Deacon Greg Kandra has had a bit of a conversion about altar rails. Here is a taste.
Okay. I’ve changed my mind. It’s time to bring back the altar rail.
Hey, I’m as surprised as anyone else that I feel this way.
Two years ago, I rhapsodized on the Feast of Corpus Christi on the theology behind standing to receive communion, and defended it. And why not? I’ve received that way for most of my adult life; I even remember the Latin church’s experiment with intinction back in the ’70s. Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate.
But now, after several years of standing on the other side of the ciborium—first as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, now as a deacon—and watching what goes on, I’ve had about enough.
I’ve watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.
[... other horrid examples...]
Beyond that, I’m reminded week after week that people have no uniform way to receive in the hand. There’s the reverent “hands-as-throne” approach; there’s the “Gimme five,” one-hand-extended style; there are the notorious “body snatchers” who reach up and seize the host to pop into their mouths like an after-dinner mint; and there are the vacillating undecideds who approach with hands slightly cupped and lips parted. Where do you want it and how?? [I hate that.]
The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. [DING! Say the magic woid, win a hunn'ed dallahs.] But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?
Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out. [yup]
After what I’ve seen, I agree with him. We need to get off our feet, and on our knees.
Bring back the communion rail. It’s time.
Two fantastic things we could do for this Year of Faith:
1) return to ad orientem worship
2) return to kneeling for Communion and receiving on the tongue
Fr. Z kudos to Deacon Kandra.