Skip to comments.Historical argument favors Communion on the tongue
Posted on 04/23/2008 7:45:48 AM PDT by NYer
Apr. 22, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The American magazine Catholic Response has published an English translation of a provocative article, originally published in the official Vatican newspaper, calling for an end to the practice of receiving Communion in the hand.
The article by Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, originally printed in L'Osservatore Romano, examines the historical record of Catholic practice, concluding that the early Church quickly developed the practice in which lay people Communion on the tongue while kneeling. Only ordained ministers were allowed to touch the consecrated Host with their hands.
By the 6th century, Bishop Schneider writes, the Church had formed a consensus that Communion should be received on the tongue, of reverence for the Eucharistic Lord. Pope Gregory the Great chastised priests who resisted that consensus, and it was become an "almost universal practice" in the early Church, the author says.
Kneeling to receive Communion was also a pattern established early in Church history, Bishop Schneider reports. That posture, too, was seen as a means of expressing reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist, and "the most typical gesture of adoration is the biblical one of kneeling."
By administering Communion on the tongue, priests were able to foster greater devotion to the Eucharist; Bishop Schneider remarks that that form is "an impressive sign of the profession of faith the in the Real Presence."
He adds the argument that this form of distributing Communion can prevent accidents. The author cites St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who exhorted priests to use extra caution "so that no even a crumb of the Lord's Body could fall to the ground."
The article published in L'Osservatore Romano, and now translated in Catholic Response, summarizes the more complete argument that Bishop Schneider put forward in his book, Dominus Est. That book, released in Italy earlier this year, drew special notice for two reasons. It was published by the official Vatican press, and a preface was contributed by Archbishop Macolm Ranjith, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who said it was "high time to review" the policy of allowing laymen to receive Communion in the hand.
It just bugs me to see people receive by hand. It reminds me of people going through a McDonald’s drive thru.
Jesus is the physical presence of G_d in this dimension. Imagine how many holy atoms he left here for us to use. It truly is staggering. Every breath, drink, morsel, let it be in praise.
There are approximately 360,000 Latin-rite Catholics in Kazakhstan.
Aware of the greatness of the moment of Holy Communion, the Church in her two-millennium-long tradition has searched to find a ritual expression that can bear witness in the most perfect manner to her faith, love and respect. This is verified when, in the wake of an organic development, stemming from at least the sixth century, the Church began to adopt the method of distributing the Sacred Species of the Eucharist directly into the mouth. This is attested to in several places: in the biography of Pope Gregory the Great and an indication by the same Pope relative to Pope Agapitus (Dialogues, III); the Synod of Cordoba in 839 condemned the sect of so-called Casiani because of their refusal to receive Holy Communion directly into their mouths; then the Synod of Rouen in 878 confirmed the norm in force regarding the administration of the Lords Body on the tongue, threatening sacred ministers with suspension from their office if they distributed Holy Communion to the laity on the hand....
...This organic development may be considered a fruit of the spirituality and Eucharistic devotion of the Fathers of the Church. Already in the first millennium, due to the highly sacred character of the Eucharistic Bread, the Church in both the East and the West in an admirable consensus and almost instinctively perceived the urgency of distributing Holy Communion to the laity only in the mouth. The liturgist Joseph Jungmann explains that, with Communion distributed directly into the mouth, various concerns are eliminated: the need for the faithful to have clean hands; the even graver concern that no fragment of the consecrated Bread be lost; the necessity of purifying the palm of the hand after reception of the Sacrament. The white tablecloth and, later, the Communion plate would be the expression of heightened attention to the Sacrament of the Eucharist....
