By authentic acts of worship, human persons express, sustain, and deepen their true relationship with God. The general notion of worship and a Christian’s specific responsibilities with respect to forms of worship which do not involve or presuppose the Eucharist were treated previously (in 1.K.1). Two matters remain to be considered: first (in this question), specific responsibilities with respect to the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament; then (in question C), responsibilities in regard to other aspects of spiritual life, which center in the Eucharist and complement it.
Arising from faith and hope in Jesus, Christian worship can express and rely on authentic friendship with God. The primary and central act of this worship is the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrament of the communion in love of divine and human persons.
a) The Eucharist is the primary act of Christian worship and love. The “Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual good [note omitted], that is, Christ himself, our Pasch and living bread” (PO 5). Therefore, it “is the origin and summit of the whole Christian life” (LG 11). And because all other acts of a person’s life should prepare for and flow from it (see CMP, 33.D), it holds primacy among all Christian acts.
While this primary act of Christian life is one, it has several distinct aspects. The Eucharist is at once and inseparably sacrifice (for it is Jesus’ act of self-offering made present for his followers to join in) and sacrament (for it signifies and perfects the divine-human communion which Jesus establishes by his sacrifice). Its celebration is divine liturgy (for it offers God the best possible worship) and a banquet of human communion (for it unites Christians with their human Lord and, in him, both with the divine persons and with one another).13
Since the Eucharist embraces these distinct aspects, participation in the Eucharist does several things at once. One not only unites oneself with Jesus in offering his sacrifice but offers oneself together with him, thus worshipping the Father (see PO 5). Moreover, Jesus’ sacrifice establishes the new covenant; and the Eucharist builds up and strengthens covenantal communion of the faithful in Jesus with God and so, in the Church, with one another.14 Then too, even though the fullness of covenantal communion will be realized only in heaven, the Eucharist not only anticipates heavenly communion but nourishes and guards faithful souls until they are raised up to the glory of heaven (see CMP, 33.B–E). And finally, even now, believers “are through the reception of the Eucharist fully incorporated into the body of Christ. Thus, the eucharistic action is the center of the gathering together of the faithful” (PO 5).
b) The Mass is the Eucharist in its proper setting. Today, the words “Mass” and “Eucharist” often are used almost interchangeably. “Mass” is the wider expression, however, since it embraces the introductory rites and the liturgy of the word, as well as the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament.
The penitential rite and the liturgy of the word not only prepare for the liturgy of the Eucharist, but are themselves acts which express one’s true relationship with God. Repentance constitutes the necessary setting for the eucharistic celebration, inasmuch as it is essential to the covenantal communion which the Eucharist expresses and celebrates. The liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy are integral parts of one action, so that, as Vatican II teaches, they constitute one act of worship (see SC 56).
By virtue of baptism which unites them with Jesus, Christians share in Jesus’ priesthood (see SC 14, LG 9–10, AA 3, AG 15). “They offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ, and they proclaim the perfections of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light” (PO 2; cf. 1 Pt 2.5, 9). One with Jesus, Christians are united in his one body, the Church, and are privileged to offer both him and themselves to the Father, and to receive Jesus bodily in return. He thus fulfills his promise to abide in his disciples and to make them abide in him. Therefore, one should participate in the Eucharist with a twofold intention: to offer God authentic worship—Jesus’ perfect and acceptable sacrifice—and to gain the best fruit of an act of love, namely, more perfect love. Fulfilling this intention requires devout participation: conscious, active, full, worthy, and reverent.
a) Conscious participation requires understanding and attention. While the liturgy of the word plainly calls for close attention, the whole liturgy communicates God’s truth and love to those who participate attentively.15 The Eucharist is a cooperative action; and the better it is understood, the more fully one can take part in it. Study of the rites and prayers is necessary to understand the mystery, that is, the sacred action. One should prepare for Mass and pay attention during it: this is conscious participation. Only in this way is Vatican II’s teaching verified that “not only when things are read ‘which were written for our instruction’ (Rom 15.4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer him reasonable worship and more abundantly receive his grace” (SC 33).
