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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Meditation for Sunday: The Beauty of the Communion Rail

The sanctuary at St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls, VA
My husband and I will go to Front Royal today for the 12:30 Tridentine Mass. My heart leaps up to even think of it! The reverence is palpable and I rejoice to see all the families with many young children and the numerous altar boys assisting the priest.

I use my old missal with the inscription from my mother, "To Mary Ann on her ninth birthday. Love, Mother and Dad" After years of non-use I picked it up back in 2003 for an Ignatian retreat by an FSSP priest. I'm so glad I kept it, despite the collapsing binding held together with packaging tape. When I opened the missal for the first retreat Mass and saw my mom's inscription, I cried. She died in 2002 and my dad in 1985. Seeing her words in my missal reminded me of all the Masses of my childhood when my parents and my nine siblings and I processed into church dressed in Sunday best (the girls in chapel veils) and filled an entire pew.
My ancient missal with new ribbons.

Chriss and I were discussing the Communion rail recently. [See her post on the Communion rail.] She mentioned how wonderful it is to be going to St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls.  I couldn't agree more. What a blessing it is to be in a church where the Communion rail is more than an ornament, where parishioners kneel and receive Our Lord side-by-side in Christian intimacy. It is truly a reminder that we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord, a place where a king and a president kneel in union with a postman, a Walmart greeter, a waitress.... The rich and poor and all in between kneel on the threshold of the sanctuary to welcome the King of the universe into their mouths and their hearts. 

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky, the pastor at St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls, recently wrote an article about the Communion rail and its theological importance. Here's a bit:
Faith formation depends on essential catechetical and theological training. But faith is enriched by our encounter with the externals of the liturgy in various forms – including the sacred architecture. 
When there isn’t a Communion rail, the people approach the Communion station and, after receiving Communion, hurriedly depart. A panoramic devotional view of a beautiful sanctuary, like the splendor of decorations adorning a wedding feast, is thus unlikely. The reception of Communion is individualistic, not communal. The priest stands still distributing the Hosts; the people hustle to and fro. 
Restoring the Communion rail to its rightful place in churches has important theological and phenomenological implications. A priest senses the Communion rail and feels he is set apart from the assembly, even as he engages the faithful in prayer. He is more aware of his role as a mediator in Christ in prayer and worship. His role as a spiritual father becomes clear as he emerges from the Holy of Holies to distribute Communion. 
Indeed, there is a remarkable etymological relationship between pastor and panis (bread) – both from pa – “to feed.” Thus, distributing Communion is an essential part of the priesthood. And this explains why we should always consider as “extraordinary” the laity assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion (preferably at a station just outside the sanctuary). 
At Communion time, the people approach the sanctuary to receive. As they kneel, there is a brief time to contemplate the artistry of the altar, the tabernacle, the Crucifix, and the entire sanctuary. They pause, even if only for a few seconds, as the priest efficiently distributes the Hosts. The priest is moving and working hard in his fatherly task. Shoulder to shoulder, the faithful receive from the table of the Lord as a family. There is no rush to depart. All of this reverses the individualistic dynamic of receiving while standing in a Communion line.
When I go to Communion today, I will gaze at the sanctuary and praise God for the opportunity to return to the Mass of my youth -- to read the English translation of the Introibo ad altare Dei..."I will go in unto the altar of God," and hear the altar boys respond in Latin, "Unto God who gives joy to my youth." It truly is a joy and a blessing for which I thank God on this Laetare Sunday where joy is front and center!


Andrew said...

A lovely reflection, unmarred by negativity....allow me to provide that part :-)

The new Mass destroyed priestly identity in the name of "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" so that we laypeople can somehow derive special feelings in the face of an utterly ruined priesthood infested with men who engage in sodomy. May those men who celebrate the new Mass, who are men of good will, discover what was denied them and learn to offer it anew regardless of the hate the leftist clerics will spew at them, and with it restore the tabernacles, the high altars, the whitewashed murals, the smashed statues, and the destrpoyed altar rails. This will not only rebuild the priesthood and the faith but will have a secondary effect of providing once again for Catholic craftsmen to make a living building beautiful things for God's holy temples.

What devastation.

We've forgotten how to be Catholic.

It cannot stand for much longer.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thanks, Andrew. We do live in difficult times don't we. I keep thinking how much worse we are than Sodom and Gomorrah. How much longer will the Lord allow it to continue.