Reception of Holy Communion in the Hand
Archdiocesan Protocols for Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The protocols for reception of Holy Communion that the Archdiocese has adopted are informed by the best medical expertise. In issuing these protocols, the Archbishop has acted according to Canon 837 of the Code of Canon Law which recognises that liturgical actions are “celebrations of the Church itself as the ‘sacrament of unity,’ that is, the holy people united and ordered under the bishops.”
The sensitive issue of asking all members of the faithful to receive Holy Communion in the hand – and not on the tongue – is in accord with sound reason, unity in our communities and the good of the faithful – in this case their physical health.
Given the living tradition of the Church, which highlights the most ancient practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand, the Archbishop has the authority to instruct the faithful to receive Holy Communion in the hand during this time of Pandemic, with no exceptions.
From the earliest of times, the Church has always honoured our Eucharistic Lord with deep, and somewhat graphic faith, combined with practical piety. For instance, St. Cyril (313-386), in commenting on a 1st Century church document, teaches:
In approaching Holy Communion, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread, but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. Receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it. Be careful lest you lose any portion of it, for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members.
Then after you have partaken of the Body of Christ, draw near also to the Cup of His Blood, not stretching forth your hands, but bending and saying with an air of worship and reverence, Amen. And while the moisture is still upon your lips, touch it with your hands, and hallow your eyes and brow and the other organs of sense. Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks unto God, who has accounted you worthy of so great mysteries (Catechetical Lecture 23).
The faithful should be assured that in receiving Communion in the hand they are acting in accord with past generations of believers.
Our Lord did not give us total immunity from diseases/other illnesses. Instead he gave us commonsense, , which today too often, sadly, is the least practised of his gifts !
Well said Colliss. Nor did Our Lord grant us immunity from suffering. The more our world tries to distance itself from God and suffering, the more it suffers. The virus, etc, are preparing the world for the fulfilment of the Lords Prayer. “Your Kingdom come on Earth as in Heaven”. 2000 years of praying this prayer will bear fruit. FIAT
According to Sr. faustina God is not at all happy with this practice..have you read it?margaret
God made our whole body. What makes our mouth holier than our hand. We often talk about the hand of God as being the strong and loving presence of Our Lord, not something that is ‘not good enough’. To my knowledge, Jesus handed the bead, his body, to the Apostles at the last supper, He did not put it into their mouths.
The Lord had just ordained the Apostles Priests – as Priests they could touch the Eucharist.
If there was room for Judas, there’s room for most of us.
Pedantry and perfectionism are often indicators of approaching mental illness. If Archbishop says you can have communion by putting the host in your ear you would be wise to do it.
Christ is infinitely loving and merciful and it is only our own pettiness that prevents full mystical union with Him, as He wants.
I thought the first sign of madness is hair on the palm of your hands and the second sign is looking for them.
Giving holy communion by the hand or any other way should be ceased until it is safe to do so. How can this possibly be in keeping with all other social distancing protocols. In doing it I think the Church is doing itself and the general community a great dis-service.
Although I am not a “doctor of the best medical expertise”, I have difficulty understanding how, receiving Our Lord in the hand and partaking of him, being careful as St. Cyril of Jerusalem also says in his Catechetical Lecture XXIII “giving heed lest thou lose any portion thereof, for whatever thou losest, is evidently a loss to these as it were from one of thine own members. For tell me , if any one gave thee grains of gold, wouldest thou not hold them with all carefulness?……Wilt thou not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from thee of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?
How then in “Covid 19” hygiene times can licking your hands of every last tiny particle so as to not irreverently lose them underfoot, be “of the best medical practise”. also, to be truthful, this practice of st. Cyril was an isolated practice of the Eastern Byzantine church , and has never been a widespread “tradition” of the Universal Roman Church. Only in recent times has it become a practice in some parts of the church. Furthermore the Dicastery of the Congregatio De Cultu Divino Et Disciplina Sacramentorum stipulates in its “Redemptionis Sacramentum ” of March 25, 2004, that”each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue. Nor is it licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful who are not impeded by Church law from receiving it.
There is no validity whatsoever for this unlawful “protocol”. Please Pray for our church and our Bishop.
