EGARDLESS OF WHAT Catholics may disagree about, it is undisputed that we should be devoted to Jesus. In fact, we can even claim that devotion to Jesus should be our only concern. This isn’t to say that we can’t also be devoted to the Blessed Virgin, Bible reading, or the poor among us. However, asking for the prayers of people much holier than we are, learning more about Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament, or serving those less fortunate are not ends in themselves; they are various means of being devoted to Jesus.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, so any Catholic who engages in a moment of reflection would want to avoid any situation that would bring about irreverence to Him, and, on the positive side, go out of his way to be as dedicated to Jesus as possible. So, if you were told of a new way of dealing with Jesus that has inherent dangers, such as loss of reverence for Him or distortion of His very identity, you would immediately reject that way of dealing with him, right?
Well, in that case, we should all refuse to take Holy Communion in the hand. The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is Jesus Himself, so the way we receive this Sacrament is the way we receive Jesus Himself. Further, Blessed Pope Paul VI stated in Memoriale Domini that the new practice of laypeople taking Jesus in their hands carries certain dangers, such as loss of reverence and adulteration of correct doctrine.
One of the major obstacles preventing many people from seeing this is that taking Communion in the hand has been presented to them as the norm. They’ve grown up at the mercy (or, more accurately, the mercilessness) of catechists whose cacophonous coaching has resulted in a general lack of respect for the Church and Her Founder, Jesus Christ. Where reverence once ruled, casualness holds sway. Everyone can now take Jesus in their un-anointed hands and give Him to themselves, perhaps dropping some particles of the Sacred Host to the floor along the way.
This is no exaggeration. In fact, it’s a mild rendering of what takes place. Communion in the hand is a practice that facilitates sacrilege like no other, because it places God Incarnate under the unrestricted whim of any person who wishes to present himself for the Most Holy Sacrament. Stealing hosts is very easy with Communion in the hand, a fact which should motivate any faithful Catholic to reject the practice—especially in light of the recent sacrilege stories at Harvard University and in Oklahoma City.
While Paul VI warned about the dangers of Communion in the hand, he also praised the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue “not merely because it has many centuries of tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist.” He explained that receiving Holy Communion on the tongue “does not detract in any way from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament: it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord.”
For whatever reasons, most of us seem to find it easy to remember that “whatever we do to the least of these” (see Matthew 25) we also do to Jesus, but we overlook what should be obvious without any explicit declaration—namely, that whatever we do to Jesus, we do to Jesus. In other words, the way we receive Holy Communion is the way we deal with Jesus directly—the same Jesus who will be our judge after death. Will our judge have any legitimate complaints against us regarding the way we have received Him? If so, isn’t it time to repent and change our casual or outright irreverent ways so that we become truly devoted to Jesus?
We have two basic ways to receive Jesus sacramentally, one of which is praised by a beatified pope, the other warned against by him. One is promoted, the other merely allowed, and that allowance is valid only under certain conditions. (See the Memoriale Domini link above for the conditions.) Which of the two practices will be chosen by the person who wants to show the greatest reverence? In answering this question, be sure to remember Rule Number 1 of true devotion to Jesus: whatever we do to Jesus, we do to Jesus.
We hope you enjoyed this guest post by Trent Beattie.