ASK FATHER: You are against dropping Hosts onto hands, but you drop the Host every day during Mass!

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

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.

Why?

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;

and

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.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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16 Responses to ASK FATHER: You are against dropping Hosts onto hands, but you drop the Host every day during Mass!

  1. Mojoron says:

    I admire your persistence with Eucharist on the Tongue. But, trust me, [I think I might not…] there is no way you can protect yourself from not transmitting a virus by carefully placing anything in someone’s mouth. Just the breath alone can transmit Wuhan. Please, give your prejudice a rest [B as in B. S as in S.] at least until the Wuhan is over. Believe it or not, my wife and I have not been to Mass for going on three months. My wife and I have multiple co-factors [Who has prejudice?] which precludes us from attending Mass let alone receive Eucharist. It may be many more months before we can attend Mass, and if we do, we will take the Eucharist any way we can. Do you really think Jesus gave the Sacred Bread on the tongue of the Apostles? I think not. [I think SO. In the ancient Jewish world, the host of the meal honored guests by putting choice pieces of food into the mouths of guests. Lovers do the same thing now.]

    Peace.

    [And yet my points were not addressed. My post had a topic. You haven’t written about another topic.]

  2. Fr. Reader says:

    ” Do you really think Jesus gave the Sacred Bread on the tongue of the Apostles? I think not.”
    The apostles were bishops…

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    Wisconsin stay-at-home order now quashed by the State Supreme Court, as exceeding the authority of the state health agency. Dane County/Madison immediately reinstitutes it on their own local authority, but with alteration specifically in regards to religious entities, which now are subject only to the rules that so called “essential” retail businesses like grocery stores must follow (numerical limits of 25% of occupancy, 6 feet distancing etc).

    A priest tells me that a politically-connected parishioner reports to him that liberal pols are livid and out for blood, they want police to show up at the churches and arrest churchgoers.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    It could be really effective if some of us can get arrested by overeager police for going to Mass in keeping with the county order tomorrow.

  5. ST2 says:

    My first thought is that whoever sent that in needs to give some serious thought to the idea of respecting our priests as they deserve to be respected as Christ’s ministers, regardless of conflicting opinions on a given subject. That was EXTREMELY disrespectful. [That wasn’t too bad, really. You should see my other emails.]

    Secondly, I’m guessing it is better to gently drop the fragment into the Chalice, rather then dipping your hand in, making it much harder if not impossible, to not to commit sacrilege.

  6. veritas vincit says:

    “… cheating the laity out of their identity through a subtly condescending clericalization.”

    That isn’t the first time I’ve read something like that on your blog, Father Z. In fact, influenced by your posts (and I have been an EMHC in the past), I stopped receiving Holy Communion on the hand. I changed my practice because I understand the issue of a properly respectful way to receive the Host.

    What I don’t get are your comments about “cheating the laity.” How, exactly, am I supposed to feel “cheated”? As a convert from Protestantism, who has been given the tremendous gift of the Real Presence, I feel exactly the opposite.

    [This pertains not so much to Communion on the hand as it does to, for example, having herds of usually unnecessary ministers for Communion, or bringing people up to read. The subtle message is, “You aren’t good enough as a baptized person with your own identity, so I, the priest, will let you do something that is really my job.” Then you’ll be “participating” actively. I find that terribly condescending.]

  7. tho says:

    It seems to me that we are playing word games with a beautiful encounter with our Risen Lord. We should replace drop with place, and our tradition is to place it on the tongue. Like so many indults after VII, reception of Holy Communion has infected us all with a herd mentality. Sitting in the pew, and watching everyone thunder forward for reception, misses the beauty of such a sacred moment.

    [On the other hand, there really has been an instruction telling ministers of Communion to drop, literally drop, the Host onto people’s hands.]

  8. I have seen priests consecrate the Host and then just drop or pitch Jesus onto the paten, which I have a problem with. Then there are priests that gently and lovingly place Him on the paten. I thought that is what the questioner was going to ask about but instead asked about dropping Jesus into His Precious Blood, which IMHO was a kind of silly question.

  9. Kerry says:

    Drop, drop, drop. One Mr. Clemens said about the right word: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

    Elizabeth D, Into the breach and stand your ground!
    Best Regards, Kerry

  10. JTH says:

    The sheriff of my Texas county has publicly stated law enforcement will not enforce decrees he views as unconstitutional. Gotta love Texas.

  11. Dmwareham says:

    I’m wondering if the fractioning rite and the co-mingling of the Host and Precious Blood are mere symbols of the Resurrection, or is there a “mystical reality” Resurrection that actually takes place on the altar?
    The actual Body of Christ joins the actual Precious Blood… Would this not be analogous to the separate consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ “re-presenting” the crucifixion?
    So many of our priests seem to almost absent-mindedly go through this rite, sometimes while concurrently turning the pages of the missal. It’s obviously not a big deal to them!

  12. William Cody says:

    Fr. Z’s comment above:
    >>>>>
    This pertains not so much to Communion on the hand as it does to, for example, having herds of usually unnecessary ministers for Communion, or bringing people up to read. The subtle message is, “You aren’t good enough as a baptized person with your own identity, so I, the priest, will let you do something that is really my job.” Then you’ll be “participating” actively. I find that terribly condescending.
    <<<<<

    This reminds me once when I was at a Jesuit parish for daily Mass. There was no reader, so the priest motioned at me to go up and read. Granted, he knew me (though barely–I think we'd talked once), but I felt violated in a way, like he thought he was doing me and everyone else a favor by having me read, but really he was just too lazy to get up and read it himself.

  13. TRW says:

    Over the past sixty-plus years, the laity were encouraged by many of the clergy to participate actively in the Mass. It’s the clericalization of the laity, having them fulfill some of the active functions of the priesthood( distributing Holy Communion, etc). When too much focus is on the externalities, we might be tempted to undervalue interior participation. It’s a misunderstanding of what “participating” in the liturgy means. It underestimates the dignity conferred by baptism and overlooks the fundamental ontological difference between priests and the laity. Forgetting WHO the priest is, “in persona Christi”. Simply put, it’s focusing on what we do, at the expense of understanding who we, by virtue of our baptism, are. Properly understood, the sublime dignity conferred by our baptism would be more than enough, without having to “do” the same stuff the priest “gets” to do. Hence, we, the laity, have been cheated out of recognizing the profundity of our identity. We were incorporated by baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ, The Church.

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  15. dholwell says:

    Thank you for the background on the theology/significance of the rite of commingling. Very educational.

  16. veritas vincit says:

    I appreciate the responses from Father Z and others. Let me assure one and all, I have never detected any condescension or loss of dignity in my participation, exterior or interior, in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. That is a different thing than what it is appropriate, or not, for the laity to do during Mass, and what should be reserved to the clergy (and I am unlikely to act as an EMHC in the future). . Others, may, of course, feel differently for themselves. But I prefer to judge for myself when I have been condescended to.