Redemptionis Sacramentum and its implication for the celebration of the sacrament of Eucharist

Fr. S. Antony Samy

The Church founded by Jesus Christ as a sacrament of salvation to proclaim the Good news to all the creatures in the world till the end of time (Mt. 28:19), continually lives and grows by the blessed Eucharist. Born of the Paschal mystery, the Church makes centre of its life the Eucharist, a sacrament of the paschal mystery in an outstanding way. To the Church Eucharist is a gift par excellence from Christ, her Lord – it is the gift of himself as well as the gift of his saving work. Eucharist is the sacrifice of the cross perpetrated down the ages. It is a sacrifice in the strict sense. Christ suffered for all men, so it doe not remain confined to the past, but it transcends the time.

The sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. This aspect of the universal charity of the Eucharistic sacrifice is based on the words of the Savior Himself (Lk. 22: 19-20). It is as the living and risen One that Christ can become in Eucharist the living bread (Jn. 6: 51). The sacrifice of Christ is made present ever anew, sacramentally perpetrated in every community which offers at the hands of the consecrated ministers. As the Church acknowledges with steadfast faith in the Most Holy Eucharist, sacrament of redemption.1 the Eucharist must be celebrated properly observing all the liturgical norms so as to make the faithful to have a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.

It is in this connection the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued an Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist. In fact this Instruction was prepared by the above said Congregation by the mandate of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. The Holy Father approved it on 19th March 2004 and order it to be published for the immediate observation of all concerned.


1. See U. Navarrete, Structura iuridica matrimonii secundum Concilium Vaticanum II: momentum Iuridica amoris coniugalis, Roma, PUG, 1968, p. 17

In the present day, under the pretext of liberty, creativity, adaptation, and ecumenical activities, and even sometimes, out of ignorance, there are a lot of abuses brought in the celebration of Eucharist.2 These abuses “contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful “sacrament”.In fact, “it is the right of all Christ’s faithful tht the liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms”.3

While the Apostolic See5 regulates the sacred liturgy of the universal Church publishing liturgical books and reviewing the vernacular translations done by the Bishop’s Conferences (c. 838 §1, 2), it pertains to the diocesan Bishop to set forth the liturgical norms in his diocese and to ensure that abuses do not creep in the liturgical celebration, especially of the Eucharist (c. 838 §4, c. 392 §2, RS nn. 19, 22, 24).

The priests, on this part, should celebrate devoutly and faithfully the mysteries of Christ for the praise of God and the sanctification of the Christian people, according to the tradition of the Church, especially in the Eucharistic sacrifice, for it is their responsibility to preside at the Eucharist in persona Christi. They ought not therefore to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or
through arbitrary additions.6

1. The Minister of the Most Holy Eucharist

1. Valid and licit celebration

A validly ordained priest is the only minister of the sacrament of the Eucharist (c.900 §1, RS n. 146). In the person of Christ he may preside at or concelebrate the Eucharist and validly consecrate the bread and wine. If laypersons or deacons attempt to celebrate the Holy Mass, they incure the penalty of a latae sententiae interdict or the penalty of latae sententiae suspension respectively (c. 1378 §2, n.1).

While any priest may validly consecrate the sacrament, for lawful celebration of the Eucharist a priest, besides observing canonical norms for the celebration, must not have been deprived of the exercise of his Order by an irregularity or impediment (c. 1044), or by a penalty (cc. 1331 §1, n.2, 1332, 1333 §1, n.1, 1338 §2), or must suffer the lose of the clerical state (cc. 290, 292, 1336 §1, n.5).


2. Cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, nn.. 7 – 9

3. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. n. 10.

4. Redemptioinis Sacramentum, n. 12

5. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments attends to those matters that pertain to the Apostolic See as regards the regulation and the promotion of the Sacred liturgy, and especially sacraments, with due regard for the competence of Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. See Pastor Bonus, nn. 62, 63, 66, RS, n, 17.

6. See. RS. nn. 30-31, SC, n.22, c. 846 §1, Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n, 24

2. Frequency of celebration

Though a priest is not obliged to celebrate the Eucharist everyday as per the provision of c. 805 of the old Code c. 904 of the present Code, taking the words from Presbyterorum ordini, n. 13, asks the priests to celebrate the Eucharist frequently, indeed daily, as the work of the redemption is continually being carried out in the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice (RS. n. 110), As the Eucharist is an action of Christ and of the Church, the priests fulfill their principal function by celebrating it everyday (c.276 §2, n.2). The 1994 Directory in the ministry and life of Priests in its number 49 also speaks of the importance of the daily Eucharist for priestly spirituality.

