Friday, April 24, 2020

Stump the Priest: The Reserved Sacrament

A Communion Set for bringing Communion to the Sick

Question: "With access to services being limited due to the Coronavirus lockdown, we have been told that we can be given communion from the Reserved Sacrament, but this is something I know almost nothing about. Is there some form of prayer or other service used when receiving communion in this way? How should I prepare or fast? Are there differences that may be applicable if one is healthy and receiving or ill? What exactly is the Reserved Sacrament? Does include the Blood or is it just the Body?"

What is the Reserved Sacrament?

The Reserved Sacrament is very similar to the Eucharist that the faithful partake of at the Presanctified Liturgy. The Presanctified Eucharist is prepared at a regular Liturgy. An additional Lamb (the Eucharistic Bread to be consecrated at the Liturgy) is prepared for each Presanctified Liturgy that will be celebrated in the coming week. Before the clergy commune, they take these Lambs, and they are intinctured, which means that the priest takes the spoon and carefully pours small amounts of the consecrated Blood on the Lamb, and then this is placed into an artophorion (αρτοφοριον, which literally means a "bread bearer").

An Artophorion similar to the one we have in our parish.

An artophorion is designed to allow the Presanctified Eucharist to dry, without it drying too much. The Reserved Sacrament is prepared in exactly the same way, but it is not immediately placed into an artophorion or a tabernacle (which is a larger container, that is normally kept on the altar year round).

A Tabernacle

How is the Reserved Sacrament Prepared

Ideally, the Reserved Sacrament is prepared on Holy Thursday (which commemorates the Mystical Supper and the Establishment of the Eucharist by Christ), but it can be prepared at any full Liturgy. The difference between preparing the Reserved Sacrament and what is done with a Presanctified Lamb, is that rather than putting the whole Lamb into an artophorion, after the Liturgy is concluded, the priest cuts this Lamb into pieces appropriate for communion people. Some priests simply leave this in a diskos that is covered, and allow it to dry in that way. Our service books tell us to heat these particles so that they are completely dry.

The service book does not spell out exactly how this is to be done, beyond saying that a brick is to be placed on the Antimins, and that the particles are to be heated over burning coals, stirred regularly, and removed from the heat, and then returned to the heat as many times as is necessary to dry them thoroughly, but without burning them.

There may be a better method of doing it than the one I came up with, but what I did was to take a tin coffee can, with the bottom removed (the can needs to be a bit wider than the brick, for the air to flow properly). I took a pair of pliers to put crimps along the top, to allow the flow of air, and then used a ceramic bowl, which with sand in the bottom of it (in order to elevate the coals), and so those parts are arranged as is seen in this picture:

I then place the bottom of a larger tin coffee can on top of that, which then allowed me to place a liturgical plate on top on top of it, which looks like this:

The liturgical plate with the Reserved Sacrament is placed on it, and stirred.

 I found doing it with about 5 minutes on, followed by 5 minutes off, and repeating this for about 30 to 40 minutes, worked well. This allowed me to use two plates, and to rotate them. The particles were constantly stirred with the liturgical spear, while over the heat.

In the Tabernacle, there is a drawer that slides out, into which these particles are to be placed. The service books say that if the material of the tabernacle is not gold or silver, it should be lined with paper. Ours is gold plated on the outside, but not inside of the drawer, and so I use a large index card, and cut it to line the drawer, and then placed these particles in it -- after, of course, allowing them to cool down and to air on a covered diskos for about a day.

How is the Reserved Sacrament Brought to People?

Normally, the Reserved Sacrament is used to commune people who are too sick to come to Church, but it is also used to commune people who cannot come to Church for other reasons. For example, it is used to bring communion to prisoners who do not have access to a liturgy in prison. There are Communion sets specifically designed for this purpose.

A communion set similar to one of the sets that we use in our parish.

These sets have a container sufficient to hold as many portions of the Eucharist as will be needed, a small spoon, and a small chalice. Often, they also have a container that can hold some communion wine. This set is further placed into a pouch of some sort that the priest can carry around his neck.

How Should Someone Prepare to Receive the Reserved Sacrament?

Normally, you should prepare in the same way that you would when you are preparing to receive communion at a regular Liturgy. If someone is sick, obviously, their ability to fast may be limited or non-existent. Also, if someone was near death, there would be no time for them to do pre-communion prayers, at least not at any great length. You should also prepare for confession.

What Happens When the Priest Arrives?

The first thing I do, is to find a sturdy table that I can place the holy things on. Often, this is the family dining table. I lay out one communion cloth on the table, and then open up the Communion Set, pour some wine into the chalice (this wine is not consecrated), and then place the portions of the Eucharist into the chalice that will be necessary to commune those present. Doing this first allows time for these portions to soak in the wine, so that they will be soft by the time Communion is given. While the wine poured into the chalice is not consecrated, the reason why there was an intincturing when preparing the Reserved Sacrament was so that both the Body and the Blood would be in the Reserved Sacrament.

I then hear the confessions of those who will be communed. Then, we use the service of "The Office When in Extreme Urgency Occasion Arises To Give Communion to a Sick Person," If there are other people present, I will ask them to hold the Communion Cloth under the chin of the person who is being communed. Communion is given to those who have prepared, the services is concluded, and then I cleanse the chalice, and put things away. Those who have communed can say the prayers of Thanksgiving right away, or after the priest leaves, but they should say it one way or another, unless they are too ill to do so. If someone is too ill to read prayers, someone can read the prayers aloud for them to hear.