Every once in a while the Catholic side of the Internet flares up with the more or less heated argument on reception of Holy Communion. It is usually linked to faithful’s posture at that time, but what kindles everyone’s hearts and minds most is the communion-in-the-hand advocates versus opponents debate and every single time same old arguments of the supporters, who don’t see anything wrong in it, are heard. This is not an academic paper but simply the review of some the facts under discussion which I will be trying to briefly refute. To broaden the knowledge I would recommend some of the books on that issue, especially Dominus est by our beloved Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Communion in the Hand? by Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise.
That’s how Apostles received in the Cenacle.
In many conversations about liturgy the ad Coenaculum argument comes up but most often it only proves the lack of one’s knowledge and common sense. Holy Mass ceremonies cannot limit themselves to Last Supper’s ritual frames, for obvious reasons. How were disciples receiving, we don’t know. It is quite likely though, that Jesus, according to the custom of these times, gave every each of them the piece of Bread directly on the tongue, nothing extraordinary about that. That was the way of honouring one’s feast guests back then and Jesus might have also followed this tradition. Scriptures quoting Jesus at that moment are not that ‘straightforward’, it can’t be said whether he thought of ‘taking’ or ‘receiving’. It is rather important to make the most persistent supporters of taking the liturgy back to Cenacle realize that those present during the Last Supper meal were most likely reclining while eating. Jesus probably was not even seated at the center but somewhere on the right corner of the table. End of discussion.
This is the ancient custom.
There are only few historical sources that can actually support the thesis that first Christians actually received the Eucharist in the hand and they are ruthlessly used by the supporters to prove their point. Sadly they seem to ignore those sources that mention communion-on-the-tongue. The purpose of this article is not to elaborate on authenticity, orthodoxy or the widespread practice of this form in the Early Church, one needs only to look at the form of early Christian Communion in earliest historical documents. In one of the most famous passages from his collection of lectures Saint Cyril of Jerusalem reveals the ancient custom of receiving the Holy Body of Christ which significantly differs from the contemporary form. The difference lies in the position of hands (right on the left, not other way around), what was linked to the fact that the consecrated Host was consumed while bending over, directly from the hand It was placed on. The left hand was not used to put it in one’s mouth what is a common practice today. Moreover, the ancient regulations mentioned additional restrictions, such us washing hands beforehand, the fact totally ignored today. In this case not only differences in form are worth mentioning but also the change of mentality and progress in Catholic Eucharistic discipline, whose main aim was to prevent any particles of the Sacred Host from falling to the ground. What people receiving in the hand do with their hands after the Eucharist you can see for yourself at the Mass.
A hand is as dignified as a tongue.
This is one of the dumbest arguments ever because, while receiving Communion on the hand, the Host also ends up in one’s mouth, however in latter case placing The Consecrated Body on one’s sweaty hand which might have been rubbing the Church pew all Mass long is avoided… Enough said about dignity.
The Church permits and approves of it, so we must obey.
Sadly, it’s true that the communion-in-the-hand is now commonly permitted. However, any thoughtful person would at least take the moment to reflect on the reason why this practice even began and spread in the first place. So if Western Church used to practice the Communion on the tongue while kneeling, how the new form of reception appeared? It was a grassroots initiative contrasting with Church’s doctrinal position, simply as that. What happened after is just the short story of disobedience to the Holy See then presented with fait accompli. The spread of communion-in-the-hand on the rise of post-Vatican II moral decay was clearly contrary to all the attempts to restrict it with number of documents. The permission of this practice that happened no longer after, was just the outgrowth of numerous mistakes and powerlessness since its very beginning.
Lord Jesus is so good that he’d even let us touch him, isn’t that beautiful?
Feelings, feelings and once again feelings. It’s hard to refute the cheap and sentimental reasoning of spiritually immature Catholics. One can state if somebody does not have the oppositional instinct against the Communion-in-the-hand practice, then something is not quite right with their attitude of faith. One of the examples is the Neocatechumenal Way. How is that even possible that many reprimand letters had to be sent as far as from Vatican to stop this formation from receiving while seated? This would/should at least set the alarm bells ringing in every ordinary Catholic head. Why doesn’t this apply to those who put their own subjective feelings based on unawareness or false ideology (“we’re just like first Christians”, “oh! I can touch you Jesus, just like priest!” etc.) above the rational approach? Why isn’t their love for God expressed in their willingness to prevent any particles of the Sacred Host from falling to the ground? This probably must/should be blamed on some sort of egoism, when one’s own feelings are more important than the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament.
There are also other problems and contradictions related to this contemporary form of reception that usually go unnoticed by its advocates. The crux of the matter is the fact that every recipient practically becomes the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion: he just receives the Bread but places It on the tongue himself; in fact he distributes the Eucharist himself. Maybe it would be more accurate to call this form of reception not Communion-in-the-hand but communion-from-the-hand. There are also some other absurdities linked to that matter. And all of a sudden, everyone can touch the Body of Christ but just as the matter of principle they cannot distribute It. Can someone explain the post-conciliardom to me again?
All in all, the contemporary practice of Communion-in-the-hand is not only in conflict with historical sources but also its introduction and spread in 20th century through Catholic Church was the effect of disobedience and sustained resistance to Pope’s recommendations. Even approval of this form of reception did not change the damaging character of this practice, which carries along countless threats to the faithful’s spirituality and veneration approach towards particles of Eucharistic Bread. What is the fruit of this practice? Just look at the local Church in countries where reception in the hand is common or refresh some videos from the communion part at the papal mass in Philippines.
Communion-in-the-hand is just a typical new creation or maybe a disease ravaging the heart of Catholic Church, but few have the courage to oppose it. What is even sadder is the fact that over the centuries the Latin Church managed to organically develop its own form of receiving the Body of Christ, which pushed countless crowds of the faithful towards deeper faith and adoration for the Blessed Sacrament through the ages.
[Tranlsation by Jagoda].