Our lives have been blessed with sacred places and sacred times when God drew near to us. This encounter with God began at our baptism. We were washed clean of original sin and clothed with the mercy of God, symbolized by the white baptismal garment. Our soul was enlightened by the Holy Spirit who infused us with the light of faith, hope and love, symbolized by our baptismal candle ignited from the flame of the Easter candle – a symbol of Jesus Christ. It is obvious with the eyes of faith that the Sacraments and the symbols in baptism, and other sacred rites, transform and influence our interior life, as well as influence and transform the external life of our bodies with actions of faith, hope and love, until death do we part. However, within popular culture there has been a movement of reducing everything down to the mundane, the worldly, the most efficient. Many important events have become casual, even relaxed, practically eliminating the sense of semi-formal or formal, with regard to how people should dress and comport themselves. Fortunately, there are semi-formal events that highlight our dignity as made in God‘s image like graduations, job interviews and dressing up for concerts. Even dressing up for school with well-kept and clean uniforms has proven to influence students to act with greater purpose and maturity. There are sacred events in our life that call us to be formal, such as the sacred celebration of Holy Mass and weddings. With regard to weddings, this sacred event and its symbols reflect the dignity of a man and woman becoming one for life in God. And when raised up to a Sacrament when it is a Catholic wedding—of which all Catholics who are called to enter the married state must participate—it becomes a channel of God‘s life and grace. The woman usually dresses in white, a symbol of Holy Mother Church, and the groom usually dresses in black, a symbol of dying to self and living for God and his wife, like Christ died and rose for his bride, the Church.
Jesus uses wedding feast imagery to describe the Kingdom of heaven. God the King invites guests to his son‘s wedding feast and many come, but others have excuses not to be visibly present. The King sends his servants to gather more people into the banquet hall, the ―bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests‖. We read this in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 1-14. ―But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said, ‗My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?‘ But he was reduced to silence. ―Then the king said to his attendants, ‗Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.‘ Many are invited, but few are chosen.‖ Jesus Christ wants us to come to the wedding feast of the Holy Mass, where we feed on the very life of God which is united to, and makes sacred, the humanity of Jesus Christ. We are called to be well disposed interiorly with sanctifying grace, that is to say, free from any unrepented and unconfessed mortal sin, if we wish to receive Holy Communion. As well, we should dress in our Sunday best, for we are either ministers or guests at the most important wedding of our life – our union with God through Jesus Christ. In the Sacramentary, the Roman Missal from which the priest uses to pray at the Holy Mass, there are guidelines about how we should participate at Mass. The priest and deacon should be dressed in sacred vestments, and the altar servers in albs or cassocks and surplice. We also read in the Sacramentary that priests have sacred gestures described in the rubrics, that is, the red lettering in the Sacramentary that gives the priests instructions or options. At times the priest should be facing the people, at other times facing God with the people. With regard to receiving Holy Communion, it reads: ―When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant… As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes the whole of it.‖
Some people wish to receive on the tongue, others on the hand. The important thing is to receive it worthily and not walk away with it in your hand but to bow, say ―Amen‖, receive it with reverence and consume it in front of the minister.
A communicant may receive the Eucharist standing or kneeling. However, it is easier for me to place it on the tongue when the communicant is kneeling, and I want to facilitate that by having a kneeler on each side of me. This slight change will occur next weekend Aug. 14/15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, who was assumed Body and Soul into Heaven. Also, on this weekend, I will implement the ―Sign of Peace‖, but I will recommend a gesture like a wave or a bow instead of a hand shake. We should not be touching hands especially at the ―Our Father‖ which is has been explicitly excluded by the Vatican. Finally, we read in the Sacramentary: ―In the distribution of Communion, the Priest may be assisted by other Priests… If such Priests are not present and there is a truly large number of communicants, the Priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him…‖ Since we do not have a ―truly large‖ number of communicants, until perhaps more people come back from pandemic precautions, or like at Christmas and Easter, I will be the only minister distributing Holy Communion for now. This will also facilitate those who wish to receive only a blessing, who indicate this by crossing their arms. I thank the parents who are teaching their pre-communion children to cross their arms to receive a blessing, as well as those who are helping their children dress appropriately for this sacred celebration of the Holy Mass. Peace in Christ, Fr. Thomas McCabe