The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum demands tht the priests who are present at a Eucharist celebration, should as a rule exercise the office proper to their Order and thus take part as concelebrants. Unless they are excused for a good reason they should not take part in the Eucharistic celebration merely in the manner of the lay faithful.7

3. Presence of the faithful

C. 906 forbids the celebration of the Eucharist without the participation of at least one faithful, unless there is a good and reasonable cause for doing so. In fact the old Code in its c. 813 §1 required the presence of at least a server for every mass. His presence was required for more than the material assistance to the celebrating priest, to signify the fact that the Eucharist is essentially an action of the whole church, priest and people. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the server represented the whole catholic people, and in that capacity he answered the priest in plural.8 The new Code does not speak of the presence of a server, but the participation at least one of the faithful. But for good and reasonable cause a priest can celebrate the Mass alone also.

4. Concelebration

While the c. 803 of the 1917 Code forbade the concelebration apart from the ordination mass, the present Code in its c. 902 permits the priests to concelebrate the Eucharist. In fact the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II opened a wider opportunity on number of occasions for the concelebration whereby the unity of the priesthood is appropriately manifested.9

Concelebration is to be preferred over multiple private Masses.10 However, the priests should not insist on concelebration at the expense of the welfare of the faithful, such as when more than one mass is required to meet the pastoral needs. Despite the encouragement of concelebration, each priest retains the right to celebrate Mass


7. RS. n. 128.

8. STh, 111,q. 83, art. 5, ad. 12

9. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 57. The liturgical law governing concelebration are found principally in the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (GIRM), nn. 153 208.

10. Eucharisticum Mysterium, n. 47

individually, save only at the same time a concelebration is taking place in the same church or oratory.

Concelebration among priests of different Catholic churches sui iuris can be done with permission of the diocesan / eparchial bishop for a just cause, especially that of fostering charity, and of the sake of manifesting unity between the churches. The liturgical rite of the principal celebrant is to be observed, and he is to wear the appropriate vestments and insignia of his own church sui iuris (CCEO 701). Ordinarily the concelebrants wear the vestments of their own church, but for a just cause and having removed any wonderment on the part of the faithful, they may wear the liturgical vestments of another church sui iuris (CCEO 707 §2).

5. Bination and Trination (Multiplication of Masses)

A priest can celebrate Mass once a day unless the law allows him to celebrate or concelebrate the Eucharist a number of times on the same day. The occasions on which a priest can celebrate or concelebrate more than once a day, are Maundy Thursday, Easter vigil, Christmas celebrations and during Synod or Pastoral visitation of Bishop.11 Besides these occasions, the pastoral needs can make a priest celebrate Mass more than once on the same day. In 1963 Pope Paul VI had already granted to the diocesan Bishops the faculty to permit priests to celebrate twice on weekdays for a just cause and three times on Sundays and holidays of obligations when there is shortage of priests and is true pastoral need.12 C.905 §2 extends this faculty to all the local Ordinaries.

Respecting the regulation that without the pastoral needs, the celebration of the Holy Mass is not to be multiplied unnecessarily contrary to the norms (c. 905 §1), the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum asks the different groups in the parish to come to the parochial Mass. “At Sunday Masses in the parishes, insofar as parishes are “Eucharistic communities’, it is customary to find different groups, movements, associations and even the smaller religious communities present in the parish”.13 

6. Personal prayer of the priest

As of c. 810 of the 1917 Code, c. 909 of the present Code states that a priest should prepare for Mass by prayer and should give thanks to God afterwards. Though a priest be a man of prayer, he is asked to take immediate preparation for the Holy Eucharist. The appendix to the Roman Missal provides several prayers for preparation for and thanksgiving after Mass.


