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Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy

INSTRUCTION

Redemptionis Sacramentum

On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist

March 25, 2004

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

 Preamble

Chapter I – The Regulation of the Sacred Liturgy         

Chapter II – The Participation of the Lay Christian Faithful in the Eucharistic Celebration

Chapter III – The Proper Celebration of Mass

Chapter IV – Holy Communion

Chapter V – Certain Other Matters concerning the Eucharist

Chapter VI – The Reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic Worship outside Mass

Chapter VII – Extraordinary Functions of the Lay Faithful

Chapter VIII – Remedies

Conclusion

Notes                                                                                                                   

 Preamble

[1.] In the Most Holy Eucharist, Mother Church with steadfast faith acknowledges the Sacrament of redemption,1 joyfully takes it to herself, celebrates it and reveres it in adoration, proclaiming the death of Christ Jesus and confessing His Resurrection until He comes in glory2 to hand over, as unconquered Lord and Ruler, eternal Priest and King of the Universe, a kingdom of truth and life to the immense majesty of the Almighty Father.3

[2.] The Church’s doctrine regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, in which the whole spiritual wealth of the Church is contained — namely Christ, our Paschal Lamb4 — the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the whole of Christian life,5 and which lies as a causative force behind the very origins of the Church,6 has been expounded with thoughtful care and with great authority over the course of the centuries in the writings of the Councils and the Supreme Pontiffs. Most recently, in fact, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, in the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, set forth afresh certain elements of great importance on this subject in view of the ecclesial circumstances of our times.7

In order that especially in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy the Church might duly safeguard so great a mystery in our own time as well, the Supreme Pontiff has mandated that this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,8 in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should prepare this Instruction treating of certain matters pertaining to the discipline of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Those things found in this Instruction are therefore to be read in the continuity with the above-mentioned Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

It is not at all the intention here to prepare a compendium of the norms regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, but rather, to take up within this Instruction some elements of liturgical norms that have been previously expounded or laid down and even today remain in force in order to assure a deeper appreciation of the liturgical norms;9 to establish certain norms by which those earlier ones are explained and complemented; and also to set forth for Bishops, as well as for Priests, Deacons and all the lay Christian faithful, how each should carry them out in accordance with his own responsibilities and the means at his disposal.

[3.] The norms contained in the present Instruction are to be understood as pertaining to liturgical matters in the Roman Rite, and, mutatis mutandis, in the other Rites of the Latin Church that are duly acknowledged by law.

[4.] "Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful."10 Even so, "shadows are not lacking".11 In this regard it is not possible to be silent about the abuses, even quite grave ones, against the nature of the Liturgy and the Sacraments as well as the tradition and the authority of the Church, which in our day not infrequently plague liturgical celebrations in one ecclesial environment or another. In some places the perpetration of liturgical abuses has become almost habitual, a fact which obviously cannot be allowed and must cease.

[5.]  The observance of the norms published by the authority of the Church requires conformity of thought and of word, of external action and of the application of the heart. A merely external observation of norms would obviously be contrary to the nature of the Sacred Liturgy, in which Christ Himself wishes to gather His Church, so that together with Himself she will be "one body and one spirit".12 For this reason, external action must be illuminated by faith and charity, which unite us with Christ and with one another and engender love for the poor and the abandoned. The liturgical words and rites, moreover, are a faithful expression, matured over the centuries, of the understanding of Christ, and they teach us to think as He Himself does;13 by conforming our minds to these words, we raise our hearts to the Lord. All that is said in this Instruction is directed toward such a conformity of our own understanding with that of Christ, as expressed in the words and the rites of the Liturgy.

[6.]  For abuses "contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament".14 Thus, they also hinder the faithful from "re-living in a certain way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus: ‘and their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him’".15 For in the presence of God’s power and divinity16 and the splendor of His goodness, made manifest especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, it is fitting that all the faithful should have and put into practice that power of acknowledging God’s majesty that they have received through the saving Passion of the Only-Begotten Son.17

[7.]  Not infrequently, abuses are rooted in a false understanding of liberty. Yet God has not granted us in Christ an illusory liberty by which we may do what we wish, but a liberty by which we may do that which is fitting and right.18 This is true not only of precepts coming directly from God, but also of laws promulgated by the Church, with appropriate regard for the nature of each norm. For this reason, all should conform to the ordinances set forth by legitimate ecclesiastical authority.

