August 01, 2007

Receiving the Lord's Eucharistic Body ... on the tongue or in the hand?

In the Tridentine rite, one must always receive Holy Communion directly on the tongue. No other option!

In the Rite of Mass promulgated after Vatican II, universal Church law for Roman Catholics gives the bishop the rite to ban communion in the hand, but not communion on the tongue. In other words, he may require everyone to receive directly on the tongue; he may not require anyone to receive on the hand.

If the bishop allows communion in the hand, the person receiving still has the absolute right to decide for himself to receive on the tongue.

In my previous post about tongues, I mentioned some of the peculiarities of individuals who receive on the tongue.

When I was preparing to receive my First Holy Communion back in 1966, the Sister who was my teacher had the class practice sticking out our tongues for Communion. She went around the room inspecting each of us. When she got to me, I intentionally stuck out my tongue at HER. She smiled and said to me, "Good!"

Now ... priests see a lot of hands also.
There are those who cup their hands as if they are going to hold water in their hands, with the two edges of their hands touching, rather than overlapping. When I see that, I make sure I put the Host on one palm and I press down a little so that the person's hand turns upwards, to make sure the Host doesn't fall or slide of their tilted palm.

There are those who correctly place one open hand ON TOP of the other, so that there is only one exposed palm on which to place the Host. However, a few of these persons hold their hands out tilted towards themselves, rather than flat and level. When I see that, I'm always afraid the Host will fall off their hand. In that case, I lower my hand in such a way that the heel of my palm meets and gently pushes down the person's fingertips (making sure the person's hand ends up more level than before), and then I put the Host into their palm with my fingertips.

Sometimes this woman or that will hold out her hands to receive the Host but has her rosary in her palm or wrapped around her hand. In that case, I use my pinky to push the rosary aside before I put the Host down into her palm.

There are those who hold out their hands, but have their thumb and forefinger up like tongs, so that I end up putting the host between those two fingers rather than into their palms.

From time to time, some will come forward, but hold their hands down so low that I don't see them, and then I'm sticking the Host at their unopened mouths, when they wanted to receive in their hands instead.

Bow or genuflect before you receive?
The Church still requires a priest celebrating Mass to genuflect before he receives communion.

In the U.S.A., the Church directs people to bow, rather than genuflect, when they approach to receive the Eucharist. However, the Church also directs the clergy not to refuse or correct on the spot anyone who genuflects or kneels down.

Some "liberal" bigots say that when you genuflect you might trip the person behind you. Well, there's more of a problem with people bowing. Some persons bow so close to me that I'm forced to lean or step back so that when they straighten up their heads don't knock the Eucharistic vessel in my hands. I never have to do that when someone genuflects.


Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

Is concern of sacrilegious use of the Holy Eucharist the reason a Bishop might insist upon reception on the tongue?

Personally, out of consideration for the priest, I receive in the hand (I lied earlier about being OCD). But the way some folks cavalierly receive in the hand and "pop" it into their mouth, I can see how reception on the tongue minimizes opportunities for irreverence let alone desecration.

P.S. Your post count is quite high for the last two days. Has there been any improvement in your internet access?

11:46 AM  
Blogger Mephibosheth said...

Is it permissable to offer the Sacrament by intinction in a Tridentine Mass?

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father, I have a question as a fairly new Catholic. Do you bow/genuflect right as you are approaching the priest or do you start when, say, the person in front of you is receiving.

For myself, I prefer receiving on the tongue and generally can do so without problem, but I will receive in the hand if - and it happened to me once - the alternative is the possibility of an argument over our Lord's Body.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Bob, we're still on dial-up. However, two of the monks who use the internet here are away, so the competition for time online is down.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

I don't know if the Tridentine Rite permits intinction.

My mere guess is that it does not.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

It is correct to bow as the person in front of you is receiving.

5:55 PM  
Blogger gemoftheocean said...

That's a fun read re: your in-the-hand folks and the tongue folks. I find either problematic, when I'm on the giving end.

