Eucharist in the Hand

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dutch said:
Just because the church approves something doesn’t make it a good idea. This is strictly a disiplinary function and the church has made a lot of mistakes, like the children’s crusade for instance.

The church is made up of people who make mistakes like everyone else. They only never make mistakes in matters of faith and morals.

Given that the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ on Earth, I would say you are horribly mistaken.
 
I think that “the Church has made a lot of mistakes” is a common line used by anyone who wants to disagree with any non-infallible teaching or discipline of the Church. We have to conform ourselves in obedience to even the disciplinary decisions of the Church, lest we become “traditionalist” “cafetiria Catholics”.

P.S. Pre-Vatican II, Deacons were considered extraordinary ministers. Now they are rightly understood as ordinary ministers.
 
Here is a link to a good article on the subject of Communion in the hand. It is titled “Rethinking Communion in the Hand” by Jude A. Huntz. It was first published in the March 1997 issue of “Homiletic and Pastoral Review”. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Homiletic/04-97/2/2.html

Here is a pertinent section from the above article regarding the history of Communion in the hand (although I would highly recommend reading the entire article). I will post more on the history of Communion in the hand in a further post:
  1. The Last Supper
But surely the apostles received Communion in the hand at the last supper? It is usually presumed that this was so. Even if it were, though, we would point out that the apostles were themselves priests, or even, bishops.

But we must not forget a traditional practice of middle-eastern hospitality, which was practiced in Jesus’ time and which is still the case: one feeds one’s guests with one’s own hand, placing a symbolic morsel in the mouth of the guest. And we have scriptural evidence of this as well: our Lord dipped a morsel of bread into some wine, and gave it to Judas. Did he place this wet morsel into Judas’s hand? That would be rather messy. Did he not perhaps extend to the one whom he addressed later in the garden as “Friend” the gesture of hospitality spoken of above? And if so, why not with Holy Communion, “giving himself by his own hand.”
 
Here is a further section of the article titled “Rethinking Communion in the Hand” by Jude A. Huntz. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Homiletic/04-97/2/2.html

Here is a pertinent section from the above article regarding the history of Communion in the hand (which will be continued in a further post):
  1. Was it universal?
The history of Communion in the hand is usually told as follows: From the Last Supper on, and during the time of the apostles, Holy Communion was, of course, given in the hand. So it was during the age of the martyrs. And it continued to be so during that golden age of the Fathers and of the liturgy, after the peace of Constantine. Communion in the hand was given to the faithful just as we now do (in the more open and up-to-date sectors of the Church). And it continued to be the common practice until at least the tenth century. Thus for over half of the life of the Church, it was the norm.

A wonderful proof of the above is held to be found in a text of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386) in which he counsels the faithful to “make a throne of your hands in which to receive the King [in Holy Communion].” This Father of the Church further counsels great care for any fragments which might remain in one’s hands, since just as one wouldn’t let gold dust fall to the ground so one should take even greater care when it is a question of the Body of the Lord.

According to the popular rendition, the change in the manner of receiving the consecrated bread came about in this way: During the Middle Ages, there were certain distortions in the faith, and/or in the approach to the faith, which took place and which gradually developed. These include an excessive fear of God and related preoccupation with sin, judgment and punishment; an overemphasis on the divinity of Christ which was virtually a denial of or at least downplaying of his sacred humanity; an overemphasis on the role of the priest in the sacred liturgy; and a loss of the sense of the community which the Church, in fact, is.

In particular, because of excessive emphasis on adoration of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and a too strict approach to moral matters, Holy Communion became more and more rare. It was considered sufficient to gaze upon the Sacred Host during the elevation. (In fact, this decadent practice of the “elevation”-so the mainstream treatment of this period continues-and the equally unhealthy Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament find their origins during these unfortunate Middle Ages, a period whose liturgical practices we would do well to rid ourselves of).

It was in this atmosphere and under these circumstances that the practice of Communion in the hand began to be restricted. The practice of the priest placing the consecrated bread directly into the mouth of the communicant developed and -sad to say- was imposed.

The conclusion is rather clear: we should get rid of this custom whose roots are to be found in the dark ages. We should forbid or at least discourage this practice of not allowing the faithful to “take and eat,” and return to the pristine usage of the Fathers and of the apostles: Communion in the hand.