...The attitude of a child is the truest and most profound attitude of a Christian before his Savior, Who nourishes him with His Body and Blood, according to the following moving expressions of Clement of Alexandria: The Logos is everything for the child: father, mother, teacher, nourisher. Eat My Body, He says, and drink My Blood! . . . O incredible mystery! (Paedagogus, I, 42, 3). Another biblical consideration is furnished from the account of the call of the prophet Ezekiel. He symbolically receives the Word of God directly into his mouth: Open your mouth, and eat what I give you. And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and, lo, a written scroll was in it. . . . So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. . . . Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey (Ez 2:8-9; 3:2-3). In Holy Communion, we receive the Word-made-Flesh made Food for us little ones, for us children. And so, when we approach Holy Communion, we can remind ourselves of this gesture of the prophet Ezekiel. Christ truly nourishes us with His Body and Blood in Holy Communion and this is likened in the patristic era to a mothers nursing, as demonstrated by these words of St. John Chrysostom: In this Eucharistic mystery, Christ unites Himself to every member of the faithful, and those whom He has generated He nourishes from Himself and does not confide that task to another. Do you not see with how great a rush new-borns press their lips to the breast of their mother? Well, then, let us also with like ardor approach this holy table and the breast of this spiritual drink; even more so, with a greater ardor than that of sucklings! (82, 5)....
The Fathers of the Church demonstrate a lively concern that no one lose the smallest particle of Eucharistic Bread, as exhorted St. Cyril of Jerusalem in this very impressive manner:
Be careful that you do not lose anything of the Body of the Lord. If you let fall anything, you must think of it as though you cut off one of the members of your own body. Tell me, I beg you, if someone gave you kernels of gold, would you not guard them with the greatest care and diligence, intent on not losing anything? Should you not exercise even greater care and vigilance, so that not even a crumb of the Lords Body could fall to the ground, for It is far more precious than gold or jewels? (Mystagogical Catecheses, 5, 2)
...Based on the experience of the first centuries, in the organic growth in theological comprehension of the Eucharistic mystery and its consequent ritual development, the manner of distributing Communion on the hand was limited by the end of the patristic era to a specific group, that is, the clergy, as is still the case with the Eastern rites. The Eucharistic Bread began to be distributed to the laity intincted in the consecrated Wine in the Eastern rites directly into the mouth. In the Eastern rites, only the non-consecrated bread is distributed on the hand, the so-called antidoron. Thus is shown in a clear manner the difference between Eucharistic Bread and bread that is merely blessed. The most frequent admonition of the Fathers of the Church about the attitude to possess during Holy Communion resounded thus: cum amore ac timore (with love and fear). The authentic spirit of Eucharistic devotion of the Church Fathers developed organically at the end of antiquity in the whole Church East and West in the corresponding ways of receiving Holy Communion in the mouth, preceded by prostration on the ground (in the East) or with kneeling (in the West). Would it not correspond much better to the intimate reality and truth of the consecrated Bread, if today also the faithful one in receiving It prostrated on the ground and opened his mouth as the Prophet received the Word of God (cf. Ezekiel 2) and let himself be fed like a child since Communion is a spiritual nourishment? Such a gesture would likewise be an impressive sign of the profession of faith in the Real Presence of God in the midst of the faithful. If some non-believer happened upon the liturgical action and observed such an act of adoration, perhaps he too, falling on his face, will worship God and declare that God is really among you (1 Cor 14:25).
That works for me!
Wow .... thank you for posting the full text.
The full text is actually at the link above. I just excerpted the key parts (in my opinion).
I guess that's why he's bishop of Kazakhstan......(*rummaging for atlas in book case*).
Having said that, I was very disappointed at the group of nuns (assuming they were, very few had habits on) receive the Body of Christ from our Holy Father in their hands at St. Patrick's. You could almost picture the Holy Father saying under his breath, no wonder your orders are decreasing!
I am open to going back to what was done in the past in the Church. Problem will come from some Catholics who could put up a stink on the practice of communion on the tonuge.
Yeah, I noticed the older “business suit wearing” nun were mostly receiving in the hand, while the habited (and usually younger) nuns received on the tongue from the Pope at the St. Patrick’s Mass.
...Or maybe he even prayed that these orders will come back to their senses and bring back the traditional stuff.
He broke the bread and gave it to His disciples. It doesn't say how He gave it.
