Communion in the Hand
Development or Abuse?
The practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand was re-introduced into
the Church in the late 1960's by rebel Dutch priests. At that time, it was
viewed as an abuse of the Blessed Sacrament, to have someone other than the
priest handling this most precious of Sacraments. Without any Episcopal
intervention, the practice soon spread to France and Germany. Eventually, it was
brought to the Pope's attention (then, Pope Paul VI), who instead of stamping
out the illegal practice called a vote among the Bishops of the world. They
voted against introducing the practice, but Pope Paul nevertheless allowed the
practice to continue, but only in those countries that it had already taken
hold. However, needless to say, his express wish was ignored, and the practice
spread throughout the world like wildfire and is currently practiced as the
"normal" way of receiving Holy Communion, even though in the Church's eyes, it
is still an exception to the rule. Father Paul McDonald, a parish priest, has
written an excellent
historical survey on the practice.
Since then, Communion is not only
received in the hands of the communicants, but they also receive it standing.
The traditional practice is to kneel along the altar (or Communion) rail which
separated the nave from the sanctuary. However, it is the present practice to
line up and receive Communion from the priest (or an Extraordinary Minister of
the Eucharist, becoming less "Extraordinary" by the day!) one by one.
well as the disturbing manner in which the practice was introduced, there are
theological and practical difficulties involved in the practice, outlined below,
with a further essay on standing to receive Communion. Firstly, a word from
Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
Finally, I present "The
Movement of Nations for Kneeling". An excellent background to the subject of
kneeling to receive our most divine Savior, and advocating the reception of Holy
Communion in the traditional manner: on the tongue whilst kneeling.
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Last modified 21st April 1999, by David Joyce.