Michael Voris & Historic Communion in the Hand (Standing)

Michael Voris & Historic Communion in the Hand (Standing) August 8, 2013
St. Hripsime Church, Armenia; built in 618. Photograph by Travis K. Witt. [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]



You Tube video: “Thunder on the Right” (1 August 2013)


Voris argues that communion in the hand, standing, has no historical basis whatever. What is so difficult about looking up a few things? Voris has formal theological education! There is no excuse for this sort of sloppy presentation. Full disclosure: I receive the Holy Eucharist on the tongue kneeling at an altar rail every week; thus I have no “vested interest” or built-in bias in arguing (or special pleading) for my own practice.

I think some culturally relative and qualitative arguments can be made about modes of receiving and “pious posture” that are far more subtle and involved, but that is another issue. In this instance, Voris has committed some major historical whoppers.

3:05 . . . in the area of “little t” . . . tradition . . . things that are not sinful, but are not understood in any historical manner of being Catholic. . . . they have suddenly appeared on the Catholic scene (seemingly out of nowhere) . . . don’t really have any roots in Catholic tradition or culture or the fabric of the faith. They are cut from a completely different cloth: oftentimes Protestant, but not always . . . like . . . holy communion in the hand, standing to receive . . . 

Alright! First of all, before even delving into history, it is to be noted that Eastern Catholics are as Catholic as anyone else, and the norm in those churches is receiving, standing, on the tongue. Thus according to Voris, they are with the angels and the “traditionalist” norm when receiving on the tongue, but descend into terrible “non-Catholic” ways when they stand rather than kneel.

It would have been fine (at least so far in my analysis) if Voris stuck to the western, Roman rite only and restricted his comments to that. But he didn’t do that. He referred in sweeping terms, to “Catholic” — period –, in the above excerpt (three times). Since Eastern Catholics are Catholics, too (duh!), he is shown to be out to sea. There are twenty-two different rites in the Catholic Church.

With that major consideration covered, it is not true even in the Roman rite that there is no history whatever of standing to receive, or of receiving in the hand. I have thoroughly documented widespread Holy Communion in the hand, standing. Here are the proofs:

That, in the early Church, the faithful stood when receiving into their hands the consecrated particle can hardly be questioned. . . . St. Dionysius of Alexandria [d. 264], writing to one of the popes of his time, speaks emphatically of “one who has stood by the table and has extended his hand to receive the Holy Food” (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VII, ix). The custom of placing the Sacred Particle in the mouth, rather than in the hand of the communicant, dates in Rome from the sixth, and in Gaul from the ninth century.

(Catholic Encyclopedia: “Genuflexion”)

21. In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof; . . .

(St. Cyril of Jerusalem [c. 313-386], Catechetical Lectures, 23:21-22)

Distribution of the bread and wine took place at the chancel rail, where the people came forward to stand and receive from the hands of the bishop and/or deacons. Bread was placed into the joined hands with the words, ‘The Body of Christ,’ to which the recipient responded: ‘Amen’ . . . The cup was offered to each by another minister, with a similar exchange.

(from Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, general editor: Allan D. Fitzgerald, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1999; “Eucharistic Liturgy,” p. 338; this article written by Robin M. Jensen and J. Patout Burns)

Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross let us receive the body of the Crucified One: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal, . . .

(St. John Damascene [ c. 675-749], An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter 13)

Tell me, would you choose to come to the Sacrifice with unwashen hands? . . . do you come with soiled soul, and thus dare to touch it? And yet the hands hold it but for a time, whereas into the soul it is dissolved entirely.

(St. John Chrysostom [c. 347–407], Homily 3 on Ephesians)

And even in the church, when the priest gives the portion, the recipient takes it with complete power over it, and so lifts it to his lips with his own hand.

(St. Basil the Great, Letter 93: To the Patrician Cæsaria, concerning Communion)

That’s evidence from six Church fathers (at least four of them Doctors of the Church), and also corroboration from the old Catholic Encyclopedia. On the other hand, we have . . . Michael Voris, claiming that these practices “don’t really have any roots in Catholic tradition or culture or the fabric of the faith” and that they are “cut from a completely different cloth: oftentimes Protestant, but not always . . .”
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