Friday 19 August 2011

Even Martin Luther...

...wouldn't have done this:

It's edifying when one's gut instinct is backed up with science, research, or at least history. Those "I knew it but couldn't prove it until now" moments are precious. Here's a little one: not exactly proof, but an interesting  historical perspective of the rights and wrongs of communion in the hand from Fr. Simon Henry's blog. Fr Simon (also known as The Priest In The Hat),  quotes Bishop Athanasius Schneider who argues that Communion in the hand is a Calvinist novelty: apparently even a heretic schismatic protestant like Luther wouldn't have countenanced it. In the shortish period when communion in the hand was permitted, the hands would be purified both before and after holding the host, which was never picked up in the communicant's fingers but taken directly off the hand with the tongue. The hand was then licked to ensure that no fragments remained. Women received Holy Communion from a white cloth draped over their hands; a type of corporal. A deacon supervised the purification of hands.

This is in essence much closer to communion on the tongue as we know it than to the modern sense of "communion in the hand" - a shuffling queue to take the Blessed Sacrament from the hands of a layperson (all too often)  then wandering back to the pew while putting it casually into mouth. Perhaps it should be insisted that communion in the hand is permitted, but must be done *properly* -- as above.

"Yes of course you may receive Communion in the hand, just join that queue over there to have your hands purified, Deacon Pius will make sure that you do it properly, then you can join the "in the hand" queue with extra purification afterwards. Or you could just join the no-hassle queue, kneel down and receive on the tongue." 

See how long it would last then!

Read the whole piece here.

Makes you think, doesn't it?


  1. Recently I was at Mass, and saw a man across the aisle had his little dog with him, sitting on the seat beside him. Before Mass started the man was fondling and stroking the dog. That was bad enough but imagine my horror when later on the man went onto the altar as a Eucharistic Minister! Admitedly he was holding the chalice and not giving out the hosts but still...

    Lets get back to awe and reverence when receiving Communion and the first step is surely receiving on the tongue!

  2. @ Jean - Argggh! That's horrendous: words fail me. I think the insistence on purifying the hands would put a stop to most people wanting communion in the hand, and surely would focus the mind on what's wrong with it in the first place! Completely agree with your last point!