From a reader…
Father Z your blog is great and I’ve learn many things on it. I have to point out an inconsistency. On 5 May you yourself had a “spittle-flecked nutty” about a diocese which tells priests to drop the communion host onto people’s hands. Apparently dropping the host is bad.
But whenever you say Mass you drop the host!
You drop the host when you drop the piece you broke off the main host into the chalice.
So, what is it? Is dropping the host okay or not?
Very clever and nice try. And it’s a good question because it allows us to drill into a couple of important moments during the Mass
Remember: We are our rites! It behooves us to know about our rites so that we can know who we are as Catholics. Philosophers cried, echoing the inscription in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, “γνῶθι σεαυτόν! … Gnothi seauton!” Latin: Temet nosce! “Know thyself!” Let’s get to know ourselves a little better through this question.
Let’s review two things.
Firstly, the priest consecrates the Eucharist in a two-fold consecration to show the separation of the Blood from the Lord, that is, His death. Later comes the fraction rite, where the Host is broken. St. Thomas Aquinas interprets the fractio panis in three ways: it represents 1) the breaking of the Lord’s Body during the Passion (as Adam had a rib taken so the New Adam is pierced on the Cross, 2) the three states of His Body (among men, in the tomb, in heaven) and 3) the graces that flow from Christ’s Passion (unity of the Church, Christ’s peace extended to the whole earth, etc.). Note that the priest greets all present with a “Peace” as he traces the sign of the Cross three times with the fragment of the Host from lip to lip within the chalice.
Next there is the Co-mingling . The priest is instructed, required, to put the fragment he broke off during the fractio panis into the Precious Blood within the chalice. The Latin is: “Particulam ipsam immittit in calicem… He introduces/sends/casts into that particle into the chalice”. Since his hands are still over the chalice because of the “Pax Domini“, he doesn’t toss the particle, he simply drops… yes, drops… it into the Precious Blood.
The co-mingling rite is also called the fermentum, which is the word for “leaven” (and also for “beer”, but I digress. The rejoining of the Blood and the Body in this moment symbolizes several things: 1) just as a tiny bit of leaven affects the whole lump of dough, so this particle and its mingling should affect the whole Church with the peace that was invoked at the “Pax Domini“, 2) the moment the particle enters the Precious Blood is like the rejoining of the life force of the Body with the Body in the Resurrection, 3) and although the rest of the Host and the Precious Blood are still separated, the co-mingling shows that they are a unity, both being Body, Blood, soul and divinity of the Lord in one Sacrament, not two.
Here’s where we have to make an important distinction.
There is a difference between
a) the priest or anyone with unconsecrated hands dropping of a Host onto the unconsecrated hand of a communicant;
b) the priest with consecrated hands dropping a fragment of the Host – using a millennially sanctioned ritual – into the Precious Blood of Christ contained within a consecrated chalice.
It isn’t just a matter of physically dropping a Host. There’s more to it.
An old axiom in Latin may be known to most of you: “Quidquid recipitur in modo recipientis recipitur… That which is received is received in the manner of the one receiving.” This usually applies to knowledge and how species are received, but by analogy, since the Lord is also incarnate logos it might be useful here, as well. The unconsecrated upturned hand is not a) the place where the sacramental food of the Eucharist is received and b) it is not consecrated, as with chrism to be the container or resting place of the Eucharist before it is to be consumed. The mouth is the proper place to receive the sacramental nourishment of the Eucharist. The hand, which does not eat, is not proportioned to the sacred species of the Eucharist through anointing with chrism at the time of the ordination which makes the priest alter Christus. The mouth receives in the manner of a mouth, for eating, and the hand receives in the manner of a hand, for… whatever.
In Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, Oceanus goes to Prometheus and warns him: “Know thyself!” In other words, “Don’t attempt that which doesn’t pertain to you.” We know what happened to Prometheus. There is a Promethean spirit blowing through the Church in this time of Wuhan Lockdown Virus. Not to steal anyone’s fire, for I am not the only one to say this, there are some in the leadership of the Church who are robbing the clergy of their fire and cheating the laity out of their identity through a subtly condescending clericalization. Communion on the hand is part of this Promethean project.
Hmmm… Communion in the hand and Prometheanism… perhaps even Promethean Neo-Pelagianism? Pelagianism has to do with doing it yourself, without help, rather like the ipso facto self-communication that takes place with Communion on the hand. No? And the gesture of sticking one’s hand out to take, rather than the humbler reception on the tongue, has a rather self-absorbed look to it. No? Come to think of it, sticking one’s hand out in a stylized, ritual way is also rather like a salute. No?
One might say that Communion on the hand is the quintessential “salute” of the Self-Absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagian.
And before I think up another ancient image to impose on this post and on your patience, I’ll now conclude.