Several of the folks told me that they had been expressly told that intinction was forbidden at church sponsored training workshops. This made me think that it might be wise to check the law, and thus I embarked on a clerk’s research to get to the bottom of this. The official document from Rome on the celebration of Eucharist is the General Introduction to the Roman Missal, or GIRM. This is the preface to the red missal you see on the altar from which the celebrant draws the prayers and rubrics for each day’s Mass. The GIRM is available in its entirety on-line; I wouldn’t recommend you drop what you are doing and start reading it from the beginning, but I would book mark this as an invaluable resources tool, particularly if you need to teach or explain various parts of the Mass, or if you suspect there are some rather significant liturgical deviations going on in your parish.
The GIRM is occasionally revised; this copy I am using was issued by the Vatican in 2003 for dioceses and publishers in the United States. I am not aware of major changes since then. I went to the section on the Communion rite and picked up the text after the priest/celebrant receives communion, along with other pertinent texts from the GIRM:
After the celebrant receives communion,
160. The priest then takes the paten or ciborium and goes to the communicants, who, as a rule, approach in a procession.
The faithful are not permitted to take the consecrated bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them from one to another. The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this.
The key point here is that we receive Eucharist from the priest. However, with our large American congregations and the offering of the bread and the cup, the GIRM lays out careful instruction on precisely who may participate in the distribution of communion. Also, note the instruction on kneeling.
162. The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.
These ministers should 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 either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.
The exercise of ministry by lay extraordinary Eucharistic ministers causes the Vatican some discomfort, as seen in para. 162. The regular exercise of this ministry by the laity is not universally accepted in significant parts of the world. John Paul II wished that nothing would distract from the holiness and significance of the priest, even (or especially) in matters of distributing the Eucharist. “Priests who happen to be present” includes those who have not concelebrated at this Mass, or have not played a part in the Mass but have come over to the church only at communion time; this is the only time in this missal where a non-participant steps into the celebration, and in truth it is a rather clumsy intrusion into the unity of the Mass.
321. The meaning of the sign demands that the material for the Eucharistic celebration truly have the appearance of food. It is therefore expedient that the Eucharistic bread, even though unleavened and baked in the traditional shape, be made in such a way that the priest at Mass with a congregation is able in practice to break it into parts for distribution to at least some of the faithful. Small hosts are, however, in no way ruled out when the number of those receiving Holy Communion or other pastoral needs require it. The action of the fraction or breaking of bread, which gave its name to the Eucharist in apostolic times, will bring out more clearly the force and importance of the sign of unity of all in the one bread, and of the sign of charity by the fact that the one bread is distributed among
As you might expect, the ideal sacramental symbol is that of the priest, in the persona of Christ, breaking the one loaf and sharing pieces of that loaf with all the faithful. The regulations do make provision that given large congregations, receiving from the one loaf or large piece of consecrated bread would be difficult or impractical. Curiously, the little manufactured wafer we are accustomed to receiving is a concession to numbers, less preferable in sacramental respect to one broken loaf.
In my home parish, there is a custom of longstanding to remove a ciborium of hosts from the tabernacle and put several of those hosts in each ciborium of newly consecrated hosts before distributing communion. This practice is contrary to para. 321; each Catholic receives communion from the bread consecrated at his Mass. I have no idea how our local custom arose.
245. The Blood of the Lord may be received either by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon.
285. For Communion under both kinds the following should be prepared:
- If Communion from the chalice is carried out by communicants’ drinking directly from the chalice, a chalice of a sufficiently large size or several chalices are prepared. Care should, however, be taken in planning lest beyond what is needed of the Blood of Christ remains to be consumed at the end of the celebration.
- If Communion is carried out by intinction, the hosts should be neither too thin nor too small, but rather a little thicker than usual, so that after being dipped partly into the Blood of Christ they can still easily be distributed to each communicant.
287. If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a communion-plate under the chin, approaches the priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The priest takes a host, dips it partly into the chalice and, showing it, says, Corpus et Sanguis Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ). The communicant responds, Amen, receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the priest, and then withdraws.
The GIRM says nothing about the inventive vessels that came into use in the 1970’s for this purpose, as you can see at the opening of today's entry.