PODCAzT 179: Kwasniewski on the myth of ancient Communion in the hand

We welcome as our guest… Peter Kwasniewski and an article he recently posted at LifeSite about Communion in the hand.

Not long ago, surveys from the Pew Research center uncovered that a huge number of Catholics do not believe in the Church’s teaching about transubstantiation. This is so even among regular church goers. It seems to me that this could only be so among regular church goers, slightly more likely to have had a little catechesis of value, that the have seen with they own eyes for decades the lack reverence shown by priests and congregants for the Eucharist. Rather, they have not see much reverence shown for the Eucharist from priests or coreligionists. Hence, because lex orandi lex credendi, because they way we pray has a reciprocal relation with what we believe, they just don’t believe that under the appearance of bread and wine we have Christ whole and entire, Body Blood Soul and Divinity. They see hosts treated casually, handled by anyone and everyone, literally handled, and they conclude that the hosts must not be that important. They hear the suboptimal music, see the cheap vestments, watch the sloppy ministry at the altar, note the fact that everyone goes to communion without a single admonishment about confession, and they conclude that the Host isn’t much after all. Very many people have come to see Communion as, “they put the white thing in our hand and then we sing a song”. Communion is a sign of nonjudgmental affirmation a sign that you are in the club.

A major contributor to the diving numbers who believe the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist has to be distribution of Communion in the hand. The conga line style, and the gimme gesture to sticking hands out, the fact that hordes of the non-ordained themselves troop up to tabernacles and altars and take sacred vessel all diminish what should be, contrarily, built up and augmented with all possible decorum and gravity. You can’t blame people for not believing. They’ve not been handed down what to believe and how.

At LifeSite, there is a good piece by Peter Kwasnieski dated  26 November 2019: Debunking the myth that today’s Communion in the hand revives an ancient custom

That was one of the canards raised by the innovators, a false archeologizing legitimization of protestant style Communion. They said that in the ancient church that’s how it was done, hence, we should do it too. That ignores entirely the fact that, over centuries, as our understanding of the Eucharist grew, so did our rites surrounding the Eucharist. As we learned more and appreciated more and more God’s gift, we adjusted our practice. So, when we see a backsliding to Communion in the hand, we know that something is not right. Moreover, Communion in the hand was not, in the ancient, as advertised.

I am going to read this article by Kwasniewski. Some of you don’t have a lot of time to read. Some of you have a hard time reading. But you can listen. This information deserves wider distribution. And you can always go to the site and print the piece and hand it out.

As you listen, tune your ear for …. I’ll try to mark off the quotes so they are easier to identify.

You hear in this PODCAzT the wonderful Benedictine nuns of Gower Abbey.  US HERE – UK HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Hmmm….and how did our Lord distribute the Eucharist at the Last Supper? Or with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they recognized him in the “breaking of the bread”? [It’s quite probably that He fed them directly, as hosts often would honored guests, parents children.]
    Actually, it is ancient, at least in our Orthodox memory, as anyone can see by searching on “communion of the apostles” and “ancient icon.” At some point we moved to providing Holy Communion on a spoon (the “tongs”), both to prevent misuse and also so that the people could efficiently receive both species, which has always been the norm. Receiving the Body in the hand is preserved among the clergy at the Holy Table, after which clergy receive the Blood from the chalice. (“Lo, I draw near to my immortal King and God….”) It is also preserved among the Copts and, I hear, the Ethiopians.

  2. Ms. M-S says:

    Thanks, Father Z, for the podcast and the valuable teaching.
    Whenever I see attempts to scramble for provenance for practices aimed at deconstruction of the Church, I’m reminded of the various lame efforts to come up with a description of the religion of the Druids, the worshipers of the Earth Mother, and others who may or may not, for all we really know, have existed. The thing is that there’s no mystery about Church teaching, which is a matter of record from the beginning. The mystery is why those who should pass it on have turned their backs on it.

  3. Gab says:

    Grateful to you, Father Z for the podcast. Listened to it on the way home from work.

