Rorate Caeli

Trinity Sunday's papal Mass: liturgical note

One of the few "traditionalizing" elements introduced into the papal liturgy in the reign of Benedict XVI that had essentially survived until now in the current pontificate was the practice of requiring those receiving communion from the Pope to do so kneeling and on their tongue.

To be more precise: in his Masses for the public, Pope Francis had usually given communion to the deacons  (who always received kneeling) while famously abstaining from giving communion to the laity. However, the papal deacons had always given communion in the Pope's place, and those receiving from them continued to be required to kneel and to receive on the tongue. To many who had been anxious about the changes implemented in the papal liturgies since March 2013, the survival of this practice in the Pope's Masses for the public was a great consolation. 

Sunday's papal Mass at the parish of "Santi Elisabetta e Zaccaria," the Pope's first pastoral visit to a Roman parish outside of the Vatican itself, saw the Pope give first communion to several children (and at least one adult). The full video of the Mass can be found here, with the communion of the children taking place starting at 1:49:15.

He gave communion to the children (and the adult) while they stood, and he also did so without a paten (even though he would first intinct the host in the Precious Blood). It is quite clear from footage and photographs of the Mass that there was more than enough space for a kneeler to have been put in front of the Pope and, surely, procuring a kneeler and a paten would not have been impossible in a Roman parish for a papal Mass! 

To those tempted to dismiss the significance of this action: consider that this took place in the Pope's first Mass in a parish of his diocese outside the Vatican, in a Mass that was broadcast live by Centro Televisivo Vaticano and which took place not on an ordinary weekday or a "green Sunday," but on one of the great feasts of the liturgical year.  Furthermore, precisely because it took place in a parish of his own diocese, it cannot but send a clear signal about what he sees as appropriate for the liturgy in a typical parish.

(As an aside, the so-called "Benedictine altar arrangement" was also reduced in this Mass to two small candles and a small crucifix in the middle of the altar.)

When Pope Benedict XVI reigned, every little "restoration" of traditional elements to the papal liturgy was often trumpeted as yet another momentous step in the restoration of the liturgy for the whole Church. It strikes us as absurd and inconsistent that now that another Pope reigns, "papal example" in the liturgy is suddenly treated in some "conservative" quarters as "irrelevant" and as being of little or no concern, something best ignored and needing no comment. Unfortunately, the restoration of the sacred liturgy can never be built on wishful thinking, or on denial, or on coming up with strange and improbable excuses (sometimes in the name of charity!) to explain away the obvious.