Friday, January 11, 2008

respectfully disagreeing...

... I will acknowledge that not all those who receive communion in the hand are intentionally being disrespectful. I believe most, but not all, just don't know better due to poor catechism. I wager; however, it will be hard to disagree with me when I state that absolutely no good has come out of the practice.

For those who do receive in the hand doing so with reverence, may I ask why you chose this method knowing that it does perceive a certain disrespect? Why, knowing and firmly believing in the Real Presence, would anyone even want to receive the Body of Christ with unanointed hands? I'm honestly curious.

If you disagree with my statements, I would be interested to know what good you believe has come from the practice of reception in the hand.


*this post is not a personal attack, it's intention is solely to spark dialogue on the practices of receiving the Eucharist.


Tom S. said...

I only receive in the hand when I go to an EMHC (which I avoid as much as possible) whom I do not trust to place the host on my tongue without either poking me in the mouth, or fumbling the Blessed Sacrament. From a priest, or an EMHC whith whom I am familiar, it's on the tongue every time.

Question, CC. Where did you get that picture? It looks a lot like the church I grew up in, St. Mary's in Avoca, PA.

X said...

CC, I appreciate what you are saying and will be back later (I have to go to work) and tell you why I do what I do.

318@Nicea said...

Its actually a Lutheran practice. When I was a Lutheran you would go up front to the pastor and the lay person assisting just like you do in the NO. The priest would give you the wafer in your hand, you would make a cross with your hands and then you would eat it. Then the lay person would give you the chalice and then drink the wine.
The purpose for the Lutherans to do this of course was because of Martin Luther, who did not believe in the doctrine of HOly Orders, nor in the clergy being Christ to the people. So for Luther if a priest who is no different from the lay person can touch the host then so can the lay person. This was his practice of his new teaching on the priesthood of all believers.
Actually, if you look at the Lutheran book of worship 1949, it is the same exact mass as the 1970 Novus Ordo Missal, except there's nothing about the blessed Virgin in the Lutheran missal. But the altar being moved out and the pastor behind it facing the people first began with Luther.
That's why I can't go to a NO church. I am a convert from the Lutheran Church and when I go to the NO, its like being in the Lutheran Church again.

Just my thoughts


I Smith said...

I must respectfully disagree with your comments that it's a Lutheran practice (unless you specify which Lutheran group) to receive Communion in the hand. I grew up in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (one of the more conservative Lutheran groups) and never received Communion in the hand; we didn't even touch the chalice when offered. Every LCMS church I attended had an altar rail where communicants would kneel to receive the host from one ordained minister and the cup from another. Typically, the only other person who might touch the chalice was a server who poured the wine into the chalice as each row of communicants left the rail. Also, at the consecration, the presiding minister had his back to the people (ad orientam) and faced the altar. There was no altar that had been moved to the front. There are Lutheran churches today where this is still the norm.

Luther also accepted orders; he doesn't accept them as a sacrament as we do. If there were no orders, then the LCMS (or other synods) would have no need for their seminaries or ordination rites.

I was surprised when I converted to Catholocism (in 1988) that people received Communion in the hand in the Catholic Church.

As to your comments about the 1947 Lutheran Hymnal, I must also disagree. You don't specify the order of service, but I can't find any order (Order of Service with Communion; Order of Service without Communion; Order of Matins) that is identical to the ordinary rite of Mass. The same goes for the updated Lutheran Book of Worship.

The Crescat said...

What Lutherans practice is beside the point in this particular instance. Please, let us try and stay on topic for this discussion to remain fruitful.

Thank you.

X said...

OK, I'm on lunch and here's my 2 cents worth. When I made my FHC I was 21 and it was 1986 and I had been in formation for a grand total of about 6 weeks. Formation was poor. But I was still an infant in the faith and just tried to be obedient even though I was always attracted to the old ways. Now I like to think I am an educated and (slightly?) more mature Christian Catholic, I know why it's better to receive on the tongue but old habits die hard. Not to mention that if I were to kneel the whole row of people behind me would be coming down like a row of dominos. Yes, I could receive on the tongue but I have only done it this way 3 times and I was TERRIFIED I would drop the host out of my mouth or bite the priest. It's not like you can practice this at home with crackers!!! One parish I was at had a prie-dieu that I kneeled at but because there was nothing I could brace myself on when I stood up I nearly fell sideways - not good! Also since my priest is so used to me receiving in the hand it would be awkward for me to suddenly switch. Yes, I could tell him but he's not good at remembering stuff like that. Maybe when the new priest comes I will switch.

