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Reception of the Eucharist Under Two Species  
Mark E. Wedig  
    One can decipher some of the major shifts in ecclesial identity and self-understanding throughout the Church's two thousand-year history by examining its liturgical practices and theological reflection concerning the reception of the Eucharist under the species of the bread and the wine. This is especially true in the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church, where there has been what might be called a circular development resulting in a post-Vatican II return to the Church's ancient practices. The resources of both liturgical theology and liturgical history can help us interpret the Church's often complex praxis about Communion and, therefore, assist in determining the ecclesiological significance of how the Eucharist has been ministered.

In this article, I will begin by making the theological connection between eucharistic Communion and ecclesiology, showing how the Church is mediated by its Communion practices. Then I will trace the historical development of Communion in the West from the Church's ancient to contemporary periods while emphasizing the theologies that accompany the practices. I will pay attention to the medieval doctrine of concomitance and what its relevance might be for liturgical practice today. Finally, I will sketch out the norms for contemporary practice and theology of Holy Communion under both kinds by giving particular attention to post-Vatican II documents beginning with the Rite for Distributing Communion Under Both Species (Rome: 1965), GIRM 1970 (revised 1975), and then This Holy and Living Sacrifice: Directory for the Celebration and Reception of Communion under Both Kinds (USCCB: 1985), and ending with the current guidelines as expressed GIRM 2002 and Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America (USCCB: 2002).

Lex Orandi-Lex Credendi
Why make a connection between the specifics of eucharistic Communion and ecclesiology? First of all, fundamental to liturgical theology is the lex orandi-lex credendi axiom, which claims that there is always a direct relationship between the law of worship and the law of belief. Liturgical practices give way to theological meaning in the same way that theological ideas alter the liturgy. Secondly, in the specific case of the Communion Rite, one can show how the Church is expressed and embodied in the way its Communion is enacted. The character of the local church is mediated by the specific orchestration of all that happens from the close of the eucharistic prayer to the communion collect. How the Church sups at the Lord's banquet, specified in who is given access to what and in what order is often determinative of the local arrangement of Church. Communion practices are a litmus test for local ecclesiology. And in the case of Communion under both kinds, the assembly's access to the chalice serves as a gauge for particular ecclesial meanings.

History of the Eucharistic Communion
The gathered assembly in the ancient Church would not have conceived of its eucharistic communion without full access to both bread and wine. In fact, the normative practice in the Western Church for the first twelve centuries was the assembly's Communion under both species. Reception of Communion under either the bread or wine alone was practiced merely for functional reasons. Communion for newly baptized infants was given in the form of wine alone, whereas, those who were carried Communion outside the eucharistic celebration received the bread alone. There are not developed theologies concerning eucharistic Communion under one species from the ancient Church, because these practices would have been viewed simply as functional. Communicating infants with wine and carrying the bread alone to those not present for the gathered eucharistic assembly did not seem to warrant new dimensions of explanation other than practical ones.

Beginning in the Carolingian period, the Church in the West witnesses a number of changes concerning eucharistic praxis, all of which relate to the laity's increased hesitancy to receive Communion altogether which is, in turn, replaced by the people's desire to reverence the species instead of eating it. Medieval eucharistic theologies emphasize the sacrificial aspects of the Mass, the radical locality of Christ's presence in the bread and wine and the allegorical meaning of the priest's actions. The ultra-realist treatises on the Eucharist, beginning with Paschasius Radbertus (+ c. 860), commence centuries of theological struggle to articulate the sacramental real presence against the carnal realisms of the medieval religious imagination. This period sees the increased practice of intinction, where the priest dips the host in wine for the assembly's consumption. Yet, despite these new eucharistic practices and their intense physical interpretations, the Church held fast to the normative practice of receiving Communion under both kinds, even if its reception as a whole was being truncated.

In the twelfth century, however, the Latin Church undergoes a dramatic change in its practices concerning the chalice. This variance cannot be attributed to one factor. Yet an increased fixation on the host and reverence for its transformative ocular powers overshadows the place and importance of the eucharistic species of the wine. The eucharistic imagination shifts exclusively to the monstrance and away from the chalice. The pastoral practice of communicating the faithful with the host alone rapidly becomes customary. One witnesses the struggle of the theologians' attempts to justify the practice of Communion under one species and to find that practice as part of the Church's long-standing tradition.

