The Vatican on Receiving Holy Communion

The Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff explains why it is the norm to receive Holy Communion on the tongue.

In a post on the Vatican website (click here), the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff (OLCSP) explains that in the history of the liturgy, from the time of the Fathers of the Church, distribution of Holy Communion in the hand became more and more restricted in favour of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue.

The motivation for this development, the post continues, is two-fold:

a) To avoid, as much as possible, the dropping of Eucharistic particles;
b) To increase among the faithful devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

The OLCSP also┬ánotes how one of the Church’s greatest theologians, St Thomas Aquinas, affirmed that touching the Body of the Lord is proper only to the ordained priest, except from necessity, “out of reverence towards this Sacrament”.

The Church has always forced herself to develop to the best of her ability external signs that would promote understanding of the great sacramental mystery of the Eucharist. It is the Church’s responsibility to make sure that the faithful receive Holy Communion having the right interior dispositions. Of these dispositions, perhaps the most important is the need for the faithful to understand and contemplate the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The post also considers the usefulness of kneeling whilst receiving Holy Communion. It emphasises that kneeling “indicates and promotes the adoration necessary before receiving the Eucharistic Christ.”

While it is recommended that the faithful receive Holy Communion on the tongue, the Bishops’ Conference has given an indult that allows for reception of Holy Communion in the hand.

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