Friday 11 March 2011

Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue

Padre Pio receiving Holy Communion
(courtesy of Taylor Marshall: see here)

My last post has evoked some comment. I was particularly interested in what someone attending Mass in our diocesan offices had to say, asking,
"Are there not worse crimes against reverence within the Church?"
I must point out that I did not say that receiving on the hand is a crime. I did point out that some notable and saintly figures in the Church and Councils of the Church have taken a dim view of it and thought it neither helpful nor reverent. (I am still waiting for anyone to post a quote from a similar source which supports an increase in reverence by receiving on the hand.) Yes, indeed there are worse crimes against reverence to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament but I was talking only of this particular, very prevalent, manifestation of what my pastoral experience has led me to believe has contributed towards a lack of reverence. The point that some modern commentators are making is that the familiarity it engenders is perhaps part of the problem of the lack of respect and reverence towards Our Lord's presence in the Blessed Sacrament that all must admit is a concern in the Church today. Also, that it is not, in fact, rooted in historical or ancient practice. (See Taylor Marshall again here.)

The very fact that most people (at a Mass with a bishop or anywhere else) receive in a way that is not the norm but an exception (one might even say an extraordinary way of receiving) rather highlights the problem. If the present legitimate indult were to be withdrawn tomorrow, would there be a quiet acceptance of the Papal authority that first granted the indult - or would there be a great deal of disobedience? I note that the writer of the comment inadvertently highlights another facet of the modern distortion of the liturgy where the persons involved become more important than the Christ centered reality of the liturgical action. Thus "Bishop Tom Williams" is graced with the honour of capital letters while "mass" is not. The person of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is described as "it". So the person celebrating becomes more important than who and what is being celebrated - Christ himself. Small observations, I know, and not necessarily indicative of a lack of reverence but perhaps it does point to something Cardinal Burke has recently said:

"If we err by thinking we are the centre of the liturgy,
the Mass will lead to a loss of faith."
Strong words indeed, to think that the Mass when celebrated with he wrong emphasis can itself lead to a loss of faith. Michael Voris has some characteristically bold things to say about this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote:

21. In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof ; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?

22. Then after you have partaken of the Body of Christ, draw near also to the Cup of His Blood; not stretching forth your hands, but bending , and saying with an air of worship and reverence, Amen , hallow yourself by partaking also of the Blood of Christ. And while the moisture is still upon your lips, touch it with your hands, and hallow your eyes and brow and the other organs of sense. Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks unto God, who has accounted you worthy of so great mysteries.

Taylor Marshall is really too selective in his patristic reading. Of course one can receive reverently on the hand. The problem is what Communion in the hand has come to mean since the Reformation.

JR Finch