[8.]  It is therefore to be noted with great sadness that "ecumenical initiatives which are well-intentioned, nevertheless indulge at times in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith". Yet the Eucharist "is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity or depreciation". It is therefore necessary that some things be corrected or more clearly delineated so that in this respect as well "the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery".19

[9.]  Finally, abuses are often based on ignorance, in that they involve a rejection of those elements whose deeper meaning is not understood and whose antiquity is not recognized. For "the liturgical prayers, orations and songs are pervaded by the inspiration and impulse" of the Sacred Scriptures themselves, "and it is from these that the actions and signs receive their meaning".20 As for the visible signs "which the Sacred Liturgy uses in order to signify the invisible divine realities, they have been chosen by Christ or by the Church".21 Finally, the structures and forms of the sacred celebrations according to each of the Rites of both East and West are in harmony with the practice of the universal Church also as regards practices received universally from apostolic and unbroken tradition,22 which it is the Church’s task to transmit faithfully and carefully to future generations. All these things are wisely safeguarded and protected by the liturgical norms.

[10.]  The Church herself has no power over those things which were established by Christ Himself and which constitute an unchangeable part of the Liturgy.23 Indeed, if the bond were to be broken which the Sacraments have with Christ Himself who instituted them, and with the events of the Church’s founding,24 it would not be beneficial to the faithful but rather would do them grave harm. For the Sacred Liturgy is quite intimately connected with principles of doctrine,25 so that the use of unapproved texts and rites necessarily leads either to the attenuation or to the disappearance of that necessary link between the lex orandi and the lex credendi.26

[11.]  The Mystery of the Eucharist "is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured".27 On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free rein to his own inclinations, even if he is a Priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved,28 and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal,29 but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God.30 The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ’s faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of "secularization" as well.31

[12.] On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. Likewise, the Catholic people have the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium. Finally, it is the Catholic community’s right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church.32

[13.]  All of the norms and exhortations set forth in this Instruction are connected, albeit in various ways, with the mission of the Church, whose task it is to be vigilant concerning the correct and worthy celebration of so great a mystery. The last chapter of the present Instruction will treat of the varying degrees to which the individual norms are bound up with the supreme norm of all ecclesiastical law, namely concern for the salvation of souls.33

 Chapter I — THE REGULATION OF THE SACRED LITURGY

[14.]  "The regulation of the Sacred Liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, which rests specifically with the Apostolic See and, according to the norms of law, with the Bishop".34

[15.] The Roman Pontiff, "the Vicar of Christ and the Pastor of the universal Church on earth, by virtue of his supreme office enjoys full, immediate and universal ordinary power, which he may always freely exercise",35 also by means of communication with the pastors and with the members of the flock.

[16.]  "It pertains to the Apostolic See to regulate the Sacred Liturgy of the universal Church, to publish the liturgical books and to grant the recognitio for their translation into vernacular languages, as well as to ensure that the liturgical regulations, especially those governing the celebration of the most exalted celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, are everywhere faithfully observed".36

[17.]  "The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments attends to those matters that pertain to the Apostolic See as regards the regulation and promotion of the Sacred Liturgy, and especially the Sacraments, with due regard for the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It fosters and enforces sacramental discipline, especially as regards their validity and their licit celebration". Finally, it "carefully seeks to ensure that the liturgical regulations are observed with precision, and that abuses are prevented or eliminated whenever they are detected".37 In this regard, according to the tradition of the universal Church, pre-eminent solicitude is accorded the celebration of Holy Mass, and also to the worship that is given to the Holy Eucharist even outside Mass.

[18.] Christ’s faithful have the right that ecclesiastical authority should fully and efficaciously regulate the Sacred Liturgy lest it should ever seem to be "anyone’s private property, whether of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated".38

1.  The Diocesan Bishop, High Priest of his Flock

[19.] The diocesan Bishop, the first steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to him, is the moderator, promoter and guardian of her whole liturgical life.39  For "the Bishop, endowed with the fullness of the Sacrament of Order, is ‘the steward of the grace of the high Priesthood’,40 especially in the Eucharist which he either himself offers or causes to be offered,41 by which the Church continually lives and grows".42