The Crescat said...

Angela, Hun you know I love you, but I'm sorry. The priest will not get confused if you just switch, that's not much of an excuse.

if you hold your hands up to your chest pointed upward, like in prayer, he will know exactly your meaning.

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

CC, I'll be honest and say this discussion is troubling me as I don't think whether one receives in the hands is important or not. I'm praying over Matthew 15:1-20 in this reguards. I remeber that the High Priest Himself gave His disciples the 1st Eucharist, and they would have broken off pieces of matzo for themselves. I also doubt whether He or His troop were all that clean from their travels (remeber the footwashing?).
The bishop whom the article quotes refers to St. Paul out of context when he referenced 1 Corinthians 14:25. Paul isn't discussing the Eucharist at all, but the neglect of the outsider in public worship. The neglect that you and others have mentioned isn't due to the practice of receiving in the hand (anymore than it is due to some Orthodox practices of receiving via a spoon both Species combined in a common chalice or their use of leavened bread). It is due to incorrect catechis by 1. the receiver themselves, 2. their parents, 3. their pastors (including their bishops), 4. their RCIA instructors, 5. their communities. Proper reverence won't be observed without corrections to these sources of catechis, whether or not we receive in the hand.
From the cultural point of view also remebr this: in the East (from Asia to the Middle East) kneeling is a sign of servitude. Proper respect is to stand and bow; and proper catechesis teaches that when we receve standing we are to make an obesience (in most places a bow) before reception of the Eucharist. When was the last time you heard THAT instruction from the pulpit?

Melody K said...

I have to agree with archangel that I don't think whether one receives on the hand, or on the tongue, is that important. What is important is the attitude of our hearts. I have received both on my hand and on my tongue; the latter seems to work better when there is a Communion rail, as in my childhood. Receiving in the hand was a practice of the ancient Church, prior to the 1200's; though not all the time or in all places. It isn't something dreamed up in the 20th century. The "good" which comes from receiving in the hand, is the same "good" which comes from receiving on the tongue, namely Jesus Himself. Speaking for myself, I commit many more sins with my tongue than I do with my hands; and no part of my body (or my soul) is worthy of the Guest that I receive.

X said...

CC, my priest is a stubborn Irish-American. Not going there. I will continue to receive in the hand until a)Rome tells us not to, or b)we get a new priest.

Cathy said...

The proper way to receive at an EF Mass is kneeling at the rail, on the tongue.
I guess I missed your point in the last paragraph.
We SHOULD show servitude and humility to God.
There is no greater sign of love and adoration than to kneel. (Well, maybe to prostrate, but that would be a little difficult.)
You need not bow your head or genuflect when you are getting down on your knees anyway - it immediately conveys adoration.
FWIW, I don't have a problem with people standing to receive. In most places, the altar rails have been destroyed and it is quite a challenge to kneel with no balance support.
(Though at a suburban parish I was at recently, the priest offered the first EF Mass in 40 years, and everyone knelt (everyone who could) without an altar rail. (It was ripped out. Father is in the process of putting it back.) The people standing behind us gave us balance support when we went to get up.
It was quite a sight.

ignorant redneck said...

I don't recieve in the hand.

I remember in the 70's when the dissedents were making a point of it in my Catholic High School--the kids from working class families who held out their hands were denied, the kids from well to do families who held out their hands were acommodated. As were the Jocks and cheerleaders. It was a coolness contest, I guess.

and reception in the hand then seemed to go hand in hand with a horizontal "theology" of the Eucharist, and a tendencey to Transsignification.

Now, every priest and EEM I know who doubts transubstanciation tries their best to get you to hold out your hand or to try to put it into your hand.

That's my experience.

Roman Sacristan said...

