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Several times have I come across letters in various Catholic newspapers on how Catholics should receive Holy Communion on the tongue, not on the hand.

It begs the question, “Why?” Is the tongue more holy than the hand? Is the tongue cleaner than the hand, and thus more worthy of receiving Christ?

Most of the people who write such letters come from an older generation, usually pre-Vatican II, and this is one of the many changes that they have not been able to get accustomed to.

Most of the time, the complaints that people make about changes have nothing to do with right or wrong. It’s mostly to do with “I don’t like the changes”, so they try to come up with reasons why it is wrong.

I came across a letter written by Father Anthony Symondson, SJ, to the Catholic Herald (UK) that provides a good answer to the question on reception of Holy Communion:

Holy Communion is … a resumption after the Second Vatican Council of the earliest form.

In a sermon preached in 1978, the Holy Father, when Cardinal-Archbishop of Munich, addressed the question of kneeling and standing at Mass, of receiving Holy Communion in the hand or the mouth.

He appealed for tolerance and pointed out that for the first nine centuries people stood and received Holy Communion in the hand and said that “the Church could not possibly have been celebrating the Eucharist unworthily for 900 years.” He went on to refer to one of the homilies of St. Cyril of Jerusalem as evidence of the spirit of reverence in the reception of Holy Communion in patristic times (times of the Church Fathers):

“In his catechetical homilies he tells the candidates for baptism what they should do at Communion. They should make a throne of their hands, laying the right upon the left to form a throne for the King, forming at the same time a cross. This symbolic gesture, so fine and profound, is what concerns him: the hands of man form a cross, which becomes a throne, down into which the King inclines himself. The open, outstretched hand thus becomes a sign of the way a man offers himself to the Lord, opens his hands for him, so that they may become an instrument of his presence and a throne of his mercies in the world.”

Cardinal Ratzinger continued by saying: “We should be concerned only to argue in favour of what the Church’s efforts were directed toward, both before and after the ninth century, that is a reverence in the heart, an inner submission before the mystery of God that puts himself into our hands. Thus we should not forget that not only our hands are impure but also our tongue and also our heart and that we often sin more with the tongue than the hands.”

Both forms of reception have good authority. If people were taught how to receive Holy Communion with reverence and understanding of what they are receiving - the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ - the dispute between hand and mouth would be solved.

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