[20.] Indeed, the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church is found whenever the rites of Mass are celebrated, especially in the Cathedral Church, "with the full and active participation of the entire holy People of God, joined in one act of prayer, at one altar at which the Bishop presides", surrounded by his presbyterate with the Deacons and ministers.43 Furthermore, "every lawful celebration of the Eucharist is directed by the Bishop, to whom is entrusted the office of presenting the worship of the Christian religion to the Divine Majesty and ordering it according to the precepts of the Lord and the laws of the Church, further specified by his own particular judgement for the Diocese".44

[21.] It pertains to the diocesan Bishop, then, "within the limits of his competence, to set forth liturgical norms in his Diocese, by which all are bound".45 Still, the Bishop must take care not to allow the removal of that liberty foreseen by the norms of the liturgical books so that the celebration may be adapted in an intelligent manner to the Church building, or to the group of the faithful who are present, or to particular pastoral circumstances in such a way that the universal sacred rite is truly accommodated to human understanding.46

[22.] The Bishop governs the particular Church entrusted to him,47 and it is his task to regulate, to direct, to encourage, and sometimes also to reprove;48 this is a sacred task that he has received through episcopal Ordination,49 which he fulfills in order to build up his flock in truth and holiness.50 He should elucidate the inherent meaning of the rites and the liturgical texts, and nourish the spirit of the Liturgy in the Priests, Deacons and lay faithful51 so that they are all led to the active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist,52 and in like manner he should take care to ensure that the whole body of the Church is able to grow in the same understanding, in the unity of charity, in the diocese, in the nation and in the world. 53

[23.] The faithful "should cling to the Bishop as the Church does to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ does to the Father, so that all may be in harmonious unity, and that they may abound to the glory of God".54 All, including members of Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life as well as those of all ecclesial associations and movements of any kind, are subject to the authority of the diocesan Bishop in all liturgical matters, 55 apart from rights that have been legitimately conceded. To the diocesan Bishop therefore falls the right and duty of overseeing and attending to Churches and oratories in his territory in regard to liturgical matters, and this is true also of those which are founded by members of the above-mentioned institutes or under their direction, provided that the faithful are accustomed to frequent them. 56

[24.] It is the right of the Christian people themselves that their diocesan Bishop should take care to prevent the occurrence of abuses in ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and devotion to the Saints. 57

[25.] Commissions as well as councils or committees established by the Bishop to handle "the promotion of the Liturgy, sacred music and art in his diocese" should act in accordance with the intentions and the norms of the Bishop; they must rely on his authority and his approval so that they may carry out their office in a suitable manner 58 and so that the effective governance of the Bishop in his diocese will be preserved. As regards all these sorts of bodies and other entities and all undertakings in liturgical matters, there has long been the need for the Bishops to consider whether their working has been fruitful thus far, 59 and to consider carefully which changes or improvements should be made in their composition and activity 60 so that they might find new vigor. It should be borne in mind that the experts are to be chosen from among those whose soundness in the Catholic faith and knowledge of theological and cultural matters are evident.

2. The Conference of Bishops

[26.] The same holds for those commissions of this kind which have been established by the Conference of Bishops in accordance with the will of the Council,61 commissions whose members consist of Bishops who are clearly distinguished from their expert helpers. Where the number of members of a Conference of Bishops is not sufficient for the effective establishment of a liturgical commission from among their own number, then a council or group of experts should be named, always under the presidency of a Bishop, which is to fulfill the same role insofar as possible, albeit without the name of "liturgical commission".

[27.] As early as the year 1970, the Apostolic See announced the cessation of all experimentation as regards the celebration of Holy Mass62 and reiterated the same in 1988.63 Accordingly, individual Bishops and their Conferences do not have the faculty to permit experimentation with liturgical texts or the other matters that are prescribed in the liturgical books. In order to carry out experimentation of this kind in the future, the permission of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is required. It must be in writing, and it is to be requested by the Conference of Bishops. In fact, it will not be granted without serious reason. As regards projects of inculturation in liturgical matters, the particular norms that have been established are strictly and comprehensively to be observed.64

[28.] All liturgical norms that a Conference of Bishops will have established for its territory in accordance with the law are to be submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the recognitio, without which they lack any binding force.65