Do you have any "bobbing for apples" types? As you're holding the Host in front of them with a solemn "Body of Christ" they're doing the "bobbing for apples" routine. *sigh* Oddly enough [no duh] there is a high percentage of hand/finger lickers amongst them if you're not careful.

Your narrow tongue one and "quick one" are what I call [mentally!] "the lizard people" Tongue is out okay...but they flick it back in so quickly you're always afraid they will flick the Host off in the distance if they miscalculate -- like a flying clipped toenail.

Ditto the people who stick their tongues out with the tip pointing straight DOWN. Now I'm supposed to be a magician who has to hope they have enough spit on their tongues for the host to adhere to?

With the "hand" folks ... it goes without saying those who waltz away so you have to chase them are the most irritating [more laziness and thoughtlessness 98% of the time...they always put it in just as you are about to chase them.]

The ones who CROSS themselves with the host also drive me nuts. I always want to say "you're not waving a tootsie roll around, you know?" and the ones who hold their palms almost vertically also are not the sharpest tool in the shed...or should I more charitably say "must be so intent on the Lord they REALLY aren't thinking about the %1 requirement for practicality."

Granted, most people are "fine" but it's those 5% that are troublesome.

I know that when eastern rite catholics receive it's with the mouth wide open and the tongue back so the tongue does not touch the spoon that the priest drops in the mouth with the Body and Blood. I bet 99 out of 100 of those you get are Eastern Rite. Also the on the tongue people that that have a mouth open but just slightly. Am I supposed to toss the Host in like a frisbee?

And yes, I've had my share of hand lickers too. The trick is to discretely wipe the portion of your hand that got licked, if possible.

Every once in a blue moon I enjoy it when our priest makes mention of these things during the sermon. He does it in a light "hey, watch it, give us a break, willya" kind of way. hysterical. He really gets people laughing. And gets the point across. But it doesn't last forever, and we do get a lot of visitors.

I do think some liturgists have rocks in their heads when they decided the head bow goes when the person in front of you is receiving. This smacks of "we want you to show reverence, but we want to keep the line moving." I'm not usually in this situation...but when I am, I refuse to bow to the back of the head of the person in front of me. Those liturgists can stuff it. Just as the person in front of me moves, I then bow when I have a clear sight of the Host. And of course, I never stand so close to the priest or EM that they'd have to worry about a head butt.

I think someone once told me that the Canucks were taught to extend the thumb and index finger. I haven't had any dropped hand offs, in that situation, and I have to say that they seem to be well trained to consume the Host right away, which is more than I can say for some people! I guess the thought being there is less surface of the host to adhere to the person's palm. Anyone know for sure what the reasoning is? Or is it just bad form for everyone. I'd never do it.

And, my all time favorites are the ones who come up, hands clasped, mouth shut as if standing before the Almighty on Judgment day. [Give me a clue, willya?] They usually, when you make a move towards their mouths open up their hands as if they were playing "here's the church-here's the steeple."

And I'd love to clobber the charismatics or whomever decided that every little urchin and grown person NOT receiving crosses their arms on their chest to receive a blessing. It's one thing I'm glad the bishop has called on us to put a stop to. Still doesn't really help when little Suzie, age 5 gets her feelings hurt. I can't swat her mother with a rolled up newspaper. "Father will give you a blessing after Mass." Then they stand rooted to the spot until mother hauls them away.

The ones that keep you guessing are the moms and dads who have the two year old balanced on the hip. They always have a kid that's going to be a basketball center or forward, ready to try and slam away any "incoming." It's like threading a needle. Either on the tongue or in the hand isn't a picnic either way. If it's on the tongue, the kid has a better chance of snatching the Host -- but then "in the hand" in that case means a one handed reception, with a slight flip of the palm to fingers and a turn of the head away. Neither really satisfactor, but method "b" probably gets the job done in the long run with a little more safety on not having it snatched or dropped. Parents with two year olds have pretty quick reflexes!

