Saturday, December 20, 2014

Receiving Our Lord

I recently saw a Facebook thread on whether people receive Hoy Communion in the hand or on the tongue. As you might guess (or not) it went the way of more Facebook controversial issues...

To most non-Catholics, it's a non-issue. Likewise to the 37% of Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence. But for those of us who do believe, how we receive Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist is important. In fact it's supremely important, since this is the way in which we actually and truly meet Jesus, literally in the flesh. Think about it. How would you dress, how would you prepare, how would you approach Jesus if you knew you were going to see Him at church on Sunday? I bet you would want to treat Him with all the reverence you could show.

That's becoming harder and harder. When I was young, there was no controversy. We all wore our "Sunday best" to mass. Every church had an altar rail. At mass, we would approach the altar reverently and kneel at the rail. The priest, accompanied by a altar boy, would approach. The priest would announce "The Body of Christ" which we affirmed with an "Amen." The altar boy would place a paten beneath our chin to guard against the host or a piece of the host falling to the floor, and the host was placed on our tongue. We were taught not to chew the host, but rather let it soften and swallow it - so that morsels of the host would not become stuck in our teeth. Everything was pretty well thought out. You may not like the ceremonial aspects of it, but you have to agree it is reverent.

Now, in post Vatican II America, things are complicated. Most churches in the US have removed the altar rail, and the USCCB have said that they prefer communicants receive standing (although kneeling must be permitted according to the Church).

However, that's not the end of it. Priests on their own initiative, citing concerns about people tripping, have refused to give communion to people kneeling (in direct contradiction to Church rules). Also, most people receive in the hand these days (I'm sure there are parishes where this is not true, but I have not found one in New Jersey). And so, priests are not in the practice of giving Communion on the tongue.

Now, I would prefer to go back to the "old" ways, and receive kneeling, on the tongue. However, I receive standing, in the hand. I feel that given the problems I mentioned, receiving kneeling is more likely to provoke scandal (by the possibility of being refused and causing a scene) and receiving on the tongue is creating more of a danger of the host dropping to the floor or being mishandled. Thus, ironically, the most reverent way available to me is standing, in the hand.

I consider this to be discriminatory, as are most of the "inclusive" changes made over the past decades. For instance, allowing people to stand instead of kneeling may be considered inclusive (now there are 2 ways and you can choose) but in practice removing the kneelers means people who want to kneel can't easily, and ultimately means that they will be forbidden to kneel, as the practice has been discouraged to such an extent. It means only the ones who want to stand are accommodated.

Again, this may seem like a small issue to most, but when it comes to the way we approach God it becomes a matter of importance. I've been told it doesn't matter because "God knows what's in your heart" but it does matter. I would like to be able to do what my heart tells me to do. I don't know how many other people feel this way, but I wanted to share my views on the matter.


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