3.  Priests

[29.] Priests, as capable, prudent and indispensable co-workers of the order of Bishops,66 called to the service of the People of God, constitute one presbyterate with their Bishop,67 though charged with differing offices. "In each local congregation of the faithful, in a certain way, they make present the Bishop with whom they are associated in trust and in generosity of heart; according to their rank, they take upon themselves his duties and his solicitude, and they carry these out in their daily work". And "because of this participation in the Priesthood and mission, Priests should recognize the Bishop as truly their father and obey him reverently".68  Furthermore, "ever intent upon the good of God’s children, they should seek to contribute to the pastoral mission of the whole diocese, and indeed of the whole Church".69

[30.] The office "that belongs to Priests in particular in the celebration of the Eucharist" is a great one, "for it is their responsibility to preside at the Eucharist in persona Christi and to provide a witness to and a service of communion not only for the community directly taking part in the celebration, but also for the universal Church, which is always brought into play within the context of the Eucharist. It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-Conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation, there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many".70

[31.] In keeping with the solemn promises that they have made in the rite of Sacred Ordination and renewed each year in the Mass of the Chrism, let Priests celebrate "devoutly and faithfully the mysteries of Christ for the praise of God and the sanctification of the Christian people, according to the tradition of the Church, especially in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation".71 They ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions.72  For as Saint Ambrose said, "It is not in herself … but in us that the Church is injured. Let us take care so that our own failure may not cause injury to the Church".73 Let the Church of God not be injured, then, by Priests who have so solemnly dedicated themselves to the ministry. Indeed, under the Bishop’s authority let them faithfully seek to prevent others as well from committing this type of distortion.

[32.] "Let the Parish Priest strive so that the Most Holy Eucharist will be the center of the parish congregation of the faithful; let him work to ensure that Christ’s faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the Sacraments, and in particular, that they frequently approach the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance; let him strive, furthermore, to ensure that the faithful are encouraged to offer prayers in their families as well, and to participate consciously and actively in the Sacred Liturgy, which the Parish Priest, under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, is bound to regulate and supervise in his parish lest abuses occur".74 Although it is appropriate that he should be assisted in the effective preparation of the liturgical celebrations by various members of Christ’s faithful, he nevertheless must not cede to them in any way those things that are proper to his own office.

[33.] Finally, all "Priests should go to the trouble of properly cultivating their liturgical knowledge and ability, so that through their liturgical ministry, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be praised in an ever more excellent manner by the Christian communities entrusted to them".75 Above all, let them be filled with that wonder and amazement that the Paschal Mystery, in being celebrated, instills in the hearts of the faithful.76

4. Deacons

[34.] Deacons "upon whom hands are imposed not for the Priesthood but for the ministry",77 as men of good repute,78 must act in such a way that with the help of God they may be recognized as the true disciples79 of Him "who came not to be served but to serve",80 and who was among His disciples "as one who serves".81 Strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, they are in service to the People of God, in communion with the Bishop and his presbyterate.82 They should therefore consider the Bishop as a father, and give assistance to him and to the Priests "in the ministry of the word, of the altar, and of charity".83

[35.] Let them never fail, "as the Apostle says, to hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience,84 and to proclaim this faith by word and deed according to the Gospel and the tradition of the Church",85 in wholehearted, faithful and humble service to the Sacred Liturgy as the source and summit of ecclesial life, "so that all, made children of God through faith and Baptism, may come together as one, praising God in the midst of the Church, to participate in the Sacrifice and to eat the Lord’s Supper".86 Let all Deacons, then, do their part so that the Sacred Liturgy will be celebrated according to the norms of the duly approved liturgical books.

Chapter II — THE PARTICIPATION OF THE LAY CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL IN THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

1.  Active and Conscious Participation

[36.] The celebration of the Mass, as the action of Christ and of the Church, is the center of the whole Christian life for the universal as well as the particular Church, and also for the individual faithful,87 who are involved "in differing ways according to the diversity of orders, ministries, and active participation.88 In this way the Christian people, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy people, a people God has made His own",89 manifests its coherent and hierarchical ordering".90 "For the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical Priesthood, though they differ in essence and not only in degree, are ordered to one another, for both partake, each in its own way, of the one Priesthood of Christ".91

[37.] All of Christ’s faithful, freed from their sins and incorporated into the Church through Baptism, are deputed by means of a sacramental character for the worship of the Christian religion,92 so that by virtue of their royal priesthood,93 persevering in prayer and praising God,94 they may offer themselves as a living and holy sacrifice pleasing to God and attested to others by their works,95 giving witness to Christ throughout the earth and providing an answer to those who ask concerning their hope of eternal life that is in them.96 Thus the participation of the lay faithful too in the Eucharist and in the other celebrations of the Church’s rites cannot be equated with mere presence, and still less with a passive one, but is rather to be regarded as a true exercise of faith and of the baptismal dignity.

