Lest I be accused of scrupulosity in my words below, let me be clear that there should be a distinction made between true scrupulosity which is related to “obsessive, compulsive disorders” and what many would simply call a legitimate concern for certain matters, especially those of faith. For example, I wash my hands a few times a day, after using the restroom, before celebrating Mass, after touching something unclean, out of a concern for germs and hygiene and for the well being of others with whom I interact. A scrupulous person washing his hands constantly and for no other reason then a scrupulous fear of germs and other psychological issues is a completely different matter. (Do I hear “Purell,” anyone?) So with that written, let’s go head long into the topic at hand.
One of the things mine eyes has seen since celebrating the EF Mass for over two years now is the rubrical mandate that the particles of the Most Holy Eucharist that could become detached from the consecrated Host in no way be “desecrated” in any intentional or unintentional way; all precautions must be taken even liturgically. Therefore, prior to the consecration, the hands are placed on the altar outside of the corporal cloth which is carefully managed by proper folding and unfolding, using a burse,proper cleaning, etc.
After consecrating the host, the fingers and thumbs that touched the host are joined together so that not even the smallest particle of a particle could be unintentionally “desecrated.” When touching the altar, the priest does so on the corporal cloth.The priest even holds the chalice for consecration by having his index finger and thumb joined prior to taking the chalice. Prior to the priest receiving the Precious Blood, he takes the patten and scrapes the corporal cloth of any particles that could have fallen and then places these in the chalice. At the purification of the the chalice, (the priest’s fingers and thumbs still joined) the server first places wine in the chalice, so that any droplets of the Precious Blood can be reverently consumed. Then wine and water are poured into the chalice over the priest’s fingers and thumbs that may have attached to them particles of the host. The priest drys his fingers, drinks the ablutions and dries the chalice. This is “built in” piety and reverence of the EF Mass that was stripped from the OF Mass. This institutional “care,” in the EF Mass is borne of the concern for avoiding “desecration” of the Sacred Species even unintentional,and contributes to the overall respect due our Lord in the Eucharistic Species. It cannot be classified as OCD or personal scrupulosity.
Let’s fast forward to today to what many have disparagingly called the “theology of the crumbs” since the reforms of the Mass. I can remember as a teenager and very young adult seeing older priests celebrating the OF Mass using the same rubrics they were taught for the EF Mass as it concerned “crumbs, fingers, thumbs, etc.” These priests were accused of scrupulosity by others. I believed this accusation of scrupulosity to be true, because I didn’t know these priests had been trained in this custom of reverence by their celebration of the Tridentine Mass and the institutionalized piety, reverence and concern for not desecrating the Eucharistic Species of this Mass. In other words I was mistaken concerning the “rubrics” these older priests employed–it was not their scrupulosity, but their piety instilled by the EF Mass. “Lex Orandi, Lex credendi,” the law of prayer is the law of belief.
During the wild time of experimentation with the New Order of the Mass, certainly after it was promulgated,(the 1970’s) many “progressive priests, seminaries and parishes” experimented with what was euphemistically called “real bread” as opposed to the unleavened, traditional hosts of Pre-Vatican II. (Anyone recall the sarcastic remark that it was harder to believe that these traditional hosts were real bread, let alone the real Body and Blood of our Savior?)
In my seminary we used bread that had honey in the recipe and salt that in fact acted as a leaven. And in fact, when receiving these “hosts” at Holy Communion, significant crumbs remained on the palm of one’s hand. (More about that below)!