I think a concept is that sacred things used to only be handled by clerics.
You have to ask yourself, "why did the Church used to never allow this?" Communion in the hand is not a part of the Tradition. While I sort of understand angela m.'s reason about worrying about dropping it it should be noted that as "Redemptionem Sacramentum says "the use of communion patens is to be retained."
It seems rather clear that just letting people handle the Body of Christ 1) banalizes the sacredness of what - I mean Whom we are handling and 2) diminishes the understanding of the clerical class. These men are given their duties for a purpose. If just anyone can handle things, why do we even need them? It used to be that when a man was given the tonsure he was then told he was allowed to handle the sacred vessels.
Also just looking at the "history" of Communion in the hand in the Church from looking at the Vatican II documents, you see that the vast majority of bishops around the world were against it. Still it was allowed for a "trial period" in spite of that. Honestly, I see no real good. In fact I see it is now made much easier to steal the host. I mean, really, just look at the difference between seeing someone kneeling down and receiving on the tounge and someone walking up and just having something handed to them.
I admit, I was a "hander" for many, many years. The reason I stopped was because I finally realized how sacred the Host was.
And of course, what about particles that may end up on a person's hand? As small as they might be, a particle is a particle. What happens to that? It drives me nuts to see people receive in the hand only to do a brushing off of their hands after having popped the host into their mouths.
Things to think about. But again, what is the benefit of this novelty?

jill said...

Hello archangel's advocate

You wrote:

".... due to some Orthodox practices of receiving via a spoon both Species combined in a common chalice or their use of leavened bread ..."

May I assure you (and others on this blog) that the above is what happens in ALL Orthodox churches, not just some. The only variation is that some have the custom of the communicants kissing the base of the chalice after they have received, others don't. Otherwise, it's common cup and spoon, wine and warm water, and leavened bread. Always.

karyn said...

Let's see:

Receiving on the hand while standing:

dropping Sacred Host onto the floor, people being able to cart off or steal the Sacred Host for sacrilegous practices, popping Sacred Host into mouth in a manner reminiscent of popping candy, and most scandalous of all, seeing fragments of the Sacred Host remaining behind on your hand.

Receiving while kneeling and on the tongue in the traditional manner:

Greater reverence (before the name of Jesus, every knee in Heaven and Hell and on earth shall bend), Sacred Host drops on paten if It does drop, no chance of little fragments dropping everywhere from the hands of the faithful, only the consecrated hands of the holy priest touches what is actually the Body of Our Lord. And one can't exactly recover the Sacred Host from one's mouth to abuse It for sacrilegous purposes.

I think i know which one i prefer. I am going to be baptized and receive First Holy Communion at SSPX soon.

Unknown said...

In the Byzantine Church, the priest says these words to the communicant: 'the servant of God {handmaid of God if a female} receives the most holy, most precious Body and Blood of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and for life everlasting'. When the checs and I must go to a Novus Ordo Mass, we have that in mind, and none of us receive in the hand. To me, receiving in the hand is like taking something that's yours by right; receiving on the tongue carries more of the sense of receiving a Gift. Latin Catholics say, before Communion, "Lord I am not worthy...." so why presume to hold Him Who cannot be contained by the very universe, in one's unconsecrated hand?

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

Carolina Cannonball, as a priest I find that no good has come from the practice.

First, Communion in the hand is NOT permitted by the church except by indult. This means that it is not the norm or accepted practice no matter how many people do it. It is only allowed with special permission. Among those of other places, the US bishops obtained that indult in 1976 by deceit and fraud. Unfortunately I do not have the citations handy but perhaps another reader will.

Second, Communion in the hand has led to numerous cases of desecration of the Most Holy. I can't tell you how many times I have had to go after people to make sure they actually consumed the Host. In some places guards are required to make sure the Host is consumed. I have found Hosts on the floor, under pews, on the ground outside. I have had people reach into the ciborium or grab the Host out of my hand. While Communion on the tongue won't completely eliminate this, it will reduce it drastically.

Third, even with catechesis, even having just given an instruction on how to receive Communion properly, nothing changed. It takes a lot of catechesis and instruction, sometimes even as the person is receiving. The best catechesis is the reverence of the priests. If the priest acts so as to manifest his belief in the Real Presence so will the people.