[38.] The constant teaching of the Church on the nature of the Eucharist not only as a meal, but also and pre-eminently as a Sacrifice, is therefore rightly understood to be one of the principal keys to the full participation of all the faithful in so great a Sacrament.97 For when "stripped of its sacrificial meaning, the mystery is understood as if its meaning and importance were simply that of a fraternal banquet".98

[39.] For promoting and elucidating active participation, the recent renewal of the liturgical books according to the mind of the Council fostered acclamations of the people, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and canticles, as well as actions or movements and gestures, and called for sacred silence to be maintained at the proper times, while providing rubrics for the parts of the faithful as well.99 In addition, ample flexibility is given for appropriate creativity aimed at allowing each celebration to be adapted to the needs of the participants, to their comprehension, their interior preparation and their gifts, according to the established liturgical norms. In the songs, the melodies, the choice of prayers and readings, the giving of the homily, the preparation of the prayer of the faithful, the occasional explanatory remarks, and the decoration of the Church building according to the various seasons, there is ample possibility for introducing into each celebration a certain variety by which the riches of the liturgical tradition will also be more clearly evident, and so, in keeping with pastoral requirements, the celebration will be carefully imbued with those particular features that will foster the recollection of the participants. Still, it should be remembered that the power of the liturgical celebrations does not consist in frequently altering the rites, but in probing more deeply the word of God and the mystery being celebrated.100

[40.] Nevertheless, from the fact that the liturgical celebration obviously entails activity, it does not follow that everyone must necessarily have something concrete to do beyond the actions and gestures, as if a certain specific liturgical ministry must necessarily be given to the individuals to be carried out by them. Instead, catechetical instruction should strive diligently to correct those widespread superficial notions and practices often seen in recent years in this regard, and ever to instill anew in all of Christ’s faithful that sense of deep wonder before the greatness of the mystery of faith that is the Eucharist, in whose celebration the Church is forever passing from what is obsolete into newness of life: "in novitatem a vetustate".101 For in the celebration of the Eucharist, as in the whole Christian life which draws its power from it and leads toward it, the Church, after the manner of Saint Thomas the Apostle, prostrates herself in adoration before the Lord who was crucified, suffered and died, was buried and arose, and perpetually exclaims to Him who is clothed in the fullness of His divine splendor: "My Lord and my God!"102

[41.] For encouraging, promoting and nourishing this interior understanding of liturgical participation, the continuous and widespread celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, the use of the sacramentals and exercises of Christian popular piety are extremely helpful. These latter exercises — which "while not belonging to the Liturgy in the strict sense, possess nonetheless a particular importance and dignity" — are to be regarded as having a certain connection with the liturgical context, especially when they have been lauded and attested by the Magisterium itself,103 as is the case especially of the Marian Rosary.104 Furthermore, since these practices of piety lead the Christian people both to the reception of the sacraments – especially the Eucharist – and "to meditation on the mysteries of our Redemption and the imitation of the excellent heavenly examples of the Saints, they are therefore not without salutary effects for our participation in liturgical worship".105

[42.] It must be acknowledged that the Church has not come together by human volition; rather, she has been called together by God in the Holy Spirit, and she responds through faith to His free calling (thus the word ekklesia is related to klesis, or "calling").106 Nor is the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be considered a "concelebration", in the univocal sense, of the Priest along with the people who are present.107 On the contrary, the Eucharist celebrated by the Priests "is a gift which radically transcends the power of the community…. The community that gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist absolutely requires an ordained Priest, who presides over it so that it may truly be a Eucharistic convocation. On the other hand, the community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister".108 There is pressing need of a concerted will to avoid all ambiguity in this matter and to remedy the difficulties of recent years. Accordingly, terms such as "celebrating community" or "celebrating assembly" (in other languages "asamblea celebrante", "assemblée célébrante", "assemblea celebrante") and similar terms should not be used injudiciously.