11. GIRM, n. 158.

12. Paul VI, Pastorale Munus. n. 2.

13. RS. n. 114, Eucharisticum Mysterium, n. 27

7. Celebret

Taking the provision of c. 903, Redemptionis Sacramentum states that a priest is to be permitted to celebrate or concelebrate the Eucharist, even if he is not known to the rector of the church, provided he presents commendatory letter, i.e., a celebret not more than a year old. While the c. 903 says that a priest can get his celebret from his own Ordinary or Superior, the Instruction adds with these two, the Holy See from whom he can get the celebret. In many places the celebret is not requested of visiting priests, and the canon as well as RS state that it is not necessary when the rector prudently judges that a priest is not impeded from celebrating the Holy Eucharist.14

8. Mass Intention

As per c. 809 of 1917 Code, Mass may be applied for the dead in Purgatory or for the living with the exception of public Masses for the ex-communicated, and a private Mass may be applied for them, and that too only for their conversion (c. 2262 §2. n.2). Now as per the present canonical norm (c. 901), a Mass may be applied for anyone, living or dead, baptized or non-baptized, sinner or saint.

9. Functions restricted to the priest.

Liturgical actions are celebrations of the Church which manifest her nature and reflect her structure.15 They reflect both the common dignity of the faithful16 and their hierarchical differences. For this reason, ‘in liturgical celebrations each person, minister or lay man who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy.17 Since the only minister who can bring the Eucharist into being is the priest (c. 900 §1), c. 907 regulates that he alone should recite the Eucharistic prayer in full; neither a deacon nor a lay minister or an individual member or all the members of the faithful together recite some part of the Eucharistic prayer (RS. n. 52). In the same way, the prayers and actions designated as ‘presidential’ should be recited by the celebrating priest only.

Moreover the Redemptionis Sacramentum regulates that only those Eucharistic prayers that are found in the Roman Missal or are legitimately approved by the Apostolic See, alone are to be used for the Mass. It forbids the priests to compose their own Eucharistic prayer, or to change the same text approved by the Church, or to introduce others composed by private individuals.18 The faithful during the Eucharistic prayer join themselves with the priest in faith, and they intervene as prescribed, in the responses in the Preface dialogue, the Sanctus, the acclamation after the consecration


14. RS, n. 111.

15. SC, n. 26

16. LG. n. 32

17. SC, n. 28

18. RS, n. 51

and the ‘amen’ after the doxology, and in other acclamation approved by the Conference of Bishops with the recognition of the Holy See.19

10. Prohibition of the Inter denominational celebration.

The celebration of the Eucharist by the catholic priest with the priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church is forbidden by the c. 908. Worship should express the unity of the Church20 and the Eucharist in particular is ‘a sign of unity’.21 In the absence of such unity, concelebration of the Eucharist would be inappropriate. C. 1365 prescribes ‘a just penalty’ for anyone who is guilty of prohibited participation in religious rites. Redemptionis Sacramentum considers the forbidden concelebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice with the ministers of the Ecclesial communities that do not have the apostolic succession, nor acknowledge the sacramental dignity of priestly Ordination as an abuse graviora delicta.22

11. Eucharistic Minister

While the first paragraph of c. 910 considers the ordained ministers, i.e. Bishop, priest and deacon, as the ordinary minister of Holy Communion, the second paragraph of the same canon states that an acolyte or another of lay faithful can be deputed, in accordance with c. 230 §3, as extraordinary minister of the Holy Communion. Lay faithful can be given the stable ministry of lector and of acolyte (c. 230 §1), or they can be assigned temporarily to the role of lector in liturgical actions (c. 230 §2), or can be called to discharge the function of lector or acolyte when there is a need and the ministers are not available (c. 230 §3). The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, praises these ministries of lay Christian faithful in the celebration of Holy Mass saying, “apart from the duly instituted ministries of acolyte and lector, the most important of these ministries are those of acolyte and lector by temporary deputation.”23 It states further that the faithful must be distributed Communion by the Eucharistic minister; and they should not serve by themselves or to one another.24

12. Minister of Viaticum

As per c. 911 §1 the parish priest, assistant priests and chaplains have the duty and right to bring the Eucharist as viaticum to the sick. In houses of clerical religious or societies of apostolic life the same function belongs to the community Superior in respect of all those in the house, whether or not they are members of the institute.


19. RS, n. 54, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 28.

20. UR, n. 8.

21. SC, n. 47.

22. RS. n. 172

23. RS. n. 44.

24. RS. n. 94.

When these ministers are not available, the second paragraph of c. 911 allows any priest, deacon, acolyte or authorized extraordinary minister to bring viaticum to the dying. In such case, the minister is obliged subsequently to inform the appropriate ordinary minister.

