Expert Answer Forum

Communion on tongue/in hand QUESTION from Mr. Roy Forker June 26, 1999
St. Cyril of Jerusalem at an Easter sermon in 348 discussed the reverent reception of Holy Communion in the hand. 1. Was that a new teaching at the time replacing reception on the tongue of an earlier tradition? 2. If receiving in the hand was the tradition of the time, at what point did receiving on the tongue come and why? I'd appreciate quotes from actual dated documents. 3. Does His Holiness John Paul II distribute Holy Communion ONLY on the tongue, as I've heard numerous times? I've been thinking that in the hand was replaced at some point by on the tongue because of abuses of in the hand. Thanks for making this clearer to me. ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on June 29, 1999
Dear Roy, I don't know exactly when or where Communion on the tongue originated. It's certain to say that liturgy had variation from place to place just as is does today from one Catholic rite to another. I imagine the practice came about both as a matter of practicality and as a method of showing reverence to Christ in the Eucharist. Practical because many rites use leavened bread which produces more crumbs than the Latin and Maronite rites' unleavened Host, and they also intinct (the priest dips the Host in the Precious Blood for the Communicant). For those reasons one wouldn't think of handling the Host at a Byzantine liturgy. We also sometimes intinct in the Roman rite and again this would make receiving in the hand impractical. I too have heard that the Pope prefers to give Communion only on the tongue. This is most probably because not all countries / Bishops' Conferences' have asked for permission to have Communion in the hand. The norm throughout the universal Church is to receive on the tongue. That being said, I find it difficult to imagine the Pope refusing to give Communion to a child with his hand out, especially in a country where the practice is permitted. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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