2. The Ministries of the Lay Christian Faithful in the Celebration of Holy Mass

[43.] For the good of the community and of the whole Church of God, some of the lay faithful according to tradition have rightly and laudably exercised ministries in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.109 It is appropriate that a number of persons distribute among themselves and exercise various ministries or different parts of the same ministry.110

[44.] Apart from the duly instituted ministries of acolyte and lector,111 the most important of these ministries are those of acolyte112 and lector113 by temporary deputation. In addition to these are the other functions that are described in the Roman Missal,114 as well as the functions of preparing the hosts, washing the liturgical linens, and the like. All, "whether ordained ministers or lay faithful, in exercising their own office or ministry should do exclusively and fully that which pertains to them".115 In the liturgical celebration itself as well as in its preparation, they should do what is necessary so that the Church’s Liturgy will be carried out worthily and appropriately.

[45.] To be avoided is the danger of obscuring the complementary relationship between the action of clerics and that of laypersons, in such a way that the ministry of laypersons undergoes what might be called a certain "clericalization", while the sacred ministers inappropriately assume those things that are proper to the life and activity of the lay faithful.116

[46.] The lay Christian faithful called to give assistance at liturgical celebrations should be well instructed and must be those whose Christian life, morals and fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium recommend them. It is fitting that such a one should have received a liturgical formation in accordance with his or her age, condition, state of life, and religious culture.117 No one should be selected whose designation could cause consternation for the faithful.118

[47.] It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension.119 Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these.120 Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes.121 Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms.122

Chapter III — THE PROPER CELEBRATION OF MASS

1.  The Matter of the Most Holy Eucharist

[48.] The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition.123 It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.124 It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools.125

[49.] By reason of the sign, it is appropriate that at least some parts of the Eucharistic Bread coming from the fraction should be distributed to at least some of the faithful in Communion. "Small hosts are, however, in no way ruled out when the number of those receiving Holy Communion or other pastoral needs require it",126 and indeed small hosts requiring no further fraction ought customarily to be used for the most part.

[50.] The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances.127 During the celebration itself, a small quantity of water is to be mixed with it. Great care should be taken so that the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist is well conserved and has not soured.128 It is altogether forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance, for the Church requires certainty regarding the conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments. Nor are other drinks of any kind to be admitted for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter.

2. The Eucharistic Prayer

[51.] Only those Eucharistic Prayers are to be used which are found in the Roman Missal or are legitimately approved by the Apostolic See, and according to the manner and the terms set forth by it. "It is not to be tolerated that some Priests take upon themselves the right to compose their own Eucharistic Prayers"129 or to change the same texts approved by the Church, or to introduce others composed by private individuals.130

[52.] The proclamation of the Eucharistic Prayer, which by its very nature is the climax of the whole celebration, is proper to the Priest by virtue of his Ordination. It is therefore an abuse to proffer it in such a way that some parts of the Eucharistic Prayer are recited by a Deacon, a lay minister, or by an individual member of the faithful, or by all members of the faithful together. The Eucharistic Prayer, then, is to be recited by the Priest alone in full.131

[53.] While the Priest proclaims the Eucharistic Prayer "there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent",132 except for the people’s acclamations that have been duly approved, as described below.

[54.] The people, however, are always involved actively and never merely passively: for they "silently join themselves with the Priest in faith, as well as in their interventions during the course of the Eucharistic Prayer as prescribed, namely in the responses in the Preface dialogue, the Sanctus, the acclamation after the consecration and the "Amen" after the final doxology, and in other acclamations approved by the Conference of Bishops with the recognitio of the Holy See".133

[55.] In some places there has existed an abuse by which the Priest breaks the host at the time of the consecration in the Holy Mass. This abuse is contrary to the tradition of the Church. It is reprobated and is to be corrected with haste.

[56.] The mention of the name of the Supreme Pontiff and the diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer is not to be omitted, since this is a most ancient tradition to be maintained, and a manifestation of ecclesial communion. For "the coming together of the eucharistic community is at the same time a joining in union with its own Bishop and with the Roman Pontiff".134

3.  The Other Parts of the Mass

[57.] It is the right of the community of Christ’s faithful that especially in the Sunday celebration there should customarily be true and suitable sacred music, and that there should always be an altar, vestments and sacred linens that are dignified, proper, and clean, in accordance with the norms.