I am not a Dr either, so this is just my opinion. But I believe they are saying that not placing the host on the tongue, is considered best medical practice at this time, to save the priests hand being breathed on before gathering a new host with the same hand and then placing it on the next tongue. I believe this would be a very risky and likely way to transmit germs from one person to another. This is a risk at all times, but now the germs may be Pandemic related, and potentially fatal. Therefore, each person receiving the blessed host, deserves to be protected against such transfer of germs, as much as some deserve the right to receive it on the tongue. If it was to be received on the tongue, the Priest would have to sanitise after every parishioner receives the host.
Very well said Mr Christopher Bishop. Thank you! It breaks my heart of this unlawful protocol. Licking our hand to make sure that not any tiny bit of the Sacred Species is lost is absolutely not the best medical practice. I was denied a few times communion on the tongue.
No priest or bishop could deny us this as it is part of our right. The new general instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) #160-161, says that the Consecrated Host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand at the discretion of each communicant. It did not say at the discretion of the priest or the bishop. Also, the universal law of the Latin Rite is that we receive communion in the tongue.
The Vatican promotes communion on the tongue not only for its long tradition but because it expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist and removes the DANGER of profanation of the Sacred Species.
Some priests who give communion in the tongue do it very well without even touching the tongue of the communicant. Maybe that’s what we can suggest, to train our clergies to do it the right way?
Christopher, I agree with you. To be forced to receive Holy Communion in the hand is an abuse of the Bishops’authority and trivializes the Sacrament. It should be emphasised FROM THE PULPIT that we are receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; a gentle reminder re Confession is a good idea too!
Thank you, Fr Percy, for offering some explanation of the decision. But I have a couple of questions.
You say “the Archbishop has the authority to instruct the faithful to receive Holy Communion in the hand” but you haven’t said where that authority comes from. Is it canon 837? That doesn’t really seem to say that each bishop can do whatever he likes to the liturgical celebrations in his diocese, which after all would create disunity, not unity, between the faithful of Canberra-Goulburn and the faithful of, say, Broken Bay where the Bishop (a canon lawyer) has not prohibited communion on the tongue. It is also surprising given, as others have commented, Rome has specifically weighed in more than once to protect the right of the faithful to receive on the tongue, and hasn’t said anything to the contrary during the pandemic despite ample opportunity to do so. And if the idea is that the bishop can do what he likes to the liturgy to foster unity of the holy people, is it true then that the bishop could prohibit communion on the tongue even outside a time of pandemic, if his goal is to foster unity? If not, what is it about the pandemic that triggers this additional power in canon law to suspend a right recognised by Rome?
You’ve also said that the “protocols for reception of Holy Communion that the Archdiocese has adopted are informed by the best medical expertise”, but you haven’t said where that expertise comes from or what the advice has been. Obviously, other dioceses have heard different advice (the Archdiocese of Portland comes to mind). Certainly, the risks presented by unhygienic hands has been one of the strongest public health messages our governments have put out in the last few months. With that in mind, if you’re telling us circumstances are too dangerous for communion on the tongue, shouldn’t we conclude they’re also too dangerous for communion in the hand?
I ask these questions as someone who much prefers communion in the hand and values the words of the Fathers on the subject (St Cyril, as you quoted, but also St Basil). In fact the only time I find myself approaching for communion on the tongue is when I’m carrying an infant. So my final question is: what guidance do you have for those of us who have no option but to approach carrying an infant? Should we plonk the baby on the church floor before receiving? This is an honest question – sometimes there really is no alternative!
Sincerely looking forward to your further guidance,
As biologist with 4 years research immunity i think the virus is clearly passed by droplets touch abd time exposed certainky 15 min with a server can be dangerous. So The use of masks by priest and server is important. Abp Fisher highlights distancing and no singing. In singing droplets travel 5m. As for communion in hand it’s probably better if hand not touched. The person receiving could step aside remove mask and place host on tobgue.it may come to this. I kive in border Vic and v. Sad so need prayer as i you all. This written 20 Jul as i await cancer treatment and new border rules.