b) Active participation requires both will and performance. Full cooperation in an action involves inwardly making one’s own the willing by which the act is done and outwardly carrying out one’s assigned role. Thus, one actively participates in the Mass by inwardly willing and outwardly behaving in certain appropriate ways. The appropriate willing is to will with Jesus to offer his self-sacrifice to the Father, and to will to offer with Jesus oneself: one’s person, good works, and sufferings.16 The appropriate outward behavior is to do all and only what pertains to one’s particular role (see SC 28). Someone who has no special ministry actively participates by following liturgical norms: making gestures, assuming postures, and joining in songs, responses, prayers, acclamations, and, when it is made, the profession of faith.17
c) Active participation should be both earnest and meticulous. Although some claim following liturgical norms inhibits active participation and fosters formalism, they are mistaken. Formalism must be avoided, of course, for it offers God nothing and is fruitless for those who are caught in it. The outward elements of active participation in worship must therefore be earnest, that is, honest and heartfelt. But the genuine alternative to formalism does not lie in bending or setting aside liturgical norms for the sake of spontaneity and creative self-expression. Rather, it lies in conforming one’s mind and heart, as well as outward behavior, to Jesus’ plan of worship as it is carried out in his Church.
Moreover, liturgical norms allow for and encourage spontaneity and creativity within certain definite limits. Exceeding those limits is not only unnecessary to avoid formalism but unjustifiable. The hierarchy must regulate the liturgy, both because it is the sacred action of Jesus with his entire Church, and because it embodies divine revelation and shapes the faith of those who participate.18 “Therefore, no one else at all, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his or her own authority” (SC 22).
d) Full participation includes Holy Communion and a Christian life. Jesus himself commands his disciples to consume his flesh and blood (see Jn 6.53–58; cf. Mt 26.26–28, Mk 14.22–25, Lk 22.17–19). By receiving Jesus sacramentally, they perfect their communion with God and one another, and this growth of charity is the proper benefit to seek from participation in the Eucharist. Thus, it is appropriate that all Catholics who are properly prepared receive Holy Communion whenever they participate in the Mass.
Love of God cannot exist without love of neighbor, and so the divine-human communion nurtured by the Eucharist is real only if it extends to daily life. There love is expressed by apostolic witness and service to neighbor, through which people prepare further gifts to offer God as a spiritual sacrifice.19
In sum, the worthy reception of Communion “confers upon participation at Mass a value that is mature, complete, and binding on human life.”20
e) Worthy reception of Holy Communion requires a clear conscience. The Eucharist is not just a banquet manifesting human fellowship. It is a sharing in the very body and blood of the Lord, which signifies and realizes the divine-human communion of charity (see 1 Cor 10.16–17, 11.23–29). Just as spouses unfaithful to their marriage promises are not entitled to marital intercourse, Catholics unfaithful to their commitment of faith to Jesus are not entitled to eucharistic Communion. If someone who has been unfaithful shares without repentance and reconciliation in the act of love, he or she only adds injury to injury. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11.27).
f) Reverent participation respects the holiness of the Eucharist. While an excessively formal attitude of reverence and awe toward the sacrifice of the Mass and the reception of Communion might reflect and foster inappropriate fear of God and self-depreciation, a casual attitude of relaxed informality during the Eucharist can reflect and foster forgetfulness of God’s holiness and a lack of humility before him. Therefore, appropriate behavior is important in order to manifest and foster the reverence due the holy sacrifice and Holy Communion.
People participating in the Eucharist should dress modestly. They should make a reasonable effort to be present and seated on time. Members of the congregation should be friendly, but their conversation should be carried on outside the Church. For one should spend the moments before and after Mass in personal prayer or, at least, allow others to do so by avoiding unnecessary talk or any other behavior likely to distract them.
One should prepare reverently to receive the Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion.21 As part of this preparation, the Church requires abstinence from all food and drink (except water and medicine) for at least one hour before the time of Communion.22
One should attend to and actively share in the prayers which precede and prepare for Holy Communion, for example, by expressing genuine faith when proclaiming the mystery of faith and genuine humility when saying: “Lord, I am not worthy.”
