Communion in the Hand:
A refusal to face reality?
by David Joyce
The issue of Communion in the hand was the
key issue that brought me towards the traditionalist movement from my Novus Ordo
upbringing. My increasing faith in the Real Presence of my Lord in the Blessed
Sacrament brought me into conflict with the practice of distributing Communion
in the hand, as opposed to the traditional practice of the priest placing the
host directly on the tongue of the communicant. Reading a article recently,
"Communion in the Hand - Symbol as Contradiction" by Father P. Meuli in the
December issue of Christian Order, finally provided me with theological argument
against the practice which I will now present.
Symbolically, receiving anything in the hand denotes a certain
power over that object. If I buy a house or car, the keys are given to me in the
hand to indicate that I now have ownership over this object, and can - in effect
- do what I like with it. I can drive the car to work, or drive it over a cliff
if I want to. I can live in the house, possibly turning it into a home for my
family, or I could raise it to the ground. The keys are in my hands now, I am
entrusted to its care, I have the authority relating to the object, I have power
Receiving Communion in the hand raises
another issue, as the substance is different from the accidents (what it
actually *is* rather than what it appears to be). The substance of the Communion
host is the substantial and supernatural Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our
Lord Jesus Christ. This is the actual reality of the host. The Real Presence of
our Lord in the Eucharist is as real as you or me being present in our bodies.
The accidents of the host is unleavened bread. Although the host is in reality
the Body of Christ, God incarnate, what we can see, touch and taste is that of a
simple bread wafer.
Therefore, receiving Communion in the hand indicates
a loss of reality. The action of taking the host into one's hand symbolises, as
above, that the communicant has power over that host. In practice, the
communicant could consume, as he is meant to, the host, but then again he could
also drop the host on the floor, trample on it, crumble it, or even take it away
to some Satanic ritual (which seems far-fetched, but believe me, it does
happen). But, in *reality*, the communicant has absolutely no power at all over
the actual substance of the host, i.e. Christ Himself. Christ, the second person
of the Trinity, has absolute power over us all, we were all, without exception,
created through Him, and were redeemed by Him by His eternal sacrifice. By
receiving Communion, we are indicating a desire to come into greater union with
Him, possibly prefiguring our eternal destiny. Christ came down from heaven and
was born like one of us in all things but sin, but He is still God, God
almighty, all-present, all-powerful, all-knowing.
Christ said "apart from
me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Communion in the hand says we have power
over Him, dominance over His supernatural and substantial presence, able to
perform any deed we like. However, in reality the exact opposite is true.
Without Christ we can do nothing, He has power over us, He is the One who can
perform any deed when dealing with us, channelled by His infinite love for us.
He doesn't belong to us, we belong to Him. He doesn't become part of our body,
but we become part of His Body, the Mystical Body of Christ. The external
symbolism of Communion in the hand contradicts entirely God's internal reality.
The communicant may well still believe in the Real Presence (although surveys
suggest most Catholics do not), but this belief is in spite of him taking
Communion in the hand, it is not helped by it.
"Truly, I say to you,
unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of
The age-old practice of receiving Communion on the tongue,
and also when kneeling, symbolises our total reliance on Christ, being fed by
Him through the ministry of the priest. Christ told us to become like little
children (Matt 18:3), little children do not feed themselves, but are fed.
Receiving Communion in the hand is not receiving Communion, it is giving
yourself Communion. You are feeding yourself like a grown-up, someone who can
stand on their own two feet and can manage for themselves. However, Christ asks
that we should rely totally upon Him, to open our lives up completely and let
Him run things. Becoming self-reliant is following the foot-steps of Adam, not
our Lord. We must submit to the will of God, through the example of our Lord in
the garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me;
nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) To receive on the
tongue is to receive like a little child, and it symbolises our faith in the
total power of our Lord and God, and our desire to become part of Him now and
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Last modified 17th March, 1997, by David Joyce.