II. Participation in the Blessed Eucharist

1. Recipient of Communion

a) Any baptized person (c. 912)

Any baptized person who is not forbidden by law is entitled to receive the Holy Communion (c. 912). As per c. 213 Christ’s faithful have the right to sacraments. While c.842 §1 affirms the necessity of baptism, for the reception of any other sacraments, c.844 § 3-4 restricts the access to the Eucharist by the baptized non-Catholics.

b) Prohibition of Eucharist to public sinner (c.915)

Redemptionis Sacramentum affirms that “the Church has drawn up norms aimed at fostering the frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the Eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which Communion may not be given:. (Rs. n. 82)25

C.915 refuses Communion to two categories of the faithful: those upon whom the penalty of ex-communication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and hose who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.

Of its very nature celebration of the Eucharist signifies the fullness of profession of faith and the fullness of ecclesial communion. Those upon whom the penalty of ex-communication or interdict has been imposed or declared are by definition no longer in full communion with the Catholic Church. Consequently they excluded from then Eucharistic Communion (cc. 1331, n. 2. 1332).

For those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, it must be made certain that the person has committed a sin that is objectively grave, and that he obstinately persevering in and that the sin is manifest. Those who are divorced and remarried find themselves in this situation.

2. Communion to the Children

a) Reception (c. 913)


25. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 42

Paragraph one of c. 913 states in broad terms the minimal requirements of admitting children to the Eucharist in ordinary circumstances. It is required that they have sufficient knowledge and are carefully prepared. As c. 914 states that the children who have reached the use of reason are to be properly prepared to receive first Communion, the normal age for the first Communion will be about seven years. At this age it is presumed that a child can sufficiently understand what is involved in the Eucharist.

Children who are in danger of death, even if they do not have the sufficient knowledge and undergone careful preparation required, may be given Communion as per c.913 §2, provided that they can distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food and receive it with reverence.

b) Preparing the children for the First Communion (c.914)

It is the primary duty of the parents or the guardians and the parish priest to arrange for the first Communion to the children, when they reach the age of reason which normally occurs at the age of seven as per c. 97 §2. They must give them proper preparation on the sacrament of Eucharist and make the children to go for confession before they receive the Holy Sacrament for the first time in their life. Redemptionis Sacramentum also affirms “the First Communion of the children must always be preceded by sacramental confession and absolution.”26

While the c. 914 insists that the parish priest must make sure that the children in their age of use and reason are not deprived of their right to the sacrament of Eucharist, it equally binds him not to allow the children below age of reason and those who are not sufficiently prepared to approach the First Holy Communion.

3. Obligation to confess serious sins (c. 916)

The c. 916, a composite of cc. 807 and 856 of the 1917 Code, is based on the doctrine of the Council of Trent that affirmed that one who is conscious of gave sins may not receive the Eucharist.27 The Church’s custom shows that it is necessary for each person to examine himself at depth before he celebrates or receives the Eucharist. C.916 adds nothing new to the past discipline in requiring those who are conscious, i.e. certain, of having committed a grave sin to return to the state of grace by sacramental confession or an act of perfect contrition when sacramental confession is not possible.28

Though one is allowed to celebrate the Eucharist or to receive the Eucharist with perfect contrition at the penitential rite in the beginning of Mass, the obligation to go for confession always remains with the celebrant or the communicant when one is aware of the grave sin. This teaching is once again taken in Redemptionis Sacramentum that affirms “As for the penitential act placed at the beginning of Mass, it has the purpose of preparing all to be ready, to celebrate the sacred mysteries; it lacks the efficacy of the sacrament of penance and cannot be regarded as a substitute for the sacrament of penance in remission of grave sins.”29 


26. RS. n. 87.

27. Session XIII, De Eucharist, cap. 7. c.11

28. Ecclesia de Euchairstia, n. 36, Eucharisticum Mysterium, n. 35, RS, n. 81.

4. Communion twice a day (c.917)

As the multiplication of the celebration of the Eucharist by priests is forbidden, so also is forbidden the multiplication of the reception of the Communion by the faithful. In fact the 1917 Code at cc. 857 and 858 §1 allowed the reception of Holy Communion a second time on the same day only in danger of death or in order to avoid irreverence to the Blessed Eucharist. In the new Code by c. 917 one is permitted to receive the blessed Eucharist again on the same day in the celebration of the Eucharist. Though the word ‘again’ is used in the canon, one is permitted to receive the Communion only a second time and not as often as a person attends Mass. This is clarified by the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Canons of Code of Canon Law in 1984. But of course in danger of death, even one has already perceived the Eucharist, can receive it again as Viaticum outside the Eucharistic celebration (c. 921 §2). Redemptionis Sacramentum takes up the same regulation in its number 95.