In approaching the Blessed Sacrament to receive it, one should first adore the Lord. Where it is not the practice to receive kneeling, a sign of adoration, such as a bow, should be made, with due care to avoid disturbing the orderly procession to and from Communion.23 Where the practice is approved, the host may be received in one’s hand. In thereby showing one’s dignity as a member of Jesus’ body, one should at the same time show reverence by the care with which his body is handled.24 Without going to extremes, as the scrupulous do, accidents involving the Blessed Sacrament, such as a dropped host, should be dealt with in a way which manifests faith in Jesus’ presence and reverence for him.
Having received Holy Communion, one should make a sincere and appropriate thanksgiving, lingering with the Lord while taking leave of his bodily presence, much as loving spouses gently part after their intimate communion, rather than abruptly break it off. At a minimum, the quiet time between communion and the final prayer is to be used for this purpose, and no one should leave before the celebrant except for some urgent reason. This thanksgiving serves as a transition to the carrying on of one’s daily life in Jesus, during the long intervals between the brief moments of sacramental communing.25
Idolatry and the forms of superstition related to it (treated in 1.K.2) challenge God’s unique majesty. But even without going so far, one can sin by receiving Holy Communion unworthily, by introducing superstitious elements into worship, and by other abuses.
a) Receiving Holy Communion sacrilegiously is grave matter. Because worthy reception of Holy Communion requires a clear conscience, someone in mortal sin is not eligible to receive. Doing so is the sort of sacrilege which is always grave matter.26 For this reason, Jesus commands that those about to offer sacrifice first be reconciled with anyone with whom they are at odds (see Mt 5.23–24), St. Paul warns those about to receive Holy Communion to examine themselves (see 1 Cor 11.27–29), and the Council of Trent decrees: “Those who have mortal sin on their conscience, no matter how contrite they may think they are, must necessarily make a sacramental confession before receiving, provided that they have access to a confessor” (DS 1661/893).27
Someone conscious of mortal sin but lacking opportunity to confess may receive if, but only if, three conditions are met: there is a grave reason to do so, for example, not doing so would amount to publicly admitting a secret and shameful sin, with anticipated serious disgrace or dishonor (not just mild embarrassment); there is contrition for the sin, including a firm purpose of amendment and the intention to seek forgiveness in the sacrament of penance as soon as possible; and there is earnest prayer, before receiving, for the grace required to make the contrition perfect (see 4.C.2.f–g).28
b) Receiving without observing the eucharistic fast can be grave. Traditionally, the eucharistic fast, required by the Church for the sake of reverence, was considered a grave responsibility which did not admit parvity. Now, since the requirement is more easily fulfilled, its violation is even harder to excuse. Still, some sound moralists now think this responsibility admits parvity of matter and hold there is no need to be concerned about mortal sin if the fast is not kept perfectly.
But someone who deliberately disregards the eucharistic fast out of irreverence for Jesus or contempt for the Church’s law plainly is guilty of grave sin. And, knowing that the fast has been broken, whether by accident or on purpose, in a significant way, anyone as reverent and obedient as he or she should be, will not receive Holy Communion, except for a reason sufficient to justify an exception to the Church’s law (see CMP, 11.G.6–7).29
c) To falsify Catholic worship can be a grave matter. Liturgical worship is the Church’s act; Jesus and his members share in it. Since they act not simply as private individuals, but share in the Church’s act, all who play a role in the liturgy act in an official capacity. Thus, anyone who makes unauthorized changes in the liturgy or encourages others to make them falsely offers as the Church’s what in reality is only personal. Insofar as such falsification modifies authentic Catholic worship, it is a sort of superstition, for even if the unauthorized change is meant to contribute to genuine worship, the choice of falsification as a means is incompatible with the reverence essential to true worship (see S.t., 2–2, q. 93, a. 1).
