On Concomitance and Communion in One Kind

Pastor Mark has left a comment on my post on shrouding images during Lent:

Never mind the shrouding , David, what about the mangled Mass? Not offering both kinds? Surely, you don’t buy concomitance? After all, if true, why would our Lord bother with the wine anyway? Another reason not to be Catholic, I’m afraid.

Well, yes, Pastor, I do “buy concomitance” because it is a doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Catechism has a simple statement on this (without using the technical term):

1390 Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But “the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly” [GIRM 240]. This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.

But I am aware of the need to give a little more consideration to the matter. The usual story given in liturgical histories is that the chalice was first withheld from the faithful around the 11th Century due to a growing respect for and adoration of the Eucharistic species. This is a little too simple. It certainly doesn’t take into account the broad history of the varying practices regarding communion. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1911 – and so not “up to date” with current ecclesiastical law, but still helpful) notes that:

there existed from the earlist times the custom of communicating in certain cases under one kind alone. This custom is exemplified (1) in the not infrequent practice of private domestic Communion, portion of the Eucharistic bread being brought by the faithful to their homes and there reserved for this purpose; (2) in the Communion of the sick, which was usually administered under the species of bread alone; (3) in the Communion of children which was usually given, even in the churches, under the species of wine alone, but sometimes under the species of bread alone; (4) in the Communion under the species of bread alone at the Mass of the Presanctified, and as an optional practice, in some churches on ordinary occasions. To these examples may be added (5) the practice of the intinctio panis, i.e. the dipping of the consecrated bread in the Precious Blood and its administration per modum cibi. We will notice briefly the history of each of these divergent practices.

The Encyclopedia gives more detail on each of these, but I believe there is more detail yet that we should take into account. For instance, what are “the pastoral reasons” (as the Catechism calls them) for communion “under one kind”?

Keep in mind first that Catholics understand the Eucharistic action a little differently from Protestants. Since Protestants see it primarily as a “meal” for the whole community to share (a not infrequent understanding to be found in some modern Catholic writing) it is, of course, necessary that the “Do this” of our Lord is seen to apply to all the people. But for Catholics, the Mass is offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and this sacrificial act is completed when the celebrating priest communes himself on both Eucharistic species. As the Encyclopedia article states:

In reference to the Eucharist as a sacrifice, the communion, under both kinds, of the celebrating priest belongs at least to the integrity, and, according to some theologians, to the essence, of the sacrificial rite, and may not therefore be omitted without violating the sacrificial precept of Christ: “Do this for a commemoration of me” (Luke 22:19). This is taught implicitly by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXI, c. i; XXII, c. i). (b) There is no Divine precept binding the laity or non-celebrating priests to receive the sacrament under both kinds (Trent, sess. XXI, c. i.) (c) By reason of the hypostatic union and of the indivisibility of His glorified humanity, Christ is really present and is received whole and entire, body and blood, soul and Divinity, under either species alone; nor, as regards the fruits of the sacrament, is the communicant under one kind deprived of any grace necessary for salvation (Trent, Sess. XXI, c., iii).

That being said, back to the “pastoral reasons” why the laity and non-celebrating priests might well receive communion only under the “kind” of the species of the Eucharistic bread.

Some years ago, as a Lutheran pastor, I was put in charge of organising a Eucharistic liturgy for a large gathering of Lutherans in Geelong. There were about 600 or 700 communicants. We procured additional chalices and flagons for the wine, and we had several “distribution points” around the large gymnasium in which the service was held. To facilitate the communion and the pouring of the wine into the chalices for all the people, we had tables set up around the space at each “distribution point”. Afterward, when it was time to pack up, I was somewhat distressed to see that there was spilt wine over all the tables where the pouring had taken place.

First keep in mind that up until recently (in both Lutheran and Catholic liturgies) only the ordained minister(s) could distribute the Eucharist. This meant that way of distribution was needed to commune large numbers of people efficiently (time-wise) and with a minimum of possibility of profanation of the Eucharistic species. Using unleavened bread pre-baked into wafers was one way of ensuring that crumbs of the Eucharistic bread were not spilled in the “breaking”. In the East, where leavened bread was used, the solution was found to place the bread in the chalice and for the priest to distribute it with a spoon into the mouths of the communicants. Even this method was difficult for a large number of communicants. In the West, communion under one kind seemed the best way to go, given the historical precedent for this (as outlined in the Encyclopedia).

