10 July 2020

Communion in the Hand (3)

But Stay. Surely, we should find out what the Primitive Church did at Communion time, and just follow that?

Fair enough. But we shall still need to sort out some of the more minor details. For example: when we prostrate ourselves flat upon the ground before Communion, should we (1) kiss the ground; or (2) kiss the priest's foot? (Or both?) 'Primitive' usage appears to have differed from place to place. (2) could be deemed a breach of social-distancing. But if we do (1), might this not spread the virus if we all kiss the same spot upon the ground?

Should we touch the Lord's Body to our eyes? Not a bad idea, emphasising the importance of custody-of-the-eyes. If my lips are moist from the Chalice, should I touch that moisture to all my senses? How about the common ancient custom of communicating bare-foot? But this might  lead to a spate of shoe-thieves infesting our churches. Just imagine the clustering spivs outside the Brompton Oratory after Sunday Mass: "'Ere, Missus, pair of Gucci double G ankle-boots 'ardly worn at all fifty quid to you."

I hope it will not seem that I am writing irreverently in highlighting the the variety of customs common in antiquity ... indeed, throughout the first Christian millennium. In fact, I am going to make the point that all this bewildering diversity expresses one single very simple and extremely important perception.

Receiving Holy Communion is such an immensely significant action that it ought to be surrounded by a lot of fuss and bother, tons and tons and tons of ritual and 'palaver'.

For this reason, it seems to me that kneeling is, in many ways, more important than the question of hand or mouth. Not that I am criticising or discouraging in os. I am saying what I am saying: that I think kneeling is even more important.

One more part in this series.


Cosmos said...

Father, thank you. I think this post strikes precisely heart of the matter.

The issue is not whether or not communion in the hand is inherently inferior--that is an argument without end--or somehow debased--there is too much history to make this claim convincingly.

The central issue regarding the "modern" practice of communion in the hand is whether it is insufficiently reverent/pious since it clearly lends itself very easily to a hurried, "assembly line"-esque, and ultimately casual manner of receiving.

Whatever their interior disposition, too many recipients looks as if they are disinterestedly going through the motions, and the Church officials look like they are efficiently herding people through some moderately important service.

Regardless of the technological arguments, this is what actually happens. Is it acceptable?

BrionyB said...

I agree that the way Communion in the hand often works in practice (with the communicant picking up the sacred Host in their fingers and popping it into their mouth as they walk away, perhaps these days fumbling with a face mask at the same time) is disedifying to say the least. There are also valid concerns about sacrilege (stealing or discarding the Host) being easier, and about what happens to crumbs left on the hands or dropped on the floor.

However, it can be done more reverently and with care. One method I have seen recently (post-Covid) is placing the Host on an individual cloth laid over the hands of each (kneeling) communicant, which is then purified by the priest afterwards.

Kneeling vs. standing, though - well, others may do as seems right to them, and as their physical abilities allow. But for myself, knowing what I am and what He is, God forbid that I should ever in this life approach my Lord and God truly present and not find myself on my knees...

Catholic News and Issues said...

To see the gradual loss of the sense of the sacred brought about, as I believe, by the practice of communion in the hand, consider: Most Catholics no longer genuflect or make the sign of the cross upon entering and leaving the church. Many stop in the communion line to greet or pass a word with those they pass. Few honor their Easter duty to confess once a year and, in fact often go years without the sacrament of Penance. And, finally, 70 percent of Catholics claim not to believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.
We must also remember that communion in the hand began as an act of disobedience and deception engineered by rebellious clergy against the ruling of the Pope. That fact alone should cause alarm and engender scepticism about the practice. I was alive at the time, and have based my decision to receive on the tongue partly on this fact which seems so obviously of bad intent and origin. How can good rise out of such patently political engineering. And we have to ask ourselves what is the point anyway. What good is achieved by grasping the Eucharist in our hands? Is it to aggrandize ourselves? Is it motivated by envy of the priesthood and its rights? Is it to emulate and placate through imitation the Protestants in a false desire to erase differences? The only thing which should occupy our minds in receiving is Christ Himself.
When I was in Jerusalem, we visited the wall where Jews gather to pray. Most impressive to me was that worshippers backed away from the wall because it is a place where God once overshadowed the temple with his presence. This building which was destroyed in the first century is still reverenced today as holy, yet our churches where God himself is constantly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, ring with the sound of petty conversation. People go to Communion often unaware and unimpressed casually and grasp God Himself I their hands, the very God who in the Old Testament was not permitted to be named and whom Moses was forbidden to approach until he removed his sandals.

Unknown said...

Thank you Father! I think the issue is not about whether receiving in the hand or on the tongue. I remember when we had communion rails and the priest distributed communion like an assembly line, quickly going down the line almost irreverently. (Probably because the church was not air conditioned). So what does it take to make to be reverent- the answer is time. If we all would make a concerted effort to attend church service which lasted three hours long rather than one, we could spend more time with quality music, distributing communion with reverence, whether in hand or tongue, spending more time to digest the word of God, longer homilies, more quiet time and not rushing any part of the liturgy. Too bad too many people today are impatient and can't more spend time with the Lord for a longer period of time. Timing is everything. Liturgy does not have to be less than an hour. Sunday is the Lord's time. Spend all day with the Lord! T. Spender

chris griffin said...

Communion in the Hand was instituted by Christ himself when He "gave" and said "take'. Communion on the tongue was a later invention by someone and its effect is to lower and degrade reverence of Holy Communion.