Sacramental simulation is a very grave kind of falsification. This occurs when a nonordained person tries to carry out the priest’s role in the Eucharist, or a person who cannot validly absolve tries to hear a sacramental confession and/or impart sacramental absolution, or someone simulates the administration of any of the sacraments.30
But even in less serious cases where abuses do not render liturgical acts invalid, bending or setting aside liturgical norms, unless for some reason sufficient to justify an exception to the Church’s law (see CMP, 11.G.6–7), violates the rights of anyone present who intends to participate only in authentic Catholic worship. Moreover, such violations sometimes embody deviations from Catholic faith, often generate conflict, and always set an example of disobedience to the Church.31 Hence, the deliberate violation of liturgical norms harms the communion of charity which Jesus intended the Eucharist to perfect, and so is a grave matter.32 Still, undoubtedly some people’s guilt is mitigated by their lack of sufficient reflection due to widespread confusion and laxity in these matters.
While this section articulates the letter of the Church’s law regarding Sunday observance—and no Catholic should take that law lightly—the right spirit is especially needed in fulfilling these responsibilities. Grudging participation motivated only by a concern not to violate the law is contrary to the Eucharist’s meaning as an expression of gratitude and love. Thus, a joyful spirit of celebration, not mere dutifulness, is no less important for Sunday observance than it is for marital intercourse. For this reason, this section must not be considered apart from the context provided by the earlier parts of the chapter (especially A.1 and B.1).
Inaugurating the new covenant, Jesus commanded: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22.19; cf. 1 Cor 11.24–25). To fulfill their responsibility to worship according to Jesus’ command, Christians always have gathered on Sunday, the day after the sabbath (see Acts 20.7). On that day, everyday work and business are put aside.
Certain important weekday feasts are celebrated in the same way as Sunday.
a) Sunday is set aside for worship because of its Christian meaning. People of virtually every culture set aside sacred times for worship, since it is owed to God and vital to the community’s well-being. One of the commandments of the Mosaic covenant designated the time for worship: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work . . .. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it” (Ex 20.8–9, 11). Thus, sabbath worship and rest honored and gave thanks to God as creator of all good things.
Jesus commands his followers to celebrate the Eucharist (see Lk 22.19–20; cf. Jn 6.53–58, 1 Cor 11.23–25). In him, however, the fallen world becomes a new creation; thus, the “day” of his resurrection is not just the beginning of another ordinary week but the endless age after every earthly week. So, Christians began to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday, neither to complete an earthly week (as the Jewish sabbath did) nor to begin a new earthly week, but to anticipate the everlasting rest of heaven, which will be the Lord’s “day” in the fullest sense, when all God’s work will be completed. Therefore, Sunday is the original and chief Christian feast.33
b) One should participate in Sunday and holy day Mass. Since divine law established the week as a regular cycle for work and worship, and since Christian eucharistic worship is so necessary to nurture the communion of love which is the Church, the Church always has considered participation in Sunday liturgy to be a serious obligation for all her members (see Heb 10.25).34 On Sunday one should listen to God’s word and participate in the Eucharist, in order to commemorate Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, and glorification (see SC 106). At various times and places, the obligation has been extended to include more or fewer other feast days: the holy days of obligation. The Church’s law recalls this obligation: “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.”35
c) Several conditions must be met to fulfill the obligation. Since the Mass is a unified act of worship, one should participate in a complete Mass (see SC 56). The obligation is not perfectly fulfilled by someone who comes late, leaves early, or participates in parts of two different Masses. One must be present to fulfill the obligation, because the Mass forms bodily persons into a worshipping community, and full participation includes receiving Holy Communion. Standing outside a Church too crowded to enter is sufficient for presence, but following a broadcast or telecast is not.
One must pay attention. Unintentional distractions do not violate this requirement, but deliberate turning of attention to other matters does. For example, intentionally thinking about business or a coming vacation would be incompatible with participation. Someone who slept soundly through the Mass would not meet the requirement at all.
Also, since the eucharistic liturgy signifies and builds ecclesial communion, it is fitting to participate whenever possible on Sundays and feast days in a Mass celebrated by one’s bishop or parish priest (see SC 41–42), though the obligation is fulfilled by participating in any Mass in any Catholic rite.36
d) One may be excused or dispensed from this obligation. On particular occasions, one is excused from fulfilling this obligation if it cannot be done without great difficulty or harm to oneself or others, without omitting to serve an urgent need of another or others, or without neglecting some other important duty. Among the most common excusing conditions are sickness or the need to care for children or others, travel or weather conditions which make going to church quite difficult or hazardous, and having to work during all the hours at which Mass will be offered. But conditions which would not keep people from doing what they routinely do or especially enjoy—for example, shopping or going to a party—can hardly excuse them from participating in Mass.
