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Does It Really Matter?

The Traditional vs. Novus Way of Receiving Our Lord

Stephen Dupuy POSTED: 7/5/12

( I recently came across a story written by a Novus Ordo priest. Parts of this story highlight, perhaps unintentionally on his part, the differences between the Traditional Catholic and Neo-Catholic mindset. The first portion of the story is as follows (emphasis added):

My predecessor was conservative liturgically and much beloved by the people here. And my arrival was looked upon with much trepidation. What was going to happen to the parish with a younger man in charge? One lady said to me, "We're glad to have you here, Father, but I want you to know that if you make us stand up to receive Holy Communion, I'll never come here again"! I had to laugh at her. I had no intention of enforcing any changes like that, and it mattered very little to me what position the people assumed to receive the Eucharist. As time went on, I found out that in matters of religion, inconsequential things like that take on enormous importance.

Sadly, it is quite common today in Catholic circles to hear that the manner in which one receives the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ matters little. Apparently whatever posture one chooses is perfectly acceptable. After all, they will tell you, the mere method of reception bears no deep meaning nor does it send any message to others regarding one’s belief towards the One received. To the contrary, it is a completely “inconsequential” and “arbitrary” act; a simple physical maneuver used to transport the Host from the hands of the priest (or Eucharistic Minister) into one’s mouth. If this is true, then indeed it matters little whether one receives the sacred Host in one’s hands, on the tongue, standing, kneeling, or even sitting.

But is this true? Is the method of receiving Holy Communion no more important than how one moves potato chips from a bowl to one’s mouth? To the contrary, the manner of receiving Our Lord is in no way arbitrary or insignificant. The Traditional mind understands that actions in the Mass have meaning and significance no matter how seemingly unimportant. The ancient practice of kneeling to receive Our Lord carries within it a deep sign of respect and reverence, reminding us, and those around us, that we are truly unworthy to receive such a gift. This holy practice is a constant reminder of the awe inspiring verse found in Isaiah, “For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

Similarly the importance of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue directly from the consecrated hands of the priest finds reinforcement from the Angelic Doctor himself:

…because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency.

Despite this saintly admonition and the Church’s use of altar rails for centuries to facilitate reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue, the Neo-Catholics treat the practice as something which can be discarded without the least bit of negative impact. Indeed they see it as something completely arbitrary. Indeed to the Neo-Catholic mind our forefathers may as well have invented this sacred tradition on a whim without intending to place in it the slightest bit of significance. In reality, as we have seen, the casual posture and method of receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion over the past decades has greatly contributed to the irreverence we witness at many Novus Ordo Masses and the growing disbelief in transubstantiation we read about in every passing poll and survey conducted on the Real Presence.

After seemingly trivializing the method by which we deign to receive the Creator of the Universe into our bodies, the story goes on (emphasis added):

Once a lady got furiously angry with me because I wouldn't insist that the little girls receiving their first Holy Communion wear white veils on their heads. I explained to her that if she wanted to dress her child in a white veil, that was perfectly all right with me. But NO! All of the little girls must be so attired…We must try always to distinguish the essential from the accidental. That is one of the elements of wisdom and prudence.

Indeed it is very prudent and wise to distinguish the essential from the accidental. Unfortunately, in this case, it was not done. Again, the Neo-Catholic mind conflates the idea of a practice being secondary with the notion that it is therefore insignificant and unimportant. For what better way for a young girl to honor Our Lord upon her first reception of his Eucharistic presence than with a white dress symbolizing purity and a veil symbolizing a very real marriage of souls?

The mother in the story, no doubt wanting to create an atmosphere of reverence and beauty at her daughter’s First Communion, is met with the typical liberal response we are used to hearing from “tolerant” and “open minded” Catholics. “If you want to do it, go ahead, but do not force your views on others.” Similarly, it is often the case that one is allowed to dress in a suit or nice dress for one’s local Sunday Novus Ordo, while other parishioners are free to dress in tank tops and shorts. It is not hard to see the atmosphere of irreverence that starts to develop once the pastor abdicates all responsibility for enforcing what he sees as “arbitrary” and “insignificant” standards.

To the Traditionalist, actions involving the Mass and sacraments, however minor they are perceived to be, have a great and rich significance. These actions were developed slowly and organically over the centuries and encompass the cumulative wisdom of the ages. Kneeling to receive Holy Communion proved to grow humility, reverence, and submission of the communicant. White veils for girls at their first Holy Communion proved to inspire a sense of purity, humility, and love for Christ. Thus these practices were kept, passed down, and encouraged over the centuries by the Church. This was done not out of some arbitrary and mindless custom, but precisely because these acts had a deeper meaning and fostered a holy spiritual reality in those who performed them as well as those who witnessed them.

In the final analysis, the Neo-Catholic mind is sadly trapped in the positivistic worldview inspired by the very liturgy it promotes. As the once Cardinal Ratzinger said, the New Mass is often experienced as a “banal on-the-spot product” and as “fabricated liturgy”. Many rubrics, actions, and options of the Novus Ordo Missae are indeed arbitrary, insignificant, and non-essential. Thus the Neo-Catholic’s understanding of both the Mass and the Faith develops a tendency to imbibe whatever new directive comes from the Chancery office or Vatican commission. The Faith is thereby divorced from its very past and becomes a product of the decisions of men, rather than a sacred Deposit entrusted to the Church by Almighty God.

Once this mindset takes hold, how does one determine what is essential and what is insignificant? Is it really essential to the Faith to avoid taking active part in non-Catholic worship? Is it of any consequence to insist on Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception to Protestants? Is it really necessary to preach the Divinity of Christ to non-Catholics? Or can these beliefs and practices be downplayed as unimportant for the sake of ecumenical dialogue if our leaders so tell us? This is indeed a slippery slope and one which Traditionalists do not care to start down. To the contrary, Traditional Catholics prefer to adhere to a Catholic Faith and Mass where no action or belief is superfluous or trifling. Instead, they believe that every act given to us by Tradition and the Church has a beneficial purpose and works to beautifully point us towards Our Divine Savior and the Heaven He wishes as our eternal end.

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