Corona situation and Holy Communion
In one week we will celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. The unusual situation in which we find ourselves this year, makes it impossible for us to hold a procession, due to precautions necessary to avoid contagion. But we can honor the Body of the Lord at the close of the mass by placing the consecrated host in the monstrance on the altar for a time, and then closing with the sacramental blessing.
Precautions against contagion have made it necessary for all of the faithful, without exception, to receive communion in the hand. Unfortunately, there are still some individuals who refuse to follow these resolutions because they consider their personal religious piety to be more important than the Church community.
It is peculiar that some would construe communion on the tongue and communion in the hand as being in opposition to one another. This is not how the Church thinks. That which the Church allows is allowed for everyone. Before the Corona crisis there were only two occasions in our parish when the faithful had to receive comunion only on the tongue, – on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi because we distribute communion in both forms by intinction (the Host is dipped in the Precious Blood in the chalice before being given to the communicant.) This is only allowed as long as it is the one distributing communion who dips the Host and places it on the tongue of the one receiving. Whether one receives communion in one form or both forms makes no difference to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus Christ is totally and completely present in the form of bread as well as in the form of wine. He is not more present in both forms than he would be for example in a tiny piece of a Host.
The priests in our parish do not ordinarily have any objection to giving communion in the hand or on the tongue. But in the current situation, we in the Church must be loyal to the public authorities and follow their guidelines in order to reduce the danger of the spread of the Corona virus. We do not want to contribute to the spreading of Corona, which could end up costing some people their lives.
It was recently reported to me that a believer, when asking about communion in the hand versus communion on the tongue had been told by a priest in our diocese that if a believer received the Body of Christ in the hand they were not receiving Christ, but only a cracker. If this really was said like this, it is heresy in its purest form on the part of the priest. Transsubstantiation can only happen once, namely when the bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. These can never go back to being bread or wine again as long as the outer forms remain.
Whether the Body of Christ is received in the hand or on the tongue has nothing to do with the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. It is not less pious to receive communion in the hand. Nor does it make any difference whether it is a priest or a lay person who distributes the host. Some people think it makes a difference because the priest’s hands are annointed with oil when he is ordained. But whether the hands are annointed or not makes no difference to the reality of transsubstantiation in the communion that is distributed. Of course it is important that we handle the holy elements with respect, but it makes no difference to the presence of Christ whether one touches them or not.
Some people say they cannot receive communion in the hand because they are not worthy. But where does such a thought come from? Are some people less worthy and some people more worthy than others? Or is the hand less worthy than the tongue? If someone thinks that perhaps we sin with the hand and that makes it impure, then that person should think about how much he or she sins with the tongue, and how impure this could make the tongue.
Actually, if we take that view then no one is worthy. We all know this, and that is why we say, just before we receive communion, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” It is God who, by the Holy Spirit, makes us worthy to receive the Son, who gives himself to us in his Body and Blood. It is the Word, that has been made flesh. We should not look at ourselves, but at the Lord who comes.
Nonetheless, some people believe they should receive communion on the tongue after the mass. This is how it was before the Second Vatican Council. Back then one had to go to confession on Saturday and fast the last 12 hours before communion. And one could not receive communion during the mass, but after the mass the people were sent off to a side altar. We may not want to return to those conditions. Communion is integrated into the mass as a visible sign one is a member of the community. That the sick can receive communion at home or in a nursing home or hospital because they are unable to come to mass, is not the same as if those who can come to mass refuse to receive communion there and demand special treatment. That they by demanding communion on the tongue during an epidemic risk both the priest and others catching the disease is remarkabe. It is not easy to be a priest when you are pressured by believers who will not follow the rules of the Church.
The mass is central to the life of the Church. Here the sacrifice of Christ is made present in the Eucharist, and the fellowship of believers becomes a reality in the communion meal. It is not the individual who is most important, but the community, all of us, the Church. As Catholic Christians we must therefore not seek first and foremost our own good, but the good of the fellowship, of the Church.
May God give us wisdom and insight and grace to always remain in the unity of the Church and to act according to his will.
Parish Priest. Alois Brodersen Can.Reg.