[58.] All of Christ’s faithful likewise have the right to a celebration of the Eucharist that has been so carefully prepared in all its parts that the Word of God is properly and efficaciously proclaimed and explained in it; that the faculty for selecting the liturgical texts and rites is carried out with care according to the norms; and that their faith is duly safeguarded and nourished by the words that are sung in the celebration of the Liturgy.

[59.] The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

[60.] In the celebration of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are intimately connected to one another, and form one single act of worship. For this reason it is not licit to separate one of these parts from the other and celebrate them at different times or places.135 Nor is it licit to carry out the individual parts of Holy Mass at different times of the same day.

[61.] In selecting the biblical readings for proclamation in the celebration of Mass, the norms found in the liturgical books are to be followed,136 so that indeed "a richer table of the Word of God will be prepared for the faithful, and the biblical treasures opened up for them".137

[62.] It is also illicit to omit or to substitute the prescribed biblical readings on one’s own initiative, and especially "to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God".138

[63.] Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is "the high point of the Liturgy of the Word",139 is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister.140 Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it.141

[64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself,142 "should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.143 In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate".144

[65.] It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the Eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §1.145 This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.

[66.] The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as "pastoral assistants"; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.146

[67.] Particular care is to be taken so that the homily is firmly based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts throughout the course of the liturgical year and providing commentary on the texts of the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass, or of some other rite of the Church.147 It is clear that all interpretations of Sacred Scripture are to be referred back to Christ Himself as the one upon whom the entire economy of salvation hinges, though this should be done in light of the specific context of the liturgical celebration. In the homily to be given, care is to be taken so that the light of Christ may shine upon life’s events. Even so, this is to be done so as not to obscure the true and unadulterated word of God: for instance, treating only of politics or profane subjects, or drawing upon notions derived from contemporary pseudo-religious currents as a source.148

[68.] The diocesan Bishop must diligently oversee the preaching of the homily,149 also publishing norms and distributing guidelines and auxiliary tools to the sacred ministers, and promoting meetings and other projects for this purpose so that they may have the opportunity to consider the nature of the homily more precisely and find help in its preparation.

[69.] In Holy Mass as well as in other celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy, no Creed or Profession of Faith is to be introduced which is not found in the duly approved liturgical books.

[70.] The offerings that Christ’s faithful are accustomed to present for the Liturgy of the Eucharist in Holy Mass are not necessarily limited to bread and wine for the Eucharistic celebration, but may also include gifts given by the faithful in the form of money or other things for the sake of charity toward the poor. Moreover, external gifts must always be a visible expression of that true gift that God expects from us: a contrite heart, the love of God and neighbor by which we are conformed to the sacrifice of Christ, who offered Himself for us. For in the Eucharist, there shines forth most brilliantly that mystery of charity that Jesus brought forth at the Last Supper by washing the feet of the disciples. In order to preserve the dignity of the Sacred Liturgy, in any event, the external offerings should be brought forward in an appropriate manner. Money, therefore, just as other contributions for the poor, should be placed in an appropriate place which should be away from the Eucharistic table.150 Except for money and occasionally a minimal symbolic portion of other gifts, it is preferable that such offerings be made outside the celebration of Mass.

[71.] The practice of the Roman Rite is to be maintained according to which the peace is extended shortly before Holy Communion. For according to the tradition of the Roman Rite, this practice does not have the connotation either of reconciliation or of a remission of sins, but instead signifies peace, communion and charity before the reception of the Most Holy Eucharist.151 It is rather the Penitential Act to be carried out at the beginning of Mass (especially in its first form) which has the character of reconciliation among brothers and sisters.

[72.] It is appropriate "that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner". "The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. He does likewise if for a just reason he wishes to extend the sign of peace to some few of the faithful". "As regards the sign to be exchanged, the manner is to be established by the Conference of Bishops in accordance with the dispositions and customs of the people", and their acts are subject to the recognitio of the Apostolic See.152

[73.] In the celebration of Holy Mass the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread – done only by the Priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a Deacon or of a concelebrant – begins after the exchange of peace, while the Agnus Dei is being recited. For the gesture of breaking bread "carried out by Christ at the Last Supper, which in apostolic times gave the whole Eucharistic action its name, signifies that the faithful, though they are many, are made one Body in the communion of the one Bread of Life who is Christ, who died and rose for the world’s salvation" (cf. I Cor 10:17).153 For this reason the rite must be carried out with great reverence.154 Even so, it should be brief. The abuse that has prevailed in some places, by which this rite is unnecessarily prolonged and given undue emphasis, with laypersons also helping in contradiction to the norms, should be corrected with all haste.155

[74.]  If the need arises for the gathered faithful to be given instruction or testimony by a layperson in a church concerning the Christian life, it is altogether preferable that this be done outside Mass. Nevertheless, for serious reasons it is permissible that this type of instruction or testimony be given after the Priest has proclaimed the Prayer after Communion. This should not become a regular practice, however. Furthermore, these instructions and testimony should not be of such a nature that they could be confused with the homily,156 nor is it permissible to dispense with the homily on their account. 

