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Receiving Holy Communion while Standing


Again, the reception of Holy Communion with the communicants standing was not mentioned in any of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Its introduction as a practice in the Latin rite of the Church just after the Council seems to have deep ecumenical reasons behind it; the Protestants stand, so let us join them in a display of external union!

However, there are problems with the practice. For a start, it totally ignores an important purpose of the Communion rail, that divines the sanctuary from the nave of the church. Communicants line up in a queue-like fashion to receive Holy Communion one at a time. This means that the queue is in a constant state of movement, with each communicant taking his turn and then quickly moving out of the way for the next person behind. There is no time to prepare for the reception of Communion, and no time once it has been received either. You are either keeping up with the person infront, receiving Communion yourself, or getting out of the way and then making your way back to your seat. This does not make for an especially prayful or meditative atmosphere!

Moreover, the mere act of standing before the King of Kings in the Western Church contradicts almost 2000 years of tradition that required communicants to kneel as an act of adoration and respect. Our Lord Jesus Christ, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, is no ordinary king, but the eternal King of the Universe, begotten not made of one substance with God the Father. We should not simply stand up in His presence, as a sign of respect akin to an earthly king, but stand and then kneel before him in pure adoration and worship.

Kneeling down at the altar, or Communion, rail allows the communicant time to prepare himself. He halts all physical movement, composes his mind and meditates on the upcoming encounter with the Son of God under the species of bread. It is then the priest who comes to each communicant, not the other way around. Christ comes to us kneeling children, unable to feed ourselves but totally depending on the mercy and help of our Lord. This is how it should be, and this is the symbol that receiving Communion standing destroys. Presently, Communion is seemingly received in a straightforward and "adult" fashion, people who can stand on their own two feet, approach God with their own mind and will, and take from the priest the food to eternal life for themselves. This is all very well from a worldy perspective, but it is totally contrary to the teachings of the Gospel. We are meant to rely totally on God, submit our mind and will to the Father's, as Jesus did even unto death, and be fed and brought to eternal life by the High Priest Himself. This warrents a return to the traditional practice: kneel for Communion so that the Lord of all will come and feed you, O child of God.



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Last modified 12th March, 1997, by David Joyce.