Friday, February 29, 2008

Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship Reiterates: It's Time to Rethink Communion in the Hand

Bruno Volpe, of Petrus, recently interviewed the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Bruno Volpe: Your Excellency, let us come to the question of Communion in the hand: What do you think about it?

Msgr. Albert Malcom Ranjith: I 'simply' believe that this practice needs to be reviewed. How to do it? To begin with, a good catechesis. You know, unfortunately, many are not even aware of Whom they receive in the Communion, that is Christ, and so approach the Eucharistic banquet with scarce concentration and very little respect.

Volpe: Specifically, what needs to be done?

Ranjith: We need to recover the sense of the sacred. I speak only for myself, but I am convinced of the urgency of reviewing the practice of Communion given in the hand, returning to giving the particle to the faithful directly in the mouth, without them touching it, reinforcing thereby that in the Eucharist there is really Jesus and that everyone must receive Him with devotion, love and respect.

Volpe: Would it not be appropriate to return to kneeling at the moment of Communion?

Ranjith: I think so. This gesture would represent a true act of respect towards the gift and the mystery of the Eucharist.

Volpe: But some, even inside the Church, seem to express “embarrassment” only at the idea of seeing restored kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.

Ranjith: Beyond the office I occupy in the Vatican, as a Catholic I ask myself and wonder: why be ashamed of God? Kneeling at Communion would be an act of humility and recognition of our nature as children of God.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has consistently spoken of a gravitational pull between the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite, with which I totally and unequivocally agree. Many of us believe Pope B16 intends that both the TLM and the Novus Ordo mutually enhance one another insofar as the future of Catholic sacred worship is concerned. Since Divine Liturgy is integral to Catholic dogma (lex orandi, lex credendi), it is obvious that in this post Vatican II (and post JP2) era, a liturgical renaissance is unfolding. While still in the advent of such an epic moment, the most important element of contemporary worship is the decline in REVERENCE.

Just as Communion in the Hand was banned in the Middle Ages after abuses became prolific, it may very well need to be re-banned again. While currently a legitimate option in many American dioceses, the Roman Pontiff can easily revise that prior decision of his predecessor. If the modern liturgists are so convinced that their 'preference' of receving 'in the hand' is so beneficial, why not put their theory to the test? Observe parishes where one method is the overwhelming preference of the entire congregation (and parish). I maintain that places where people receive Holy Communion on the tongue rather than in the hand tend to show more respect and reverence for the REAL PRESENCE.

If universally (in the Latin Rite) we only allowed communion on the tongue AND required communicants to KNEEL or GENUFLECT, you would see a pronouned difference and improvement in the overal REVERENCE given to the Most Blessed Sacrament. Combine this celebrating the vernacular Mass (Novus Ordo) ad orientem AND insist that unchangeable common parts of the Mass be retained in LATIN (or Greek for the Kyrie) such as the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Canon (Eucharistic Prayer), Pater Noster and Agnus Dei, not only would the reverence to the Holy Eucharist be enhanced, but the dogma of the Real Presence would simultaneously be REINFORCED and re-emphasized.

Wherever the Most Blessed Sacrament is adored and worshipped with proper reverence and respect, we see a pronounced INCREASE in vocations to the priesthood but also to the diaconate and religious life. Banal and pedestrian worship is not edifying nor does it INSPIRE man to ASPIRE to seek the HOLY. Yet, God created man (male and female) to seek the TRUE and the GOOD. Only in pursuing sanctity can man become holy by God's divine grace. Yet, man has no desire for holiness if his 'common' worship gives him the false impression that there is no transcendent reality beyond this world. Catholic worship is centered on the union of body and soul, material and spiritual, earth and heaven. We are INCARNATIONAL. Hence, our worship uses our five senses of this world to lure us into the next. Sadly, all too often modern liturgy has not led men to God and to heaven. When done properly (according to the rubrics) and well (reverently) the Ordinary form (Novus Ordo) of the Roman Rite is dignified, eloquent, didactic and inspiring. When done improperly, it deteriorates from divine worship into human deification.

BOTH the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite are here to STAY, Pope Benedict XVI has said, and this is a good thing. In this spring time of renewal, let us hope and pray that the sacred mysteries of faith will once again find their rightful place in the hearts and minds of all the Catholic faithful.


Deo volente said...

Thank you for your superb comments, Fr. John! I have linked this excellent story to my blog in Maryland:

May God be with you!

Deo volente

Jeff said...

Father John, could you please go on tour and express these views! Catholic ears desperately need to hear them.

Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

Perhaps so. I understand the sentiment, however, the Eastern Rites have always received standing and there is no lack of reverence. For centuries the Latin Rite also received standing with no ill effect that I have learned of, so the problem seems to me to be elsewhere.
Matthew the Curmudgeon

andyjourn said...

Fr John,

I would like to reiterate what Jeff said.

It srikes the right balance.

Perhaps communion in the hand should go (and I hope it does), but for the moment it is part of the discipline of the Church in many countries.

Priests should encourage those who choose this method of receiving communion to do as St Cyril of Jerusalem exhorted the early Christians to do, "Make your hands a throne, in which to receive the King."

