Oh, such a little thing. Well, life is made up of little things, isn't it? The tone in which you greet the people you say you love, even when you don't feel loving. The care with which you prepare a meal. LIttle things point to big ideas and embody them.
So...what's up with the purification of vessels at your place??
As you recall, a couple of months ago, the news came down that the indult requested by the US bishops allowing laity to purify Communion vessels had been disallowed. (Remember what "purification" is - it's not a, say, final cleaning of the vessels and puttin them away which a sacristan would normally do. It's the process of cleansing the vessels of any remaining Precious Blood and Body of the Lord.)
There was a bit of a fuss when letters from a couple of CA bishops came out in which they told their people, "Well, wait and see. We'll be meeting in November, so...just hold it." As far as I know, the issues wasn't discussed publicly at the USCCB meeting (it was mentioned, once, briefly), and may have come up in the Executive sessions.
So - what's going at your place, in your diocese? I mention it because in searching for something else, I came across this directive from Bishop Wenski of Orlando:
Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent in 2006, the Diocese of Orlando will conform to the universal law of the Church. Priests serving in the Diocese of Orlando must see to it that all sacred vessels are purified by a priest, deacon, or instituted acolyte. Hopefully returning to the broader practice of the universal Church in our country may better illustrate the servant nature of the ordained ministry as well as the dignity of the Blessed Sacrament.
This may cause some difficulty in parishes with large congregations that distribute Holy Communion under both species, especially when no deacon or instituted acolyte is available.
Several pastoral options are possible:
- The GIRM permits that vessels be purified either after communion or after mass. Priests, deacons and/or instituted acolytes may find it more convenient to do so after mass.
In any case, all of the Precious Blood that remains should be consumed at the end of communion. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, as is the custom presently, may consume any of the Precious Blood that remains after communion.
- The distribution of Holy Communion under only one species (the consecrated Bread) is a legitimate option when the proper purification of the sacred vessels can not be otherwise provided for.
- Also, the use of intinction is still a legitimate option (provided that Holy Communion in this form is received only on the tongue and never in the hand). Nevertheless, intinction since it is no longer a familiar practice here in the United States would require some prior catechesis. Also, in larger celebrations of the Mass, intinction would not reduce the numbers of vessels to be purified.
As I have stated in previous communications, the choice to distribute Holy Communion under one or both kinds remains at the discretion of the parish priest.
That's just a random sampling.
I have to say, I like Bishop Wenski's note that purifying the vessels is an expresion of the "servant nature" of ordained ministry.
So what? Is this really important? Does it matter? Of course ritualism be perverted and become an obsession that hides a collapsed faith. But a more relaxed view can have its consequences as well, in which "it doesn't matter" becomes....it doesn't matter.
Can, I said. Every stance can lurch into a parody of itself, can creep away from the truth.
One of the points that becomes so clear about Catholicism as you study history is that in its universality, its complexity and its depth, it's a lot like the world: it takes all kinds. It takes the ritualists to care about points that the rest of us might not even notice. It takes charismatic figures to clear out the fog and point to the radical presence of Jesus right in our midst, in places where we wouldn't expect it, even if the ritual wasn't done correctly today. It takes the organizers and the solitaries, the bureaucrats and the skeptics who push back against the bureaucrats. It takes the artists and the accountants, the workaholics and the wry, relaxed observers, the conformists and the iconoclasts.
The recognition - the profound recogntion - that the little things exist at the service of the greater - the life-changing presence of Jesus Christ in the world, and that these little things can have a symbolic, expressive power that, woven closely in this dynamic tapestry of rich faith that touches all of our sense, that calls on every part of us - bring us closer to the mind of Christ and impel us to serve - the poor in Bolivia, the refugees in Syria and Jordan, the poor in our own midst.
The trick is keeping it all in balance - or at least trying to, being aware of the fact that, as someone very wise noted a couple of thousand years ago...The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.
So - doing the purification of vessels right, in accordance with Rome's directives - matters. It matters because there are good reasons behind it, reasons connected to the theology of the liturgy and the priesthood, which Bishop Wenski pointed out so well - in all the talk about clericalism and the liturgy, which, in the end, is more expressive of a clericalist mindset: "Here. Let me stand here with water and a purificator to clean these vessels, a rather humble and time-consuming task, as we all reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus the suffering servant dwelling within us now, nourishing us to go out in discpleship and service." Or.."Here, lay people. I'm done with the showy part. Clean up for me, will you?"
It also matters because, as we've said before, there's that whole sticky authority thing. Again, the history of the Church is one of adaptation to local circumstances, and there's certainly room for that in the liturgy. But it seems that this isn't one of those areas. It. Just. Isn't. So...if a priest or bishop ignores it, asserting that he'll continue to do what he wants, the sticky question arises, Bishop or Father...what's your authority to us? You're going to keep telling us about our serious duty to support your diocesan fund or pet parish project? Eh. You don't care? Neither do we! And the beat goes on...
(Addendum: I might also add that the instinct for the little things is strong, even if we thumb our noses at the little things we don't like. A parish that is into its own thing, regardless of what the diocese or Rome says, will probably have its whole list of "little things" - positions, gestures and movement for lay liturgical ministers of one sort or another, scripts, newly-created rituals inserted into the Mass - all of which must be rehearsed under the watchful eye of someone who is very attached to his or her little things being done just right Flannery O'Connor wrote of how, in a world that supposed disdains "empty ritual," the students at the women's college she attended in Milledgeville never missed a chance to process around with candles and such.)