At the same time, numbers of communicants at liturgies in the middle ages in both East and West were not as high as they have customarily become in recent years in the West. You might think of the 400,000 that received communion at the Papal Mass at Randwick during the 2008 World Youth Day. Or you might think simply in terms of the couple of hundred of people at St Mary’s in Cowes yesterday, or even the regular hundreds who attend masses in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. In all these cases, communion under both kinds would be very difficult both in terms of efficiency (keeping the communion time to under 10-15 minutes) and in terms of protecting the Eucharistic species from profanation.

So it seems to me that given the truth that “Christ is really present and is received whole and entire, body and blood, soul and Divinity, under either species alone”, it is a suitable and responsible pastoral decision to offer communion under only the species of the Eucharistic bread.

I would have to do much more study on the history of the practice to understand it completely. If I had a time machine, one thing I would like to do is to do a documentary on the development of the practice of the Eucharistic Liturgy over the ages. We don’t have any such thing, of course, but I simply caution Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics alike not to assume that just because “this is the way we do it today”, that this is the way communion has always been administered.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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20 Responses to On Concomitance and Communion in One Kind

  1. William Weedon says:

    Just to note: the Lutheran Symbols really do not register an opinion on concomitance other than to regard it as a sophistry, for it matters not if as much is under one kind as under the other, the command of our Lord is clear: “Drink of it, all of you.” His clear command trumps any ecclesial tradition that contradicts it – at least for us Lutherans. So for us it is an open and shut case. Yet, I do find it highly significant that when Dr. Luther returned from the Wartburg he reinstituted communion under only one kind for some time, as he sought to catechize the people. In the US, it is not uncommon for alcoholics or glutton intolerant folk to receive under one kind or the other, but both kinds are always offered to all. FWIW.

    • Schütz says:

      FWIW, I knew someone would pull the “Drink of it, all of you” line! I’ve given a bit of thought to this, and concluded it is not unlike using the Romans passage which says “all have sinned” in the Immaculate Conception debate (note to Pastor Mark: I am sorry my comments on your Bernard of Clairvaux post went missing – I will get back to it sooner or later). The important question is “Who is meant by’all’ in this text?” Well, everyone, you might say, isn’t that what “all” means? Yes, but even in Lutheran practice “all” are not offered the cup. Many Lutherans (including you, Pastors William and Mark) practice “close communion”, which means only those who share your Lutheran faith are allowed to commune. And it doesn’t include impenitant sinners, or the unbaptised. So, okay, there is a limitation to the “all” even from your side.

      But let us ask: was Jesus (omniscient that one day some ecclesiastical authority would pull the plug on the laity communing from the chalice) giving liturgical instructions for the future here? Well, no, that would be silly and quite poor exegesis. The “all” in the text clearly refers to “all” the disiciples present. We could ask why he especially added the “all” to the words over the chalice, when he didn’t use them over the loaf. Pretty simple, I would say: because while it is normal for us in daily life to share a loaf of bread (each taking a slice, or a broken portion – after all, he broke the bread but didn’t pour the chalice into little cups) but not so normal all to share a single cup of wine. So the “drink of it, all of you” was simply directions to the disciples that they were all to share the one cup, rather than to drink from other cups they had at their table. That might be pressing the exegesis too far, so I won’t press it. But the all were clearly “all” the disciples.

      Here too is a difference in how Catholics and Lutherans read certain texts in which Jesus gave authority to the apostles. We have always taken the command “Do this” as conferring the priestly office upon the apostles, just as we read “Whosever sins you forgive” as refering to the apostolic priestly office, and the so-called “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 as confering authority on the ministerial office and not to all Christians.

      And if this was indeed a “command of the Lord” that everyone (ie. all the baptised, repentant, absolved, and believing Christians present but not anyone else) should commune on the chalice, then what would justify Luther’s “pastoral consideration” in choosing for a time to withhold the chalice for catechisation? Or the early and established practice of sending the Eucharist to the sick under only one kind? Seems as if you are stretching things a bit to me.

    • Schütz says:

      And also, it isn’t “sophistry” if it is true. Let me ask you: do you believe that when alcoholics receive only the host or caeliacs receive only the consecrated wine, that they do not receive communion of “the whole Christ”?

  2. David,

    Ditto William on the Lord’s command and the church’s obedience to it. There is, of course, an issue of ecclesial authority underneath all this.