Fourth, communicants approach with filthy hands or gloves on. They are often careless. Particles can be left behind or dropped on the floor. Some are chewing gum or talking. Since 1976 irreverence has grown exponentially.

Now this is not only because of Communion in the hand. This is a symptom. It is because of the great lack of faith in the Real Presence. Catholics no longer believe the teachings of the Church or feel that they can pick and choose. As the blogger says, the Cafeteria is Closed.

A few points on the comments:

The "practice" of the Eastern Rites has no bearing on the discussion. This is a discussion of a practice found only in the Western Rite. I do think they should be commended on not having given in to this deplorable practice and for reminding us of the true theology of the Eucharist

Archangels' Advocate and Melody, you might want to research your "facts". They sound like something a priest told you or you read somewhere. They aren't accurate and they belie the agenda of the person who wrote/spoke them.

Whether one sins more with ones hands or tongue is of no relevance. No one is ever worthy of this great Gift. However, one of the reason Christ gave us Himself is for our nourishment, a nourishment we RECEIVE as a GIFT. On does not receive by taking, but by opening one's self. (Have you ever noticed how Catholics speak of receiving communion while protestants speak of taking communion?) One can only receive love by opening to it. One receives nourishment by opening one's mouth to it as does an infant. Christ in the Sacrament nourishes us as a mother nurses her child to provide it nourishment. But the Eucharist is so very much more.

This, I think, gets more at the heart of why we ought to receive only on the tongue: Because it is utter opening by the receiver of the Gift to the Gift which is the Giver Himself.

Thus, receiving Communion on the tongue is frought with meaning and symbolism as well as Tradition and theology. And it does make a difference. Everything we do says something about what we believe or think. Receiving on the tongue is a sign that one is thinking with the mind of the Church.

Dymphna said...

I never recieved in my hands anymore unless I'm forced to go to a Eucharistic Minister. It just doesn't feel right to recieve in hand.

Paul said...

I am returning to receiving by the tongue. I believe that is the only proper and reverent way to receive the Body of Christ.

Jane said...

I always receive on the tongue when I receive from a priest, but unfortunately this is rarely the case. I am normally up in the loft with the choir and an EME is sent up to us; it would be extremely awkward if I were to go downstairs. I receive in the hand because I have had more than one bad experience trying to receive on the tongue from an EME, and I don't trust them to do it right--thus, in my case, I would argue that it is more respectful to receive in the hand knowing that the Body of Christ will not be dropped on the floor, than to receive on the tongue and not be sure what's going to happen.

I would rather receive on the tongue from a priest while kneeling, but there is not really anything I can do about my situation, so I make do.

Cathy said...

I found this unbelievably distressing.

I have found Hosts on the floor, under pews, on the ground outside.

And let's not forget the host for auction on eBay last year.

It is true that people can receive reverently in the hand. I know what a fine Christian Angela is, and I know how much she loves Jesus. She spends so much time in Adoration with Him.
But even if the hand was my preferred method, knowing how much rampant abuse occurs because of it might be enough to make me change my way of receiving. If we all start receiving on the tongue, maybe THAT will become the norm again.
It wasn't until after the indult that the phrase "taking communion" became commonplace. Small wonder.

You don't TAKE anything from God.
You are a passive recipient of this great gift. But hey, you "take" your change from the 7-11 cashier. You "take" your Happy Meal from the McDonald's worker. You "take" your movie ticket. And with a very similar action, you "take" the Body of Christ.
Again, there's no doubt in my mind that the people reading this blog know Who they are receiving and do it reverently.
But many do not know or do not care.
I am sick to my stomach thinking about the Blessed Sacrament lying in the dirt.

Entropy said...

I receive in the hand and actually I just asked the other day if it was ok to receive one-handed. Don't freak out! It's not because I'm trying to be disrespectful but because I'm usually carrying a toddler and receiving on the tongue for me is extremely nerve-wracking.

This is an interesting discussion. Good food for thought.

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, please people. If you are all so clairvoyant about what everyone's intentions "must" be when they receive one way or the other, then you have WAY too much time on your hands.

