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The Dignity of the Eucharistic

Posted on: 1 Dec, 2014

Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014

By Rt. Rev. Bp. Vincent Barwa D.D.



When, we read the institution of the Eucharist in the Synoptic Gospels, we notice the simplicity and the solemnity with which Jesus on the evening of the Last Supper instituted this great sacrament.

Jesus charges to the disciples to prepare carefully the “large upper room” needed for the Passover meal (cf. Mk. 14:15; Lk 22: 12). Then, the narration of the institution of the Eucharist, where the words spoken by Christ over the bread and wine, which the made into concrete expressions of the handing over of his body and the shedding of his blood.
“No less than the first disciples charged with preparing the large upper room”, the Church felt the need, down the centuries and in her encounters with different cultures, to celebrate the Eucharist in a setting worthy of so great mystery.
The bread, which is broken on our altars, offered to us, cannot be approached except with the humility of the centurion in the Gospel: “Lord, I am not worth to have you come under my roof” (Mt. 8: 8; Lk. 7:6
The Church in the mystery of the Eucharist has found historical expression not only in the demand for an interior disposition of devotion, but also in outward forms meant to evoke and emphasize the grandeur of the event being celebrated.
The great responsibility, which belongs to priests in particular for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is their responsibility to preside at the Eucharist ‘in persona Christi’ and to provide a witness to and a service to communion not only for the community directly taking part in the celebration but also for the Universal Church, which is a part of every Eucharist.
The appeal of the Holy Father is that the Liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hand: it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality.
On liturgical dress: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, while speaking about the nature of the Liturgy and its importance in the life of the Church declares that “Liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Churches directed; at the same time it is the fount form which all the Church’s power flows” (SC 10). Such is the importance of the liturgy in the Church. Therefore the Church wants that it be celebrated in a worthy manner taking into consideration the dignity and the decorum of the entire celebration.

From the time of the Second Vatican Council, numerous documents and directives have come from Rome with regard to the liturgical dress of the presiding priest and of the other ministers during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments. Different liturgical dress to particular ministers come from the specific functions they have in the celebration as is clearly indicated in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GURM) article 297:”In the Church, the Body of Christ, not all members have the same function. This diversity of ministries is shown outwardly in worship by the diversity of vestments. These should therefore symbolize the function proper to each ministry. But al the same time the vestments should also contribute to the beauty of the rite.” Describing the nature of the vestment of a priest for the Mass, the same documents points out, “Unless otherwise indicated, the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole, is the vestment proper to the priest celebrant at Mass and other rites immediately connected with Mass”(GIRM 299) Even though the vestments for the concelebrants are the same of the individual celebrants, the document indicates that the “concelebrants may omit the chasuble and simply wear the stole over the alb” when there are more concelebrants than the vestments”(GIRM 161).
From the General Instruction we can perceive two important aspects with regard to the liturgical dress, namely, the dignity and the decorum of the celebration and the particular role of each minister in the celebration. Unfortunately, these norms on liturgical vestments or dress seem to be taken lightly by many clergy and religious in India. There is a temptation to put on stole over the ordinary civil dress of concelebrating. There are priest who preside over the Eucharistic celebration, especially in religious communities wearing only a shawl over the ordinary civil dress. Even though the shawl had been approved by Rome as part of the 12 points of Adaptations, the shawl replaces only the chasuble and not he alb and the clerical dress. An advocate has to wear a particular dress in the court to respect the dignity and the decorum of the place. The students have to put on a special robe on the day of convocation as a respect for the important event that is going to happen. How much more respect we need to give to the Eucharistic celebration, the action par excellence!
The Third Instruction, Liturgical instauration, on the right implementation of the Constitution on he Liturgy, promulgated on 5th September 1970 touches upon the abuses in the Church with regard to the liturgical dress. It says, “The vestment common to ministers of every rank is the alb. Thee abuse is here repudiated of celebrating or even concelebrating Mass with stole only over the monastic cowl or over ordinary clerical garb, to say nothing of street clothes. Equally forbidden is the wearing of th stole alone over street clothes when carrying out other ritual acts, for example, the laying on the hands at ordinations, administering other sacraments, giving blessings”(art.8c).

There is also another point of concern with regard to the liturgical vestments used in the parish churches. It is the responsibility of the parish priests to see that the vestments and the other lines used in the church are clean and neat. It is sad to say that many parish priests do not take proper interest to see that the vestments used for the liturgical celebrations are clean and neat. It also happens that on a Sunday, while everybody come to the church with his or her best dress for the Eucharist, the presiding priest appears at the altar with dirty and warn out vestment. We would like to make a special mention also of the garb of the altar boys and girls. These children come to the church well dressed as any the children of their age and to serve the altar they have no other choice but to put on a dirty and torn robe over it. What a pity! It also happens very often that the linens spread out on the altar and other lines like corporal and purificator, not say about the chalice are so dirty that it becomes a nauseating experience to use them.
We Would like to insist also on the need of keeping the interior of the church and its premises clean and tidy. It so happens that even in parishes where there are daily Eucharistic celebrations, the sweeping of the church is done only once a week. The houses are being swept few times a day, the presbyteries are being swept few times a day, but the parish priest feels that it is enough to sweep the house of God once a Week. The parish priests must realize that keeping the church and their premise clear and tidy is also part of their parish ministry.

We therefore urge the bishops to direct their priests to take proper steps to see that the vestment used for the liturgical celebrations, the altar linens, the vessels used for liturgy, the dress for the altar servers, and the church premises are neat and clean so that the dignity of the Eucharistic celebration is maintained and by which all those who participate in this sacred rite realizes and experience that the Eucharist is the sacred rite par excellence and also the source and summit of Christian life.