Because I like to keep this blog focused on subjects that don’t get people all upset, I thought I’d visit the completely unemotional topic of on-the-tongue versus in-the-hand at Communion time.
That clicking you hear is the sound of Catholics navigating away from this subject faster than they put in their earphones when somebody carrying a copy of The Watchtower sits down next to them on an airplane.
I’m not really much of an activist either way on this one, except to say that I do enjoy the ritual of a bow before that goes with receiving Communion while standing. But that said I do find the whole thing a little confusing. Am I the only one who goes through this process every Sunday?
“Whose Communion line am I on? Oh, good. Father Daniel. We’re the same height. He doesn’t have to reach up to my mouth. I don’t have to bend down to meet him halfway. On the tongue it is.”
Other times, it’s this. “Hmm. Diminutive extraordinary minister at 12 o’clock. This could end up looking like bobbing for apples at best and a desperate attempt to flail at the Eucharist with my tongue at worst. Let’s go in the hand.”
There are more important things to be thinking about during Communion but I can’t seem to help it. I’m 6’3” (6’4” in my Sunday shoes). That’s not as tall as my brother (6’7”) but still, not a lot of the people I receive Communion from during the course of the year are my height or taller. Taller is great. The perfect on-the-tongue angle.
Sometimes I wonder why there’s even a decision involved here. You’d think being in the Universal Church would make things like this easier. But I guess such subjects have been going on since the faithful got into it over circumcising gentiles.
Not having a solid rule to follow has been a problem for me before (a rule about Communion, not about circumcising gentiles).
Back in the ‘90s I went to the famous EWTN morning Mass at their little onsite chapel in Birmingham. When I went up for Communion, I hadn’t noticed that the priest was using intinction (immersing the host inside the chalice before offering it to the communicant…communicee…communi…never mind).
Maybe because it was early morning and I had just spent the night at a Birmingham Super 8 near a loud and busy stretch of railroad. Maybe it was because I was self-conscious, knowing the Mass was being televised. Or maybe it was just because I’m a guy whose mind wanders easily. Whichever it was, I soon found myself standing in front of a priest—my arms outstretched in proper in-the-hand form—waiting to be handed a host that had just gone into the chalice. Basically I was indicating that I was expecting to be given a handful of the Christ’s Blood.
Father looked none too pleased, as I recall. I quickly “dethroned” my hands, took Communion the old-fashioned way, and legged it back to my pew, hoping the folks back home didn’t see me being a moron on TV. Not that anybody I knew was up at that hour.
At the time, I wouldn’t even have considered receiving on the tongue. I did what I had been doing for years, ever since Communion rails started disappearing.
It’s really too bad about those Communion rails. Remember them? They made putting the host on your tongue a pretty easy process for priests—lots of elevation over the target area. I imagine EMs would appreciate the ease of it, too.
Maybe this would be a good compromise: Kneel for the Precious Body, received on the tongue and then stand for the Precious Blood. That way, you don’t run the risk of hosts being carried absent-mindedly back to the pew (or worse) and people who feel it’s important to “take” Communion rather than “receive” it can get that experience when they approach the Precious Blood.
I’m not under the delusion that I’m the first ever to come up with this one. And I’m sure somebody out there knows why it’s an unworkable idea. It just seems to me like something to try.
Of course, friends of mine who are I-am-never-not-kneeling communicants would have to agree that kneeling to receive the Precious Blood is out of the question. But they probably never go for the chalice, anyway.
Okay. I’ll stop now. Maybe I am the only one who sits around thinking about this stuff. But it keeps me sitting here typing in the evening and generally out of trouble.
Whichever way you receive Holy Communion, may you always find yourself in a state of grace when the opportunity arrives!
Now let’s talk about whether or not Confession counts if Father doesn’t ask for an Act of Contrition.