Rorate Caeli

Australian Archdiocesan paper: Communion in the tongue is "unhygienic", disruptive and based on "over-emphasis on Christ's divinity"

The sanctuary of St. Stephen's Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. Source.

The following is an excerpt from "Communion in the Hand", a short essay authored by Elizabeth Harrington, the education officer of the Liturgy Commission of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. Dated February 12, 2012, it is currently on the website of "The Catholic Leader", a newspaper published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane that claims to be Australia's "leading Catholic newspaper". "Communion in the Hand" is the latest essay in the "Liturgy Lines" series, which is promoted on the main website of the Archdiocese of Brisbane as providing "all you want to know about Catholic worship". (See the right side of this page.)

Receiving communion on the tongue when the majority receive in the hand disrupts the unity that uniformity of posture and practice at Communion symbolises and builds. It is awkward for ministers to give communion on the tongue to people who are standing, which is the recommended posture for communion in Australia, (and it is unhygienic because it is difficult for ministers to avoid passing saliva on to other communicants.  

Historical accounts make it quite clear that communion was received in the hand in the early Church. In the middle of the fourth century Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem gave this instruction to those who were about to join the church: “When you come forward for communion, do not draw near with your hands wide open or with fingers spread apart; instead, with you left hand make a throne for the right hand, which will receive the King. Receive the body of Christ in the hollow of your hand and give the response: Amen.” It was only later that over-emphasis on Christ’s divinity and on human sinfulness led to a ban on people receiving communion in the hand. In fact, people seldom received communion at all. (Our readers might want to read this debunking of the alleged quote from St. Cyril of Jerusalem - Augustinus)

 We now understand that Christ is present in several special ways at Mass apart from in the consecrated elements, for example in the assembly which gathers. We “touch” Christ in these other manifestations, so it would be inconsistent not to be able to take Christ under the form of bread in our hands. The bread which becomes the body of Christ is described in the liturgical texts as “work of human hands”. There is nothing unworthy about our hands. (Yet another reason to get rid of the Bugnini Offertory? - Augustinus) After all, we use them to do Christ’s work. As St Teresa said, “Christ has no other hands but yours”.