5. Communion outside Mass (c.918)

Following the teaching of Vatican II that “Communion received during the Eucharistic celebration is the more complete form of participation in the Mass”,30 c.918 strongly recommends tht the faithful receive the Communion in the course of the Eucharistic celebration. As per the teaching of Redemptionis Sacramentum, the Holy Communion must be distributed to the faithful during the Mass just after the priest celebrant’s communion.31 It is preferable that the faithful be able to receive hosts consecrated in the same Mass.32 They can receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.33 on the tongue or in the hand. If they receive in the hand, it must be ensured that the host is consumed by them in the presence of the minister, so as to avoid a risk of profanation.34

However, if the faithful ask for the Communion outside Mass, if there is good reason. It must be administered to them observing the liturgical rites. The good reason includes the inability to participate in the Eucharistic celebration due to illness or old age or the absence of a priest who can preside over the Eucharist. The liturgical rites to be observed in distributing Communion outside Mass are contained in the Roman Ritual under the title, “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass”.


29. RS, n. 80

30. SC, n. 55.

31. RS. nn. 88, 97.

32. SC, n. 55, EM, n. 31, RS, n. 89

33. RS, n. 90

34. RS, n. 92.

6. Eucharistic fast (c.919)

To receive the Holy Communion the c. 858 §1 of the 1917 Code required a fast from midnight. This discipline was relaxed by Pope Pius XII in 1953. Pope Paul VI, at a session of Vatican II, shortened the fast form solid food to one hour for both priests and faithful. The present Code in its c. 919 §1 takes up this rule and states that anyone to receive the Communion must abstain for at least one hour before the holy communion from all food and drink with the exception of water and drink. The paragraph two of the same canon permits the priest who is to celebrate the Mass twice or thrice to consume something before the second and third celebration, even though there is no interval of one hour. In fact in 1963 Pastorale Munus allowed the Bishops to permit the priests who celebrate two or three masses to take something to drink even though an interval of one hour does not intervene before the celebration of the next Mass. But now the priests do nto need to get permission from the bishop on such occasion as the law itself allows them to do so. By virtue of c. 919 § the aged, the sick and those who are taking care of them are exempted from any law of Eucharistic fast. They are permitted to receive the Communion even if they have consumed something within the preceding hour.

7. Eucharistic precept (c. 920)

All the faithful who have been admitted to first Holy Communion are obliged from then on to receive it at least once a year as pr c. 920 §1. As the reception of the Communion is the fullest way of participating in the Mass, the faithful are to be encouraged for the reception of the sacrament frequently. C.920 §2 prescribes the time of the fulfillment of this precept. The preferred time of the fulfillment of the precept is Paschal time which was defined in 1917 Code as being from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday and was capable of being lengthened. The new legislation though prefers that the obligation be fulfilled in the Paschal time, permits however for good reason the faithful to satisfy at any time during the year.

8. Vaiticum (cc. 921 – 922)

The 1917 Code in its c. 864 §1 considered the reception of viaticum by the faithful in danger of death as a ‘precept’ to which they were bound by law. Though the present Code uses a milder form of command to express this duty, there is still an obligation on each of the faithful to receive viaticum (c. 921 §1), and on the pastors of souls to see tht it is available to them (c. 922).

C. 917 which allows the faithful to receive the Holy Communion a second time on the same day only during Mass, carries the exception of c. 921 §2 that permits the reception of the Communion by the faithful for the second time on the same day even outside Mass in danger of death C.921 §3 recommends that Holy Communion be given to those in danger of death on number of times, but  of course not on the same day as long as the danger lasts.35

The parish priest, assistant priests, the chaplains or the superior of clerical religious Institutes or Societies of Apostolic life (cf. 911) must take care that those who are in danger of death receive the viaticum while they are still in possession of their faculties. Those who look after the sick – family members, nurses and other care takers – could also help the sick in receiving the viaticum on time.

