Several months ago I received an email from a Catholic in my area regarding the propriety of receiving Holy Communion in the hand vs. the tongue. His question arose after watching a video and reading an accompanying article that questioned the notion of receiving “communion in the hand while standing”
Here is my reply:
Hi __________, this is really interesting.
There is a slight misrepresentation in the article, unfortunately. He writes “The practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand first began to spread in Catholic circles during the early 1960s, primarily in Holland.” This gives the impression that receiving communion in the hand was unheard of prior to the 1960s; but this is false.
The Eucharist was received in the hand for the first nine centuries of Christianity. Pope Benedict XVI confirms this in his book God Is Near Us. He reminds us that communion in the hand was the original form of receiving communion. In the book he doesn’t take a firm stance on hand vs tongue, but he does remind us that the tongue is often no more “clean” than our hand, and that our tongue is often used to commit even more serious sin than our hands. Something for all of us to ponder.
If receiving communion in the hand is approved by the pope and our bishop, then I am good with it. It is like baptism, which can be appropriately performed either with full immersion or sprinkling. Either way, God’s grace is equally given in sacramental form.
Personally now – I received on the tongue more frequently in Toronto. But in our parish in Shaunavon it seems to be the “norm“–call it the parish culture if you will–to receive in the hand. So I usually receive in the hand, unless I am carrying Anna [my daughter]. I never receive with just one hand.
Two hands crossed left over right [if you are right-handed] form a throne, a cross and the open palms suggest openness or surrender to God, notes Pope Benedict in his reflection on the catechetical homilies of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Reception with two hands is by no means an empty, meaningless form of reception.
Pope Emeritus Benedict is one of the greatest theologians in Church history. He is also, I sincerely believe, a very holy man. As I said if the current pope and bishop, the first nine centuries of Christians, and Pope Benedict XVI are OK with receiving Our Lord with the hands – so am I.
I hope this helps!