"I'm holier than you because I receive on my tongue and you don't" kind fo talk makes me think I'm reading the writing of 3 graders arguing about who deserves the gold star from teacher.

Jeez, GET A LIFE, people. And if that doesn't sound "nice" to say, then TOO BAD. Get over it.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Communion on the Hand is NOT the Norm of the Catholic Church (look to the Eastern Churches, as they NEVER receive Communion on the Hand). There needs to be an indult removal of Communion in the Hand Everywhere!

Melody K said...

Check this link out; it'll tick some people off but it seems to present things in a pretty balanced, factual way; and cites sources.

jill said...

Hello Joe of St Therese

Apart from reasons of propriety, i.e. the utmost sacredness and holiness of the body and blood of Christ, there's another, more practical, reason why the Easterners (BC and Orthodox don't receive communion "in the hand". It's a bit hard when the consecrated water, wine and bread are all in the chalice! :))

I am also unaware of any historical period where the Orthodox (and the later ByzCatholics) ever received only the bread and not the wine, therefore, the common chalice and common spoon has been taken as a given.

I mention this, not to criticise the RC among us, but only to point out that somewhere in history, there must have been a deviation in practice which led to only the bread, (and not bread and wine) being received by communicants.

Cathy said...

NO ONE suggested anyone is holier than thou.
WHAT WE DO KNOW is that GRAVE ABUSES happen because people are careless with the Blessed Sacrament!
People need to stop thinking every time someone suggests a more practical, better way of doing things, they're "holier than thou."
People need to stop accusing me of being "holier than thou" because I see a need to defend the Blessed Sacrament from the dirt.

I AM SICK of that little chestnut.

WHAT GOOD has come from reception on the tongue? Name it. Name the great good which has brought the people closer to God by taking Him in your hands.
How packed are the churches today following the innovations of the last forty years!
How amazing it is that so many people have such a great understanding of the Eucharist today!
To use your word, puhleeze.

The Crescat said...

Honestly, I could care less what people's intentions are and how pious they're preceived when receiving communion. As Gem said, I'm not clairvoyant.

My only concern, and one that should be EVERYy Catholic's, is how this practice of communion in the hand has been a primary factor in the disintegrating belief of the Real Presence.

Fot that, and that reason alone, should be argument enough to put a stop to this practice.

The Crescat said...

and again I ask...

what good has come from this practice. I am open to considering this good but I have yet to read it.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

It might be nervewracking to receive on the tongue if you've not ever done that or have had bad experiences with it. I actually think it's easier while holding a baby because you have your hand(s) free to hold the baby's hands down (so they don't try anything funny!) while receiving! I have received on the tongue since I was about 12 just because my dad told me about how he used to do it that way and I thought it was beautiful. I didn't know I was a rebel back then! I also don't fault anyone who chooses the hand (they were taught that that is the ONLY way! Most of them think that they're doing the best thing!). I DO fault people who don't teach their kids properly and they end up "grabbing" the host and shoving it in or chomping on their way back from communion. I have to avert my eyes. I pray after reception that no part of Him is blown away or thrown away as garbage. I also pray for unity. Seems like we could use that more than anything else these days!

Unknown said...

I don't know what, if any, good has come from receiving in the hand, but just wanted to answer the question as to why I (currently) receive in the hand.

I receive in the hand because Jesus told us to "take" and "eat." That just seems to say "use your hands."

But, I'm not opposed to receiving on the tongue. I just prefer the hand for the above reason.

Of course, preferences are subject to being nullified by Canon Law...but, as for now, I'll still go with the hand.

steve said...

To argue that to receive on the tongue is somehow an innovation of the 1200s is incorrect. Otherwise the Eastern Churches would be receiving in the hand only and you wouldn't need an indult to do it now.

Pope Leo the Great adds: “One receives in the mouth what one believes by faith”

Anonymous said...

Our Lord did say to "take and eat" but he was speaking to a group of priests, ie. his apostles, unworthy though they were, of course.

It always shames me that the modern Anglican practice (in the hand, but kneeling) is more reverent than the Catholic, while they explicitly reject transsubstantiation, as well as the essential role of the priest. Try explaining that to Anglicans you bring to Mass!