9. Eucharist in other churches sui iuris (c. 923)

Catholics are free to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist and to receive the Communion in any Catholic rite. This emphasizes the essential unity of different churches sui iuris. To receive the Communion from non-catholic ministers of churches in certain special circumstances, the provision of c.844 is to be followed.

III. The Rites and Ceremonies of the Eucharistic Celebration.

1. Matter of the Eucharist (cc. 924.926)

Basing on the gospel accounts of Last Supper whereby Jesus instituted the Eucharist (cf. Mt 26:26-29, Mk 14:22-25, Lk 22:17-20), the Church has ever made use of bread and wine as the matter of the Eucharist; and a small quantity of water is to be mixed with the wine. The addition of a small quantity of water is the symbolic of the union of divine and human nature in Jesus Christ, and also of the mystical union of faithful with Christ through the sacrificial death.

The bread used for the Eucharist must be made solely of the wheat and it should be unleavened (c. 926). In the same way the wine used at Mass must be made from the fruit of the vine, natural and pure, unmixed with anything else. It must not be corrupt, i.e., it must not have turned to vinegar or otherwise begun to decompose.36 The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum makes observation in this regard that, “It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools.”37


35. Eucharisticum Mysterium, n. 40.

36. GIRM, n. 284, Dominus Salvator Noster, n. 1.

37. RS, n. 48.

2. Communion under one or both kinds (c. 925)

The reception of Holy Communion under both species, once common in the Latin Church, was gradually abandoned and slowly it became the norm that, expect for the celebrant of the Mass, the Communion was served under the species of bread alone from 13th century and decreed as such by the Council of Constance in 1415. This is still preferred as traditional practice as the present canon shows. However, the Vatican II stated that “communion under both kinds may be granted when the Bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See”.38 The c. 925 leaves to liturgical law the determination of when it may be allowed. A detailed list of occasions when communion under both kinds may be given are found in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.39 Communion under the species of wine alone will be rather rare and confined to ‘cases of necessity’ e.g. for the sick who are unable to receive or to swallow even a tiny host.

The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum states that in order for Holy Communion under both kinds to be administered to the lay members of the Christ’s faithful, due consideration should be given to the circumstances, as judged first of all by the diocesan Bishop. It is to be completely excluded where even a small danger exists of the sacred species being profaned. If communion under both kinds is given, it must be given always by intinction and the communicant should receive the sacrament from the priest only, on the tongue; and he is not permitted to instinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand.40

3. Serious prohibition (c. 927)

Like c. 817 of the 1917 Code the present canon 927 presents in an absolute term a serious prohibition of consecration of one element without the other, and the consecration of both the elements outside the Mass. No reason will excuse from observing the law, not even ‘urgent and extreme necessity’.

4. Language of the celebration (c. 928)

Latin is the official common language of the Latin Church sui iuris. Though Masses are celebrated in local vernacular languages today, Latin still remains the universal language and the one in which all the official liturgical books are first published. The Eucharist may be celebrated in Latin in the gatherings of people of different language.41 The so called “Tridentine rite” Mass according to 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum may be used only with the permission of the diocesan Bishop of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.42 The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum


38. SC, n. 55.

39. GIRM, nn. 240-252

40. RS, nn. 100 – 105

41. Musicam Sacram, n. 48.

42. John Paul II, MP. Eccelsia Dei

says that, “Except in the case of celebrations of the Mass that are scheduled by the ecclesiastical authorities to take place in the language of the people, priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate the Mass in Latin”43 Pope Benedict XVI by his Motu Proprio apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, allowed the celebration of the Roman rite according to the Missal of 1962.

For the celebration of the Eucharist in the vernacular, the translation of the liturgical books with the appropriate adaptations done by the Bishop’s Conference, must get prior review of the Holy See (see c. 838 §2-3).

