Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Thursday, June 26, 2008

Proposal: Extend the Communion fast

I have just published a short article proposing that the Communion fast (1983 CIC 919) be calculated from the start of Mass (instead of from the reception of Communion) and that the fast be extended to three hours (instead of the current one hour). See Edward Peters, "The Communion Fast: a Reconsideration", Antiphon 11 (2007) 234-244. Briefly, my reasons are:

1. A one hour "fast" is physically insufficient to bring the human body into a fasting state, meaning that the spiritual benefits long associated with corporal preparation for Communion are lost.

2. Making reception of Communion relevant to calculating the fast leads to distracting cogitations about the liturgy itself (e.g., worrying about whether the length of the homily or sung responses or angling to the end of the Communion line might allow one to complete the fast in time).

3. Calculating the fast from reception of Communion reinforces the assumption of many that "going to Communion" is the only important thing about Mass (rather than helping them see, e.g., the Sunday obligation as a liturgical one fundamentally oriented to worship).

4. A fast oriented only to reception of Communion diminishes the faithful's appreciation for the Liturgy of the Word as an encounter with Christ worthy of preparation in its own right (see Mk VI: 34-42 on Jesus' example of teaching hungry people before He fed them).

5. The brevity of the current fast means that Catholics with guilty or doubtful consciences have no discrete way to refrain from going up to Communion without attracting attention, resulting in pressure on them to approach the Eucharist under conditions that risk profanation.

6. Imposing as a requirement of law what is scarcely impossible to avoid doing anyway (how many people really eat and drink on their way to Mass?) makes legal norms seem like empty exercises, in turn fostering a diminished respect for the role of law in ecclesiastical society.

My article outlines these problems in light of the history of the Communion fast and demonstrates, I think, that reforming the Communion fast as proposed above would resolve each of these issues quickly and completely.

We'll see who might agree.

PS: If you don't already know the Society for Catholic Liturgy, publisher of Antiphon, check it out today!

Update: I'll be talking about various issues related to Holy Communion with Drew Mariani today (June 26) about 6:20 pm Eastern.

I'll be talking about various issues related to the Communion fast with Kresta in the Afternoon today (June 30) about 4:20 pm Eastern .