20 December 2008

Communion in the hand

The normal Anglican custom is as follows. The communicant very reverently kneels (unless infirm) at the communion rails. He extends a left hand, flat, palm uppermost, and his right hand on top of it, palm uppermost. The Host is placed on the right palm, and he moves both hands up to his mouth, taking the host off his palm with his moist tongue. (The details of this are based on a Tractarian reading of some patristic practices, and thus have a usage of about a century and a half. Previous Anglican reception in the hand had been less neat, but had nevertheless taken place at the altar rails and kneeling. The kneeling had been a battleground in English Christianity ever since the 'Reformatiom'.) Incidentally, when I say 'normal Anglican', I mean just that. I have in mind such admirable people as the parishioners of the six completely 'middle of the road' Devon parishes I served between 2001 and 2007. I am not just talking about Anglo-Catholicism. Indeed, 'extremely advanced' churches are at some risk of having adoped the less desireable habits of contemporary faddish Catholicism.

Among most Roman Catholics, the communicant saunters up to where the altar rail was before it was thrown out, receives the host in one hand, turns, and walks away; while walking he transfers in a very matter-of-fact way the Host from his hand to his mouth with the thumb and forefinger of his other hand.

I know which I consider the more decorous. For what it's worth, I have known members of the Church of Ireland (not one of our more papalist provinces) comment adversely upon the irreverence of what has become the RC norm.

I am all for preserving the Anglican custom, and very often employ it myself. I am made all the more comfortable in it by the knowledge that a Vatican Instruction in the pontificate of Paul VI (Memoriale Domini of May 29, 1969, which is after the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass) allowed communion in the hand to continue where it was the established custom and where there were good and verifiable reasons for it. What is disgraceful is the unprincipled use of this very guarded exception by Roman liturgical modernisers to enforce their innovatory preferences (generated by their own heterodoxies with regard to the reality of the Eucharistic Presence) throughout their communion.

So I applaud the return under this pontificate to the decencies of the preBugnini era; without in any way wishing to discourage our decent traditional Anglican ways.


Pastor in Monte said...

Yes, I can't disagree with you. The most disagreeable part is the walking away with the Host while still consuming It. I think this queue-Communion was based on the Eastern practice ('therefore more ancient', sic) which, initially, did not envisage Communion in the hand. Given the practice of Communion in the hand, I agree that the Anglican custom of reception is the more reverent. It slightly sticks in my throat (as it were) to have to encourage Tiber-swimmers to change their practice to one that neither of us is entirely comfortable with—though they can always choose to receive on the tongue.
That, to the priest, presents other problems. To give communion on the tongue to someone standing and unbraced by rails, is to attempt to hit a moving target, and, more, to one unsteady on his legs. I have often thought of the Curé of Ars who maintained that Hosts had flown from his hand to the communicant's mouth; it has sometime seemed to me, too, that only an act of God has prevented a Host falling to earth from the tongue of an over-tall or doddery communicant to whom I have given the Lord.

Young fogey emeritus said...

Fr H, exactly.

Pastor in Valle, all I can add is the real Eastern practices with standing Communion don't offend me like modern RC does. First, no Communion in the hand. Second, pious practices (the servers flanking the priest to hold the houselling cloth under the communicant's chin for example) that are the equivalent of the traditional Roman and Anglican ways.

The lie from the revisionists that their ways are more Eastern really must be stopped. When you add an icon, a token deacon and an epiklesis to essentially a Protestant service you have... essentially a Protestant service.

Independent said...

I wonder if kneeling for Holy Communion is still forbidden in Catholic Churches in Canada. A Nova Scotian parish actually had several people who knelt arrested. According to Malcolm Muggeridge's daughter -in -law in her book "The Desolate City" (p 129) Bishop William Power of Antigonish,in 1982 testified against them in court. He testified thus "it seems now more suitable in relationship to the way we perceive the ... eucharist, that we stand. Previously it seemed the most suitable way ... to receive communion kneeling. Now the custom has come the other way and I have approved of it". Has anything changed?

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

The lie from the revisionists that their ways are more Eastern really must be stopped.

Precisely. I am familiar with a bi-ritual parish, where the pastor celebrates both the Novus Ordo Missae and a Russian Catholic Divine Liturgy (in English, using OCA translations). The contrast could not be more striking.

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

I've seen the reverent Anglican communion-in-the-hand-with-kneeling Fr Hunwicke describes. I agree that it's not the same as the typical Novus Ordo practice.

At the same time, I do wonder if there is not a serious disconnect in a place which has this form of Communion AND where the Priest observes the older Roman custom of keeping thumbs and forefingers together after the Consecration until the Ablutions.

This was pointed out to me by an Orthodox bishop, who was puzzled to find precisely the situation I describe above in an Anglican Use, Western Rite Orthodox parish.

Little Black Sambo said...

If it was ok for St John Chrysostom it should be ok for us.