5. Liturgical vesture (c. 929)

C. 929 asks the priests and deacons to wear, for the celebrating and for administering Eucharist, the sacred vestments prescribed by the rubric. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal in its numbers 297 – 310 gives the rubrics governing the Mass vestments. Celebration of the Eucharist in ordinary clothing or in unapproved or inadequate vestments is strictly prohibited. According to Redemptionis Sacramentum a variety of colour of the sacred vestments brings about the different aspects of the mysteries of faith celebrated through out the liturgical year.44 Moreover, the Instruction affirms, “the vestment proper to the priest celebrant at Mass is the chasuble worn over the alb and stole. Likewise the priest, in putting on the chasuble according to the rubrics, is not to omit the stole. All ordinaries should be vigilant in order that all usage to the contrary be eradicated”.45 The concelebrants, for a just reason such as large number of concelebrants or lack of vestments, can omit the chasuble, using stole over the alb.46 Wearing simple stole over the ordinary clothes is an abuse to be reprobated.47

6. Aged and infirm celebrants (c. 930)

Unable to stand due to his illness or old age, a priest can celebrate Mass by sitting. He is to get permission from the local Ordinary only if he does it in public celebration (c. 930 §1). When he has problem of poor eye-sight or some other sickness, he is not obliged to follow the diverse Mass texts of the liturgical calendar. He is free to choose any approved Mass. He can very well make use of the assistance, for the celebration, of another priest, or deacon or even a lay person.

III. The Time and Place of the Eucharistic Celebration

1. Time of the Eucharistic celebration (c. 931)


43. RS, n. 112, SC. n. 36

44. RS, n. 121

45. RS, n, 123.

46. RS, n, 124.

47. RS. n. 126

Both the celebration and distribution of Eucharist may take place at any time which is not forbidden by liturgical law; the time therefore will be determined chiefly by pastoral considerations. The anticipated Mass of Sunday and holy days of obligation may be celebrated only in the evening on Saturday or the day before the holy day (c. 1248 §1). The other exceptions for the time for the celebration and distribution of the Eucharist are for the days of Easter triduum. The rubrics given in the Missal for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter vigil are to be strictly followed.

2. Place of celebration

a) Place (c. 932 §1)

The Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out normally, in a sacred place (c.1205). Sacred places include churches (c. 1214), oratories (c. 1223), and private chapels (c. 1226). In a particular case, like church being renovated, holiday camps for youth, Mass for children, anbiam gatherings, etc., for necessity Mass can be celebrated in some fitting places other than the sacred places.

The Sacred Congregation for Bishops, in its Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (n. 85) empowered the Bishops to allow the celebration of Mass for special group in other places, including even private houses. Redemptionis Sacramentum forbids the celebration of Mass in the non Christian temple. “It is never lawful for a priest to celebrate in a temple or sacred plce of any non-Christian religion”.48

b) Altar (c. 932 §2)

Mass in a sacred place must be celebrated on an altar which is either dedicated or at least blessed (cc. 1171, 1235 – 1239). General Instruction on the Roman Missal gives the detailed rules regarding the altars.49 When Mass is celebrated elsewhere than in a sacred place, an appropriate table is to be used with an altar cloth and a corporal.50

3. Mass in another Christian church (c. 933)

For a priest to celebrate the Eucharist in a plce of worship of another Christian church, three conditions are to be fulfilled: there must be a good reason (for example no catholic church in the area), there must be no scandal, and the local Ordinary must give permission.

IV. Remedies


48. RS, n. 109.

49. GIRM, nn. 259 – 267.

50. GIRM, n. 260, RS, n. 57

1. Abuses

The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum after having given the regulations – on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist – finally proposes the remedies for the abuses committed in the celebration of the Eucharist. Both pastors and faithful should be given the biblical and liturgical formation, so that the Church’s faith and discipline concerning the sacred liturgy may be accurately presented and understood. If the abuses still persist, proceedings should be undertaken to safeguard the validity and dignity of the Eucharist.

The Instruction classifies the abuses in the celebration of the Eucharist into three categories: graviora delicta, grave matters, and other abuses.

a) Graviora Delicta

The following abuses are considered to be graviora delicta.

i) Taking away or retaining the consecrated species for sacrilegious ends, or the throwing them away (c. 1367).

ii) The attempted celebration of the liturgical action of the Eucharistic sacrifice or the simulation of the same (c. 1378 §2, n. 1, 1379)

iii) The forbidden concelebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice with ministers of Ecclesial communities that do not have the apostolic succession nor acknowledge the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination (cc. 1365, 908).

iv) The consecration for sacrilegious ends of one matter without the other to the celebration of the Eucharist or even, of both outside the celebration of the Eucharist. (c. 927).

b) Grave matters

The Instruction considers any abuses that put at risk the validity and dignity of the most Holy Eucharist as grave matters.

