From a reader:
A new convert is considering whether or not to commune by receiving on the tongue (almost never seen in his parish). Can you direct me to an article or post that explains the significance of receiving on the tongue and also the signficance of the priest’s hands being anointed?
First, I think he would do well to receive Holy Communion directly on the tongue and from the hands of the priest.
I am not sure articles are necessary, since the reasons for this are pretty clear. But surely some readers could make suggestions.
Here is a quick answer.
In summary, reception of Communion on the tongue is advantageous for a number of reasons. First, there is a practical consideration, since it reduces the risk of profanation of the Eucharist. Second, it more clearly manifests what should be our attitude during the sacred action: active receptivity. Our physical postures and attitudes simultaneously reflect and shape our inner attitudes.
Also, the priest’s hands at ordination are anointed with chrism so as to prepare them, or conform them, so to speak, to the tasks they will perform, including handling that which is more sacred, the Eucharist. Also, the priest during Holy Mass is acting as "another Christ… alter Christus". Who better to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful than the priest?
Finally, … for the combox…
Spare us your nightmare stories.
We know things can be bad.
Let’s stick to the topic and help the questioner, rather than gripe.
I agree with you here. I will add that deacons are also ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, without the consecration of their hands. They are, however, ordained for service to the sacerdotal ministry so your point still stands. Personally, I think the Latin West should restore the subdiaconate for this type of service where not enough clergy are available. [I agree with you about deacons.]
I recently served as a deacon at a Mass and helped to distribute communion to a crowd of a few thousand. This was the first time I had distributed in the Latin Rite. The variation of receiving on the tongue and in the hand was a bit stressful for a first timer. But as I was serving, I was struck by the wisdom of advocating for communion rails in the Latin Rite (it is absolutely not condusive to receiving in the Byzantine Rite). Communion rails facilitate a proper posture of prayer and reception in the Latin tradition and they eliminate even the possibility of reception in the hand. It was a connection I had never made before, although I am sure it is painfully obvious to everyone else.
One further point: Jesus’ words in the Institution Narrative, “Take, eat…” were spoken only to the apostles, those who were being consecrated as priests of the New Covenant. The “taking” is an action proper to a priest, one who performs teh sacrifice. Even deacons do not “take,” rather they receive and eat, albeit at the altar, but from the hands of the priest. [Good point. Priests also, when they receive Communion at a Mass, cannot “take” on their own. They must receive.] Eating, however, is proper to all disciples, being fed by the successors to the apostles, the bishops, and their collaborators, the priests and the deacons. The proper posture of the laity is that of “receiving”, not “taking,” when it comes to matters of the sacramental life and the Bread of the Word, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
OK, so what happened after V II that opened up the whole “in the hand”? I was 7 when I first received Communion, and I believe all of us tykes when instructed only in the hand. 30+ years later, and I have a phobia with “on the tongue.” I guess if I forced myself, I could do it. Thanks again, 1970’s.
At my son’s First Communion practice, Father instructed the children to receive standing in their little hands. He then told them to consume the Host and to not take Him back to their seats. He said that he has found Hosts in the pews and in the Hymnals. WHY WOULD HE TELL THEM TO RECEIVE IN THE HAND THEN? My wife asked him if our son could receive on the tongue like we do, Father said that it would be OK. The kids are also singing a song (probably up front) and using sign language with it as well (a Carey Landry song.) The kids will also do the readings and the general intercessions.
You might suggest to this person to read Dominus Est, by His Excellency Athanasius Schneider, the Auxiliary Bishop of Kazakhstan. It is not an article, but it is an article-length book (51 small pages). It is well worth the time!
WHY WOULD HE TELL THEM TO RECEIVE IN THE HAND THEN?
Children are almost universally taught to receive in the hand; it’s up to parents to instruct their children to receive otherwise.
I am a director of religious education. Each year I provide parents with a “Catechism on receiving the sacraments,” a Q & A document that I put together to answer all the “difficult” questions, including the topic of posture and method of reception for Holy Communion. For the question, “Should your child receive the Body of the Lord in the hand or on the tongue?” I answer:
According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “The consecrated Host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant.” The universal law of the Latin rite is that we receive Holy Communion on the tongue. To receive in the hand is an indult or special permission that does not exist in many parts of the world, but has been granted to the United States. The Church, in the words of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship (29 May 1969, Memoriale Domini), encourages primarily the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue for five reasons: 1) it is “based on a most ancient and venerable tradition”; 2) “it expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist”; 3) “it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord”; 4) the practice “removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species”; and 5) “it ensures that diligent carefulness about the fragments of consecrated bread which the Church has always recommended.”
