An interactive session between the members of the bed briefing house and the moderator on the topic: Communion by Hand or by Tongue: Pastoral Challenge Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
Venue: Bed briefing house via Telegram
Date: 20th August 2020
Moderator: Mrs MaryCynthia Madueke
Collator: Miss Benita Aniebo
There has been an increasing need to receive Holy Communion by hand amidst the Corona virus pandemic. However, there are a lot of controversies arising to this norm and we shall discuss the pros and cons.
This brings us to today’s topic: Communion by hand or by tongue: Pastoral challenge amidst COVID- 19 pandemic
Question: Is it a sin to receive the Holy Communion by hand or is it against the Catholic Doctrine to receive the Holy Communion by hand?
Answer: If I’m not in the state of grace, neither my hand nor tongue should touch the holy Eucharist. If my hand is not worthy, then all part of my body, including my tongue, is unworthy. The state is what makes one sinful and not necessarily the means by which you receive Communion.
Question: Is this a personal notion or is it in accordance with the Catholic teachings?
Answer: It is not a personal notion. There is no document in the Catholic Church that says it is sinful to receive Holy communion by hand. But the church recommends holy communion by tongue in order to avoid the sacrilege of taking the Sacred species to unholy place for other unwelcomed or fetish acts.
(Read the document-Redemptionis Sacramentum_ , no. 92. – Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacrament, April 23, 2004.)
Question: Is there any best way or method for receiving the Holy Communion?
Answer: Yes; that is by tongue. You don’t need to be extra careful while receiving with tongue but any other means needs diligent and if not well handled can lead to desecration of the Eucharist
Question: What about kneeling down or standing up during the reception of the Holy Eucharist?
Answer: Kneeling is preferable in order to offer our Blessed Lord the reverence and adoration that he deserves. Kneeling or standing is a gesture and has different meanings and significance at different occasions and times. It is best to kneel before the Eucharist but when condition makes it not possible, then standing or even sitting can serve. I might be kneeling physically but my heart is jumping. I might be seated but my heart is prostate before the Almighty.
The heart is of more importance than physical gesture.
Question: Does it mean we have not been receiving the Holy Eucharist the best way since this pandemic?
Answer: Under normal circumstances, I would have said that we have not been receiving it the best way. But since the bishop has given a direction to receive the holy communion by hand, then there’s no other best way to receive it during this pandemic other than carefully and reverently by hand. Anyone who disobeys this Episcopal injunction, is disobeying the body of Christ, which is the Church
By hand or tongue matter little of its efficacy, because all who have recieved communion is believed to have been prepared in the proper decorum for it..with the sense of its sacredness.
Question: Does the way the Holy Eucharist is received influences it’s effect or efficacy?
Answer: Catechism makes it clear that salvation or condemnation depends on the state of the recipient of the Eucharist. Effect or efficacy as different from validity, is influenced by the disposition of the communicant. This disposition include, being in the state of grace, believing in what you celebrate, offering full attention to the liturgy and reverently approaching the throne of Grace to receive the body of Christ.
Question: Are we trying to say that one may likely contact this Corona virus through the reception of the Holy Communion?
Answer: No; but wisdom is profitable to direct and the church is wise in its own wisdom. On a lighter note; how can the body of Christ…the healer of sicknesses…allow Itself to be a transmitter of virus?
Experts on COVID 19, tell us that any contact with the body can easily lead to the spread of the virus. Don’t tempt the Lord your God. We don’t have to expose ourselves to danger so that God will save us.
Our Blessed Lord has given us the ordinary means of protecting ourselves and we should not in the name of too much faith, abandon those ordinary means just to put him to the test. He does not work arbitrarily. Remember His ways are not ours. Meanwhile, anyone who sees death and approaches it for no cause to salvation, is likely to commit suicide, especially if there are other available means to salvation.
Question: How do we convince Our Precious Blood Devotees and some of our brethren who think we desecrate the Eucharist by receiving it on our palm?
Answer: St. Pope John Paul II gave Holy Communion on both hand and tongue, he is a saint today. St Mother Theresa received Holy Communion on both hand and tongue and she is a saint today. Let us learn to obey the Church, we cannot claim to be in communion with the body of Christ, the Eucharist when we are not in communion with his mystical body, the church. They should be made to understand that nothing, except mortal sin, is worthy to deny us the privilege of receiving our blessed lord. YES ..just as no laws,rules and regulations is above or more powerful than the constitution of a country.
We have many voices that contradict each other. How do we then know the truth? That is where the church comes in, to censor those voices and tell us what to do.
In addition, we should not forget that Jesus became man in order to be close to us as one of us. People touched him. In fact, sinners touched him. Those who felt they were holy were scandalized that Jesus allowed sinners to touch him. But Jesus told them that only the sick have the need of a doctor. It is the body that was touched by sinners that we still receive. However, we are encouraged to receive him in the state of grace.
Question: What constitutes a worthy reception of the Holy Communion?
Answer: As earlier mentioned, it is disposition, which include, being in the state of grace, believing in what you celebrate, active participation in the liturgy and reverently approaching the throne of Grace to receive the body of Christ. Finally, ensure that no particle is left not consumed.
Question: So how do we bring these teachings down to our brethren?
Answer: Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven…” Is a mandate given to the church. So we should listen to the church and not an individual or group of persons. “Obedience is better than sacrifice” should be our motto. “The gate of hell shall never prevail…” Is our belief. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God…,” even the pandemic shouldn’t stop us from receiving this precious food.
So we use this forum to bring these teachings down to our brethren.
In baptism, we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16-17). If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond “Amen” (“yes, it is true!”) and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, “the Body of Christ” and respond “Amen.” Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true (St. Augustine, Sermon 272: PL 38, 1247).
Holy Communion was received both on the tongue and on the palm. However, as time went on, there was a preference for reception of Holy Communion on the tongue and by 900AD, reception on the tongue had become a universal norm. This could have been as a result of the fact that the faith in the real presence of Jesus in Eucharist became so clear to the faithful and they wished to give Him reverence by receiving Him on the tongue to distinguish this from the way they eat ordinary bread. Reception of Holy Communion on the tongue could also have become a norm to avoid abuse and desecration of the Sacred Species as there were cases of persons who took the Holy Communion away for some unholy practices.
In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave permission to receive Communion in the hand. The reception of Communion in the hand is a return to a traditional practice of the Church. Quoting from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 348), Pope Paul VI instructed that, “‘When you approach Holy Communion, make the left hand into a throne for the right, which will receive the King.’ Then with your lower hand, take the consecrated Host and place it in your mouth.” The option to receive Communion in the hand or on the tongue is left to the individual receiving it. Whether in the hand or on the tongue, it should be done with respect toward the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
What constitutes a worthy reception of Holy Communion is that the recipient is in a state of grace, believing in what you celebrate, active participation in the liturgy and approaching the altar to receive the Holy Communion with reverence.
What kills the soul is the reception of Holy Communion when one is not in a state of grace.
Let us therefore, pursue the most important thing, namely: being in a state of grace while receiving the Eucharist.
Then about the mode of reception and distribution, we follow the guidelines given by our Pope and Bishops trusting God that they will not lead the Church astray in their wisdom.
God bless you