• Change of the matter of the Holy Eucharist (nn. 48 – 52)

• Not respecting the rule on the Eucharistic prayer.

• Not mentioning the name of the Supreme Pontiff and the diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic prayer (n. 56).

• Celebration of the sacrament of penance during the Mass (n. 76)

• Identifying the celebration of the Eucharist with a banquet (c. 77)

• Introduction of the elements that are contrary to the liturgical books and taking from other religion (n. 79).

• Denying the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner and rightly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them (c. 91).

• Not consuming the Eucharist received in hand in the presence of the minister (n. 92).

• The faithful taking by themselves the communion or distributing it by one another (n. 94).

• Distribution of the unconsecrated hosts or edibles during the Mass (n. 96)

• Permitting the communicant to intinct the host himself in the chalice or to receive the intincted host in the hand (n. 104).

• Pouring the blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another (c. 106).

• Priest celebrating Mass in a temple or in a sacred place of any non-Christian religion (n. 109).

• Not allowing a priest to celebrate Mass after having shown the celebret (n. 111)

• Suspending the celebration of the Eucharist in n arbitrary manner contrary to the liturgical norms On. 115).

• Not using the proper vessel for Mass (n. 117).

• Celebrating Mass without liturgically prescribed vestments (n. 126)

• Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in an appropriate place that may be open for profanation, and while taking the Communion for the sick, without going straight to the sock person’s home, roaming everywhere with Communion for the securlar purpose. (nn. 131 – 133)

• Leaving the exposed Blessed Sacrament unattended (n. 138)

• Lay persons assuming the role or the vesture of a priest or deacon (153).

• A cleric who lost the clerical state giving homily or undertaking any office or duty in the celebration of the sacred liturgy. (n. 168)

c) Other abuses

Those actions that are contrary to the other matters treated in the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum or in the norms established by law are considered other abuses that are to be carefully avoided and corrected.

2. Remedies

Any catholic whether priest or deacon or laity, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or to be the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See.51

The diocesan Bishop who issues the norms on liturgical matters,52 who safeguards the unity of the universal Church, is to be watchful lest abuses encroach upon ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the Word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the saints.53 Whenever a local Ordinary receives a notice of  abuse concerning theMost Holy Eucharist, he should carefully investigate, either personally or by means of another worthy cleric, concerning the facts and circumstances as well as the imputability.


51. RS, n. 184

52. C, 838 §4.

53. C. 392.

Delicts against the faith as well as graviora delicta committed in the celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments are to be referred without delay to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In order abuses, the local Ordinary should proceed according to the canonical norms imposing penalty if needed.


The Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium has opened the way for the celebration of the Eucharist with active participation of the faithful. It allowed each country the adaptation of the Eucharistic celebration according to its own language and culture. And these adaptations are to be executed with the recognitio of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. And thus the unity of the universal Church in its liturgical and sacramental life is sought to be preserved.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has published on 25th April 2001 Liturgiam Authentican giving norms for the liturgical celebration and the General Instructions of the Roman Missal in January 2002. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical letter on the Most Holy Eucharist Ecclesia de Eucharistia published on 17th April 2003, has underlined sadly the abuses in the celebration of the Eucharist in recent years by way of adaptations and innovations and called for a pure celebration with the liturgical norms set forth by the Church and thus to preserve the dignity of the sacrament of Eucharist. As a follow up of this encyclical, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published gain the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum on 19th March 2004. This document does no more than reassert the liturgical norm in force. At the first reading of Redemptionis Sacramentum, one may be prone to say that this Instruction seems to be more juridical than liturgical in nature. It enumerates not only the liturgical norms, but also fixes canonical sanction for the violation or the non observation of the norms, in the liturgical celebrations. But in depth the Instruction responds to the urgent need for a “liturgical spirituality’. It is much interested in bringing out and exposing the faith in the celebrations, looking at the liturgy from the angle of theology. Liturgy can not thus be made as a free zone for experimentation and private arbitration. The abuses in the celebration can no way be justified in the name of the pastoral adaptation. Giving theological, pastoral and juridical guidance in the celebration of the liturgy, especially of the Most Holy Eucharist, the Instruction calls for a pure celebration of the Eucharist as the Church wants, and which is a right of the every Christian faithful.