It is a compelling story. It is too bad that it is not true.

The Sacred Council of Trent declared that the custom of only the priest who is celebrating the Mass giving Communion to himself (with his own hands), and the laity receiving it from him, is an Apostolic Tradition.1
 
Continued from: “Rethinking Communion in the Hand” by Jude A. Huntz. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Homiletic/04-97/2/2.html

A more rigorous study of the available evidence from Church History and from the writings of the Fathers does not support the assertion that Communion in the hand was a universal practice which was gradually supplanted and eventually replaced by the practice of Communion on the tongue.
Rather, the facts seem to point to a different conclusion.

Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461), already in the fifth century, is an early witness of the traditional practice. In his comments on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, he speaks of Communion in the mouth as the current usage: "One receives in the mouth what one believes by faith."2 The Pope does not speak as if he were introducing a novelty, but as if this were a well-established fact.

A century and a half later, but still three centuries before the practice (according to the popular account reviewed above) was supposedly introduced, Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) is another witness. In his dialogues (Roman 3, c. 3) he relates how Pope St. Agapito performed a miracle during the Mass, after having placed the Body of the Lord into someone’s mouth. We are also told by John the Deacon of this Pope’s manner of giving Holy Communion.

These witnesses are from the fifth and the sixth centuries. How can one reasonably say that Communion in the hand continued as the official practice until the tenth century? How can one claim that giving Communion on the tongue is a medieval invention?

We are not claiming that under no circumstances whatever did the faithful receive by their own hands. But, under what conditions did this happen? It does seem that from very early on it was usual for the priest to place the Sacred Host into the mouth of the communicant. However, during times of persecution, when priests were not readily available, and when the faithful took the Sacrament to their homes, they gave Communion to themselves, by their own hand. In other words, rather than be totally deprived of the Bread of Life, they could receive by their own hand, when not to do so would mean being deprived of that necessary spiritual nourishment. The same applied to monks who had gone out into the desert where they would not have the services of a priest, and would not want to give up the practice of daily Communion.
 
Continued from: “Rethinking Communion in the Hand” by Jude A. Huntz. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Homiletic/04-97/2/2.html

To summarize, the practice was that one could touch the Host when not to do so would mean being deprived of the Sacrament. But when a priest was available, one did not receive in one’s hand.

So St. Basil (330-379) says clearly that to receive Communion by one’s own hand is only permitted in times of persecution or, as was the case with monks in the desert, when no deacon or priest was available to give it. “It is not necessary to show that it does not constitute a grave fault for a person to communicate with his own hand in a time of persecution when there is no priest or deacon” (Letter 93, my emphasis). The text implies that to receive in the hand under other circumstances, outside of persecution, would be a grave fault.3 The saint based his opinion on the custom of the solitary monks, who reserved the Blessed Sacrament in their dwellings, and, in the absence of the priest or deacon, gave themselves Communion.

In his article on “Communion” in the Dictionaire d’Archeologie Chretienne, LeClerq declares that the peace of Constantine was bringing the practice of Communion in the hand to an end. This reaffirms for us the reasoning of St. Basil that it was persecution that created the alternative of either receiving by hand or not receiving at all.

After persecution had ceased, evidently the practice of Communion in the hand persisted here and there. It was considered by Church authority to be an abuse to be rid of, since it was deemed to be contrary to the custom of the apostles.

Thus the Council of Rouen, which met in 650, says, “Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or laywomen but only in their mouths.” The Council of Constantinople which was known as in trullo (not one of the ecumenical councils held there) prohibited the faithful from giving Communion to themselves (which is of course what happens when the Sacred Particle is placed in the hand of the communicant). It decreed an excommunication of one week’s duration for those who would do so in the presence of a bishop, priest or deacon.

Of course, the promoters of “Communion in the hand” generally make little mention of the evidence we have brought forward. They do, however, make constant use of the text attributed to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth century at the same time as St. Basil.

Henri LeClerq summarized things as follows: “Saint Cyril of Jerusalem recommended to the faithful that on presenting themselves to receive Communion, they should have the right hand extended, with their fingers together, supported by the left hand, and with the palm a little bit concave; and at the moment in which the Body of Christ was deposited in the hand, the communicant would say: Amen.”

