Friday, March 21, 2008

1st Question--a biggie

I'm struggling with the concept that there is some disparity in how reverent you are if you choose to receive Holy Communion in your hands. I think if it's okay with Rome, it shouldn't be identified as you being irreverent.


  • this is an issue being widely discussed. Reverence is required in either case. I think this is a tradition rather than a cause for division. The early Church did not have communion hosts and used hands. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 390) indicated that the early Church practiced Communion in the hand. Later, communion was received on the tongue ONLY. Now we are under an indult that ALLOWS either.
  • This instruction is from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Distribution of the Body and Blood of the Lord

41. Holy Communion under the form of bread is offered to the communicant with the words "The Body of Christ." The communicant may choose whether to receive the Body of Christ in the hand or on the tongue. When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost." (51)

51. Cf. GIRM, no. 73(GIRM-General Instructions of the Roman Missal 2002)

Personally, I see the importance of being reverent in either case, but according to the Church, the issue is being careful with the Body of Christ and proper care and reverence means that nothing should be lost to your fingers or the floor. Not many observe this level of care due mainly to lack of instruction. People that promote receiving communion on the tongue are also required to use the same care although receiving on the tongue combined with the use of a paten seems to minimize the chance of loss of any fragments (provided they consume the host with the mouth closed and yes....--don't ask).

All this said, I was trained to receive by hand. I have received on my tongue as well. I am reverent in either case. Avery (who is also reverent IMO) had a problem with the host as some of you know. He COULDN'T receive it without almost gagging when he was smaller--drove the wife NUTS! He got over it and now feels more comfortable taking it in his hands. He's gone to a TLM at Blessed Sacrament and did just fine.

I think we have to be careful to make sure we have the right motive of true Charity when we talk about all these topics. We also have to resist becoming overly scrupulous. We must be open to discuss but be gentle in our fervor to persuade. Hope this helps> I'll also try to get a TLM response to this question since I have less experience in that form.

9 comments:

Jen James said...

Thanks Adam. Amazingly thorough and refreshing!

Bess D said...

I'd like to make a comment. I'm pretty sure that the norm for the Universal Church for reception of the Body of Christ in on the tongue (ordinary form), and that we in the US have the option of receiving the Host in our hands (extraordinary form), due to an indult granted by the Holy See. I just recently heard that Pope Benedict has announced that this particular indult will be reviewed in the very near future, and Rome will announce whether or not we will be able to continue receiving Jesus in this manner. I don't know when it will be decided. While it is true that the early Christians received the Eucharist in the hand, it should be noted that this is a "discipline" of the Church and may be changed at any time in order to ensure the proper reverence due the Blessed Sacrament. We just have to wait and see...and accept what Mother Church asks of us with charity and humility.

Adam said...

Gee Bess--that's really very good. I certainly hope I conveyed the same thoughts in my post

Cari said...
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Adam said...
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Pam said...

Bess, that is interesting to me. So is it only in the USA that we can receive in our hands?

Also, are Eucharistic ministers the norm in other countries? I admit to having a difficult time with this practice. I want communion from the priest/deacon only!

Theresa said...

I saw Cardinal Arinze on EWTN in 2004 being interviewed by Raymond Arroyo on The World Over Live. He was asked this question and replied that it is preferable (I believe that was his word) to receive on the tongue. If you're interested and have the time, you can find the interview on EWTN's archives for Feb. of '04, I believe.

Adam said...

Pam-No there are other countries that allow Communion on the hand. Maybe Bess can answer the Eucharistic Minister questiion or I'll have an answer later today-which is for I don't know--I'll go ask one of our resources...

Theresa-Good reference--This is yet one more reason that all this is being discussed.

Mark R said...

I find it a bit puzzling when someone expresses a desire to receive communion only from the hands of a priest or deacon. After all, it is the same Jesus we receive in all cases. What makes receiving from a priest different than receiving from an extraordinary minister?

Personally, I would be perfectly happy to see the communion rails put back at my church so that everyone could kneel to receive Jesus. I usually receive on the tongue, not because I consider it more reverent than in the hand, but because, knowing that it is the norm for the Church worldwide, I figure I should prefer to do that and only use my hands in certain circumstances (such as when I am in line for a blind EMHC I know; I would rather not try to move his hands to my mouth and risk dropping the Host.).