What of concern of microbes?
>>A practice I detest and see abused at every Mass.<<
Are you saying that receiving in the hand is an abuse?
Huh? Catholics have been receiving on the tongue for nearly 2000 years. AFAIK, There has yet to be a fatality.
This is a personal choice that you can practice right now. You may receive on the tongue or in the hand. The Eastern Churches give communion by intinction, thus precluding communion in the hand. At the Easter Vigil Mass, the pope also distributed communion by intinction. Since he is not one to use gestures idly, I believe he was making a statement with those actions. (This will date me but as a child, we only had communion on the tongue :-)
Well, there was that one right after the very first communion.
That would be good, but I'm also trying to brush up on my Italian.
I believe so, personally. So many people seem to have not been taught properly. The biggest abuse for me is seeing people walking up to the priest, the priest putting the Body of Christ in their hand and they turn and starting walking 3-4 feet before placing It in their mouth. Some are even half-way back to their pew - YIKES.
Or .... and you knew this was coming .... hawkers on Ebay.
From HallowedGround blog:
Sad and alarming news (if true),
A reader of this blog left a message and a link alerting me of an Ebay post that purports to be selling a Consecrated Host from today’s Papal Mass. It could be legit, I don’t know. Either way, please contact Ebay to stop this Sacrilage . If you have a blog, please do post this to you blog, and let others know what is going on. Contact Ebay to stop this. Or, go to the Catholic League, and tell them. This is evil.
**Update, listing no longer seems to be there. This was prohibited by Ebay in the past. Hopefully the unfortunate being who did this realized what he was doing. I don’t know. Maybe contact the Catholic League anyway. **
Not seeking a discussion here, but as a non-Roman Catholic, I’m curious to know whether the wine/the blood is typically given to the laity in the modern Mass? I know in the middle ages it was not, (except in certain places, like Bohemia/Moravia) but I’ve received contradictory information on whether it is allowed today for laity or not, in drink, or in tincture (dipping) of the Host.
I’m not looking to debate or discuss current practice on this in Roman Catholicism, only asking exactly what it is.
Just by the method in #2, there's a lot of transfer going on there from person to person.
Though it's just an observation and implies no lack of respect to any religious practice. Commune on if thou wilt.
This line alones tells you it wasn't the original practice when the apostles were following the example of Christ.
I don't understand the need of some catholics to twist history or ignore parts of it to fit their contemporary position of what is proper.
One also shouldn’t pass over the fact that things have changed since the time of the Apostles. They led a Church under persecution, and didn’t have time to worry about minutae because of that.
Well what I’ve run into is liberals who scream bloody murder when someone calls this an abuse. It’s not. Disrespectful in the way they do it, yes, but the Vatican has sanctions communion in the hand. It is not an abuse.
Personally, I think EVERY church should so it like my parish. Intinction, on the tongue, kneeling. Period. But I can’t be more correct than the Pope, so I close my eyes and pray hard when others walk up waving, smile and wink, hold onto the host for a bit while they are looking around and chew like a cow.
Yup, when I visit other parishes, I pray a lot!!!!!
>>Fatalities, perhaps not. Yet a lot of colds or intestinal ills I’d bet.<<
Not from receiving on the tongue. The priest holds the host by one side and does not touch the tongue of a person. Our priests do it every week. Four of them.
Now that whole drinking from the common cup deal, YUCKIE. No way! And I love how wiping with a dry cloth and turning is supposed to work. I launder those cloths. I can’t tell you the amount of lipstick on them and just the thought of backwash! EWWWWWWWWW!!!!
Last month I had a poster tell me that the traditional mass is in Latin. When I pointed out the meaning of Pentecost and a few common sense questions he evaporated.
And that there was a conscious effort by some after VII to dispell anything Historically Catholic (devotions, kneeling, receiving on the tongue) in favor of a Kumbaya Christianity.
*help me Lord*
If doing something as simple as moving back to the tradition of placing the Host directly on the tongue could help prevent this, I can't see any logical reason that holy Mother Church can not move in that direction.
