The Truth Revealed: Receiving
Communion on The Hand Vs Communion on
The Tongue Reference Sheet
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Receiving Holy Communion in The Hand
Versus Receiving Holy Communion in The Tongue, The Battle Continues . . .
(1) "It has always been the practice in the Church of God in the reception of the Sacrament, that laypersons receive Communion from priests and that the priest-celebrants give Communion to themselves. This practice, coming down lawfully and justly from Apostolic tradition, ought to be retained." ("... In sacramentali autem sumptione semper in Ecclesia Dei mos fuit, ut laici a sacerdotibus communionem acciperent, sacerdotes autem celebrantes se ipsos communicarent; qui mos tamquam ex traditione apostolica descendens iure ac merito retineri debet.") -- Council of Trent, Sess. 13,chapter 8 (DS 1648). While this ranks as unapostolic the practice today of laypersons directly helping themselves to Hosts from the tabernacle or altar or ciborium, and its lesson seems out of harmony with the extensive use of lay ministers whereby they give Communion when the celebrant could just as well give It; yet the description in the text as worded here does not necessarily exclude the possibility of laypersons receiving Our Lord from the priest into their hands, and giving It then to themselves. --A.M.S.,
(2) "Hoc enim ore sumitur quod fide creditur" (Serm. 91.3). Of course this, too, proves no more of Fr. McDonald's thesis than the text quoted in footnote 1, except 'sumitur' can suggest receiving directly from the priest into the mouth.
Passages from various Fathers of the Church are sometimes cited as authority that in their day Communion in the hand was universal. But the texts we have found assembled in literature promoting this practice, prove to us only that the practice existed, and perhaps prevailed in the area in which the writer lived, but not that it was the only method at that time in the whole Church. Nor do ancient materials quoted tell us whether the Apostles taught laypersons to receive holy Communion in the hand. Hence the Council of Trent and other witnessses here cited, may well have had important further information.
Let me remark in passing that a writer in L'Osservatore Romano, English edition of June 14, 1973, pp. 6-7, influenced many when, in a long article he presents historical testimonies and references evidently intended to support his statement that: "The literary and monumental sources of the first nine centuries are unanimous in testifying to the use of receiving theeucharistic Bread in the hand throughout the whole Church." Note that this does not state Communion in the hand was the only method of communion during that period, as some have wrongly thought, nor do testimonies quoted in that writer's article tell us whether it was the most common method everywhere in the Church most of the time throughout the first nine centuries. --A.M.S.,
(3) "If one feels he should in times of persecution, in the absence of a priest or deacon, receive Communion by his own hand, there should be no need to point out that this certainly shows no grave immoderation; for long custom allows this in such cases. In fact, all solitaries in the desert, where there is no priest, reserving Communion in their dwellings, receive It from their own hands." (Our translation of St. Basil's words in M. J. Rouët de Journel's Enchiridion Patristicum, n. 916-- Barcelona, 1946). --A.M.S.,
(4) Can. 2 (Mansi, X, 1199). Apud Jungmann-Brunner, The Mass of the Roman Rite, vol. 2, pp. 381f, New York, Benziger Bros., 1955.
Rev. Paul J. McDonald
Parish Priest (Pastor)
St. Patrick's Church