    You mention large celebrations; personally I’ve always had reservations (no pun intended!) about extraordinarily large celebrations of the Lord’s Supper outside the context of a normal congregational worship, and the difficulties of serving the elements in a respectful manner are central to those concerns. I was present at the communion service at the LCA synod in Tanunda in 2000, in the visitors’ gallery towards the front, above the altar, and what I witnessed there did nothing to assuage my concerns about such celebrations. But that’s a practical matter which surely doesn’t warrant mangling the Mass? Perhaps intinction for all would be a way around the problem in such settings (does the RC approve intinction, btw?; I’m assuming yes)? In any case, presumably there weren’t thousands at Cowes :0)

    • Schütz says:

      Well, there were hundreds, anyway. As I said, pastoral considerations. We don’t regard it as “mangling the Mass” as it would still be a full complete and valid Mass if only the priest were to commune.

      • Well, as an ex-Lutheran you are surely likely to know what this Lutheran thinks about Masses where only the priest communes, David.
        By mangling I refer specifically to not offering the cup to the laity, as was our Lord’s express will (“Take and drink, this (= the wine) is my blood…”; i.e. the express means of communing sacramentally with the blood of Jesus is by drinking the consecrated wine. Concomitance is not only sophistry, it is poor exegesis which does not take our Lord’s words literally (or seriously?) at this most solemn institution of the sacrament.

        Btw, David, the Lutheran exegesis of ‘Do this…’, ‘Whosoever…’, and Matt 28 would not differ substantially from the Catholic exegesis, up to that point where the Catholics insert a sacerdotal dimension to the ministry. We also take those texts as referring to the Apostolate, which power and authority has descended upon the ordained ministers of the church, and not the laity, so I’m not sure what your point is there.

        Finally, David, I think your reference to “the whole Christ” being received by alcoholics is an example of the confused thinking the generalised Catholic theologising on the sacraments leads us to; it is not “the whole Christ” (whatever that is!) that we receive in the sacrament, but very specifically the body given sacrificially into death for us and the blood shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. Talk of receiving “the whole Christ” and we might as well all surrender to Zwinglianism or meet on the middle ground of Calvin. I would be much happier if you would talk in specifics, David, not generalities, or hypotheticals for that matter, upon which no doctrine of the sacrament of the altar can be constructed.

        • Schütz says:

          I don’t really get you on this one, Mark. By “the Whole Christ”, I mean that in Holy Communion (whether under one or both “kinds”) we receive not only the body but also the blood of Christ. We receive not only his physical human nature but also his human soul. We receive not only his humanity, but also his Divine nature. Hence the Catholic phrase – about as anti-Zwinglian as you could possibly get – that in Holy Communion we receive the “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” of Christ. The “Whole” Christ, so to speak. If it is “not the whole Christ (whatever that is)” that we receive in Holy Communion, what is it? Is Christ divided?, as St Paul asked? Are his “body and blood” just “parts” of Christ?

          I am also conscious of the OT background to the Eucharistic sacrifice, in which the blood and the flesh of the sacrifice had different uses. In the Fellowship sacrifice, neither the people nor the priests consumed the blood, but rather shared together the eating of the flesh of the animal. “Communion” is communion in the sacrificed victim, and this was complete with the eating of the flesh.

          And the “take drink” is fulfilled when the priest “takes and drinks”. Nothing in the teaching of the New Testament requires everyone present to commune on the chalice (or at all, for that matter). In fact, it is hard to envisage that this was Christ’s absolute intention, for he said nothing about flagons and multiple cups, but only one cup of wine. A single cup of wine could never do more than 50 or so communicants. Do Lutherans have any liturgical evidence for the consecration of wine in flagons (rather than in the single cup) which was later poured into the chalice(s) prior to the Reformation? I would find such evidence very interesting. I know of no such evidence either in the East or the West. This would seem to indicate that although the chalice was offered to the laity as well (or with) the bread, not everyone present got to commune on both – when the cup of wine ran out, it ran out. This has been my experience even at modern Catholic masses when communion is given in both kinds. Pouring the consecrated Precious Blood is forbidden in the Catholic rite.

  3. Nick says:

    My understand is this: the use of both bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ, reminds us of His death on the cross—the separation of one’s blood from one’s body is death—and, consequently, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. So it’s more than appropriate to administer Communion under both species and there’s good reason for Christ to “bother with the wine”. However, in the Eucharist we receive the Body of the Living Christ and the Blood of the Living Christ—body and blood are not separate, for Christ has conquered death. Having Communion under one species is perfectly satisfactory.

