About John Lilburne


Zenit Liturgy Articles

On 16 September 2003 Zenit began a feature answering questions "about liturgical norms and the proper way to celebrate the Mass". The answers are by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Generally I think the answers are good. I was particularly impressed by the information provided about instituted ministers in the article of 20 January 2004.

However I disagree with his answer on "Exposition of the Eucharist by a Layperson?" of 6 January 2004. He wrote: "While solemn exposition (with the use of servers and incense) can only be carried out by a priest or deacon, a simple exposition, either by opening the tabernacle or placing the Host in a monstrance, can be done by an instituted acolyte or by an authorized extraordinary minister of the Eucharist."

I believe he is wrong to say that incense should not be used for expostion in the monstrance. According to the liturgical book "Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass", n. 85: "For exposition of the blessed sacrament in the monstrance, four to six candles are lighted, as at Mass, and incense is used."

Father McNamara's basis for not following this instruction appears to be the description in n. 91:

"In the absence of a priest or deacon or if they are lawfully impeded, an acolyte, another special minister of communion, or another person appointed by the local Ordinary may publicly expose and later repose the eucharist for the adoration of the faithful.

"Such ministers may open the tabernacle and also, as required, place the ciborium on the altar or place the host in the monstrance. At the end of the period of adoration, they replace the blessed sacrament in the tabernacle. It is not lawful, however, for them to give the blessing with the sacrament."

It is true that this does not repeat the instruction about incensing the blessed sacrament. But niether does it repeat instructions about honoring the blessed sacrament with genuflections. No one argues that a lay minister should not genuflect before the blessed sacrament because this brief description does not include it.

The instruction makes it clear that it is not lawful to give the blessing with the sacrament. If the intention were that they not incense the sacrament then similar wording would have been used. For example: "it is not lawful for incense to be used or for them to give the blessing with the sacrament".

Monsignor Peter Elliott also wrote, in Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, that incense is not used with a lay minister. (Page 263, n. 712).

I think they are mistakenly interpreting the incense as an undeserved honour for the lay minister, instead of a deserved honour of the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance.

In discussing female altar servers on 3 February 2004 Father McNamara wrote: "It is important not to focus this debate using political categories such as rights, equality, discrimination, etc., which only serves to fog the issue. We are dealing with the privilege of serving in an act of worship to which nobody has any inherent rights."

In a follow up on 17 February he described how exception was taken to this, but maintained: "Serving at Mass, unlike the Catholic's right to assist at Mass and receive Communion, is a privilege and in some cases a vocation. But it can never be called a right. Therefore, I repeat that no one has a right to do so and to frame the question in these terms is to use political categories to seek to demand what can only be humbly accepted."

He seeks to give the term "right" a very narrow meaning, while generally it has a very broad meaning, for example in the Code of Canon Law.

If someone is instituted as an acolyte then I think it is entirely reasonable to say they have a right to perform this task. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 100 reflects this: "In the absence of an instituted acolyte, lay ministers may be deputed to serve at the altar ...". Everyone else in the Church has the right to have the liturgical books followed, in accordance with Canon 846.

When instituted acolytes are not being used it is reasonable to say there is inequality regarding the way instituted ministers are treated compared to ordained ministers. This is an unjust discrimination. It tramples the rights of all in the church.

By J.R. Lilburne, 2 March, 2004. Quotes from Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass taken from "The Rites Volume One", Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1990. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

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