Is it okay to recieve Communion in the hand?
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During this time of COVID and the restrictions that come with it, some bishops and parishes are requiring Catholics to accept Communion on the hand, rather than on the tongue. This is provoking questions among the faithful. Can this manner of receiving Communion be required of the faithful who prefer to receive Christ on the tongue?
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Catholics want to know if it is allowed for their bishops and priests to require Communion be received only on in the hand instead of on the tongue.
The question has been asked for a long time since the Church has often allowed both methods of reception. Historically, Communion on the tongue is greatly preferred and is has been the usual method thoughout most of history. Communion on the tongue displays a greater degree of reverence, and it is safer because it is less likely to result in the host, or a particle of the host falling to the floor. There is also the concern that some people will not consume the host if it is placed in their hand, or they will not treat the Sacrament with all the respect that is due.
As for Communion on the hand, the account of the Last Supper strongly suggests Jesus distributed His Body in this way. We cannot be certain precisely how Jesus distributed His Body to the Apostles, but it seems likely if He were to distribute the Sacrament exclusively on the tongue then a detail of such importance would be carefully recorded. While it's understandable the Apostles were worthy recipients of the Eucharist, Jesus was also modeling the Sacrament for future practice.
For this reason, we cannot suggest that Communion in the hand is somehow expressly forbidden. In fact, if it were forbidden, it seems impossible the Church would alter such an important rule.
The debate over Communion in the hand or on the tongue has nonetheless occurred throughout Church history. Communion on the tongue certainly dates back to the earliest centuries of Church history, and possibly back to the time of the Apostles. Unfortunately, we have no records to establish precisely when the practice was initiated or by whom.
In more recent times, Church leaders have been clear on one point: Communion on the tongue is not only acceptable, but preferable, and the Church should never deny this method of reception to the faithful.
So why the change now?
The primary driver of concern is COVID. While pandemics have raged before, and other diseases exist, COVID is unique in our time. It is especially dangerous, claiming millions of lives, and causing significant illness in many millions more. While many will debate the international response to the disease, and argue over whether or not such reaction was ever justified, the fact is the COVID pandemic is incomparable to any recent outbreak of disease. Even from a political perspective, the disease has impacted billions. For many Americans, Mass and Communion have been inaccessible due to restrictions in many places.
As parish churches reopen and Communion becomes available, many bishops prefer, for the safety of parishioners and clergy alike, that the faithful accept Communion in the hand. Understandably, this is a significant deviation from long-cherished tradition for many Catholics.
Undoubtedly, there will be parishes and ministers who will distribute Communion on the tongue regardless. And it can be argued that the risk is quite minimal. But most clergy and Eucharistic ministers will certainly comply with their bishop's request.
It must be explained that reception of Communion on the hand is not sinful, nor is it forbidden. Reception on the tongue is a reverent preference, but it is by no means a requirement. It is appropiate to petition and advocate to maintain this reverent practice, but the faithful should rest assured that reception on the hand is better than none at all, and it confers no less grace.
Prudence and judgement are key in this discussion. If a temporary change in custom can prevent the spread of illness and even the danger of death, then it should be strongly considered as a reasonable measure.
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