Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kneeling on the Tongue, or Standing on the Hand?

I've always thought that, provided no scandal is given, each person should receive Holy Communion in a manner that is both approved (of course) and most conducive to one's own devotion (implying that it be least conducive to one's own anxiety), since clearly the more fervently one communicates the better.

Of course, charity requires that one also consider the good of others when receiving: is what one does more likely to edify others, or to amaze, upset, even disturb them? Here prudence comes in: what would be fine in one context may not be in another. I am speaking here of legitimate modes of reception of course: to stand on one's head to receive would be madness!

Consider: if attending the Byzantine Rite of the Divine Liturgy, there is only one proper manner of reception: standing, one opens one's mouth and tilts one's head back, so the priest can use the liturgical spoon to place in one's mouth a piece of the consecrated Lamb (the leavened Host) which has been placed in the chalice and soaked up some of the Precious Blood, warmed, in this Rite, by the addition of hot water to the chalice - to signify that the Blood is truly living and Spirit-filled. To try to kneel down would be as inappropriate as to put one's hands out in this case.

So, for example, if (in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite) one were very nervous that one might spill the chalice - if one's hands were unsteady, say - then one would refrain from receiving from it when it is offered: this is commonsensical. Or, if one were in a place where kneeling down for communion would cause real scandal, since it is never done there, and people would think one peculiar - if not Pharisaical or even schismatical - for doing so, one would be advised to refrain from doing so, despite it being still allowable: obviously, one's prudential judgement would come into play in this case. Something similar obtains in the obvious cases of ill-health, frailty, etc., when one cannot kneel down (as is the norm in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) - then one receives standing, as everyone accepts.

But to put it all into perspective, I like to refer to the two main options at Mass as:

Kneeling on the Tongue,
Standing on the Hand

- try these today!


Anonymous said...

I used to be more open-minded about it, but now I'm coming round to thing that kneeling and receiving on the tongue should be enforced throughout the Roman rite. Rome could easily do this by withdrawing the indult allowing reception in the hand.

Joshua said...

I understand, and believe me when I say so; however, just imagine if Rome tried it - it would cause immense scandal to many people who would know no better, and would be music to the ears of the many who think the Vatican is always plotting bad things: the end result would be massive disobedience and hardening of anti-Papal prejudice; far from achieving the goal of upping reverence, it would make it less achievable. It would not work. Remember, directives from Rome haven't been obeyed since about, oh, 1968...

What IS needed is a long-term restoration of good catechesis, both about the Eucharist and about the whole of the Faith, including what a true spirit of obedience is - that would naturally lead over time to a growing move toward reverence.

A priest friend once joked that the next Pope ought be Pius the Excommunicator - now, it is easy and initially satisfying to say this, but really, the issue is "my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" - the smouldering fire of faith must not be extinguished, rather the half-ruined city of the Church militant must be rebuilt in a manner that will not drive yet more away, but instead lure the scattered flock back in.

Consider how His Holiness Pope Benedict has been taking the softly, softly approach, not appearing as some Tridentine Ogre but instead as a grandfatherly figure, who by all accounts is peacefully achieving his goals liturgical and otherwise. He certainly is fulfilling the title allotted him in the "prophecies" attributed to St Malachy, of "Gloria olivae" - for the glory of the olive is peace (and NOT the Martini!).

Those - like you and I - who have the luxury of attending the EF and who value its heavenly mysteries can forget that the somewhat depressing reality of too many OF Masses actually appears to many in the Church as the normal, right, desirable way of doing things - these form the majority of priests and people. It is important not to confirm the fears of many who think that Traddies have no charity, and who therefore write them off as lunatics and would never admit them to, say, seminaries...