Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Receiving Communion

I've noticed that Fr. Tim Finigan (and then Holy Office at Gravissimum Educationis) have put up posts on the way to receive Communion.

When, fifteen years ago, I first returned to the Church, I didn't actually have a choice. I was on crutches, and if I'd let go in order to take Communion in the hand, I'd have fallen over. However, the Parish Priest made it clear that this was "second best" and that adults should take Communion for themselves, in their own hands. So, once I got rid of the crutches, I eagerly started to receive Commuinion in the hand. I even became a Euphemistic Monster... in my defense, I will just say that I was keen to bring Communion to sick and housebound people (which was how I got roped in), but somehow or other we never got to that bit...

I found myself distributing the Host at Mass on several occasions, but became more and more uncomfortable as a layperson "handling" the Blessed Sacrament. So, once it became clear that Communion to the Sick and Housebound just wasn't going to happen, I stopped.

However, I still received Communion in the hand. I moved, and changed parishes. I started to attend Exposition and Benediction regularly. Gradually I began to become more aware of the Real Presence. I became acutely aware that my fingers, after I had lifted the Host to my mouth, felt grainy and gritty, as if there were minute particles left behind... so I started to lick my fingers after receiving Communion. But there was still the problem of a grainy feeling on the palm of my hand...

...and then Fr. Tim (for he was my Parish Priest by this time) pointed out that Communion on the tongue had never been abolished...

I started to receive Communion on the tongue again. And it just felt so right. It seems far more reverent - and it's nothing to do with my being less "worthy" than the priest to touch the Blessed Sacrament... it's just that his hands have been consecrated, and mine have not.

The finer theological points can be found elsewhere. I'm aware that this post merely reflects my own gut reaction. But I'd be interested to hear if other people have tried both methods, and which one they are now most comfortable with. Answers in the combox...

9 comments:

Mark said...

This will sounds a tad odd, but here goes:

Although I, personally, feel more comfortable kneeling and receiving on the tongue, I do find that where I am at novus ordo Masses, I do give the question of the Priest's comfort/discomfort and that of other Parishioners some consideration. I realise that sounds as though I am subjectivising the Real Presence, but I have noted some Priests finding it actually practically difficult to give on the tongue when a) the Parishioner is standing; and b) the Parishioner is taller than them. Equally, the quick line mentality some Parishes have towards communion does not make the whole thing easy.

It's a tricky one, and something I would find a lot easier if I could just rule by force majeure. *winks*

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Hi Mac..i followed pretty much the same journey myself...

deb said...

I am a convert and I am only know beginning to think about this issue. I admit, I like thinking of my hands as a throne for God, but you raise some interesting issues also. Mmmm...you've given me something further to consider.

gemoftheocean said...

Mac, I've received both ways and am equally comfortable with both ways. I usually receive in the hand. Anything consumed will eventually pass through your nether regions so I don't see why people are reluctant to touch a host with their "unconsecrated hands" but don't really trouble about anything passing through their "unconsecrated alimentary system?"

Whatever floats your boat though.

As regards crumbly/gritty - can't say I can see it when just receiving one host myself.

NOW, if you are talking about possibly receiving part of a host that's been broken, then I agree, I'd rather receive on the tongue.
The standard unbroken small round altar bread doesn't present a problem, it's only a problem for those large Hosts that might be broken and tend to have uneven breaks or points. There is a priest or supply priest in my parish who sometimes uses these and we get the odd triangular shaped host. I tend to give those to people I know receive on the tongue - because I don't like the thought of little bits of them coming off and being scattered.