Worthy of note concerning the priest’s hands:
24 February 1980, Dominicae cenae, John Paul II:
“Over and above our commitment to the evangelical mission, our greatest commitment consists in exercising this mysterious power over the body of the Redeemer, and all that is within us should be decisively ordered to this. We should also always remember that to this ministerial power we have been sacramentally consecrated, that we have been chosen from among men “for the good of men.” We especially, the priests of the Latin Church, whose ordination rite added in the course of the centuries the custom of anointing the priest’s hands, should think about this.
“In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist. It also happens, on occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the distribution of Communion in the hand has been authorized. It is therefore difficult in the context of this present letter not to mention the sad phenomena previously referred to. This is in no way meant to refer to those who, receiving the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reverence and devotion, in those countries where this practice has been authorized.
“But one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest: for this reason their hands, like their words and their will, have become the direct instruments of Christ. Through this fact, that is, as ministers of the Holy Eucharist, they have a primary responsibility for the sacred species, because it is a total responsibility: they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it, and then distribute the sacred species to the participants in the assembly who wish to receive them. Deacons can only bring to the altar the offerings of the faithful and, once they have been consecrated by the priest, distribute them. How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary!
“To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist. It is obvious that the Church can grant this faculty to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case with acolytes in the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined for future ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen for this to meet a just need, but always after an adequate preparation.”
I have always received Our Lord on the tongue, as this was the manner in which I received first Holy Communion (1975), and personally did not choose to change once permission to receive in the hand was granted as an option (despite much pressure and even some condescending smiles from both priests and EMHC’s). With my older two children, I guess I “went along” with the crowd and did not object to their being instructed to receive in the hand. However, some time ago I decided to re-instruct my children and taught them the “how and why” to receive on the tongue. They are good and obedient children (for the most part!) but I could tell they weren’t too sure about what I asked of them. Until they began receiving in the proper manner. Their eucharistic faith has increased, as has their appreciation for the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. By the way, they also think that “bongos and banjos” at Mass are ridiculous since make the Mass seem “like it’s not that important” and so they do not ever want to go to the local “teen” Mass ever again. Children can be correctly taught, and good teaching brings about an increase of both faith and virtue. I have witnessed this first-hand, as I am sure have many other parents and godparents.
Mr. Leonardi. Many of us, who suffered under the EAT (Ecclesiastical Anarcho- Tyranny), were forced to oppose the local Parish Priest who instituted 1st Communion prior to 1st Confession and who taught the kids to receive Communion in the hand etc etc and for our troubles we were forced to take our children to their first Confession prior to first Communion; we were forced to teach our children to be the only ones who received Communion on the tongue; we were forced to have to explain to out daughters that even though the EAT Priest invited them to be altar girls that was not a duty consistent with the vocation of their sex and the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass and that, in perfect truth, they WERE serving at Mass – in the traditional way alert and alive Lay Communicants, male and female, have always served outside of the Sanctuary during the Mass..
Of course ALL of the changes were said to not be changes at all which called into question the honesty of those petty Ecclesiastical Anarcho-Tyrants who instituted the radical changes.
Addendum: they also (as does my Anglo-Catholic convert wife, who knew no differently in her upbringing) always go to the “priest’s line” to receive.
As a side note: at my former parish growing up and as an altar boy from 1972-1980, there was a holy and devote Lithuanian priest named Father Climas, who had spent 5 years in a Soviet Gulag, for being a priest, anyhow, in 1977 or ’78 when the directive came down from the chancery to read the promulgation of the indult for the permission to recieve the Blessed Sacrament in the hand, Father Climas read this indult and after he had finished stated that he would never put Jesus Body in unconsecrated hands.
Soembody in the congregation got bent out of shape at this and reported the holy priest to the bishop.
Two weeks later Father Climas was removed.
I am a 2nd grade CCD teacher and in our diocese, we are required to teach our students to receive both on the tongue and in the hand.
OK, so what happened after V II that opened up the whole “in the hand”
Butters Scotch. A failure of courage.
Abuses, such as Communion in the hand and altar girls, began as radical breaks with orthopraxis but were propagandised as a return to an earlier, purer, form of Christianity, stripped of a putative pomp and ceremony falsely attributed to politics, not piety, (See Mediator Dei for prohibitions against such actions) and The Hierarchy, instead of responding with masculine charity and excommunicating those radicals responsible for introducing such execrable tyrannies, allowed the abuses to become habitualised before, finally, succumbing and granting reluctant permission for the abuses to continue with official approval.
