The reverence and awe of Catholics who truly believe they are receiving Jesus in the Eucharist should lead them to kneel and receive Communion on their tongues, said a bishop writing in the Vatican newspaper.I had a priest once say to me with derision, "Those who receive on the tongue think they're holier and more reverent." This from a parish where consecrated hosts are found tucked inside missalettes after Nuptial Masses and Funeral Masses.
"If some nonbeliever arrived and observed such an act of adoration perhaps he, too, would 'fall down and worship God, declaring, God is really in your midst,'" wrote Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, quoting from the First Letter to the Corinthians.
In a Jan. 8 article labeled a "historical-liturgical note," Bishop Schneider reviewed the writings of early church theologians about eucharistic reception and said the practice of laypeople receiving Communion on the tongue was the predominant custom by the sixth century.
The article in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, appeared under the headline, "Like a nursing child in the arms of the one who nourishes him."
Bishop Schneider said that just as a baby opens his mouth to receive nourishment from his mother, so should Catholics open their mouths to receive nourishment from Jesus.
"Christ truly nourishes us with his body and blood in holy Communion and, in the patristic era, it was compared to maternal breastfeeding," he said.
"The awareness of the greatness of the eucharistic mystery is demonstrated in a special way by the manner in which the body of the Lord is distributed and received," the bishop wrote.
In addition to demonstrating true adoration by kneeling, he said, receiving Communion on the tongue also avoids concerns about people receiving the body of Christ with dirty hands or of losing particles of the Eucharist, concerns that make sense if people truly believe in the sacrament.
"Wouldn't it correspond better to the deepest reality and truth about the consecrated bread if even today the faithful would kneel on the ground to receive it, opening their mouths like the prophet receiving the word of God and allowing themselves to be nourished like a child?" Bishop Schneider asked.
In 1969 the Vatican published an instruction allowing bishops to permit the distribution of Communion in the hand. While at papal liturgies most people who receive Communion from the pope receive Communion on the tongue, they also are permitted to reverently receive the Eucharist in the hand.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Kneeling to receive