On particular occasions, the pastor of a parish or superior of a religious house in which one is staying can dispense one from this obligation or commute it, that is, allow the substitution of some other pious work. So, someone with a reason for wishing to miss Mass, but not a reason clearly strong enough to excuse doing so, should request a dispensation or commutation of the obligation.37 For instance, an individual who wished to go backpacking over a weekend might ask to be dispensed entirely or to substitute a Mass on a weekday.
e) Missing Mass without a good excuse is a grave matter. Catholics always have considered themselves bound to participate in Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Contrary to a lax opinion which Innocent XI condemned as at least scandalous and in practice pernicious, failure to keep Sundays and holy days is a grave matter (see DS 2152/1202). While it is true that some usually sound contemporary theologians deny that this is so, the Church’s tradition and the ground of the obligation in both natural and divine law are cogent reasons for considering their view mistaken.
Nevertheless, there can be parvity of matter in respect to this obligation. Someone who comes a few minutes late or leaves right after Communion, or who dozes briefly but participates as well as possible in the central parts of the Mass, especially the consecration and Communion, substantially fulfills the obligation.38
f) Incomplete participation in the Eucharist can be required. Even if an unrepented mortal sin prevents the reception of Holy Communion, one still should fulfill the obligation of worship on Sundays and holy days. In such cases, a person should participate in the Eucharist incompletely, by assisting at Mass without receiving Holy Communion, for thus God is given the worship due him. Such incomplete participation remains beneficial to the participant, for even obdurate sinners can continue to enjoy the gifts of faith and hope, and so live in the fellowship of the Church. Their reverent, active participation in the Mass without Communion can help sustain what remains of their human relationship with Jesus, while their faithfulness in fulfilling the obligation of worship can help dispose them to accept the grace of repentance.
g) Sundays and holy days are to be saved for worship and leisure. The Old Testament’s ceremonial requirements strictly excluding work on the sabbath are not binding on Christians, for Sunday is not a symbol of God’s rest after his work of creation (see S.t., 2–2, q. 122, a. 4, ad 4).
Still, Christians should do their best to keep the Lord’s day holy while fulfilling other serious responsibilities, since in celebrating Jesus’ resurrection they anticipate the joy of heaven. As God’s children who have been freed from sin, they should avoid it especially on Sundays and holy days. They also should avoid burdensome work on those days, in order to turn their hearts fully toward God and the hope of heaven. Thus, the Church’s law concerning Sunday observance adds: Catholics “are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body.”39
Besides fulfilling the Mass obligation, it is appropriate to spend some time on Sunday in other religious acts, for example, reading Scripture or other edifying books, participating in evening prayer (vespers), reflecting on questions regarding personal vocation, and so on. Because the relaxation of mind and body must be proper to the Lord’s day, and not every activity morally acceptable in itself is equally harmonious with that spirit of recollection and joy, Catholic families and individuals should make their own conscientious decisions about which recreational activities are and are not appropriate on Sunday.
Keeping Sunday holy requires a communal effort: everyone must try to avoid calling on others to do anything which would prevent them from keeping the Lord’s day holy.40
h) Unnecessary business or work on sacred days is to be avoided. On Sundays and holy days, Christians should neither personally do nor require or encourage others to do any unnecessary business or work not in keeping with the character of the sacred day. The word unnecessary points to the fact that the duty is limited by other responsibilities. Business or work done for one’s own true good or that of others is therefore permissible if it cannot be done some other time. For example, some people must work on Sunday so that others can engage in appropriate recreational activities.
Of course, any activity even venially sinful in itself can never be necessary and so will always profane a sacred day. There is, however, no simple way to say which kinds of business and work, sinless in themselves, are excluded. Each Christian has a responsibility (which probably few take seriously enough) to think carefully about this matter and make honest judgments. Those who are conscientious can occasionally soften the impact of their own judgments by seeking a dispensation from the obligation.