Sure, I generally agree with those who wish a restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass as the Liturgy of Western Christianity, but it must be done with facts, not pseudohistoricism.
I hope you did something!
1. The chalice bearer wipes the cup and turns the rim slightly for each recipient.
2. The alcohol and the acid in the wine kill most everything.
When I was an Episcopalian, they sort of made assurance doubly sure by using port wine, which is approximately 20 percent alcohol. (This is why you need to be careful with Thunderbird.) But Catholics can't do that, because the wine must be unadulterated, and the vintners get the kick into port by adding brandy or grain to it.
I too have noticed people turning away and walking quite some distance before casually conveying the Host to their mouths.
In the Episcopal church, we did not receive on the tongue, but we were taught to receive the Host in our cradled hands, and right there before rising to our feet (we always knelt unless infirm) bow our head over our hands and apply the tongue to the Host. We did not handle the Sacrament at all. If somebody wanted to receive by intinction they waited for the chalice-bearer, who would take the Host from them and dip it in the chalice. But never did anybody turn away with the Host still in their hand.
AFAIK, the chalice is offered to lay people in some places — probably at the discretion of the bishop. I believe this practice was encouraged after V II. For the record, here in Boston — and I go to daily Mass — I was at a Mass where the chalice was offered to the laity precisely once, and that at a daily Mass, with only a dozen or so people. I have a hazy recollection that it might have been permitted under special circumstances pre-V II, but I don’t know.
I think it tells you earlier practice is undocumented -- like so much of earlier practice.
You know, it was one of those moments in your life where it happened so quickly and she was so far away, that it was sort of surreal. I’m still beating myself up over not leaping over bleachers and trying to say something to her...
But, quite honestly, she passed only in an instant, at a distance, and it didn’t full register with me until she was long gone.
I think the chalice was permitted at weddings (for the bridal couple only).
That said, I think treating Communion as if it were the hors d’oeuvre table at a cocktail party is part of a larger phenomenon of cluelessness about the Eucharist, the altar, sacredness, etc. in general.
Yesterday I was standing in the Cathedral and I saw the 40’ish “liturgist” come out to show a deacon something she wanted him to do when he read, and she chose to do this leaning on the altar with her bosom on her arms as if she were in a bar. Then she turned to the side and propped herself up against the altar with one hand while she talked to him, and finally she turned around and leaned her back and her backside against the altar while they chatted. I was shocked and I actually e-mailed one of the priests to tell him about this; I don’t know if anybody will talk to her about it, because she has more power at the church than the priests do and the bishop is a very timid man who is probably also afraid of her. On top of that, she seems to be in charge of instructing younger or visiting clergy on what to do. I was really appalled.
I saw the Papa put it in the hand as well as on the tongue.
>>It’s on the cloth, not in the cup (thank goodness!)<<
Nope, those germs are on the lip. You wouldn’t take a drinking glass at home and wipe it with a dry cloth then expect it to be germ free. ESPECIALLY when lipstick is involved. Those germs stay in the grease and get spread all around.
The Eastern Rites are so much smarter with the straws!
I believe maryz’s answer is correct, and, if I may add for the record we Catholics believe that Jesus is fully present in the consecrated host and the precious blood separately, thus there isn’t a strict need to consume both the Body and the Blood to receive “full communion”. One can receive either/or and fully partake in the Sacrament.
>>2. The alcohol and the acid in the wine kill most everything. <<
No, really. Every time a person sips from that cup, it becomes a bit more deluted in the process. You have a seven percent alcohol in the wine to start. Not a large amount. Put into effect that “recipient A” comes to the cup with lipstick on, the EMHC slides a dry cloth around and turns the cup, speading grease along the rim. “Recipient B” then comes up with the flu and drinks. Again the EMHC then slides a dry cloth with flu virus onto the lipstick. Flu for all.
Remember, the lips touch the outside of that rim where the wine never touches.
You wouldn’t do this in your bathroom at home.