There is more to this text than just the above, however. It also goes on to propose the following: “Sanctify your eyes with contact with the Holy Body . . . . When your lips are still wet, touch your hand to your lips, and then pass you hand over your eyes, your forehead and your other senses, to sanctify them.” This rather odd (or even superstitious? Irreverent?) recommendation has caused scholars to question the authenticity of this text. Some think that perhaps there has been an interpolation, or that it is really the saint’s successor who wrote it.

It is not impossible that the text is really the work of the Patriarch John, who succeeded Cyril in Jerusalem. But this John was of suspect orthodoxy. This we know from the correspondence of St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine. So, in favor of Communion in the hand we have a text of dubious origin and questionable content. And on the other hand, we have reliable witnesses, including two great popes, that placing the Sacred Host in the mouth of the communicant was already common and unremarkable in at least the fifth century.
 
Thanks for that posting Brennan. As you can see, there is plenty of debate historically about communion in the hand. People are confused about the limits of the Church’s infallibility. It is really simple: They are only infallible in matters of faith and morals. NOT DISIPLINE

The Church has made mistakes in the bible. Look at Peter: he denied Jesus three times. Later, he was confronted by Paul about not eating with gentiles. Another clear example of the church making mistakes is during the Western Schism when we had three “popes”. Why would you think that any decision by the Church has to be correct? God gave each of us reason and faith to tell right and wrong.

Last thing, I think one person who epitomizes holiness is Mother Theresa. I would think she’s much closer to God than I’ll be. Here is what she said:

"As reported by Fr. George Rutler in his Good Friday sermon at St. Agnes Church, New York in 1989, when Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked by Fr. Rutler, “What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?” She more than anyone could name any number of candidates: famine, plague, disease, the breakdown of the family, rebellion against God, the corruption of the media, world debt, nuclear threat and so on. "Without pausing a second she said, “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand”.
 
Wrong.
The Church does not make mistakes.
This is not a Catholic belief, Scripture is the Word of God.

Mother Theresa said many times the worst offense to God was abortion.
 
Dutch, I agree with you 100%. The Church is guaranteed not to teach error in her official teachings regarding faith and morals. There is absolutely no such guarantee in regards to practical decisions made by a Pope or bishops. Their practical decisions may be of great benefit to the members of the Church, or they could be harmful. That is one reason why we pray for our Church leaders. If a practice, even if allowed by Rome, seems to be harmful to the faithful, there is nothing amiss in praying for its abrogation and even petitioning Rome for its abrogation. Thus practical decisions in regard to the liturgy, such as the changes made after the Second Vatican Council, or in reintroducing communion in the hand, are not guaranteed by the Holy Spirit to be beneficial to the Church.

Dr. William Marra of Fordham University pointed out a distinction Dietrich von Hildebrand once made: “We obey, but we do not necessarily agree.” Dr. Marra gave a hypothetical example given by Alice von Hildebrand. Let’s say a Pope decided to demolish Saint Peter’s to make room for a parking lot (and no, I do not think this will actually happen). We could ask the Pope to please not do it. But, ultimately, he has the authority. He could do it. And if he decided to do it, he would have to be obeyed. But that does not mean we would have to be glad that he did it or think that it was a good idea.
 
You guys are missing the point on discipline as it relates to sacraments. Receiving on the tongue or in the hand is something that the Church is completely free to change at any time. Tomorrow they could dictate that we stand at a certain point in the Mass where we previously knelt. We should then stand because this is precisely what the Church is asking us to do. There is no inherent moral issue between standing or kneeling at a particular time. The rule dictated by the Church as to a certain action or gesture in the Mass is the rule precisely because the Church says so. There is only an obedience issue. If tomorrow the Church said communion in the hand only or tongue only we would be obliged to obey for it is the Church that decides on the rubrics of the Mass and it is we who ought to follow them.

For you to attempt to make a case that communion in the hand is illegitimate you have to use the same reasoning that others use to stand during the consecration.

So you don’t like communion on the hand. I don’t either so I receive on the tongue. But either is appropriate because at this time the Church says so.
 
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dutch:
What good was brought about by allowing communion in the hand?
I have to agree with dutch on this one. It seems that a Pope has told us that “…the smoke of Satan has entered into the church.” Is this one of the ways it has. Yes, it is true that the church has approved this that we can receive in our hand but are we minimalizing what is truly present before us?