Considered in itself, violating this responsibility is a grave matter. Sundays and holy days of obligation are set apart to worship God and anticipate eternal rest. Deliberately doing business and work at odds with this purpose profanes this sacred time; it shows how little one loves God and cares about communion with him. Still, the matter of this sin is subject to parvity, and each person also must judge whether a particular violation would be a mortal or a venial sin. Parvity must not be pushed too far, however; there are outer limits. For example, it plainly would be grave matter to spend all day Sunday doing burdensome work which could as well be done some other day.
Besides Sundays and holy days of obligation, there are certain other times when eucharistic worship is required or appropriate.
a) The Church invites all Catholics to daily Mass and Communion. Jesus and his Church wish all Catholics to participate devoutly and fully in the Eucharist each and every day, in order to grow in the communion of charity, more strongly anticipate heavenly happiness, gain self-control, be strengthened to avoid mortal sin, and gradually overcome venial sin. 41 Although many people cannot participate daily, most could participate more often than they do. It is especially appropriate to make the effort during Lent and Advent, and on some of the more important feasts.
b) The reception of Holy Communion is sometimes required. The Church requires all Catholics who have made their first Communion to receive at least once a year. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season (in the United States, from the first Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday) unless one has a just cause for fulfilling it at some other time.42
Those who begin to be in danger of death, from any cause, are to receive the Eucharist as Viaticum, that is, so that the Lord will be with them on the way to their heavenly home (see 4.F.4.a).
c) Failure to receive Communion when required is a grave matter. These canonical norms merely articulate and specify the times when it is most necessary to fulfill Jesus’ instruction about what is necessary for salvation, so that failure to fulfill them is a grave matter. However, this responsibility is not fulfilled by a sacrilegious Communion (see DS 2155/1205), and so, when those living in mortal sin are required to receive Holy Communion, they first should repent; but if unwilling to do so, they should not receive Holy Communion unworthily, since that does not fulfill the obligation and is an additional sacrilege.
d) Sacramental Communion outside Mass unites one with the Mass. Those who cannot assist at Mass nevertheless can participate in it by receiving Holy Communion outside Mass.43 They should ask to do so if it is necessary to fulfill their Easter duty, if they are in danger of death, or if they otherwise would be deprived of Communion for a time they judge too long.
Those who cannot attend Mass but who nevertheless worthily receive Holy Communion and devoutly listen to or read the liturgical readings (and perhaps other parts) of the Mass, participate quite significantly. Some dioceses provide Sunday broadcasts or telecasts of Mass for shut-ins. The Church also encourages those who cannot assist at Mass on a Sunday or holy day to take part if possible in a liturgy of the word, celebrated according to the bishop’s direction in a church or other sacred place, or to engage in prayer either individually, or as a family, or, if possible, as a group of families.44
e) Spiritual Communion is a way of participating in the Eucharist. Sometimes people cannot receive Communion because they have not fasted long enough or because of health problems or other obstacles. Others are prevented because they have not yet confessed a mortal sin of which they have repented. Yet active participation in the Mass not only is due worship of God and a way of nurturing fellowship with Jesus and the Church, but is an important way of safeguarding and growing in divine love. In these circumstances, spiritual communion is appropriate: one calls to mind one’s faith in the Eucharist, wills to offer oneself to the Father in union with Jesus, and wishes one could receive him bodily. The Council of Trent teaches that those doing this, “with a living faith which works through charity (see Gal 5.6), . . . experience profit and benefit from it” (DS 1648/881).
13. See SC 47; Paul VI, Mysterium fidei, AAS 57 (1965) 754, PE, 273.4–5.
14. See John Paul II, Homily at Mass for Agricultural Workers of Romagna (Cesena), 5, Inseg. 9.1 (1986) 1308–9, OR, 26 May 1986, 6–7.
15. Full participation in the liturgy of the word requires not only that one hear or proclaim the word, but that one apply the gospel’s eternal truth to the concrete circumstances of life, and put it into practice. See PO 4; John Paul II, Address to an International Congress of the Focolari “Parish Movement”, 4–5, Inseg. 9.1 (1986) 1205–7, OR, 19 May 1986, 9.