It was through such temporising and timid operant conditioning that Ecclesiastical Anarcho Tyranny was firmly established and that establishment is now being tested, especially via This Pope and The EF Mass.
The test, the outcome, is by no means guaranteed to succeed.
I believe that it is extremely presumptuous of people to immediately after saying the “Domine non sub dignus” to forcibly grab Jesus and bring him under their roof rather than having him enter (through the priest) of His own free will.
David Wallace (and Alice),
Thank you for your post. It’s wonderful to learn of the efforts of DREs to provide comprehensive catechesis that is respectful of tradition. The second paragraph of your comment went right to my hard drive.
Children are almost universally taught to receive in the hand; it’s up to parents to instruct their children to receive otherwise.
Fortunately in my son’s school parish, during the preparation for the First Communion, the pastor instructed (and he was quite a freshman there) that the children receive in a manner of their (read: their parents) choice. And so my boy did on tongue, as we all do in our family. Certainly he should have said against receiving on hand, yet there was no violence done on those of more traditional upbringing.
On the other hand if a pastor specifically discourages or – _horribile intellectu_ – forbids receiving on a tongue, the issue should be forwarded to the bishop, I think. Are there really such parishes out there?
\”…were forced to oppose the local Parish Priest who instituted 1st Communion prior to 1st Confession…\”
I’m actually attending a combo First Communion and Confirmation Mass in 2 weeks in the Diocese of Portland (in Maine). The local ordinary prefers conferring both sacraments together, and before the celebration of Reconciliation. I am amazed, as I was taught formally and through through ongoing witness that Confirmation was essentially a coming of age in one\’s catholocism…something a 7 year old cannot be capable of. In addition, I also can\’t begin to understand the logic of receiving the Eucharist without having the opportunity to confess one\’s sins and receive absolution.
Looking forward to seeing how it’s celebrated…perhaps His Excellency can catechize the attendees who feel this is in error…
I used to not mind the practice of Communion in the hand until recently, when I saw a woman snatch the host from the priest and consume it, rather than wait for him to place it in her hands. That was a bridge too far.
Here’s a bit of a ridiculous story: back when I was preparing for First Communion I was being taught by a woman that was also an extraordinary minister. We were instructed to receive in our hands, eat, and walk away. “When,” she said, “people try to receive on their tongue, I purposefully flick them in the teeth with my nails [displays monstrously long fingernails] each week until they stop.” Also, she said that crossing oneself after receiving was stupid because it looks like your swatting at flies. Let’s just say things have gotten progressively[pun] worse at that parish.
I sometimes wish I just hadn’t been so ignorant when I heard these things…
Hey everyone – I was instructed in RCIA to receive in the hand. Every time I receive on the tongue I inadvertantly touch the priest’s hand with my tongue. If I hate that, how much should the priest just really HATE that? However, my priest did mention at another time that he does the same thing when he receives on the tongue.
Any hints out there on how far out to stick your tongue?
FOLKS: Spare us your nightmare stories.
We know things can be bad.
Let’s stick to the topic and help the questioner, rather than gripe.
To the person who asked the original question: In addition to what Fr. Z and others said, I would also mention that the Holy Father prefers to give communion on the tongue and that the Church expresses a preference for communion on the tongue, insofar as that is the norm and in the hand is permitted only by indult.
Butters Scotch – The short answer is that in the hand was permitted by indult after people started doing it anyway before it was permitted. People started doing it because of an increased emphasis on the laity’s role in the Church post-Vatican II. Rightly or wrongly (I think wrongly), many laypeople and their priests felt that allowing only the priest to touch the Precious Body denigrated the worth of the laity.
Ernie – Confirmation is not a coming of age. It is one of the three sacraments of initiation. All three sacraments may be received at the same time, although baptism must be received prior to receiving other sacraments. Confirmation is necessary to the completion of baptismal grace. See CCC 1285-1314, available online at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM.
I recieve on the tongue. As for postures, I am often tempted to think of myself as a little baby bird… having seen them fed by their mothers in this way… I think of myself being fed and strengthened by Holy Mother Church with the spiritual food of the Most Holy Eucharist.
PS – I also go to the “priest’s line.”
Also, I teach RCIA and we explain to candidates and catechumens why some people receive on the tongue and others receive on the hand, but it is also necessary to tell them that both ways are allowed and that it is their own decision how to receive it.
Even though I am a strong proponent of receiving on the tongue, the Church, not me, does the binding and loosing and the Church has decided to permit Communion on the hand. It’s important not to make a new Catholic feel that he is doing something wrong or profaning Our Lord if he prefers to receive on the hand.
