Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Holy Communion

One of the things that have been considered as one of the abuses or degeneration in the Roman Rite has been the re-introduction of receiving Holy Communion in the hand rather than the tongue in the early 1970s after being out of use for 1600 years (at least in the diocese of Rome).

I always had a problem with Communion in the hand as it was introduced by the protestant reformers in the 16th century to push people away from a belief in the Real Presence. Then why did it get introduced into the Catholic Church 400 years later? Was it also to signify a rejection of belief in the 1970s?

The story of how a disobedient and illegal practice became the norm has been well documented on other websites. But what is done is done and I do not see Bishops trying to put the genie back in the bottle for a very long time.

Recently I was MC at a Solemn Mass to celebrate the Feast Day of St Josemaria Escriva and ended up assisting the celebrant at the distribution of Holy Communion. People received on the tongue kneeling, on the tongue standing and in the hand standing. I really did not see any difference in outward disposition and reverence between the various ways of receiving, so that any prejudices that I had about the available styles of receiving in the Roman Church faded.

The important things are that the Communicant is in a State of grace and that the rubrics of the Church are followed ie. that before receiving standing, whether in the hand or on the tongue, a bow or a genuflection is done to honour the Real Presence.

Now you might say dear reader "this is all wrong" Communion in the hand leads to abuses and people taking the hosts away etc. This is true, which means all the more that Communion needs to be more tightly policed where it is offered in the hand. However, I recall a scene from the movie "El Crimen de Padre Amaro" where one of the communicants receives (in many places in Latin America Communion on the tongue is still the norm), then spits out the host into her Missal and takes it home to feed the cats!!!

So what is good practice? Well I think that best practice would be that you still have servers standing with Communion Plates for people who wish to receive on the tongue but need to be there to make sure that people consume the host there. Secondly, you need to minimise the number of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. I know of cases of sacrilege that occurs in a major city Cathedral due to poor training or poor catechism of these people. One wonders whether some of them hold heretical beliefs about the Holy Eucharist.

Finally it is important to point out that no priest has the right to forbid a practice that has been authorised by the church. At the same cathedral it is official policy to refuse Holy Communion to people kneeling. I do know of one priest who not only did that but also threatened the communicant on the spot with legal action if she complained to the authorities.

One final comment, there has been attempts by various "liturgists" to get people to sing a hymn at Holy Communion in going up to receive. As well in some American parishes "liturgists" make the congregation stand through the whole part of this liturgy, so kneeling down at the end for thanksgiving is simply not allowed. We have seen the first practice to emerge but I notice that people see the futility of the exersize, but I havent (thankfully) seen the latter emerge in Australia.

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