16. See LG 11, PO 2; cf. Pius XII, Mediator Dei, AAS 39 (1947) 550–53 and 558–60, PE, 233.77–81 and 100–104. John Paul II, Homily at Mass at Alatri, 2, Inseg. 7.2 (1984) 312, OR, 17 Sept. 1984, 7, comments on Rom 12.1–2: “So, beloved brothers and sisters, Christian faith is above all the offering of oneself as a living sacrifice: because God, before everything asks for our heart; he awaits us, our person, our work, our sufferings. In this way is exercised the regal priesthood, to which the Second Vatican Council has invited everyone, including the laity.” Mary’s offering at the foot of the cross is a model of how one should join Jesus in his self-offering and offer oneself with him: see LG 58.
17. See General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 2.14–17, Flannery, 1:165–66.
18. CIC, c. 838, §1: “The supervision of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, in accord with the law, the diocesan bishop.” Pius XII, Mediator Dei, AAS 39 (1947) 539–41, PE, 233.44–48, clearly explains the relationship between liturgy and faith. Liturgy is not a testing ground for possible propositions of faith, but rather embodies revelation and faith. Liturgical practice must conform entirely to the Church’s dogmatic teaching, and must be regulated by Church authority to make sure that it does.
19. See CMP, 33.D; Congregation of Rites, Eucharisticum mysterium, 12–13, AAS 59 (1967) 548–50, Flannery, 1:110–12; John Paul II, Homily at Phoenix Park (Dublin), 5, AAS 71 (1979) 1072–73, OR, 8 Oct. 1979, 4.
20. John Paul II, Dominicae cenae, 9, AAS 72 (1980) 133, OR, 24 Mar. 1980, 8.
21. See Germán G. Suárez, O.M., “Teología de la preparación a la Comunión frecuente,” Teología espiritual 17 (1973): 303–25.
22. The one-hour fast before receiving Communion is the bare minimum; the spirit of the law calls for a longer fast when possible. But the elderly and infirm, and those directly involved in their care, may receive even if they have not been able to fast for one hour: CIC, c. 919, §1, §3. Also, priests celebrating more than one Mass on the same day need fast only before their first reception of Communion: c. 919, §2.
23. Congregation of Rites, Eucharisticum mysterium, AAS 59 (1967) 560, Flannery, 1:122, makes it clear that to insist on kneeling to receive where this is not the practice is not an appropriate way to show reverence.
24. Congregation for Divine Worship, Memoriale Domini, AAS 61 (1969) 546–47, Flannery, 1:152–53.
25. An explanation and defense of thanksgiving after Communion is provided by Pius XII, Mediator Dei, AAS 39 (1947) 566–68, PE, 233.123–28, which ends beautifully: “The divine Redeemer is ever repeating His pressing invitation, ‘Abide in Me.’ Now by the sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ remains in us and we in Him, and just as Christ, remaining in us, lives and works, so should we remain in Christ and live and work through Him.”
26. Even worse is maliciously to desecrate the Blessed Sacrament—to express contempt and hatred precisely contrary to the adoration and love due to Jesus present in the Eucharist. Actual desecration also is subject to a canonical penalty: CIC, c. 1367. It is worth noting that carelessness in handling the Blessed Sacrament is not desecration, but at worst a venial sin of irreverence. And only reasonable care is required, similar to the care one gives one’s valuable personal possessions. If one is reasonably careful, it is scrupulosity, not reverence, to worry about whether a small particle of the Eucharist is lost.
27. See John Paul II, Dominicae cenae, 11, AAS 72 (1980) 138–39, OR, 24 Mar. 1980, 9; cf. CIC, c. 916.
28. See CIC, c. 916.
29. See I. Aertnys, C. Damen, and I. Visser, C.Ss.R., Theologia moralis, ed. 18, 4 vols. (Turin: Marietti, 1967–69), 3:222–25.
30. The latter sins are subject to canonical penalties: CIC, cc. 1378–79.
31. Many frequently violated liturgical norms are forcefully reiterated: Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Inaestimabile donum, AAS 72 (1980) 331–43, Flannery, 2:93–102.
