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James Sabbe wrote:

Hi, guys —

I had a question on Communion. I attended Easter services with a friend.

I received Holy Communion with my left hand as opposed to cupping my hands together. Throughout my life I've done it both ways.

After the service my friend informed me that this was a major transgression, that I had made a mockery of Easter and God's house, and threatened to end our relationship unless I apologize.

  • Is my friend correct that this was a major breach?

Best.

James

  { Was the way I received Holy Communion at Easter a major transgression or not? }

Bob replied:

Dear James,

Your friend did a very poor job in sharing his concern about appropriate reception of the Eucharist. He needs to have someone talk to him about sharing the faith in Love. It is unfortunate in the way he spoke — and he doesn't deserve an apology; he owes one to you for being so unkind. Just so you can model true Christian charity, you could apologize for not knowing proper reception without intending to be offensive.

That being said, often there are abuses in the reception of the Eucharist that never get corrected (and yours may have counted among those — especially if you did it with one hand), and it is hurting the church. The Eucharist is the Lord Jesus Christ, really present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — not a symbol, but a true miracle of God. He needs to be received with the utmost care and respect. Here is a little context:

Read John's Gospel, Chapter 6 to see that this was a pivotal teaching of Jesus. See just how crazy Jesus sounded and how many left him when he started talking about eating His Flesh.

  • Wouldn't most people leave Him?

No one wants to follow a crazy man but the Apostles didn't give up on Him, because they trusted that even when (they/we) don't, or can't, understand something that Jesus says, He's still believable and trustworthy.

So, anyone who receives Jesus without really demonstrating real reverence or an appreciation of the true mystery can be scandalizing himself and others. We see it all the time. Your friend may have been scandalized, but he didn't do a good job of loving you and explaining what a Big Deal it is.

Without going into a long history of the rules, suffice it to say that if you receive at the Novus Ordo (the Mass in English) and therefore in the hand:

  • stop
  • bow
  • put one hand on top of the other
  • speak the affirmative response Amen
  • move a step to the side
  • place the Host in your mouth and
  • if offered, proceed to the cup, and return to your seat.

Make a conscious effort to connect with the reality that eludes your senses. This is something metaphysical, beyond your ability to discern naturally, so you need to pray as best you can.

Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, realizing verse 27 is the real kicker. St. Paul cautions us not to profane the Sacrament, and we do that when we treat it like something less than almighty God Himself.

A better way, and the time-tested norm of the Church, is to receive on the tongue and avoid the hands all together. The priest's hands have been consecrated to touch the Eucharist.

Before Vatican II, Catholics had their tongues consecrated during the Baptism rite so they could also receive the Sacred Host worthily. We have watered down our approach and, as a consequence, people don't really get it. There is even a hand washing ritual for the priest because of the holiness of the Sacrament that he will touch but we often take it so cavalierly that no one who came would ever suspect that we are receiving The Most Holy Thing in the universe. We could be out gardening and then receive the Eucharist in our hands like it was nothing. We don't do a good job as a Church to create the atmosphere of reverence that we really should have. Abuses have been escalating for the last 50 years.

So, I hope you can forgive your friend for reacting so poorly, and maybe have a discussion with him after you do a little more homework to really get a sense of the fullest meaning of the Eucharist.

Remember, it's not a symbol but really Christ and, if you can get your head around that, you'll get The Deal.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

James,

You said:
After the service my friend informed me that this was a major transgression, that I had made a mockery of Easter and God's house, and threatened to end our relation unless I apologize.

  • Is my friend correct that this was a major breach?

While there is nothing wrong with Bob's answer I felt compelled to share my preference of either:

  • kneeling to receive Holy Communion, or (as I do now, due to work and age)
  • receive standing and receiving the Eucharist on my tongue.

Certainly no friend of yours will consider this manner of receiving Holy Communion a transgression.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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