4.  On the Joining of Various Rites with the Celebration of Mass

[75.]  On account of the theological significance inherent in a particular rite and the Eucharistic Celebration, the liturgical books sometimes prescribe or permit the celebration of Holy Mass to be joined with another rite, especially one of those pertaining to the Sacraments.157  The Church does not permit such a conjoining in other cases, however, especially when it is a question of trivial matters.

[76.] Furthermore, according to a most ancient tradition of the Roman Church, it is not permissible to unite the Sacrament of Penance to the Mass in such a way that they become a single liturgical celebration. This does not exclude, however, that Priests other than those celebrating or concelebrating the Mass might hear the confessions of the faithful who so desire, even in the same place where Mass is being celebrated, in order to meet the needs of those faithful.158 This should nevertheless be done in an appropriate manner.

[77.]  The celebration of Holy Mass is not to be inserted in any way into the setting of a common meal, nor joined with this kind of banquet. Mass is not to be celebrated without grave necessity on a dinner table159 nor in a dining room or banquet hall, nor in a room where food is present, nor in a place where the participants during the celebration itself are seated at tables. If out of grave necessity Mass must be celebrated in the same place where eating will later take place, there is to be a clear interval of time between the conclusion of Mass and the beginning of the meal, and ordinary food is not to be set before the faithful during the celebration of Mass.

[78.]  It is not permissible to link the celebration of Mass to political or secular events, nor to situations that are not fully consistent with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, it is altogether to be avoided that the celebration of Mass should be carried out merely out of a desire for show, or in the manner of other ceremonies including profane ones, lest the Eucharist should be emptied of its authentic meaning.

[79.] Finally, it is strictly to be considered an abuse to introduce into the celebration of Holy Mass elements that are contrary to the prescriptions of the liturgical books and taken from the rites of other religions.

Chapter IV — HOLY COMMUNION

1.  Dispositions for the Reception of Holy Communion

[80.] The Eucharist is to be offered to the faithful, among other reasons, "as an antidote, by which we are freed from daily faults and preserved from mortal sins",160 as is brought to light in various parts of the Mass. As for the Penitential Act placed at the beginning of Mass, it has the purpose of preparing all to be ready to celebrate the sacred mysteries;161 even so, "it lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance",162 and cannot be regarded as a substitute for the Sacrament of Penance in remission of graver sins. Pastors of souls should take care to ensure diligent catechetical instruction, so that Christian doctrine is handed on to Christ’s faithful in this matter.

[81.] The Church’s custom shows that it is necessary for each person to examine himself at depth,163 and that anyone who is conscious of grave sin should not celebrate or receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession, except for grave reason when the possibility of confession is lacking; in this case he will remember that he is bound by the obligation of making an act of perfect contrition, which includes the intention to confess as soon as possible".164

[82.] Moreover, "the Church has drawn up norms aimed at fostering the frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the Eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which Communion may not be given".165

[83.]  It is certainly best that all who are participating in the celebration of Holy Mass with the necessary dispositions should receive Communion. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that Christ’s faithful approach the altar as a group indiscriminately. It pertains to the Pastors prudently and firmly to correct such an abuse.

[84.] Furthermore when Holy Mass is celebrated for a large crowd — for  example, in large cities — care should be taken lest out of ignorance non-Catholics or even non-Christians come forward for Holy Communion, without taking into account the Church’s Magisterium in matters pertaining to doctrine and discipline. It is the duty of Pastors at an opportune moment to inform those present of the authenticity and the discipline that are strictly to be observed.

[85.]  Catholic ministers licitly administer the Sacraments only to the Catholic faithful, who likewise receive them licitly only from Catholic ministers, except for those situations for which provision is made in Can. 844 §§ 2,3

The Editors