ROME, 20 FEB. 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Paragraph 246 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides
that the deacon may present the chalice for the Communion of
concelebrants at Mass, but Paragraph 242 says that the paten may be
passed to the concelebrants by another priest concelebrant. The deacon
is not mentioned. Does this mean that the deacon may not distribute the
consecrated Host to the concelebrants?
J.C., Venice, Florida
A: The paragraphs in question are:
"242. When this prayer before Communion is finished, the principal
celebrant genuflects and steps back a little. Then one after another the
concelebrants come to the middle of the altar, genuflect, and reverently
take the Body of Christ from the altar. Then holding it in their right
hand, with the left hand placed below, they return to their places. The
concelebrants may, however, remain in their places and take the Body of
Christ from the paten presented to them by the principal celebrant or by
one or more of the concelebrants, or by passing the paten one to
"246. If Communion is received by drinking directly from the chalice,
one or other of two procedures may be followed:
"a. The principal celebrant, standing at the middle of the altar, takes
the chalice and says quietly, Sanguis Christi custodiat me in vitam
aeternam (May the Blood of Christ bring me to everlasting life). He
consumes a little of the Blood of Christ and hands the chalice to the
deacon or a concelebrant. He then distributes Communion to the faithful
(cf. above, nos. 160-162).
"b. The concelebrants approach the altar one after another or, if two
chalices are used, two by two. They genuflect, partake of the Blood of
Christ, wipe the rim of the chalice, and return to their seats.
"c. The principal celebrant normally consumes the Blood of the Lord
standing at the middle of the altar.
"d. The concelebrants may, however, partake of the Blood of the Lord
while remaining in their places and drinking from the chalice presented
to them by the deacon or by one of the concelebrants, or else passed
from one to the other. The chalice is always wiped either by the one who
drinks from it or by the one who presents it. After communicating, each
returns to his seat."
The texts actually refer to two different moments. No. 242 refers to the
distribution of the hosts to all concelebrants before the "This is the
Lamb of God." No. 246 (d) refers to the deacons presenting (but not
administering) the Precious Blood when there are numerous concelebrants.
The intent of these norms is to attempt to foresee various possible
situations, and indicate the best possible procedure. No. 242 indicates
a preferred situation: each concelebrant coming to the center of the
altar, but also offers other solutions if this is not feasible.
It is clear however that, at this moment, distribution of the hosts by
the deacon is not contemplated.
No. 246 (d) also presents several ways in which the concelebrating
priests consume the Precious Blood. No mention is made of the deacon
presenting the hosts because No. 246 is presuming that the priests have
already consumed the Body of Christ.
It is in Nos. 248-249 that the possibility is contemplated of the
priests consuming both species at the altar, either one after the other,
or by intinction.
The missal cannot foresee all situations, and there are cases when the
number of concelebrants is so large, or the space available so
restricted, that it is impracticable for all the priests to approach the
In such cases it is possible for the priests to either remain at their
places or to move toward pre-designated places where deacons or priests
present them the paten and chalice. Communion in this case may be either
one species after the other or, more commonly, by intinction.
In these situations the deacons or priests presenting the patens and
chalices to the priests do so in silence without saying "the Body of
Christ." This is because they are assisting in the distribution of
Communion but are not administrating Communion to the concelebrants as
they would to the faithful.
This latter solution, which is not found in the missal, has been the
practice for very large concelebrations in St. Peter's Basilica and
other similar situations.
For instance, for Rome's Chrism Mass, which gathers about a thousand
priests, a large number of deacons, vested in dalmatics, present the
patens and chalices to the priests who all remain in their places.
* * *
Follow-up: Communion and Concelebrants [3-6-2007]
After our remarks on Communion during concelebrations (Feb. 20) a priest
from the U.S. state of Georgia sent this comment:
"I have a real problem with the idea of 'intinction.' At the Last
Supper, 'Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying,
"Drink from it, all of you"' (Matthew 26:27). In Luke and Mark, the
evidence is clearly on the taking of the cup and the sharing and
drinking of the wine ... not the dipping of the bread in the wine. In
the Eucharistic prayers we intone, 'Take and drink this all of you' ...
the key words there are 'take' and 'drink.' These are verbal commands."
Drinking from the chalice is preferred whenever feasible. But I do not
think that we should apply the biblical text as referring to precise
details of the ritual, which developed over the centuries.
Otherwise we would end up questioning the legitimacy of centuries-old
customs such as the Western practice of Communion under one kind alone
or the custom of some Eastern Churches of Communion under both species
together, using a spoon.
Rather, we should trust the interpretation of the Church which allows
for intinction as a practical solution for communicating large numbers
of concelebrants or when space, or the number of chalices available, is
Finally an Eastern deacon sent me an interesting comment on the role of
the deacon in presenting the chalice and hosts to priests during
"The GIRM paragraphs 242 and 246 also should be read within the context
of long-standing rulings and practices of the Church as early as the
Canons of the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), ratified also at Trent:
"Canon XVIII: It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod
that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist
to the presbyters, whereas neither canon nor custom permits that they
who have no right to offer should give the Body of Christ to them that
do offer. And this also has been made known, that certain deacons now
touch the Eucharist even before the bishops. Let all such practices be
utterly done away, and let the deacons remain within their own bounds,
knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and the inferiors of
the presbyters. Let them receive the Eucharist according to their order,
after the presbyters, and let either the bishop or the presbyter
administer to them. Furthermore, let not the deacons sit among the
presbyters, for that is contrary to canon and order. And if, after this
decree, any one shall refuse to obey, let him be deposed from the
While not every detail mentioned in Canon 18 would apply to the present
Roman rite, the fundamental principles remain the same even today.