Friday, June 15, 2012

Thoughts on Reverence

From the weekend after First Holy Communion in the parish . . . 


Celebrating the sacraments with children and young people is always an event accompanied by joy for me.  It is beautiful to witness them encounter the Lord in such powerful ways.  A particular joy is seeing the happiness and reverence with which children receive their First Holy Communion.  You can tell that they are really trying to do it correctly.  I think that we can all learn something from that experience.

Those receiving First Holy communion must learn how they ought to receive the Eucharist.  The Church instructs us that there are two methods available to us.  The most common is reception of Holy Communion on the hand.  This option, while ancient in origin, was not practiced in the Church for centuries.  It was restored following the Second Vatican Council.  When receiving the Eucharist on the hand, we are instructed to place one hand beneath the other and cup the uppermost hand slightly so as to fashion a sort of throne upon which the priest or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may place the host.  The priest is instructed to say, “The Body of Christ,” while the recipient is instructed to respond, “Amen.”  After the host is placed on the hand, the recipient uses the fingers of his bottom hand to gently grasp the host and place it in his mouth for consumption.  He does not plop it into his mouth as though he were swallowing an aspirin.  Afterwards, the recipient should examine his hands to ensure that no fragments of the consecrated host remain.  If there are fragments, these should also be collected and consumed.  It is gravely irreverent to shake or wipe these fragments onto the floor.

If a person is unable to receive Holy Communion in the manner described above, his other option is to receive the host directly on the tongue.  This practice is also of ancient origin, and was instituted so as prevent any sacrilege against the Eucharist from occurring.  In this practice, one approaches the priest or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in the usual manner, and after responding “Amen,” opens his mouth and extends his tongue slightly so that the consecrated host may be placed directly on the tongue.  

While Mother Church expresses no preference for either of these options, it should be noted that these are the only options.  If one is unable to receive the Eucharist with both hands, as, for instance, when carrying a child, one should receive directly on the tongue.  Likewise, if one cannot use his bottom hand to transfer the consecrated host from his hand to his mouth, he should also opt to receive on the tongue.

Again, the Church does not express a preference for either option.  I would simply note that prior to my ordination, I chose to receive on the tongue.  I did this for several reasons: There were no fragments left in my hand.  It required humility of me to allow a priest to place the Consecrated Host on my tongue.  It ensured that I would not be responsible for accidentally dropping Our Lord’s Sacred Body.  While it is a practice that was awkward for me at first, I found it to be deeply spiritually fruitful after time.

In either case, this point should be remembered.  When approaching the altar for Holy Communion, we always receive.  We do not dare to take the Eucharist.  It is something given to us.  We do not grasp it from Him.  We must never presume to grab the host from the person distributing it.  Following the example of our new communicants, perhaps we can all be a bit more observant in trying to receive the Eucharist more reverently and properly.    

1 comment:

  1. I also find that allowing the priest to place it on my tongue is humbling and tends to remind me of sacrifice given not just for me but me as well.



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