Sir, This piece about the Fraudulent assumption that communion in the hand was practiced in the early Church might help you out in your search,
Here is the link:
I have always received by tongue. I never felt worthy to handle our Lord in my hands. Our hands
are in so many places before Holy Communion..do we wash them before receiving? No. I think to put it best into perspective, we always take things with our hands to eat–by receiving by tongue it is not something we commonly do–it wakens us to the awe of the moment by kneeling or genuflecting before him and receiving by tongue. We lost the reverence of Holy Communion when people started to receive by hand. I have watched people receive by hand…most do it carelessly and without the reverence I feel there should be with the reception of our Lord.
Can you direct me to an article or post that explains the significance
Matthew 26:50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, why are you here?” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
Mark 14:46 And they laid hands on him and seized him.
Luke 22:54 Then they seized him and led him away.
John 18:12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.
My favorite document on this is a clarification that is little known, which states that “the faithful should not be imposed upon nor accused of disobedience and of acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Holy Communion.” This is important, b/c even though the USCCB admitted people could kneel, they still said that doing so was “not licit” (BLC Newsletter July 2002)–thus, psychologically pressuring people to stand. Many of my friends believe that kneeling is ‘undesired’ by the clergy and therefore they stand. However the link below (scroll down to the second question) makes it explicit that kneeling is NOT ILLICIT in addition to being an acceptable posture.
We need to spread the news that kneeling is not only permitted, but it is also a licit posture for Communion–anyone who’d like to try it for their first time should do so without any fear of being reprimanded.
Although I receive on the tongue, I don’t attempt to support this by finding Scriptures that argue for it or against receiving in the hand. The epistle of James has a scathing criticism of our tongues.
If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain. (1:26)
If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (3:3-10)
I’m actually attending a combo First Communion and Confirmation Mass in 2 weeks in the Diocese of Portland (in Maine).
Ernie. Lots of luck:)
Those of us who are former Mainers (I used to live in Cape Elizabeth) know that The Desert of Maine is not that place in Freeport, it describes the Diocese of Portland.
“…On the other hand if a pastor specifically discourages or – horribile intellectu – forbids receiving on a tongue, the issue should be forwarded to the bishop, I think. Are there really such parishes out there?…”
I don’t know about them in the USA, but in my Dutch Dioceese of Groningen-Leeuwarden I do know of some laymen and priest who refuse to give communion on the tongue.
Now, back on topic, receiving H. Communion on the tongue is something one should do because one’s heart tells him that it is the right thing to do. For it’s love for Christ that lies at the basis of this gesture.
Receiving communion on the hand is litit, so if you feel bad about communion on the tongue, you should not do so.
In my case, I am an exeption in my parish. Everyone receives on the hand, standing and then hastenig away, but I kneel in front of the priest (or layman)(since we don’t have communionrails) and after receiving Our Most Holy Lord on the tongue, I bow towards Him in the Tabernacle and then slowly go to adore Him in my bench.
No-one has tought me this. No-one else in my parish does this. My priest was critizised for complying. They even asked the bishop if he wasn’t doing something illegal. I have been called names for this. But I don’t care what anyone else thinks, says or does. For it is Love that makes me do so, and that’s all that matters.
So, in short: follow your heart!
Jeff, I didn’t have it in mind to compare the relative merit of various body parts (Holy Scripture has choice words also about what’s to be done with eyes and hands that give offense). I was speaking to an act — laying hands on the Lord. Laying hands on one is an ancient gesture universally understood to imply power and possession. No, as Catholics we do not self-communicate. Nevertheless as Catholics we understand the power of symbol and prophecy in both word and gesture. I believe that Gospel accounts of those taking liberties with the body of the Lord are directly applicable to the topic at hand.
“…in short: follow your heart!”
You sound like someone who deeply loves Our Lord, so I would like to help you love Him more.
We cannot “follow our hearts”, and leave it at that.
I assume when you say “follow your heart that you mean, “do what you think is right”
The problem is feelings change, God and His doctrine do not, ever, change.
I might, in my heart, want to execute backflips and play “When the Saints Come Marching In”, on my coronet after recieving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, because I am “following my heart”
but this would be scandalous and irreverent.
The Norm in the Universal Church is to recieve our Lord on the toungue, and not in the hands,
no matter what our “hearts tell us”.
God bless you.
Father Daniel, subdeacons aren’t allowed to administer Holy Communion, are they, or am I totally off base?
Don’t let people tell your children what they are supposed to do. My wife and I instructed our three oldest in their sacraments, as we will do with our younger kids. 1st Communion is like every other Mass, ordinary form of the Mass communion on the tongue, kneeling at the communion rail.
