Pope Paul VI on Receiving Holy Communion



As someone who instructs in the faith, I am obliged to pass on, not my own opinion, but what the Church holds and teaches. This is an obligation which comes with a heavy weight of responsibility for me, because I don't know everything about the faith (who could?) and often, I don't feel like I know very much at all.

This means that I am always open to correction, and always trying to find out more. This is the process that has led me to change my perspective on the way we receive Holy Communion, and become somewhat of an evangelical advocate for making a sign of reverence (a deep bow, or genuflection) before we receive the blessed Sacrament, and only receiving on the tongue. If I'm honest, my study has led me to the conclusion that one should rightly be on their knees when they receive, as is the norm when receiving from the Holy Father, but until kneelers are reintroduced, we will have to make do.

The way we conduct ourselves is essential and important. It, in itself, constitutes a prayer. We demonstrate our humility, fidelity and love of God in this way. We shouldn't saunter up the aisle of the Church and casually handle Jesus. The Priest's hands have been consecrated in order that he might act in Personae Christi, and he acts with the greatest reverence handling the Host. Consider what you are saying "Amen" to. Consider what St. Alphonsus Liguori C.Ss.R., Doctor of the Church, teaches about Holy Mass:
"According to St. John Chrysostom, during the celebration of Mass the Altar is surrounded by Angels, who are present to pay homage to Jesus Christ, the Victim offered in Sacrifice. And St. Gregory asks, "who doubts that at the very hour of immolation, at that voice of the priest, the heavens are opened and the choirs of Angels are present at that mystery of Jesus Christ?" St. Augustine says that the Angels assist as servants to the priest who offers the Sacrifice."
To be called, as each of us are; to be invited to take part in this sacred liturgy is a huge honour. Remembering this, and acting accordingly is an essential dimension to properly partaking in the Mass, and getting the most from it. That's not even to mention the pedagogical dimension. How we act is demonstrative of our belief and teaches others about what is going on and how to act.

Of course, Communion in the hand is a licit means of reception (by indult) currently. Ecclesiastical law is not infallible; it can be imprudent. Clearly, the 1,000 year ban on Communion in the hand was the prudent law as it so effectively minimised the loss of sacred particles and theft of the Host by those seeking to desecrate it, served to increase reverence and limit the possibility of abuse. The current indult (much more on what that is here), however, is imprudent because it has not served to protect the blessed Sacrament from sacrilege or theft. We pray that the traditional practice of receiving Communion only on the tongue may be restored throughout the world. I was more than a bit surprised to find that this was the hope of Pope Paul VI:
“The Holy Father … does not consider it opportune that the sacred Particle be distributed in the hand and later consumed in different manners by the faithful, and therefore, he vehemently exhorts [that] the Conference offer the opportune resolutions so that the traditional manner of communicating be restored throughout the world.” (October 12, 1965 letter of the “Consilium” to Bernard Cardinal Alfrink, Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands).
To better understand this subject, you might be interested in some of my other posts about it:


I would also highly recommend Bishop Laise’s book, Communion in the hand: Documents and History, which is perhaps the most authoritative book on this subject in the world.


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