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
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
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
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.