  4. Jim Ryland says:

    An interesting debate, gentlemen; one with roots that reach far back into our history.

    We have a tendency to debate matters ecclesial (logically) in that rarefied atmosphere when there may be a somewhat simpler causative factor. The “small ice age” which actually began in the late 1400’s and extended into the 19th century destroyed most of the grapes that had flourished during the medieval warming period. Wine production was limited to the warmer Mediterranean regions and it rivaled gold in its value. It is at about this period that we begin to see the debates over intinction and single specie Eucharistic administration. I’m not saying that there were not earlier debates, however this natural disaster certainly brought the subject to the forefront.

    .I have no doubt that the Eucharist is efficacious regardless of the method of administration but I tend to lean toward Pastor Mark’s approach when I say that it seems as though something is missing. The Church has always extolled the Precious Blood and to exclude it from the Eucharist when administered to the congregation seems somehow less than what Our Lord intended.

  5. Stephen K says:

    Reading the above exchanges, there seems to me to be three (maybe more) ways of approaching this question: (1) on the level of memorial symbolism; (2) on a doctrinal level of sacramental efficacy; (3) on a practical administrative level.

    As to (1), no amount of exegetical or theological analysis can sensibly lead one to conclude that receiving both bread and wine is not more representative, symbolically and memorially, of both the Last Supper action and the bloody death on Calvary than receiving one species alone, or that, where a congregation is present and participating, the reception of either one or both is not equally integral to the notion of the Eucharistic action (whether “meal” or “sacrificial action”) as the celebrant’s reception. Lutherans 1, Catholics 0.

    As to (2), existentially and anatomically body and blood are almost co-extensive and interdependent. There is no living body without blood. It must logically follow that reception of the bread species alone must entail the notion of reception of “both” (body and blood) since there are in a real and vital sense, not “two” but one “presence” only. Catholics 1, others 0.

    As to (3), well, there may be and may have been sound reasons to distribute either one or both species from points of view of availability, ease and cost, and the subordination of either of the above to this consideration. All Christians, a half-point each.

    • Schütz says:

      As you will have read in my original post, Stephen, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal states that ““the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly” [GIRM 240]. There is no argument there. The question is whether it is mandatory that everyone commune upon both the Host and the Precious Blood.

  6. Jon says:

    Whatever considerations led the Catholic church to define the doctrine of concomitance, the doctrine certainly didn’t emerge from the liturgy. The “Pange Lingua Gloriosi” contains beautiful poetry of bread changed to body, wine changed to blood. And the everyday words spoken at the distribution differ by species; one never hears “the body and blood of Christ…” Not to say that this is conclusive, but the “lex orandi” hints at a distinction between the two species.


    • Schütz says:

      That is quite true, Jon. We don’t refer to the either consecrated Host alone or the consecrated chalice alone as “the body AND blood” of Christ. When the priest distributes in only one kind, he still only says “The Body of Christ”, not “The Body AND Blood of Christ”. No argument there. The doctrine of Concomitance isn’t saying this. What it is saying is that those who commune under only one kind are not in any way being deprived of any sacramental grace, nor are they in some way receiving only “part” of Christ, for who ever communes in either “kind” receives the “Whole Christ”, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The integrity of the sacramental elements remains.

  7. Jim Ryland says:

    My late wife and I delighted in hosting suppers and evening parties populated by my fellow church musicians and clergy. The mix was always top-heavy with Anglicans, Lutherans, and a few knowledgeable Romans. The conversation was always lively and we occasionally separated combatants after a bit more single-malt than was advisable. Discourse was always lively but I think that we all somehow realized that we were very “catholic” in a broad sense and often separated by bias more than by reason. I used to p*ss off the clergy by quoting Robert Browning’s wonderful poem, Abt Vogler:

    “But God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear;
    The rest may reason and welcome: ’tis we musicians know…”

    I shall never forget the comment from the late Msgr. John Siebert at one of these soirees; “You realize that we have done something that the great councils never achieved… we have discovered God’s most sacred word; the conjunction ‘and’. With it we have pierced the heart of Satan’s ‘either/or’”.

    Papa Bach had the same idea. In the Orgelbuchlein (Liturgical Year), he set the very Italian Roman Catholic hymn by Gastoldi, “In Dir ist Freude” (in its Lutheran incarnation) with a pedal line that is nothing short of God’s ‘belly-laugh’ (perhaps at our folly).