This past Sunday when I checked the tabernacle before Mass I noticed one of the ciboriums didn't have many Hosts, but it did have a lot of crumbs at the bottom - I called it to Father's attention, so he was able to make sure to purify that particular ciborium at Mass rather than put it back into the tabernacle for reservation. FWIW when I assist with Communion I keep the thumb and forefinger together over the ciborium after I finish or when my hand is "at rest" waiting for the person to come up. After I put the ciborium on the altar I go over to the credence table and dip my "communion fingers" into the water bowl and dry fingers. I don't open my fingers right after Communion time until they've been cleansed. After Mass the water from the finger bowl is poured into the sacrarium. (Some nut job swiped the ablution cup that was kept next to the tabernacle a few years back and that really frosted me. Father Pastor hasn't replaced it, and it irritates me that he hasn't.)

If I'm at a daily mass and father by himself is giving out Commuion - some places have intinction, and that's nice. Then, of course, I receive on the tongue. Eastern Rite is more involved. Head very far back, mouth very wide open, tongue conformed against the bottom of the mouth so as not to chance touching the spoon. Does everyone take such care? I hope so - but from my experience with western rite communion there always seems to be about 5-10% clueless at any given Mass. The spoon is placed in the mouth and the bread and wine dropped in. This always strikes me as potentially very unsanitary IF the people receiving are bozos. There's always that one jerk who's probably going to end up licking the spoon and passing on whatever to everybody.

As far as giving out communion, each method has its pitfalls. MOST people receive it right MOST of the time but you've probably seen enough yourself to give a pretty good catalog. We've got the "let me lick your fingers" type (which presents oodles of fun for trying to discretely wipe spit from your thumb forefinger before you give Communion to the next person. Doesn't happen often but often enough to irritate. Not at every Mass. Stay STILL you people. The "lizard tongue" people darting their tongues in and out and the people who point the tip of their tongue straight DOWN are the most likely "offenders" on that score. Ditto it's a bit of a pain when people who want to receive on the tongue DON'T OPEN THEIR MOUTHS enough and barely part their lips. I'd prefer not to use a pile driver. Again, 90% of the people are "no problem." With hand -- put the NON-DOMINANT hand on top of the other. Sheesh. People. I don't want to see "hand transfers." Duh. This ain't rocket science, is it?

As far as hard to give communion in the mouth to tall people? Can't say I've had a problem with our 7 footer- but then he receives in the hand. Have 't had a problem with tall people receiving on the tongue.

If there would be any difficulty for the priest - frankly our aging priest with bad knees and slow gate would probably find it very tedious to have to traverse up and down a row of people backwards and forwards especially laterally.

jackie said...

I have never received Communion in the hand, and if you'd had the headmistress who prepared us for the Sacraments (1969), you wouldn't either!

If the host stuck to the roof of your mouth you could
a) wait patiently (and prayerfully) until it dissolved, or,
b) wiggle your tongue about a bit until you released it.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, (probably on pain of death) did you stick your finger in your mouth to free it. I can still hear her voice,
'Our Blessed Lord does not want His Body poked about by your dirty hands!'

It has stayed with me throughout my life, and no bad thing, perhaps. Through it we were taught absolute reverence for the Sacrament, and I don't see much of it among today's children.

Bring back Miss Dwyer, that's what I say!

Love your blog by the way!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I started receiving on the tongue aain when I had arms full of babies and because even when I have no baby I use crutches to stay upright. It does seem holier somehow- but I also see people receive very reverently on their hands.
It's all the horror stories that makes me think it is time to go back to receiving on the tongue and wth the patten!

Ma Beck said...

...go back to receiving on the tongue and with the paten...

Actually, receiving on the tongue IS still the liturgical norm (receiving in the hands is the dispensation) and the paten is still very much required.
See: Redemptionis Sacramentum, available online at vatican.va.

:)

Mark said...

Okay, Ma, Mac, everyone:

Our Parish does not use a paten. How do I tell our ex-schoolteacher Priest to get one!??

Melanie said...

I felt exactly the same way when I first started receiving communion on the tongue. It's just so 'right'! When I converted, I was never even told about the possibility of receiving on the tongue. Then I began to notice people who did... they just seemed so much more reverent in their whole posture at mass. I finally 'took the plunge' and have never looked back!

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