32. A matter in itself light would not receive the attention this one does from both the Council of Trent and the Church’s law: DS 1613/856; CIC, c. 846, §1: “The liturgical books approved by the competent authority are to be faithfully observed in the celebration of the sacraments; therefore no one on personal authority may add, remove or change anything in them.” Even approved extraliturgical devotions should not be mingled with the liturgy, since doing so goes beyond their properly subordinate role and imposes the devotional preferences of some on all. John Paul II, Dominicae cenae, 12, AAS 72 (1980) 142–46, OR, 24 Mar. 1980, 9–10, explains why participants in the Eucharist must subordinate themselves to it insofar as it is the common good of the Church. He allows that liturgical norms need not be fulfilled in situations where a valid celebration is possible only by setting them aside, yet he excludes making exceptions under normal conditions. The appropriate use of options provided in the books is not an exception to the law, but part of its fulfillment. Hence, the existence of various options constitutes no precedent for additional, unauthorized variations.
33. See Thomas K. Carroll and Thomas Halton, Liturgical Practice in the Fathers (Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier, 1988), 17–76, for a collection of materials bearing on the Lord’s day.
34. Note the striking text from the Didascalia (a third-century book of Church order) quoted in PO 6, n. 31 (in Abbott, n. 82): “In your teaching tell the people to come to church and not to stay away. Tell them to come together always and not to constrict the church by staying away and so making the body of Christ a member short.”
35. CIC, c. 1247. The holy days which are of obligation are listed in c. 1246, §1, but §2 authorizes conferences of bishops to abolish or transfer some of them to a Sunday with the prior approval of the Holy See.
36. See CIC, c. 1248, §1. In certain Eastern rites, the Sunday obligation may be fulfilled by participation in the divine praises (the choral office), since only one Mass is celebrated each Sunday, and not all can participate in it (see OE 15). However, for Latin rite Catholics, the Church’s law specifically requires participation in Mass.
37. See CIC, c. 1245. This canon refers to c. 87, which makes it clear that bishops could limit the power of pastors and superiors to dispense from this obligation.
38. Since no one has an obligation to do the impossible, those simply incapable of acts of worship—small children, the severely retarded, and so on—need not be brought to Mass. However, while merely ecclesiastical laws do not bind children under seven (see CIC, c. 11), divine law does. Small children and mentally handicapped persons should worship God in accord with their ability. Children should be taught early not only about Jesus and how to pray, but about the meaning of the Eucharist, and they should be encouraged to participate in the Mass as soon as they are able to do so. See M. Basil Pennington, The Eucharist Yesterday and Today (New York: Crossroad, 1984), 73–75.
39. CIC, c. 1247.
40. See John XXIII, Mater et magistra, AAS 53 (1961) 459–60, PE, 267.248–53; Franz X. Pettirsch, S.J., “A Theology of Sunday Rest,” Theology Digest 6 (1958): 114–22; Kenneth C. Russell, “Reflections on The Sabbath (a review of The Sabbath, by Abraham J. Heschel), Cross and Crown 27 (1975): 18–24.
41. See Congregation of the Council, Sacra Tridentina synodus, DS 3375–78/1981–83 (AAS 2  894–98); Paul VI, Mysterium fidei, AAS 57 (1965) 771, PE, 273.66. See Joseph Nicholas Stadler, Frequent Holy Communion: A Historical Synopsis and a Commentary (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947); Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., Christ for the World: The Heart of the Lamb: A Treatise on Christology, trans. Malachy Carroll (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1973), 485–512.
42. See CIC, c. 920. Children lacking the use of reason need not receive Holy Communion: DS 1730/933. Annual reception of Holy Communion is minimal; one’s real responsibility, rooted in Jesus’ own word, is wider though less clearly defined. This wider responsibility also is reflected in the Church’s law (c. 898): “The faithful are to hold the Eucharist in highest honor, taking part in the celebration of the Most August Sacrifice, receiving the sacrament devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with supreme adoration.” Those who have already received Communion may receive a second time on the same day during a celebration of the Eucharist in which they actually participate: c. 917.
43. See CIC, c. 918; The Rites, 459–64.
44. See CIC, c. 1248, §2.