By the thirteenth century, the Church in the West had forsaken Communion in the form of wine for all except the presiding priest. The Church of the high Middle Ages had developed complete amnesia concerning the chalice. The practice of giving Communion in the form of bread alone, known as Communion sub una, had become the common practice. To drink from the chalice was abandoned altogether as normative practice of the laity. Moreover, by the fourteenth century, Christians who returned to the ancient practice of receiving Communion under both kinds were condemned and considered heretics or schismatics. Complete ecclesial prohibition of the chalice to the laity resulted in the Council of Constance in 1415, which asserted that Communion in the form of bread alone was the law of the Church.

Doctrine of Eucharistic Concomitance
It is important to note that these Eucharistic practices of Communion sub una in the high Middle Ages were accompanied by theologies of eucharistic concomitance. The scholastic theologians especially labored to perfect a theology that demonstrated that the whole Christ was present under either species of the Eucharist. The theologies of concomitance were concerned with the content of the sacrament, and more specifically what was contained in the eucharistic species and how the Christ was embodied in it. Eucharistic concomitance was an extension of the developing eucharistic theologies of transubstantiation, wherein one delineates how the essence of the eucharistic bread and wine were changed into the reality of Christ. Ultimately these theologies affirmed the magnanimity of God's work, filling simple signs with nothing less than the full reality of the Incarnate Son. Theological reflection and speculation concerning both eucharistic transubstantiation and concomitance reached its most mature development in the Aristotelian hylomorphic synthetic explanation of substantial and accidental change.

These theologies developed in the late Middle Ages remain significant for contemporary eucharistic understanding. A doctrine of concomitance for current eucharistic practices helps to explain the full presence of Christ in the entire eucharistic celebration. The theology remains pertinent to contemporary sensibilities because eucharistic Communion itself is not dependent upon one eucharistic element in exclusion of the other. In other words, the whole Christ is not dependent on one species. Moreover, eucharistic presence and Communion is greater than the species of the wine or the bread alone. Eucharistic theologies that begin with Pius XII's Mediator Dei (1947) and continue throughout post-Vatican II liturgical documents, consistently affirm the fourfold presence of Christ in the eucharistic celebration. Assembly, word, minister, and species all connote the entire Christ. A liturgical reductionism that condenses the presence of Christ to the bread or to the wine in exclusion of the other negates the fuller reality of Christ in the eucharistic celebration.

Protestant Concern for the Lay Chalice and Tridentine Reactions
The Protestant reformers reintroduced the chalice to the eucharistic assembly as part and parcel of their essential ecclesial reforms. By restoring the lay chalice, they understood that the Church would return to the full Communion it had been deprived of by the overly hierarchical practices of the medieval Latin Church. The laity's access to the chalice became one of the central platforms for ecclesial renewal engineered by leading reformers, beginning with Martin Luther, followed by John Calvin and others. Both Luther and Calvin revered Jan Hus' (+ c. 1415) attempt to restore the chalice in the Czech region that resulted in what they saw as his holy martyrdom for the cause of full liturgical participation.

The Council of Trent reacted defensively to the Protestant case for the lay chalice and vehemently defended what it viewed as the ancient tradition of Communion sub una. Moreover, Trent underlined the eucharistic theology of concomitance, stressing that the Christ, whole and entire, as well as the true sacrament, are received under one kind. It also stated that those who receive in this manner are not deprived of any grace necessary for salvation.

Yet in Trent's failure to achieve full consensus against the liturgical practices of Communion under both kinds, it referred the matter to the Pope. Surprisingly, Pius IV yielded to the lack of full Church support for Communion sub una and, in 1564, granted indults giving permission to states and dioceses in Central Europe allowing Communion under both kinds. Nevertheless, these sanctions were short-lived in the life of the Roman Church. Subsequently, beginning in 1621, those indults were revoked and nullified, and it was not until 1965 that Communion under both kinds would be reconsidered as a valid practice by the Latin Church.