And then there's the "guess which hand" folks. The ones who hold the hands perfectly flat ... but you don't know if they are "lefty" or "righty" -- I always, in that case put in in their left hand as most people are right handed. Though, sometimes, of course, I guess wrong, in which case "lefty" flips the host into his right hand. [Hey, lefty, wanna clue me next time by putting that right hand on top like you should?"]

And then there's the "Flat in the hand, and pops in mouth like a wad of popcorn" one-handed.

Over the years I've had about maybe 4 or 5 dropped Hosts, but then I guess that's not too bad of an average for having given Communion to thousands of Communicants. Caught one Host, one handed, mid-air the other week though when the person did do one of those "tip of the tongue pointing straight down" routines. Playing infield in my youth helped!

PErsonally, I've always been somewhat ambidexterous. I write right handed, but have always thrown lefty (I liked playing first)-- except for bowling. I tend to assign tasks to one hand or the other. Gas caps and combination locks are ONLY left handed. And I feel more comfortable using my left hand to distribute Communion, but if I had an injured thumb or index finger on that hand I can (and have) easily switched.

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Thanks be to God we all kneel at The Birmingham Oratory & i've reverted to Communion on the tongue only...

11:56 AM  
Blogger gemoftheocean said...

Jackie, believe me ... communion on the tongue isn't a cakewalk either for the one giving the Communion. And now that I'm older with knees that don't work very well at all, I am grateful I can stand while receiving.

Mouth or hand is okay by me. I'd pity poor Father S. though, if they went back to twraling the altar rails -- he kind of shuffles and would be in some pain if he was expected to all the work of moving back and forth like that.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karen H., I hope you'll forgive me because I really don't know how to phrase this without giving offense. I certainly don't mean anything personal by this...

It's just that reading your comments really brought home to me the reason why I don't like receiving communion from EMs.

OTOH, as a person who does receive on the tongue, this discussion is interesting. I'll probably spend the morning sticking out my tongue in front of the mirror before mass.

Perhaps a discussion on the proper way to receive would be in order? I had my first communion in 1976 and we were not taught to receive on the tongue. I just kind of wing it. I do hope I'm not doing it wrong.

8:13 PM  
Blogger gemoftheocean said...

Well, Anon....I hope I'm not saying THIS in a way where you will take it wrong...but believe it or not....the Host the priest gives you is the same Host the EM gives you. It isn't any less God because an EM is giving it to you. If the pope is PERSONALLY giving you the Host, or a 16 year old pressed into service at the last minute is giving it to's the SAME. Communion is Communion is Communion is Communion.

Now if you thought I was sounding too "flippant" re: all the types of ways people receive Communion, believe me your average priest could have given you those same descriptions. Again, "MOST" of you are's just the 5% of you who require some extra diligence. You want to make it EASY on the person who gives you Communion? If in the hand, place your NON-dominant hand on top of the hand you wish to use to convey the Host to your mouth. Hold your hand open and FLAT. Keep your hands STILL - we do not like trying to hit a moving target. Once the Host is in your hand, take it and consume it RIGHT AWAY with your dominant hand. Voila. Don't waltz away with it and make us chase you. Don't bless yourself with it. [Really annoying.]

If on tongue tilt your head slightly back, OPEN YOUR MOUTH (I don't want to hand you the ciborium so I can separate your lips and shove the Host in) You don't need to open your mouth more than 1/2-3/4 inch above your tongue, but give us some room, huh? The edge of your tongue should be FLAT, slight out and over the lower lip. Don't stick your tongue in the air where it's not touching the lower lip. That's just weird, and leads to "lizard tongues." Ditto don't point your tongue straight down. Let's not play with gravity in this instance.] Please don't "bob for apples" when the priest or EM says "Body of Christ" we are holding the Eucharist there for a brief instance "on purpose" this is NOT your signal to "come and get It." Trust us. We WILL give it to you. [Unless your name is Rudy Giuliani and you're in my line, then all bets are off. Ditto Nancy Pelosi. In my dreams "I don't think so, Sparky...."]

1:24 AM  

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