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Sharing Communion cup
Q. I know that in some Protestant churches, individual Communion cups are used for the congregation. Would this not be a good idea for the Catholic Church? It would cut back on the amount of disease spread by many people drinking from same cup.
— A.E, Hague, N.D.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Central to the practice of giving Communion to the congregation under both species is the idea of the one bread and the one cup shared by all. In the eucharistic sacrament, we commune not only with Christ, but with each other. It is not feasible to use only one cup in the celebration of Mass with both species; thus most parishes use a number of cups — up to eight, I surmise, for the average-size Sunday congregation.
Using individual cups for the whole congregation would compromise even more the ideal of one cup. The Catholic sense of worship is more communal than Protestant worship — in which there is more an emphasis on the individual — thus the symbolism of everyone having his or her own cup breaks down the corporate Catholic ethos of worship.
One of the myths concerning the common cup is that it readily spreads infection. But studies performed for the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy have shown that the use of the common cup is not a significant danger to public health. The danger of contracting illness comes more from the fact that many people breathe the same air in the enclosed space of a church and from the physical contact made through the Sign of Peace. Going to church at all is the biggest danger to public health.
What Do Palms Represent?
Q. What is the meaning of palms, or what do they represent?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The dictionary tells us a sign is an object that points to something beyond itself. In most cases, the value of the sign itself is far less than the reality it directs us to. When the priest blesses the water to be used at baptism, he prays: “Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of your unseen power. In baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of the grace you give us in this sacrament.” The prayer then mentions the waters of the flood, and the waters of the Red Sea — signs pointing to natural elements God employed to achieve our salvation.
The palms we use on Palm Sunday are, likewise, signs: in this case, the sign of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, as well as a sign of our hope to share his everlasting triumph in heaven. The Gospel reading that follows the blessing of the palms (in 2012, taken from Mark 11:1-10) tells of Jesus’ reception at Jerusalem. The blessing begs God, “that we who follow Christ the King in exultation may reach the eternal Jerusalem through him.”
Jacob, Esau and God’s Will?
Q. I need some clarification on a passage in Romans 9:9-13. Romans 9:9 says, “For this is the wording of the promise, ‘About this time I shall return and Sarah will have a son.’” Years later, when this son, Isaac, was grown and married, and Rebecca, his wife, was about to bear him twin children, God told her that Esau, the child born first, would be a servant to Jacob, his twin brother. In the words of the Scripture, “I loved Jacob, but hated Esau” (Rom 9:13). God said this before the children were even born, before they had done anything either good or bad. This proves that God was doing what he had decided from the beginning; it was not because of what the children did, but because of what God wanted and chose. Where is free will in all this?
D.B., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
We must always distinguish between human foreknowledge and God’s foreknowledge. Because we live on a timeline, we cannot see what events lie ahead of us. For example, if I confidently and accurately predict event A, it can only be because I have rigged it to happen. My foreknowledge in this case is a kind of determinism.
God stands above time, the whole of which, so to speak, he can see at a glance. God’s foreknowledge of our lives is knowledge of how we will use our free will. His foreknowledge in no sense lessens our free will.
In the situation to which you refer, God foresaw that Esau would willingly forfeit his responsibilities as Isaac’s eldest son. By Esau’s choice he left the burden to Jacob, but he did so of his own free will.
A New Divine Office?
Q. Is there going to be a new edition of the Divine Office? I ask because numerous saints were canonized during the papacy of Pope John Paul II, and the feast of Divine Mercy was added as well. Also, I ask because I’m wondering how the new missal changes will affect it.
Colin P., via the Internet
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Breviary, is a highly recommended resource for the prayer of the faithful. Ordained clerics and consecrated religious are obliged to pray this prayer of the Church on a daily basis. The current English version was translated and published in 1975. Given the release of the Editio Typica Tertio (Third Typical Edition) of the Roman Missal in 2002, notable among other reasons for the inclusion of new feast days and saints days as you mention, one would expect a new edition and English translation of the Divine Office some time in the future. However, things do not move quickly.
While the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal was approved by Pope John Paul in 2000, we started using it in English the First Sunday of Advent, 2011; that’s 11 years later. The most recent supplement to the Divine Office (2005) is available in Latin and incorporates the new feast days and saints days. If I were a betting man, I would say it will not be available in English until 2016.
Q. May the Te Deum be sung during Lent? And should the holy-water fonts be empty during Lent?
— Brother Benedict
The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours prescribes the Te Deum (“O God, we praise Thee”) to be sung “on Sundays outside of Lent, during the octaves of Easter and Christmas, [and] on solemnities and feasts” (No. 67). When the General Instruction considers the celebrations of solemnities of saints it repeats this direction, “At the end of the office of Readings, the Te Deum is said.”
This is a both/and answer to the question of using the Te Deum during Lent. On Lenten Sundays and ordinary saints’ days, we do not say the Te Deum; on solemnities — such as St. Joseph’s Day and the Annunciation — we do.
Concerning holy-water fonts: On March 14, 2000, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship observed that the “removing of holy water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted.” The congregation cited two reasons: water and baptism are frequently mentioned in the Lenten liturgical readings, and avoiding use of the Church’s sacramentals is in no way part of the abstinence encouraged during the days of Lent.
To be sure, holy-water fonts are emptied on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, but each of these days invites us to look forward to the blessing of the baptismal water at the Easter Vigil.
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