Contemporary Restoration of Communion Under Both Kinds
The restoration of Holy Communion under both species was essential to the platform for Church renewal within the twentiethcentury liturgical movement. Nineteenth-century historical scholarship had confirmed that the ancient Church's normative and regular practice was eucharistic Communion under the species of bread and wine. Furthermore, it became impossible to deny that the ancient Church tradition was maintained well until the twelfth century and then suddenly became extinct in the West. Moreover, what modern liturgical reformers emphasized was that Communion sub una remained anomalous to the ancient normative practice and represented a limitation in the late medieval liturgical life of the Latin Church.

The Second Vatican Council experienced spirited debates over the issue of Communion under both kinds and the restoration of the chalice to the laity. Proponents of the liturgical movement argued that Communion is a more complete and fuller sign when received under both species. After extended and protracted debates, the bishops conceded to the following text concerning Communion under both kinds:

The more perfect form of participation is the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's body from the same sacrifice, is strongly recommended . . . communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #55).

In light of this norm recommending both species, the Apostolic See would continue to expand the list of occasions when reception under both kinds could be permitted. Both the 1965 Rite for Distributing Communion Under Both Kinds and the 1970 Roman Missal reflect the evolving parameters whereby the laity would be given access to the chalice. The expanded list included the newly baptized and the newly confirmed, the bride and bridegroom at a wedding, special ministers at Mass, missionaries sent on mission, those receiving Viaticum, the deacon at Mass, those on retreat, godparents, parents, relatives and lay catechists of newly baptized adults, relatives, friends, and special benefactors who take part in the Mass of a newly ordained priest, and members of communities at the conventual or community Mass. Articles 244-252 of GIRM 1970 (revised 1975) delineate four rites by which Communion could be ministered under both kinds, not giving preference to any of these: Rite of Communion Under Both Kinds Directly from the Chalice; Rite of Communion Under Both Kinds By Intinction; Rite of Communion Under Both Kinds Using a Tube; and Rite of Communion Under Both Kinds Using a Spoon. Each rite carefully outlines the proper way to carry out these ministries of Communion. In addition, the Apostolic See clearly did not want the ministering of Communion under both kinds to be determined by universal Church law but wanted proper authorization to come from episcopal conferences and ordinaries.

In 1970, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States authorized Communion under both species at all Masses except Sundays and holy days with the decision of the local ordinary. In 1978 the U.S bishops expanded the parameters of the 1970 approval by permitting Communion under both kinds on Sundays and holy days determined by the ordinary, who would judge if Communion could be distributed in an orderly and reverent manner.

It is clear that the United States bishops highly valued giving the faithful access to Communion under both species, interpreting that the full, conscious, and active participation of the assembly in eucharistic celebration hinged on a more replete sign of Communion. In their 1985 This Holy and Living Sacrifice: Directory for the Celebration and Reception of Communion Under Both Kinds, article 19, the bishops state that Communion under both kinds "is to be desired in all celebrations of the Mass" in order that the faithful might understand the fuller import of Christ's words at the Last Supper and for the sake of greater participation in the eucharistic mystery. Beginning in the mid 1980s, throughout U.S. parish life, there were increased attempts to offer Communion under both kinds to the full assembly. The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life conducted throughout the 1980s (http://www.nd.edu/~icl/nd_study.shtml) reflects that by 1989 slightly less than half the parishes in its study offered the assembly access to the cup.

The Most Current Norms for Communion Under Both Kinds
Contemporary parish life in the United States continues to reflect an ever deeper appreciation of its replete sign of Communion under both kinds. Yet, like all liturgical formation since the Second Vatican Council, the local Churches' developing awareness and understanding of its renewal are dependent on sound teaching and adult liturgical education. Since the Church's publication of the third typical edition of the Missale Romanum in 2001, one can view yet another stage of ecclesial reflection on Communion under both kinds. These norms can be best gleaned from GIRM 2002 (third typical edition) and Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America (USCCB: 2002), hereafter Norms. Norms carefully reflects GIRM 2002, and therefore can be seen as a response to the new Missale Romanum. But the NCCB directory also integrates principles from a number of other ecclesial resources, namely Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Sacramentary, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a few other liturgical texts.

