Monday, May 23, 2011

Kneeling for Communion....please make it easy!

I went to Mater Dolorosa, Kensington to Mass this Sunday.  The parish priest is Opus Dei and so naturally the ethos is towards the "traditional'.  I'd probably disagree with him on many things but one advantage of the Catholic  Right is that it does tidy up the liturgy, there is silence (What a relief!) at some point during the Mass and a degree of reverence is observed.

I was quite surprised that there was no incense but maybe that is reserved for the Italian Mass that follows.  And what a pleasure to have a hymn book in my hand and not having to see things arbitrarily flashed and unflashed on a screen!  We sang the Missa de Angelis as well as a couple of traditional and  modern hymns - it's in the hymn book!

There was one thing that didn't work for me.  The parish leaflet placed great emphasis on receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue.  In fact more than a page was taken up with this and it is obviously an on-going campaign in the parish.  At communion a double prie dieu covered in a cloth is dragged into the gap between the altar rails and everyone queues up in pairs and is supposed to collapse at the prie dieu and receive communion on the tongue.  It was a very awkward thing to do so I remained with the minority and stood with my hands stretched out.  If they had used the whole altar rail and allowed people time to kneel and compose themselves whilst the priest and deacon walked along giving communion it would have been fine.  Maybe this is a lesson the former Anglicans in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will give us.

Incidentally, the parish has a very good  Facebook page from which I took this picture of Our Lady of Sorrows.


  1. You just passed a great beloved tradition of the Catholic Church by not kneeling and receiving on the tongue. You could listen to Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments emeritus Francis Arenze and current one Antonio Canizares Llovera, Raymond Burke (Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura) or you could read Dominus Est - It is the Lord by Bishop Athanasius Schneider. You could also attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI and you will notice that since 2008, the only way you receive from him is on the tongue while kneeling or visit; (

    Or you could also read Pope Paul VI response to Bishops of the English Speaking countries who requested to abandon the traditional norm and start communion in the hand;

    You see, Communion in the hand started as a Liturgical abuse, it was only permitted to avoid a schism in the Church. The practice has its roots in the Priscillian heresy which was a Gnostic-Manichean application to the Church.

    Jesus Christ is God and if we agree on that then how much reverence should He be shown or rather how much is too much for THAT God who died for a creature that He loved - shouldn't we even talk of prostration while we are at it???

  2. I think you rather miss the point of my post. Receiving on the tongue is the norm in the Western Church. Reception on the hand, effectively communicating yourself, is allowed by indult from the Holy See at the request of local Bishops, presumably usually the Bishops' Conference. In some instances the indult was granted and then the Bishops decided to rescind it.

    In the 4th century no doubt both methods applied....I'm sure I don't need to quote early fathers and popes to show that; it takes up too much space.......but Communion on the tongue became the norm in the West. Monks and hermits could communicate themselves but that gradually fell away with more and more monks being priested and an increasing emphasis on private Masses so that the corporate aspect of the Eucharist began to be lost; except in the Eastern Church. The increasing emphasis on Adoration at the Elevation of the Host meant that receiving Holy Communion became rare for the laity and that, fortunately, is no longer the case. The non-communicating Solemn Mass of my youth has fortunately been consigned to the dustbin of history.

    For me the reverent reception of Communion is the most important thing, whether it is on the tongue, in the hand or by spoon. I've seen an irreverent approach in all three.....the method is irrelevant.

    To say that Communion in the hand is a liturgical abuse and to link it with Manicheans is nonsense. St Augustine would be turning in his grave! If the Holy See approves it then it's fine by me.

  3. Sorry if I misquoted you but the link to Manicheanism came through the heresy of Priscillian (a hybrid of Gnosticism and Manicheanism). According to this heresy, Jesus Christ's body was not a real flesh and blood like ours but rather a spiritual imitation of our physical bodies. They believed all the material aspects were corrupted and weak and prisons that should be escaped from.

    With this view then transsubstantiation became a myth and the Holy Eucharist had to be a symbol not the real presence. This is why their heresy manifested itself among other thing with strange innovation (at that time) of reception in the hand and not kneeling to a thing that was just a symbol. This was condemned obviously in the councils in Spain in the 4th century but the remnants of it lingered. Hence a son of Spain Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera is openly inviting all the faithful to reception on the tongue while kneeling.

    The traditional reception in the hand was such that the Host was placed on the palm and then the communicants would bend their heads and pick it up with their tongue and never pick up with the fingers. The ladies would place a lace over their palms and do the same. So Communion in the hand in this day and age that has resulted in the catastrophic loss of faith is different from how it was done in the old days. Remember the Council of Saragosa (380) etc etc