Beware - Changed Conditions!

In recent Liturgy Lines columns I have looked at the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal”, the document that guides the celebration of the Eucharist. Over the next few weeks I will examine the key things that are new in the revised version that was implemented in Australia in 2008.

At the Preparation of Gifts, the bread and wine are brought forward by members of the assembly and “accepted at an appropriate place by the priest or the deacon to be carried to the altar” (73). The gifts are then “placed on the altar by the priest to the accompaniment of the prescribed formulas” (75). Where there is no deacon, as is usually the case, the priest is assisted in this by an altar server or other minister. It had been the practice in the past in some parishes for the presider to remain behind the altar for the Procession of Gifts and for those carrying the gifts to place them on the altar themselves.

With regard to the fraction rite, or the breaking of the bread, the GIRM makes it clear that “this rite is reserved to the priest and the deacon” (83). Sometimes Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion have been called on to assist with the breaking of the eucharistic bread, especially when the amount is large, but this is no longer permitted. Interestingly, the same paragraph states that the breaking of the bread “should not be unnecessarily prolonged”. It would be a pity if this was used as an excuse for using hosts for communion instead of bread that can be broken and shared, as outlined in recent columns.

One thing that is different in the current GIRM is the instruction that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion “not approach the altar before the priest has received communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing the species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful”. It was sometimes the case previously that the host was given to Communion Ministers by the presider before he had taken communion himself and all consumed the Body of Christ together. This is no longer permitted. The Ministers wait near or on the sanctuary away from the altar until the priest has received communion.

GIRM 159 says that the communion hymn begins while the priest is receiving the sacrament. This is not something new but for some reason many musicians insist on waiting, not only for the priest to receive communion but the other ministers also, before beginning the communion hymn. I would love to know why!

Another change that parishes need to be aware of concerns how to deal with any Precious Blood that remains after communion. Whereas Communion Ministers have sometimes themselves consumed what remains in the chalice, paragraphs 163 and 182 explain that this is to be done at the altar by the priest and/or deacon. Of course, if it is not possible or appropriate for whatever reason for the priest to do this, he may then call on the assistance of Communion Ministers.

A video clip on the Liturgy Brisbane website ( demonstrates how these aspects of the Rite of Communion can be carried out reverently and carefully.



Elizabeth Harrington