Monday, September 26, 2011

Sacra Tridentina (Decree on Frequent and Daily Reception of Holy Communion) 1905 - Part 2

The will of God in this respect was well understood by the first Christians; and they daily hastened to this Table of life and strength. They continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread. The holy Fathers and writers of the Church testify that this practice was continued into later ages and not without great increase of holiness and perfection.

Piety, however, grew cold, and especially afterward because of the widespread plague of Jansenism, disputes began to arise concerning the dispositions with which one ought to receive frequent and daily Communion; and writers vied with one another in demanding more and more stringent conditions as necessary to be fulfilled. The result of such disputes was that very few were considered worthy to receive the Holy Eucharist daily, and to derive from this most health-giving Sacrament its more abundant fruits; the others were content to partake of it once a year, or once a month, or at most once a week. To such a degree, indeed, was rigorism carried that whole classes of persons were excluded from a frequent approach to the Holy Table, for instance, merchants or those who were married.

Some, however, went over to the opposite view. They held that daily Communion was prescribed by divine law and that no day should pass without communicating, and besides other practices not in accord with the approved usage of the Church, they determined that the Eucharist must be received even on Good Friday and in fact so administered it.

Toward these conditions, the Holy See did not fail in its duty. A Decree of this Sacred Congregation which begins with the words Cum ad aures, issued on February 12, 1679, with the approbation of Pope Innocent XI, condemned these errors, and put a stop to such abuses; at the same time it declared that all the faithful of whatsoever class, merchants or married persons not at all excepted, could be admitted to frequent Communion according to the devotion of each one and the judgment of his confessor. Then on December 7, 1690, by the Decree of Pope Alexander VIII, Sanctissimus Dominus noster, the proposition of Baius was condemned, requiring a most pure love of God, without any admixture of defect, on the part of those who wished to approach the Holy Table.

The poison of Jansenism, however, which, under the pretext of showing due honor and reverence to the Eucharist, had infected the minds even of good men, was by no means a thing of the past. The question as to the dispositions for the proper and licit reception of Holy Communion survived the declarations of the Holy See, and it was a fact that certain theologians of good repute were of the opinion that daily Communion could be permitted to the faithful only rarely and subject to many conditions.
On the other hand, there were not wanting men endowed with learning and piety who offered an easier approach to this practice, so salutary and so pleasing to God. They taught, with the authority of the Fathers, that there is no precept of the Church which prescribes more perfect dispositions in the case of daily than of weekly or monthly Communion; while the fruits of daily Communion will be far more abundant than those of Communion received weekly or monthly.

In our own day the controversy has been continued with increased warmth, and not without bitterness, so that the minds of confessors and the consciences of the faithful have been disturbed, to the no small detriment of Christian piety and fervor. Certain distinguished men, themselves pastors of souls, have as a result of this, urgently begged His Holiness, Pope Pius X, to deign to settle, by his supreme authority, the question concerning the dispositions required to receive the Eucharist daily; so that this practice, so salutary and so pleasing to God, not only might suffer no decrease among the faithful, but rather that it increase and everywhere be promoted, especially in these days when religion and the Catholic faith are attacked on all sides, and the true love of God and piety are so frequently lacking. His Holiness, being most earnestly desirous, out of his solicitude and zeal, that the faithful should be invited to the sacred banquet as often as possible, even daily, and should benefit by its most abundant fruits, committed the aforesaid question to this Sacred Congregation, to be studied and decided definitely (definiendam).

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