Robert Anderson, Thankyou for sharing your knowledge of disease control. I believe that having regard to our cleanliness has always been a concern when approaching the altar, even pre-Christ. We do need to take extra precautions at this extraordinary time of Covid. As in Matthew 7:9 God does not wish to give us harmful things. “What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” Jesus is telling us that God wants to give us good spiritual gifts but he bases it upon the expectation that we would not give each other bad things. Covid is bad. Therefore He would not want to give us Covid. Therefore we should do everything that we can to not spread it.
According to both the NSW and Commonwealth Departments of Health, there is no difference in risk of infection spread through communion on the hand or the tongue and that risk is low.Therefore, who is providing this “best medical expertise” which contradicts our health departments and why are some of our bishops not questioning it? Anyone can ring the health departments as I did.
can you link your source please?
For some reason the ‘Archdiocesan Protocols’ document fails to mention or explain how ancient and widespread the practice of receiving communion in the mouth has been, nor why it has been the norm of the church for a thousand years, nor how it has been creating disunity in recent years to the extent that the practice now needs to be barred. I have never heard of anyone claiming it creates disunity and if it has why wouldn’t a listening church discuss the issue openly.
Continuing on the theme above I have two Q&As that I hope someone will comment on.
1.Is it lawful in the church to deny reception of Holy Communion on the tongue? No.
2.Is it illegal in NSW (even in the current circumstances) to give Holy Communion on the tongue? No.
I sympathise with those who feel that Communion on the tongue is their right in Canon Law. However, I also know people in poor health, and others seemingly in reasonable health, who are so concerned about transmission of the virus that they no longer go to Mass, let alone receive communion.
Would it not be a work of Christian charity for those who prefer Communion in the hand to forego their right, if it made others feel less anxious about exercising their right to receive communion in any way at all, however overanxious one may consider them. Not to do so reminds me a little, rightly or wrongly, of those punctilious people whom Christ mentioned who insisted they could not support their aged parents because their wealth was committed to the Temple (sorry, I am no good at Chapter and Verse).
I agree with your point, but would like to widen the issue on a number of fronts.
!. The reasoning presented by Fr. Percy does not refer to making people feel physically safe, but refers to the historical validity of one form of communion only and refers to the need for unity (the removal of current diversity) in this regard.
Further the fears of those you refer to have not been allayed by barring Holy Communion on the tongue and it would be quite practical for those wanting to receive on the tongue to receive at the end of the line or even after Mass.
2. In my parish I was publicly castigated by the priest for presenting for a blessing rather than Communion when the bar was first announced. He too was calling for unity of practice. That makes me feel that this ban is not just about health and if it isn’t this should be openly stated or this confusion should be removed by the actions suggested in point 1.
3. Regarding unity, there is not unity of response from one diocese to another, with some, like the Archdiocese of Sydney, allowing reception either way.
4. Without speaking for others, it is entirely possible that those who desire to receive Holy Communion on the tongue only, are not motivated by a desire to be different; to stand out ; to be pedants, perfectionists or just on the way to madness; or to show that they are better than anyone else – it may just be a deep desire of the heart.
It is a fair point. And I suspect that if bishops had appealed to our Christian charity and simply *asked* us not to receive on the tongue, almost everyone would have humbly obeyed their bishops. Asking us would at least have been worth a try, wouldn’t it? But instead they chose – immediately and without consultation – to purport to exercise a right which frankly they know full well they do not have.
I thought that the Church in Australia had learnt the lessons of allowing bishops to think themselves above the law, but it seems we have not.
Considering all the discussions above, which show that the right to this sacrament in the manner allowed by the church is an issue of some importance to the faithful in the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese, I am surprised that our Archbishop Christopher Prowse, or his spokesperson Fr.Tony Percy VG have not wanted to further clarify their protocol here for our better understanding, sharing the same medium we have communicated to. Could we not hear from them?
In this current era,and before covid 19 I have considered the reception of Holy communion direct onto the tongue is NOT hygienic.
Unless the priest is able to wash his hands after each such communicant it should not be practised.
Lots of persons if asked ‘Do you believe in the real presence of Jesus in the host,’ the answer would be No. Whom is receiving us? When Jesus hugged the lepers did he worry about the ailment that accompanied them? He who is God is above all ailments. Be not afraid.
As for receiving on the hands a practice that must end for I believe is a way of belittling the omnipotence of God. A Freemason way.