Even though Norms is intended for U.S. dioceses, it stands as a more comprehensive treatment of Communion under both kinds than GIRM 2002. Therefore, I will refer to GIRM 2002 through the lens of the more comprehensive text of Norms. In other words, the USCCB text will guide this final section on current liturgical praxis concerning Communion under both species.

The first half of Norms contains a highly comprehensive theology of eucharistic Communion, giving a short history of Communion in the Latin West and connecting the liturgical act to the eucharistic mystery and its meaning as union with Christ and an act of faith. This theology of Communion culminates by quoting GIRM 2002, article 281, emphasizing both species as a fuller sign. It says:

Holy Communion has a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds. For in this manner of reception a fuller sign of the Eucharistic banquet shines forth. Moreover, there is a clearer expression of that by which the new and everlasting covenant is ratified in the blood of the Lord and of the relationship of the Eucharistic banquet to the eschatological banquet in the Father's kingdom.

GIRM 2002, consequently, demonstrates an even more generous application than previous post-Vatican II norms.

Following the directives of GIRM 2002 Norms stresses that much falls under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, who in turn has the faculty to appropriate to the priest or pastor of a given community, those opportunities when communion under both kinds may be offered. In addition, it is emphasized that the need to avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of communion by "excessive use of extraordinary ministers" might constitute reason for limiting Communion under both species or for using intinction. Norms goes on to underline the need for proper catechesis concerning the practice and the specific roles of the ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Communion as well as the need for reverence and the special requirement of planning when a ministry of the Precious Blood is carried out.

Norms lays out the proper order for reception of Communion at the time of the fraction, reiterating previous directives. First, it emphasizes that the extraordinary ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion and that the concelebrants, deacons, and extraordinary ministers each receive Communion in the manner proper to their role. Secondly, deacons and lay ministers do not receive in the manner of a concelebrating priest.

Norms outlines directives for distribution of Communion under both kinds by highlighting the proper way to receive the consecrated bread in the hand or on the tongue. When receiving the consecrated bread in the hand, one makes a throne beneath the other hand, "as befits one who is about to receive the King." The directory also underscores that in the Latin Church, the chalice is generally the preferred form for receiving the Precious Blood. It always must be ministered and never left on the altar for self-communication or passed from one communicant to another. As far as other forms of distribution of the Precious Blood, the method of a spoon or a straw is not customary in U.S. Latin rite dioceses. Finally, Communion that is distributed by intinction, necessitates a proper ministry involving two ministers of Communion, whereby the priest intincts the particle into the chalice while the other minister holds the chalice and the paten under the chin of the communicant. Norms highlights that "the communicant, including the extraordinary minister, is never allowed to self-communicate, even by means of intinction" (# 50).

Directives concerning the purification of vessels after Communion emphasize that the consecrated bread is to be reserved in the tabernacle, with care given to collecting fragments. The Precious Blood not consumed by the assembly must be consumed by bishop, priest, or deacon. Extraordinary ministers may consume the blood with permission of the diocesan bishop. The vessels are to be purified by the priest, deacon, or an instituted acolyte. Finally, reservation of the Precious Blood is only carried out in the rare occasion of needing to communicate the sick unable to receive under the species of bread.

Communion and Contemporary Eucharistic Ecclesiology
In the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church, from 1965 to current Church practice, one can clearly see the gradual process toward the restoration of the ancient practice of Communion under both kinds. Underlying this renewal is the belief that Communion under the species of bread and wine is central for an active and conscious assembly that participates fully in the eucharistic mystery. Such a liturgically active Church aspires to be what the eucharistic species signifies. The fullness of meaning in the paschal act of the Lord's Supper is best embodied by the more comprehensive sign.

The ecclesial renewal of the post-Vatican II period has hinged on a liturgical reawakening to the resources of a sacramental Church. Such renewal has been grounded on the participative value of sharing the eucharistic bread and cup when supping with the Lord in the contemporaneous banquet but also when supping with the eschatological meal of our redemption. The Communion Rite, which emphasizes the more replete sign of the bread and the cup, continually renews the assembly to connect their lives as graced by God and sent out to be heralds of the Good News to a comprehensive and inexhaustible sign.

Mark E. Wedig, OP,
is Chair and Associate Professor of Liturgical Theology in the Department of Theology and Philosophy and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences at Barry University.
 
         
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