Sunday, September 24, 2006

Communion On The Tongue

I have started receiving communion on the tongue for the first time in 25 years. My father and mother whilst being pretty traditional in their attitude to the faith (my mother bewailed the loss of the Classical Roman Rite and my father would travel across town to sing the plainchant settings of the Ordinary of the Mass once a month in the Church where he was baptised) both welcomed communion in the hand. I followed suit. They were faithful Catholics who genuinely believed that if a bishop (or the Bishops’ Conference) said something was for the good of your soul, who were they to argue?

I am in the midst of the The Introduction to the Devout Life at the moment and in the early chapters there is a meditation aimed at an increasing awareness of one’s own sin (cf Fr John Saward via Fr Tim) and the development of a love of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.This has led me to an intuitive return to not receiving communion in my unworthy hands. A good priest – who buried my late mother once said to me “I have no problem holding Our Lord and giving Him to others – he has given me that power – but I do have a problem, as one unwothy, in receiving Him”. My University Chaplain on Corpus Christi one year emphasised that Christ impelled us, as the Church impells us unless we are in a state of mortal sin to “Take and eat” the Body of the Lord. He is right.

But as we hope to see Him face-to-face one day, it will not be as equals – it will be as Father and Children and a father, any father, will feed his children. He gives them the food and indeed will spoon feed his children when they are young and dependent. I wonder if that’s why the Orthdox spoon-feed the sacred species after intinction? Liturgical actions should have significance and meaning and orient us to God. It’s about Him, not us. Perhaps that’s why I have taken to taking Communion on the tongue again – an awareness that God is feeding me as a little child, one completely dependent on him.

Finally some thoughts from the from the Catholic Soldier’s Prayer Book (1942)

In receiving Holy Communion
(1) In going to the Altar-rails and returning to your place, keep your hands joined, your eyes cast down and your thoughts on Jesus Christ.

(2) When the Priest comes up to you, hold your head well up, open your mouth fairly wide and let your tongue rest on your under lip. At the same time carefully hold the Communion Plate under your chin, so as to catch the Sacred Host in case of accident.

(3) With your eyes cast down, and hands joined, go back quietly to your place and having adored and thanked Our Divine Lord for having come to you, tell Him all your troubles and desires. He is the Divine King using your heart for His throne and granting you an audience. He wants you to speak to Him in your own way. So talk to Him about yourself and your relations and friends.


Anonymous Woody Jones said...

"He is the Divine King"

This is precisely the point that so many of us would like to ignore, thus the communion standing instead of kneeling, and self-communicating via reception in the hand.

The trouble is, neither the universe nor the Church is a democracy.

4:53 AM  
Blogger antonia said...

Hi! Interesting post! I too receive communion on the tongue. I tried to use these same arguments to get some of my friends to receive on the tongue, but I have been told that in the early Church communion was always received in the hand, and in the grand schemes of Church history, communion on the tongue is relatively new. Someone once told me that it is thought the Jesus handed out the first Communion, at the last supper, into his apostle's hands.

Still, like you, I just wouldn't feel comfortable receiving in the hand!

God Bless

7:27 AM  
Blogger Pastor in Valle said...

As a priest, of course I often (usually!) give Communion in the hand. But on the occasions when I receive our Lord, I always receive on the tongue.
As to how Communion was received historically, there is an account or two of taking it in the hand, but this is not to say that it was the universal custom.
Finally, I think the soldier in your excellent illustration would be better served by laying his tongue on his lower rather than his upper lip!
Thanks for the post.

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See this on St Mary Magsdalen Blogspot

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Antonia - it is a common mistake to think of communion on the tongue as "relatively new". I have a post: Early evidence for communion on the tongue which tries to dispel this misconception. God bless.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Eagle-eyed Fr Finnegan spots an obvious mistake. It should read under lip.I'll edit the post stealthily. Strange phrase but then it was written for Australian troops (not sure how my Dad got hold of it). There will be more traesures from the Catholivc Soldiers' Prayer Book.

3:15 PM  
Blogger antonia said...

Hi Fr. Tim!

Thanks so much for the good information!

7:54 PM  
Blogger hilary said...


be very careful when someone is trying to promote something using the passive voice. "It is thought". It is thought by whom? And why? It is thought that Jesus gave the Apostles Communion in the hand by those who have promoted this practice. Or, more properly, it is said by them.

There has been a lot of debunking of this myth that the "early Church" received Holy Communion this way but this information has yet to be widely disseminated. It is easy enough to find it on the internet if you look though.

Also, beware the argument, "If they did it in the early Church, it must have been the right thing to do." First, there has been a great deal of obfuscation, mostly for political reasons, about exactly what people did in the early Church. Sources conflict, is the easiest way to put it. But second and more importantly, the idea that what was done in the early days of Christianity is necessarily best for us now, is itself an innovation. Pope Pius XII wrote a long exhortation to Christians to beware what he called "antiquarianism" that would throw out indiscriminately centuries of holy and inspired development, not only of doctrine, but of the disciplines and practices that support doctrine for the laity. This false doctrine of antiquarianism has led to a vast and mighty iconoclasm that would have made John Calvin proud.

In short, older is not necessarily better, even when we know for sure what the older practice is.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Standing and in the hand vice Kneeling an on the tounge... hmmm.

As I've said to some of my more liberal minded friends, if Christ were to come out of the clouds right now, how would you greet Him? On your knees in reverence and awe, or standing with a hand-shake?

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For many years after I returned to the Church, I received Communion in the hand.

As time has gone on, and I have come to understand exactly what I am receiving, or, more accurately, exactly who I am receiving, I have come to feel that I do not want to touch the Blessed Sacrament myself in case particles adhere to my hand and fingers. It no longer seems right that Our Lord should be handled by all and sundry...

1:54 AM  

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