But what have we seen. Discarded communion hosts found in churches, particles of communion found in pews and missalettes, communion hosts now advertised on EBay, and perhaps worst of all, Holy Communion used in black Mass satanic rituals.

Now, is this the sort of reform which was asked for in Sacrosanctum Concilium? I don't think so. (Admittedly though, these are abuses of communion in the hand, and that is not to say it can't be done properly.)

I agree with Archbishop Ranjith, that this practice needs to be urgently reviewed, though in the light of these infractions.

Looking forward to the decision of the Holy Father here which may coincide or be near the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

But that is conjecture on my part.

radio45 said...

I disagree. When I take communion in my hand, I am coming to my Savior, and physically taking Him and placing Him on my tongue. Communion for me becomes very personal. I am taking an active part in inviting Jesus, in spite of my imperfections, to come into my heart and body and heal both. It is not only the word, "Amen!" on my lips but my action of placing the Host on my tongue the provides action to my words. It becomes a very profound experience each time, as often as I partake of it. Likewise, the Cup. When I take it and drink, I become a willing participant in the saving power of the Blood of Christ. It is not only a process involving the priest but involving my action as well. While it can be said that this same involvement can be found "on the rail" I find it more profound and moving in this manner. The fault lies not in the manner of reception but the catechesis and instruction that goes with formation. If we see the Mass as the summit of our faith and worship, then anyway we meet Jesus in the Mass can be meaningful and substantive as well. Reverence does not begin with the form but in the heart of the believer. If there is a lack of reverence, that reverence will not be reversed simply in change of form, but the changing and turning of the hearts of the faithful. That is a harder task than the simple, "I forbid", but one of which every priest is certainly capable.

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

I am very well aware that the Eastern Catholic churches receive Holy Communion standing. They also receive by intinction and not in the hand. I am addressing the prolific irreverence for the Blessed Sacrament in the Latin Rite.

Options can always be made mandatory or they can be abolished. Hence, Communion in the hand, confession face-to-face, etc., can be forbidden any time the Holy See chooses to do so. They can also continue as options, and no priest, deacon or bishop can refuse options (unless explicitly allowed by canon law). So, those clerics who deny the faithful their OPTION to receive Holy Communion on the tongue or to confess annonymously are wrong.

My PREFERENCE is to remove the option of Communion in the hand and the option of receiving while standing. I do not have such authority to impose such a decision but the Roman Pontiff can. He has also empowered the local bishop to allow or deny Communion in the hand. Kneeling, genuflecting or standing for Communion, however are all allowed in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.

While in essence benign, the reason Communion in the hand was previously disallowed after a period of approval is the same as today. The percentage of increasing irreverence for Blessed Sacrament AND the dilution of belief in the Real Presence. Both are prolific today.

If the Latin church went to mandatory intinction all the time, everywhere, I would be equally happy. The practice of kneeling and using the Communion Rail has two benefits.

One, the priest or deacon gets to move back and forth and it is less fatiguing on his legs and feet when there is a large number of communicants.

Two, it gives each communicant a few quiet moments to prepare themselves before receiving Holy Communion. Easier to meditate while kneeling than whil standing in line as we do at the store.

Three, it is more reverent and affirms the sanctity of Holy Communion in the Latin Rite when one KNEELS before one's Lord and God.

While no panacea, if the Holy Father mandates 'ad orientem' only AND communion on the tongue and kneeling ONLY, I think we would see a dramatic increase in reverence. That was my main point.

Lori Ann said...

This is in response to Radio 45 who disagreed with you:

"Taking" seems to be the operative word when using the hand, whereas "receiving" is a better word for what we do with our tongues. I can actively receive Jesus with the consent of my will ("willing participant"), my kneeling down before Him, and the opening of my mouth. He feeds me in this case, instead of my feeding myself with Him. That's the work that Jesus left for His priests to do for us. Why take their work and assume it as our own? It serves to simply blur the lines between the ministerial and common priesthood of the faithful.

Also, an act of reverence can, if repeated over time, be a vehicle for transformation of the heart. It is quite possible to become who you are by what you do. As a personal example, presenting myself regularly before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament transformed my life.

Finally, I think it can be argued that receiving Jesus on the tongue from the priest is a much more humble gesture, on our part, than is placing Him on our own tongues. Human nature hasn't changed since the Middle Ages. People are still prideful and prone to corrupting this august Sacrament.

I pray that this practice is corrected soon.

Peace in Christ Jesus.

J.A. Best said...

The Late Servant Of God Father JOhn A Hardon SJ Related he believed that the practice Of Communion In The Hand would not last in the Roman Catholic Church based on what he had come to know about the Papacy in his life

Joyful Catholics said...

My husband and I returned to the CC only 3 years ago, and I was receiving the Host in my hands as I'd done in the 70's. Only the last 5 months. I can't tell you how much more "holy" it seems, at least to me. Maybe that's the wrong way to express it, but it's humbling to receive on the tongue, and I think the world needs more humble hearts. I'm not giving myself a pat on the back, but I'm only so grateful to have obeyed this "voice" and prompting to receive my Lord this way. It's truly made a change in my life, although words to articulate this change really can't be found. Praise God for the wonderful gift of the Eucharist~

Dominic said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Let us pray that the extraordinary form of the Mass has the desired gravitational pull on the ordinary.

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