ERMISSION to receive communion in the hand is something the devil worked hard to achieve by influencing ecclesiastical authorities to relax a discipline that was longstanding, unchallenged, and wise. Satan derives a demented pleasure from seeing the Holy Eucharist profaned and desecrated. This happens in two ways: through negligence, as when people carelessly drop fragments of the host or spill the precious Blood; through contempt, as when non-Catholic visitors and tourists receive the Blessed Sacrament, or when anti-Catholics deliberately carry them away in order to destroy them, use them in Satanic worship, or sell them online.
Reports of sacrilege are on the increase. A few years ago we saw the sickening spectacle of a religion-hating professor who posted numerous videos of himself violently disposing of hosts he had carried away from Masses. In one video he drove a nail through the host before throwing it away; in another, he flushed a host down the toilet. It seems hard to believe that he bought hosts from a supplier and merely pretended to do all this. It is far more likely that he was collecting hosts at Masses, because there is rarely any vigilance when it comes to who receives, who doesn’t, and, in general, how the Blessed Sacrament is treated and cared for. All this has been made possible by that most foolish, most nearsighted of all decisions: to allow communion in the hand.
When we ponder the awesome mystery that in the Holy Eucharist is really, truly, substantially present Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, the above-mentioned facts should cause us immense anguish, sadness, and righteous anger. To treat a host hatefully is, from a certain aspect, the worst possible sin a person can commit, and the most offensive to a believing Catholic.
Our Lord himself, glorified in heaven, is beyond all suffering; He is not directly harmed when the Blessed Sacrament is harmed. He is present in the sacrament as the Risen Christ seated at the right hand of the Father; after the resurrection He cannot suffer or die, but lives in the glory of immortality, bestowing that immortality on all souls that are incorporated into His Mystical Body and die in union with Him. The person who is harmed by desecration is the desecrator—and this shows us why Satan delights in desecration. Anyone who performs this act is committing the sin of Judas, the crime of betraying that which deserves our fidelity, the crime of hating that which most deserves our love, the crime of holding in contempt that mystery which deserves our heartfelt adoration on bended knee. It is a mockery of Christ; it is nothing less than a rejection of His adorable Person, and therefore a rejection of the Father who sent Him. As unfashionable as it is to say nowadays, it is Jesus Christ who, out of love for truth and righteousness, will send to hell all the souls who have rejected Him and consign their future bodies to the same eternal punishment.
No wonder the devil is eager to see hosts treated carelessly, disrespectfully, or blasphemously. These are steps along the same continuum, steps towards that ultimate separation from the infinitely holy God whom we must worship in spirit and in truth.
Apart from stories of Black Masses, there is the basic question of reverence. The priest’s hands are specially consecrated with holy oil, and why? So that he may rightly and fittingly handle the Blessed Sacrament. His hands are holy in view of touching and administering the holy gifts of the altar. A layman’s hands are not consecrated in this way. We receive the Holy Eucharist from the hands of a priest who is ordained to act in persona Christi, as a representative of the Lord Himself; we open our mouths to receive the nourishment of our body and soul, like a baby bird fed in the nest by its parent. From this symbolic vantage, it is wholly inappropriate that the priest put the host into our hands, so that we may then administer communion to ourselves. This gesture means: “I’m grown up and can feed myself, thank you very much, and my hands are just as good as the priest’s.” But this is simply false; we cannot feed ourselves, only Christ the High Priest can do so, and His ordained minister acts in His place, specially set apart by holy orders, with hands, too, set apart for the work of the altar. Communion in the hand helps create and support that fatal atmosphere of egalitarianism, horizontalism, and activism that has poisoned the spiritual life of the Church in the past forty years.
We must therefore do all in our power—with patience, yes, but also with a perseverance that never quits—to overturn the practice of communion in the hand and to replace it with a worthier manner of reception, namely, on the tongue of the kneeling communicant. Such a manner of receiving cannot, in and of itself, prevent unworthy communions from happening, but the evils will be limited, and the goods of devotion, piety, and reverence greatly increased and multiplied. As we know, it became the only way Pope Benedict distributed communion at his Masses. According to the universal law of the Church, it is a way in which each one of us, right now, can receive our Lord Jesus Christ, wherever we are, whenever we attend His Holy Sacrifice.