Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This weekend we celebrate the great solemnity of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Though, as St. Thomas Aquinas says in the great Eucharistic hymn the Tantum Ergo, our feeble senses fail – we are unable to visibly see the change or tangibly taste the change – we believe that at the words of consecration, the bread and wine are truly changed in their very substance to be the Body and Blood of Jesus.
If, then, the Eucharist is no mere symbol, our attitude toward the Eucharist must be one of greatest reverence, awe, and love. This is why we genuflect toward the Tabernacle prior to taking a seat in our pew. This is why each time we pass or cross in front of the sanctuary we should make a sign of reverence by genuflecting. When we receive Holy Communion during Mass, our attitude and posture should be filled with reverence. Permit me here a few thoughts on how we receive Holy Communion.
The universal norm, observed by the Church in every country, is to receive Communion on the tongue. Only in certain countries (our own included) has permission been given to receive in the hand. Permission was granted in the US to receive communion in the hand in 1977. My personal preference would be for everyone to receive on the tongue. The reasons, as I teach our First Communion students, are very simple. First, receiving on the tongue reduces the chance that a host will inadvertently be dropped on the floor. Unfortunately, almost every week, a host is dropped during Mass – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus is accidentally dropped on the ground. Receiving on the tongue means that, should a host ever fall to the ground, it is the fault of the priest or Extraordinary Minister, rather than the one receiving communion. I tell the second graders, “I want it to be my fault, never yours.” Second, receiving on the tongue guarantees that the Sacred Host is treated with appropriate reverence. Third, when a person receives on the tongue, there can be no mistaking their intention – there are many stories of people visiting famous churches who pocket the Eucharist during Mass so they can keep a souvenir, or worse, of people taking a host in the hand, only to abscond with it in order to desecrate our Lord. For these reasons, I personally prefer reception of Communion on the tongue.
If you are uncomfortable receiving on the tongue, please receive carefully in the hand. When we receive in the hand, we always use both hands. Left hand on top, right hand underneath, creating a throne for our Lord. We consume the host immediately. It is inappropriate to pinch the host from the minister’s hand, to receive one-handed, to do anything with the host other than consume it right away.
On this great feast of Corpus Christi, let us be renewed in our love for the Eucharist and our desire to receive Him worthily, reverently, and with hearts filled with love.