After reading the book “Get Us Out of Here!” by Maria Simma, which can only be purchased at the Medjugorje website at www.medjugorje.org, I know for me after 30 years of receiving on my hand I will now only receive on my tongue. You don’t have to believe what she says is true but it really gives you a whole different look at different things, one being communion in the hand.

God Bless
Gail
 
Ham1,

I agree with your post. The Church does have the right to allow a practice such as communion on the hand. My point simply is that while the Church can allow communion on the hand, that of course does not mean that it is a good idea to do so (being a matter of discipline, not dogma, as you mentioned). The faithful thus have a right to think that such an allowance is not a good idea and to hope, pray, and respectfully ask that such a practice be abrogated.
 
Gail,

I also would recommend the book “Get Us Out of Here” by Maria Simma. I think it has a lot of truth in it.
 
I was taught to take the Most Holy Eucharist with my hand in CCD, but as of last year I started taking it with my tongue after I observed the elderly do so and doing research on traditional Catholicism.

For whatever reason I take the Eucharist from my mouth because I believe my hands aren’t worthy to touch the body of the risen Lord.
 
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Ichthus:
Also the misunderstanding that ensued when self intinction was reprobated. Intinction was thrown out as well.
I’m under the impression that intinction was not thrown out.
  1. The Blood of the Lord may be received either by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon. GIRM
Self-intinction is, however, expressly forbidden, as Holy Communion must always be received from a minister.
 
I am amazed how abortion finds it way into almost every thread. Not that there is anything wrong with that… It just amazes me.

A Eucharist in the hand of Kerry is worth two in the Bush. No?

I don’t think that it matters too much either way. The Catholic Church once held that eating utensils shouldn’t be used because we should eat with the hands God gave us. I think since they are the hands God gave us and we are made in his own image that it should be O.K. to take it in the hand. I would say that you should always use your right hand though. I don’t know if this is the practice in the RC.
 
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A.Pelliccio:
I was taught to take the Most Holy Eucharist with my hand in CCD, but as of last year I started taking it with my tongue after I observed the elderly do so and doing research on traditional Catholicism.

For whatever reason I take the Eucharist from my mouth because I believe my hands aren’t worthy to touch the body of the risen Lord.
You think your mouth is more clean than your hands?

Do you think any part of you is worthy to receive Jesus?
 
We use our hands for many different things. Pumping gas, changing oil, in the bathroom, so yes, our hands could very well be less clean than the our tongue and mouth. Further, I don’t think there is any question that more particles will drop off and be lost when communion is received in the hand rather than the mouth. And this is an issue if, as is taught, the whole and entire Christ is present in each particle of Holy Communion.

Further, the priest (at least symbolically) washes his hands at the altar prior to touching the communion hosts because of the enormity of what he is about to do. Yet the laity do not.

God bless.
 
Any un-cleanliness would come from inside the body of the person not the outside. That is the whole point of the Eucharist now isn’t it. Dirt, microbes, bacteria, these are all things of God. They are in your mouth, on your hands, in your stomach, and in the air that touches the Eucharist. Thank goodness the Priests wash their hands though because you want to receive the body of Christ not the residual body flakes of the Priest.
 
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dutch:
Thanks for that posting Brennan. As you can see, there is plenty of debate historically about communion in the hand. People are confused about the limits of the Church’s infallibility. It is really simple: They are only infallible in matters of faith and morals. NOT DISIPLINE

The Church has made mistakes in the bible.** Look at Peter: he denied Jesus three times.** Later, he was confronted by Paul about not eating with gentiles. Another clear example of the church making mistakes is during the Western Schism when we had three “popes”. Why would you think that any decision by the Church has to be correct? God gave each of us reason and faith to tell right and wrong.

Last thing, I think one person who epitomizes holiness is Mother Theresa. I would think she’s much closer to God than I’ll be. Here is what she said:

"As reported by Fr. George Rutler in his Good Friday sermon at St. Agnes Church, New York in 1989, when Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked by Fr. Rutler, “What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?” She more than anyone could name any number of candidates: famine, plague, disease, the breakdown of the family, rebellion against God, the corruption of the media, world debt, nuclear threat and so on. "Without pausing a second she said, “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand”.
Peter is not the Church. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.
 
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