Communion on the hand verses on the tongue
In light of COVID-19
In light of COVID-19 Corona virus, many church services are canceled, while others have a strict protocol of avoiding communion on the tongue. Until we know more, we are recommending avoiding Communion and suggest taking Spiritual Communion instead. Where dispensations have been given for our Sunday and Easter obligations, we should weigh carefully the pros and cons of gatherings.
It is true that the Lord is sovereign and can remove any physical virus from the Eucharist or the priest administering it, but we have the examples of St. Faustina, St. Therese, St. Kateri, and countless more who died from contagious diseases. Many priests died during the black plague, while giving communion to the sick and administering last rights. This was heroic, but it also demonstrates that God's purification of contagions and his healing of the sick is more nuanced than prosperity gospel advocates and our Catholic counterparts would like to believe.
Once the virus situation stabalizes, what about communion in the hand vs. the mouth
The traditional blogsphere was telling Catholics not to receive communion at all, and just have "Spiritual Communion" if they can't receive it worthily on the tongue while kneeling. This would be fine if it was simply for health reasons but that is not the reason. They argue that communion was was no safer in the hand than in the mouth which seems indefensible since saliva is a primary source of a virus and the hand is a secondary source. The argument is an extension of the position that Vatican II bowed to a modernist agenda.
Is taking communion in the hand receiving the Eucharist unworthily?
St. Paul was concerned about communion being received worthily, but he was worried about our faith, our intentions, and the state of our souls. (1 Cor 2:27-30). It is most likely that early Christians received communion in the hand. Jesus said "take this and eat it." There are no traditionalist apologists who argue that Communion in the mouth was common in the first centuries of Christianity. Instead they defer to later disciplines.
Which is preferable, the hand or the tongue?
Naturally, a physical posture that represents the most humility and gives the Lord the most dignity is preferable. That would be kneeling and recieving Communion on the tongue. However, the Eucharist has been approached in various ways over the centuries. For many centuries it was rarely taken because Catholics felt unworthy. Pope Pius X, in particular, was the champion of frequent communion, issuing Sacra Tridentina to encourage it in 1905.
In the early Church, Christians received the Eucharist frequently, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46), so it seems that frequent communion is prefereable under normal circumstances.
It is perfectly valid to receive it in the hand. It's been done during many periods and in many places in the history of the Church, including the last supper. What is most important is your heart, your intentions and the state of your soul.
Here's how to prepare your heart?
- Believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If you don't believe this, don't take it.
- Go to confession before receiving Communion. Don't receive it if you have serious sin that is unconfessed, and confess at least once a year. We recommend once a month.
- Be intentional: Don't be distracted, try to have a slow Saturday and extra prayers on the Saturday before Mass. Two of the devil's favourite tricks are (1) To create a fight or annoyance or disruptions with family members before or on the way to Mass. (2) To get men to think about attractive women in the communion line or in a pew in front of them just before reception. Battle that, and focus on the Lord.
- Follow up: Pray sincerely after Mass. I (Hugh) like to visualize the Lord moving through my body healing problems, and then moving though my marriage, and children, and my work and then radiating out to the outside world.
In conclusion, in normal circumstances its best to receive communion kneeling on the tongue, but its perfectly acceptable to receive on the hand, especially when there are elevated risks of contagious diseases. No one can judge the heart of another person and we should not judge those who receive Communion on the hand. Its also perfectly acceptable to abstain from Communion and take Spiritual Communion if there are health concerns, but don't abstain because of an disordered understanding of the history of communion fostered by people critical of the Vatican II and popes since the council.