18 January 2013

Receiving on the hand vs. receiving on the tongue...Standing v. kneeling

I've been reading many entries on restoring Communion Rails, and reflections on postures for Holy Communion, and I figured I'd share my own.

a. Some memories from my youth.

At my parish when I received my first Communion. I do remember there being a kneeler. We received in the hand, but I remember practicing in a warehouse with a kneeler. While I didn't have the vocabulary at the time to express this, the priest was traditional and devoted to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament.

To say that I understood completely what was going on would be a lie. I was the prototypical not really paying much attention during class kid during religious edumacation classes. I probably got in more trouble than I could remember. I was extremely sarcastic and still am to this day on many fronts.

b. Receiving in the Hand

Did I know it was the Body of Christ? Yes!, Was I able to express that fully? Absolutely not. Perhaps to say in my own human weakness, receiving in the hand became an ordinary type of habit. Walk up, receive Communion, go sit down, repeat next Sunday. I am of course very habitual person, and someone who likes routine, so thus it was every Sunday. Acknowledgement of the Mystery? Nope, not at all. It was almost robotic in a sense, literally going through the motions.

c. The switch

After I came back to the Church after a while of being away. I started to study everything I could with great detail and curiosity. I studied with great detail the Church's teaching on the Eucharist, and the different historical references. Once I saw Vatican II didn't change the practice, I made the switch.

d. The results

Receiving on the tongue has indeed made me a bit more conscious of the Mystery of Christ in the Eucharist. I've noticed myself going to Confession more frequently than I used to in the past. Believe me, I still have a long way to go and am very much a sinner. I also find myself examining my conscience more, and not going to Communion as often. Perhaps because this is something that is out of the ordinary, it's not something that is within my normal habits of everyday person.

I think receiving on the tongue is definitely better than receiving in the hand. Our Holy Father has been teaching us through the Liturgical Celebrations that we should be receiving on the tongue kneeling. (Which I'll get to shortly kneeling vs. standing). It does better convey in my own mind that something different is going on. That Someone (Jesus) is truly present in the Eucharist. And the resulting change has allowed me to better express my Faith in Him.

e. Standing...

Standing is such a mechanical and everyday thing for the vast majority of people. It's something that we do often. Whether it's to go to the store, walking, playing sports or various other things. For me I have metal in my leg and hips, and thus sometimes, it's a bit difficult for me to walk. Especially when the weather gets to single digits. Standing felt very much like an assembly line. There was no real time to prepare to receive Him in Holy Communion. At parishes where they stand for Communion, I find myself being nit picky and noticing how others are receiving Communion, which I probably shouldn't be doing. I don't think Standing in the Western Rite of the Church conveys the mystery of the Eucharist. Standing does not seem like Adoration. I have been to Divine Liturgies in the Eastern Rite, and in their Liturgies it makes sense to stand to receive Him standing there. In the theology of the Liturgy, in the Eastern rites, standing fits. In the west it does not. Also in the East, we did prostrations during the Liturgy.

f. Kneeling

I first started to kneel for Holy Communion around 2007. It came as a logical progression. From genuflecting before receiving Christ in Holy Communion, to just staying down. Really reading the words of the Holy Father helped to enlighten my view on this point. Back in California where the weather wasn't so bad kneeling wasn't too much of a problem for me. But it's because of the Love of Christ in the Eucharist that I kneel, not because I'm necessarily obligated to. Though the obligation helps (by that I mean the norm in the Roman Church, not the exception granted to the USCCB)...

I have lived in Idaho, going on 2 years now. It gets rather cold up in these parts. Kneeling has become a bit more of a chore than it is in warmer climates. To that effect, the parish that I go to has altar rails, so it's easier to kneel and get back up.

g. The Restoration of the Sacred

Altar Rails would assist at least in my humble opinion would assist in the restoration of the sacred. Some liturgists view them as barriers, if anything quite the contrary, I view them as more uniting than the altar rails not being there. My own dignity as a lay person is respected more with the altar rails than without them being there. Now to be fair, I have served at the altar many times. In those roles however, I am properly vested to serve at the altar and do my best to hide myself and serve the rubrics of Holy Mother Church.

The external reminders of what we interiorly believe are so important. Without these reminders, things become routine, and robotic and are no longer personal. I guess a way to say it is our adoration becomes stagnent and doesn't grow deeper. Now to be fair, I guess it can work even with kneeling and receiving on the tongue this state can occur as well. But it is less likely, as it takes physical effort to kneel and the reflexes are not instantaneous.

h. Things I have witnessed as an altar boy/in the pew

I too have seen people walk with the Host to their pew and chew Him like cracker. I have seen people run off with the host out of the Cathedral (San Jose), and various other sacrileges. Now will receiving on the tongue kneeling reverse this? Of course not, those that wish to do evil will find ways to do evil regardless. But it will reduce this from occurring.

So yes, bring back the altar rails, and while we're at it, let's turn those altars back around too :D

Pax Vobis

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