice delivered into the hands of the laity. Both of these were practices which developed in the 'Dark Ages' out of fear of profanation or sacrilege. But, with a more trained and 'sacramentalised' laity, the situation had become ripe for change.

Dv, to be continued.


WH Dunne said...

A very interesting series but I don't think you're correct to say that the Reformation left this situation unchanged in the Church of England (or that it was necessarily an abuse). The clergy in the English and Irish churches following the Reformation became quite learned, quite quickly as it was soon required that everyone of them hold a university degree.

E sapelion said...

The heading 'Communion Procession' is the fifth sub-heading among six under 'The Communion Rite', and the only movement mentioned is ' ...[the priest] approaches the communicants ...'. Reconstructing the current OF rite of Mass on the basis of a CTS daily Missal, would be as difficult as reconstructing a Sarum Low Mass from the available texts is now.
GIRM is hardly more helpful. It lists four processions, formal movements accompanied (optionally) by chant, but only the Entrance and the Gospel transfer have any hint of rubrics attached to them. Again the chant books give additional information, but for the Communion chant only when it begins and ends, neither referring to the congregation. So the ritual texts do not give much weight to the 'Communion Procession'.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

What if the ore-reformation clergy had a superior understanding of jurisprudence, and understood that (1) they had the right to marry de jure divino; and, (2) they knew what a praeter legem right was?