Reverence in the Time of Coronavirus: Ten Safe Ways to Receive Communion

Reverence in the Time of Coronavirus: Ten Safe Ways to Receive Communion March 12, 2020

I truly hate to tell you this, but the Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can – and will – transmit the novel coronavirus if it becomes contaminated with said virus. My saying this is not a matter of weak faith or a symptom of doubt in the Real Presence. It’s simply an understanding both of basic science and the teachings of our faith. At this time, it is not safe to receive the Eucharist on the tongue. It is also not safe to drink from the chalice.

I’m going to get into why this is the case later, but first here are Ten Safe Ways to Receive Communion. They may require deviating from your preferred aesthetic. Again, I truly hate to tell you this.

Photo by Z I on Unsplash
A very good way to revere the Eucharist.

Ten Safe Ways to Receive The Eucharist

  1. Make a throne of your hands
    If it’s good enough for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, it’s good enough for you.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly before Mass
    This serves the duel purpose of keeping dirt and germs off the Eucharist and preventing the spread of illness. It’s a win-win. (1 Our Father = 20 seconds.)
  3. Bow before receiving
    This is a no-brainer, but it makes a huge difference in preparing you to receive.
  4. Genuflect before receiving
    An even more reverent alternative to bowing.
  5. Receive on your knees, but in the hand
    This position is unusual, but acceptable. If you usually receive kneeling, there is no reason you have to stop. Given the current circumstances, it should be clear why you’re doing it this way. 
  6. Fast before Mass
    Everyone should fast one hour before Mass (baring medical conditions, ect.) You’re free to extend this fast if you wish.
  7. Dress up for Mass
    Leave the jeans at home and put on a dress or tie. This is a special occasion. 
  8. If you’re a woman, consider covering your head.
    This isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. And it won’t get anyone sick, which is a bonus.
  9. Kneel for prayer after Communion
    After returning to your seat, take some quiet time to reflect on God’s presence within you.
  10. If you cannot attend Mass, make a Spiritual Communion
    If you are unable to attend Mass for a grave reason (such as you being sick or your parish being closed) you can say a prayer to receive God’s grace. This is called Spiritual Communion. You can find an example here. 

If that was enough information for you to carry on receiving Communion, you can stop reading here. If you still need convincing, please read on.

Christ Was a Human Being

…and human beings get sick. I am 100% confident that Christ got sick on several occasions throughout the approximately 30 years of his earthly life. Still, some people are declaring that his Body and Blood is immune to COVID-19. This is a dangerous line of thinking. It also runs contrary to the Church’s teaching on transubstantiation. 

Now isn’t the time to get all Aquinas on you, but the basic gist is that through transubstantiation, the essence of the bread and wine is transformed into Christ’s body, even as it’s form remains the same. In other words, it’s really Jesus even though it appears as bread and wine. If you can’t bring yourself to accept that Christ’s body could be diseased, please accept that the form which it takes could be diseased. (Lest you think I am being a Heretical Modernist, here is an article on the topic from 1Peter5, a publication which I almost never agree with, but here we are.)

In the case of Eucharistic miracles – which if that’s happening at your parish please tell your bishop – the human tissue would also be capable of transmitting illness. So either way, it’s possible.

Obey Your Bishop

Depending on where you’re living, you may not have access to Mass. This is profoundly sad, but sometimes necessary to protect the community. As Christians, we are called to live in solidarity with one another. Please allow this temporary separation from the Blessed Sacrament to increase your desire for Christ even more.

In other areas, you will likely be told not to shake hands during the Sign of Peace or hold hands during the Our Father. These are not requirements for the Mass, so please don’t insist on doing them. Finally, there is a good chance that the Precious Blood will not be distributed. It’s simply not safe for the entire parish to be drinking from the same cup at this time. Whatever the case, accept your bishop’s decision.

Martyrdom Is Not Cute

Some will argue that closing churches, choosing not to give out the Blood, or even changing the way you typically receive are signs of cowardice. After all, people have died for our faith.

To be clear, people have died for our faith because they had to. Martyrs are not reckless with their lives, and they especially aren’t reckless with the lives of others. This is called foolishness, and it’s not a virtue. If the time comes when I must either reject my faith or die, I hope I will have the strength to die. This is not one of those times, and I won’t insult the martyrs by pretending otherwise.

This Isn’t About You

I prefer to receive on the tongue. However, this situation isn’t about me. If I were to contract coronavirus, I would almost certainly be fine. If you are in the same boat as me – young, healthy, and generally low-risk – this situation is about others. The risk of passing coronavirus on to a vulnerable person who could die from it far outweighs any personal, spiritual, theological, or aesthetic preference.

The way we receive the Eucharist, although a matter of personal choice, is ultimately never about us. It’s about Jesus, who already knows what’s in our hearts before we receive Him. If we insist upon outward displays of reverence, then whom are they really for?

About Emily Claire Schmitt
Emily Claire Schmitt is a playwright and screenwriter focused on uncovering the mystical in the modern world. She is a Core Member of The Skeleton Rep(resents) and is currently developing a TV movie with the Hallmark Channel. Follow her on twitter at @eclaire082. You can read more about the author here.

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