    JSB’s other great commentary came in the incarnation of a great fugue, written for the invocation of a council that was basically Lutherans versus the RC nobility. It was later included in the Clavierubungsbuch which, disguised as a keyboard teaching tool, is perhaps one of the world’s greatest catechisms on Trinitarian Doctrine. The bookends of Prelude and fugue are themselves miracles of theology and I have the feeling that my dissertation on it led to my degree simply by virtue of the faculty fearing the weight of the manuscript.

    The great fugue is based on the Lutheran Chorale; “Wir Glauben Alle”, and his tongue must have been firmly placed in his cheek when he performed it at the council.

    We all believe in One true God,
    Maker of the earth and heaven;
    The Father Who to us in love
    Hath the claim of children given.
    He in soul and body feeds us,
    All we want His hand provides us,
    Through all snares and perils leads us,
    Watches that no harm betides us;
    He cares for us by day and night,
    All things are governed by His might.

    You all thought that we musicians were a bit “wacko”. This post may provide that proof but it speaks to the Lutheran-Roman dialogue over the issues above.

  8. Henrietta says:

    I would like to comment on the issue of receiving Communion under both kinds from a very practical perspective. I think there are very good pastoral reasons today for offering Communion under both kinds. The number of people with Coeliac’s disease is increasing and it is quite problematic for these individuals to receive Communion. My husband cannot tolerate gluten and has to receive the precious blood before everyone else and from the altar. Its not an ideal situation as he feels conspicuous and would rather be able to receive without the attention of the congregation.

    It would be far easier if Communion were offered under both kinds. Furthermore given the number of children in schools with allergies, it is only a matter of time before a sizeable portion of the Congreation are not able to tolerate gluten and before you know it we’ll be having the ‘Why can’t we have rice hosts?’ argument again. I would prefer it if the Church was on the front foot about this issue and started offering the precious blood more often so we nip this issue in the bud

    • Schütz says:

      Henrietta, I certainly prefer it when there is communion in both kinds. I appreciate that just as there are pastoral reasons why communion might be given under only one kind, there are quite probably even stronger pastoral reasons why in most cases communion should be under both kinds.

      • John Nolan says:

        The problem is, David, that if communion in both kinds becomes the norm, as it has in many English parishes, people will come to believe the heretical notion that receiving in one kind is insufficient. Nor should it be seen as a job-creation scheme for the ever-expanding army of (mostly female) EMHCs.

  9. Robert says:

    Is it actually true, apropos Henrietta’s remark, that “The number of people with Coeliac’s disease is increasing”? Or is it just that this condition is now getting far more publicity than it used to get?

    If it genuinely is increasing, then why is it increasing? Our diet, after all, hasn’t changed that drastically over the last 20 years, however much the number of sufferers might have grown in Australia during the same period.

    I do know, incidentally, of two Catholics who, despite having this condition, are able to receive the Sacred Host during Communion in the ordinary way. When I asked them (separately) if their condition caused any problems for them as communicants, one of these Catholics told me that the accidents of bread are so small in the Host that she can take Communion without any physical ill-effects. The other told me, very movingly, “Our Lord would never allow me to suffer from receiving Him.”

    • Henrietta says:

      Robert, I think the rate of Coeliac’s is rising as are all allergies in general – Any teacher will tell you there are many more children with nut allergies who are anaphylactic (i.e. they could die from eating nuts within minutes) than there were even ten years ago. I have no idea why the rate of allergies is rising and this is a question that puzzles everyone!

      People with Coeliacs are often seen as a nuisance and people don’t seem to understand that for the more severe sufferer, even licking a postage stamp is enough to cause damage.

      I know a lot of Parishes don’t like using ‘Extraordinary Ministers’ to distribute the precious blood but I think something needs to be done for the Spiritual lives of those who seek Communion with our Lord in the Eucharist.

  10. John Nolan says:

    Referring to Jim’s first post: While it is true that red wine grapes were grown as far north as York from Roman times until c.1200 and climate change would have rendered this impractical, it should also be remembered that from the mid-12th century England was part of an Angevin empire which included the wine producing region of Gascony and from which England imported large quantities. Communion in both kinds for the laity gradually died out in the Latin Church during the 13th century, but I don’t think you can attribute this to global cooling. In any case, the laity did not communicate on a regular basis.

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