Thoughts on Communion in the Hand and Reverence

Thoughts on Communion in the Hand and Reverence September 4, 2015


Holy Communion during Holy Matrimony (24 June 2006 in Poland) [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

Briefly, my position, as (mostly) expressed in my recent related post, is this:

1. Neither communion in the hand nor on the tongue (and/or kneeling) can be argued as intrinsically superior, based on posture alone.

2. Communion in the hand, standing, was the norm in the Church in its first 6-9 centuries, depending on location.

3. Reverence and piety and holiness flow initially and primarily from the heart, not posture (per the Sermon on the Mount and many OT passages).

4. Arguments can be made (and I’ve made them myself) for relative preference for communion on the tongue, kneeling, in our present time and place.

5. Far too many recipients of Holy Communion in the hand today seem at first glance to arguably lack reverence.

6. I myself receive kneeling, on the tongue, in my own (liturgically traditional) parish. In others, I generally receive in the hand (preceded by a deep bow).

7. I  do all I can (without disrupting anything or making a “scene”) to receive from the priest, since he alone consecrated, and is the alter Christus. Nothing against extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (themselves widely over-used, which is directly against the rubrics). It’s just my personal preference.

8. Partaking of the cup is strictly optional, since the entire Body and Blood of Christ are contained in either consecrated form.

I’ve had a few more random thoughts since, expressed in the combox of the prior post and on Facebook:

* * * * * 

I think in practice communion in the hand often is irreverent, but again, I think that has to be analyzed within the overall context of a “spirit” among many Catholics of lack of reverence and understanding of transubstantiation, in their hearts. It’s a matter of origins. In this thinking, communion in the hand is not the initial cause of lack of reverence, but rather, prior factors of nonbelief or “non-appreciation” of the Holy Eucharist, already residing in the heart.


This is one of many instances where I defend one thing from irrational attack (as an apologist), while personally advocating and practicing another. I always seem to be in the “middle” of debates (seeing good points on both sides), but that’s okay. If we don’t stop unnecessarily attacking each other in the Church, the devil will continue to win great victories. He divides and conquers. That’s what he loves (perhaps the best of all). We should worship and let worship . . .


I have heard [as to why communion on the tongue became the norm for many centuries] that there was, e.g., concern in some people actually taking the host and preserving it (i.e., not consuming it right away), or desecration. It also came to be seen that receiving kneeling on the tongue was more representative of a reverent posture, in accord with similar gestures like genuflection, etc. That’s why I believe there is something in the rubrics about bowing before even receiving in the hand. I always do it myself in parishes besides my own.


They [recipients in the hand] still touched the consecrated host with their hands. What’s the big difference between a hand and a mouth, anyway? Both are parts of our bodies. God, as always, is looking at the heart, not hands and mouths. One can be reverent or irreverent (or reverent) in either posture. Mouth, lips, and tongue of a person are no more consecrated than their hands.

This is a counter-argument to those who argue that reception in the hand is intrinsically irreverent, as if a hand is somehow different from a tongue in that regard. Biblically, the tongue (here’s a new argument!) — i.e., when it condemns, gossips, argues fruitlessly, etc. — is criticized by Jesus and Paul much more than the hand ever is.



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