So if one is going to Communion where there is not a communion rail or a kneeler (and it is a Novus Ordo Mass) can one kneel to receive Holy Communion?
If you’d like to read what Bishop Athanasius Schneider has to say in regards to receiving Holy COmmunion click the link below, it will bring you to an English translation of an article that first appeared in Italian in l’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of the Vatican.
Other info may be found here:
Brian, regarding kneeling to receive Holy Communion at the NO (Yes, you can do it) please refer to the letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of theSacraments linked below:
Grace and peace.
Brian, I forgot to mention you’d probably enjoy reading “The Spirit of the Liturgy” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, especially pp.184-194 “Kneeling”.
I love his phrase “The bodily gesture itself is the bearer of the spiritual meaning, which is precisely that of worship.”
As I mentioned in the above post you can freely kneel to receive Holy Communion at the NO. If anyone gives you grief just tell them your kneeling is a visible sign of “active participation” at Mass – that should bring things to a close!
Grace and peace.
Kaneohe, thank you very much. I have Spirit of the Liturgy upstairs in my room, so I will have to go through and read that part again.
There are some obvious logistical problems with kneeling, though, especially since things aren’t really arranged for receiving on the tongue anymore, much less kneeling. You’ve got the lines. You’ve got the multiple EMHCs. And so on, and so on. And since I recently broke my arm and had a lot of logistical and agility difficulty receiving on the tongue, I have to say that these are real considerations.
(Of course, most parishes have an arrangement that’s not easy to negotiate when receiving in the hand, either. Or even just walking through.)
My thought is this. If you’re going to kneel, you might want to do a little visual survey at a Mass (by sitting close to the front center aisle) to figure out how this might work. Then, you might want to go to the pastor at some point and warn him of your intentions — that you don’t want to get in the way but you do feel called to kneel, and that you didn’t want to drop a big surprise on him. You might even want to ask Father to help you practice, if you think he’s the kind of guy who would. If not, you might want to try to find somebody approximately the same height to stick cookies in your mouth for practice. I know they used to have kids practice this stuff….
I suspect that this would be a good thing, as I’m afraid I gave several priests an inadvertent surprise when I came up with my bum arm and tried to receive on the tongue. (Especially since it’s very difficult to achieve any recognizable prayer posture when one of your hands is in some weird cast position….) They were all willing to give me Communion on the tongue; but actually figuring out what I was doing and me being coordinated enough to do it with, so to speak, one hand behind my back — that was another story.
Let me put it this way. Preparing Father mentally in advance for the fact you might be moving differently from other people — good. Surprising Father and expecting him to have good aim and yourself to position your mouth completely perfectly first time — leads to Jesus almost giving you an upper lip hickey before you and Father can get Jesus into your mouth. Not the desired result.
Don’t worry, though. I suspect it’s easier for priests to give kneeling people communion on the tongue than standing people. Straighter and stiller target. Also, a lot easier to reach for the short priests. :)
I was at a Mass this last weekend with a first-time Deacon, and he received Holy Communion on the tongue. It was a great sight to see.
I am an EM, but I too will receive on the tongue at each Mass I attend. I would feel awkward any other way.
Just a thought: Fr. Deacon Daniel mentioned that communion rails would eliminate the possibility of receiving in the hand. I’m a little confused why. I grew up in the Episcopal church and we always had a communion rail but everyone received communion in the hand. To my knowledge reception on the tongue is unheard of among Episcopalians. I was confirmed and had my first communion in the Catholic Church this Easter, and for the short period so far I’ve chosen to receive on the tongue. I would love to see a communion rail in my church, but I’m just not sure why people wouldn’t be able to receive in the hand even if they were kneeling at a communion rail.
What I meant to say with that comment was: if you feel you should receive H. Communion on the tongue (which I think IS the ONLY right way) you must not let “what others do, think and say” whithold you.
I never heard of anyone that was commented on receiving communion on the hand, it’s always the other way around.
And yess, as I am also a converted Catholic, I do love Our Most Holy Lord deeply.
I wish everyone wisdom.
Alina, apparently, at my NO parish, where we receive kneeling at the rail, there were maybe some disparaging comments made about people receiving in the hand because our pastor put a note in the bulletin one day that either way is officially approved. He has implied that he prefers communion on the tongue but I believe he was right to not let people tell other people what they should do. There was also an article in the bulletin on communion on the tongue and why it is better.
I receive in whatever way the priest seems to want to serve. Obedience seems to be the correct thing for me. I am just a convert and don’t know anything much so I trust my priest.