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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

Some of the ablest commentators see in the “breaking of bread from house to house,” and in other similar expressions of the New Testament, Communion under one species only; and it is admitted by all that in this way did the two disciples communicate whom our Lord met on the way to Emmaus on Easter Sunday after his Resurrection, for, as the narrative has it, “they knew him in the breaking of bread.” Communion under one kind has been common ever since the days of the apostles, especially in case of sick persons and of those who lived a great distance from the church; and we shall see a little further on that the Orientals have practised such Communion from time immemorial.

Order of Receiving in Ancient Times.—After the celebrant had communicated, the sacred ministers attending him communicated next in order—first the deacon, then the subdeacon, and after him the rest of the clergy. The Communion of the people, which took place at the rails, was arranged in the following order: deaconesses, virgins consecrated to God, children, then the grown people of the congregation—the men first, and then the women (Kozma, p. 240). This order is fully set forth in the Apostolic Constitutions.

Manner of Receiving.—With very little exception, it was customary during the first five or six centuries to place the sacred Host in the hands of the communicant and let him communicate himself. The male portion received the Blessed Particle in their naked hands, one placed over the other in the form of a cross, and the palm of the right bent a little so as to have it hollow-shaped, in order that there might be no danger of letting the Particle fall off. The females never received the Host in the naked hands, but were always required to bring with them, when they intended to communicate, a clean linen cloth called a dominical, with which they covered their hands when about to receive the consecrated Particle. The rule in this respect was so rigid that, should a female present herself for Communion and be without this hand-cloth, she would be obliged to leave the rails and defer receiving until another occasion. The custom of thus receiving the sacred Host in the hands was instituted to commemorate what was done at the Last Supper, when the apostles received in this way. But as the custom was open to many dangers and abuses in places where large numbers approached the Holy Table, it was abrogated about the beginning of the ninth century (Kozma, p. 241).

Form used in giving the Holy Eucharist.—In early times the words used by the priest in giving Holy Communion were, for the species of bread, “Corpus Christi”—“the Body of Christ”—to which the receiver answered, “Amen”; and for the species of wine, “Sanguis Christi poculum Salutis”—“the Blood of Christ, the cup of Salvation”—to which “Amen” was also answered. About the time of Pope Gregory the Great (sixth century) the form had changed into “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi conservet animam tuam”—“May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul”—to which the receiver would respond, as before, “Amen.” With Alcuin, preceptor of Charlemagne, we find the form, “May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve you unto life everlasting.”








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