The Holy Father certainly is having a rough time, isn't he. I've just read the Tablet free on-line (I don't buy it, on principle) and it seems, as the secular press moves on to its next Story, our beloved Pontiff's enemies within his own Church are still sharpening their knives, and with renewed relish. Talk about Smoke getting into the Church; as an old style Cockney in my second parish would have said, it's a b***** peasouper. One of those Toxic Smogs we used to have in the 1950s. And Benedict has appointed an Austrian Auxiliary Bishop, whom the Media are getting their teeth into. One of his views is that there is too much Holy Communion going on.
I'm not sure that I agree with some of this Austrian cleric's other reported views, but that one strikes a chord. Pius X encouraged frequent Communion, even daily, against a background of eucharistic abstinence based ultimately on an intense reverence for the sacrament, and a real (wellfounded) apprehension of of the wickedness of receiving the Blessed Sacrament when in a state of sin. His assumption was that, in communicating more frequently, Christians would use the same means of Grace (principally, Confession) to assure their fitness to receive so great a gift, as they had done when they communicated less frequently. And so, would increase ever in holiness. It is obvious that in our own society Communion is received frequently and is frequently received with inattention (and, as far as appearances enable one to guess, with sinfulness).
I am reminded of an Orthodox priest once saying to me: " These Anglicans are always gabbling on about Intercommunion and wanting me to admit them to Communion; I've never had a single one who begged me to hear his Confession". It is notorious that in most Eastern Christian communities, and throughout most of the history of the West, Confession has been regarded as the natural preliminary to each act of Communion. It is instructive to consider the controversies in seventeenth century France; a period during which such as Madame Louise, a daughter of Louis XIV who became a Carmelite of great sanctity, was allowed to receive Communion daily with the permission of her Confessor. A Jansenist-influenced rigorist of this time, Antoine Arnauld (1612-94), argued that no one should approach communion at all unless he had done penance for all his sins and was sure he had a perfectly pure love of God. On the other side, S Francis de Sales (1567-1622) envisaged frequent, even daily, communion, but wrote " To communicate every week, one must be free from mortal sin, and from all affection to venial sin, and have a great desire of Communion; but to communicate daily, it is necessary, in addition to this, to have surmounted the greater part of our evil inclinations, and to have the consent of our spiritual father". A decree of the Congregation of the Council, confirmed by Pope Innocent XI in 1679, confirmed the anti-Jansenist view that the Faithful had a right to communicate even daily while exhorting bishops and pastors to do their utmost to secure in all who communicate the most pious and fervent dispoitions.
The pendulum needs to swing back. I trust we shall never again see such scenes as the sacrilegious irreverence which the television cameras picked up at Communion time within the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of Benedict XVI. Indeed, I wonder if those great 'Circus' Eucharists outside S Peter's are a good idea anyway.We seem to have come a terribly long way from the disciplina arcani of early Christendom. Perhaps it is no surprise that the Faithful have been robbed of their sense of wonder.
And, while I'm grousing about Bad Marini's arrangements at the Sovereign Pontiff's Inauguration, here's another complaint. All those ciborium clutching-priests in rows behind the Altar. I take it that those were unconsecrated ciboria (in view of the modern preference for administering Hosts consecrated at the same Mass). Now: I don't deny that the Holy Father, assuming that he made an act of intention so to do, could validly consecrate a large number of ciboria held by fidgeting clerics a hundred yards or more behind him. I am uneasy about the decency of such a liturgical arrangement. The Altar is the Mensa Domini as well as an Altar; and it seems to me deeply fitting that the Bread of Angels should be consecrated resting on the Table of the Great King. I am so old that my priestly liturgical formation was according to the old rite, and included the injunction: "Immediately after your ordination, form a general intention to consecrate whatever is on the corporal in front of you". And seeing the Elements reverently lifted and brought from the Altar after the hushed sanctity of the moment of Consecration should be a powerful aid in restoring a proper disposition among those who approach the altar.
Perhaps Good Marini will see to it that his predecessor's abuses do not recur.