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

Please note that the article in the link given above is not accurate and is pushing an agenda that is contrary to the teaching of the Church. It is proof-texting from Church documents to make its case. By taking quotes out of context it gives the illusion that it presents the truth. It does not. The article fails to mention severeal salient points, the most important being that Communion in the hand is not approved by the Church as is shown by the very fact that a Papal Indult is required for its practice. It is tolerated but not approved... a very big difference.

jill said...

Regarding the words "Take, eat ...", it is worth looking at the original Greek text: "Lavete, phaghete ..." Lavete in Greek properly means "receive", not "take". A fine, but very important, difference.

SoonerScotty said...

To Clavem & Jill...very good points and definitely one's I'll take into consideration.

Thanks :o)

SoonerScotty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil said...

One of the reasons I gave up being a catechist for First Communion, was because I was 'told off' for suggesting that the children could receive communion on the tongue as an alternative to in the hand. I never even made it as far as giving my reasons. I was 'silenced'.

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...


Is there a source or sources where you found this? I'm asking because in the seminary we didn't study any Hebrew and I only had one semester of Greek. I keep finding out that acceptedted translations are often off. For example the Fifth Commandmant reads "thou shalt not kill" but the correct rendering is "thou shalt not murder," another fine but very important difference. Can you help by suggesting sources? I'd be most grateful.

You can respond here or directly to me at:

Lynne said...

Mother Teresa's "Secret":
"I will tell you a secret, since we have just a thousand close friends together, and also because we have the Missionaries of Charity with us...
"Not very long ago I said Mass and preached for their Mother, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and after breakfast we spent quite a long time talking in a little room. Suddenly, I found myself asking her -- don't know why -- 'Mother, what do you think is the worst problem in the world today?' She more than anyone could name any number of candidates: famine, plague, disease, the breakdown of the family, rebellion against God, the corruption of the media, world debt, nuclear threat, and so on.
"Without pausing a second she said, 'Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.'"
- Father George William Rutler, Good Friday, 1989 in St. Agnes Church, New York City (a precise transcript taken from a tape of his talk available from St. Agnes Church)

jill said...

Dear Fr Scott

The translation "receive" for the word "lavete" is simply the meaning of the word as understood by anyone who is a native speaker or diligent scholar of Greek. I might add that the word "lavete" (and its related grammatical declensions) is quite an ancient (pre-Christian) word, and this meaning has not changed at all since this time. It's one of those "immutable" Greek words like "oinos", which has been around since Homeric times at least, yet, to this day, means "wine", as in "fermented grape juice", despite what our Christian Temperance friends might say otherwise.

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

Thank you Jill. I guess once I get Latin down I'll have to start on Greek and Hebrew. It really does make a difference to read a text in the language in which it was written and, as you point out, even better to know exactly what was meant.

La gallina said...

Last year when my oldest son was preparing for First Communion, we parents came the day before and helped them prepare for what turned out to be a horrifying circus of a First Communion Mass. (Kids dancing all over the alter to super cheesy music --waving banners, I might add. Parents shoving each other out of the way to take pictures. People talking so much throughout the Mass we could barely hear the priest, who told plenty of jokes.)

I volunteered to teach the children how to receive Communion. I was instructed that they should only receive on the hand, as our diocese discourages receiving on the tongue. I was shocked and asked why that was. I was told that in the "old days" people's hands were dirty so they received on the tongue!!! But now we are cleaner, I guess...

I was very annoyed because I knew that the business about dirty hands was baloney. I did actually call my diocese to make sure they do not discourage receiving on the tongue. (On the tongue or on the hand are both acceptable, they said.) But it's frustrating that this is what the children are being taught! I'm a brand-new Catholic, so sometimes it's hard to speak out.

I've always got a baby in my arms, and a toddler holding my hand, so I started receiving on the tongue from the beginning. (Unless I'm receiving from a Eucharistic Minister.) I was nervous about it at first -- I didn't want to accidentally lick the priest. But there is just something so beautiful in the ancient traditions. It's also more humbling for me to receive Jesus rather than to say, "No thanks. I'll do it myself!"