  4. JoanM says:

    I for one Neer dobted the Realpresence of Jess in the Eucharist. Unlike my Oldest son who informed me he had never believed in it when he informed me he was no longer a Catholic. Of course I informed him he is still Catholic, only lapsed. And I pray he wil receive the grace to return to the CHURCH

  5. JakeMC says:

    When they first authorized Communion in the hand, I pondered for several months before finally trying it. It was a source of wonder for me, like First Holy Communion all over again. Holding the Body of Christ in my hand! It was truly awesome, in the classical sense of the word.
    Fast-forward 20 years or so, when people were just beginning to question whether this was such a good idea after all. I was reading a book about Eucharistic miracles, and one of the stories was about a medieval farmer who tried to lead his horse into the barn, but every time he drew near to the manure pile outside the barn, the horse would stop and kneel on its front legs. After this happened a few times, the farmer decided to see what was making his horse do that. To his horror, he found a host in the pile, at which point he went to get the priest to retrieve it. My first thought was, why didn’t he just pick it up himself and bring it to the priest? Then my thoughts came to a screeching halt as I remembered my early catechesis, learning that the only time a lay person was allowed to touch the host was if the priest accidentally dropped it on a woman’s chest; in that one case, she was allowed to pick it up herself, but she had to hand it back to the priest, not communicate herself. We also learned the painstaking procedures a priest had to go through to pick up a dropped host. Remembering that, I was actually badly startled by my own cavalier attitude about what I truly believed was the Real Presence. In that moment, I realized the ones who were beginning to doubt the wisdom of Communion in the hand were right. I haven’t taken Communion in the hand since then.

  6. RosaryRose says:

    Before Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children in Portugal, the children were visited by an angel. The angel taught them many things, including how to receive Holy Communion. The angel taught the children to kneel to receive the Body of Christ. The angel actually prostrated himself before the Host. When he gave the children communion, Blood dripped from the Host. Blood is in the Body. It is not necessary to receive both species.
    God is eternal. His Kingdom is not of this world. An angel, of God’s eternal kingdom, appeared in 1917 and taught three children how to receive Holy Communion. The eternal spirit world reached into our limited world and showed us how to receive God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.
    What changed during Vatican II that would negate the events of 1917? Why are we ignoring a heavenly instruction? Did we receive another message from Heaven?

    Has God changed?

    If an angel, who is much better than I, more worthy before the throne of God than I, if that angel prostrates himself to receive Holy Communion, how can I stand and offer my hand to receive Christ? The King of the Universe? I believe the Host is Christ. I believe God is present on the altar. The angel touched his face to the ground. I will kneel.
    I don’t know what happened in ancient times, but in 1917, an angel showed us how to receive communion. It was not on the hand.
    Holy Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, send your holy legions to protect us. Mary, instruct us. We pray for the Church.

  7. BrionyB says:

    “Holding the Body of Christ in my hand! It was truly awesome, in the classical sense of the word.”

    This reminds me of an incident in Sr Faustina’s diary, where she describes how the Host was accidentally dropped while she was receiving Communion, and she managed to catch it before it fell to the floor. Like you, she saw this opportunity to hold our Lord in her hands as a great and rare privilege.

    Some critics cite this as evidence of her promoting Communion in the hand. But I think it’s quite the opposite – the exception that proves the rule – she saw it as an unasked for and undeserved blessing, not something she would ever have demanded as a right.

    So I’m glad you had that awesome experience back then – and I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong in receiving in the hand – but agree that when it’s made a routine and everyday practice, it loses its awesomeness, and has sadly diminished faith in the Real Presence over the years since it was permitted. I was taught as a child to receive in the hand, but never do so now, despite finding it a bit odd and awkward to receive on the tongue; in fact, that very strangeness helps reminds me that what we’re doing when we receive Holy Communion is unlike anything else in life.

  8. Kerry says:

    BrionyB, what is the difference between your hands, or my hands, and the hands of the Priest? Will Christ Himself condescend to become truly present in the Host at your or my speaking the words of consecration? A last question, what are “we doing when we receive” the Most Blessed Sacrament? That is, what are we supposed to be “doing”?

    “You will not die, but will become like God, knowing good and evil”.

  9. Remember when the Polish President leapt to capture a Host that had been blown along?


  10. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Fire Dept., entered the burning Notre Dame Cathedral to rescue the Blessed Sacrament.

  11. Ryan says:

    Silly, yet sincere, question. Were the Apostles ordained before or after they recieved their first communion? My gut says after… not trying to stir the pot but if it was after then their hands would have been consecrated and able to touch the host… I’m shooting from the hip here so I welcome feedback. -Ryan

  12. Ryan says:

    Minor point of clarity. I dread the idea of even potential sacrilege which communion in the hand presents to the laity. The question was directed toward the Apostles at the last super.

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