By KAITLIN KLEIN
The current Eucharist Revival in the universal Church is causing Catholics all over the world to experience, share and learn about the Eucharist in a deeper way. I’ve been talking with others about ways to increase our devotion to this great sacrament and to share our belief in the True Presence of Christ in the species of bread and wine. One way to do this is to increase our reverence. This not only helps me; it can also be a sign to others that the Eucharist is not simply a symbol, but deserves our highest reverence.
One way we can increase our reverence is by paying attention to how we receive and consume our Lord during Holy Communion. Receiving on the tongue or in the hand are permitted by the Church; and whichever we choose, we should make sure we are doing so with the highest degree of care, humility and awe. The Church also teaches us to offer at least a slight bow of the head when approaching the minister at Mass, and to receive right away.
The early Church Fathers advised Christians to think of their hands as a throne on which the King of the Universe could be humbly received. St. John Damascene taught to put one’s hands in the form of a cross. At some point in the early Church, some felt that they could show greater respect for the Eucharist by receiving on the tongue, and it became universal in the West by the year 900. The Eastern Churches have kept with their tradition of intinction, or dipping the consecrated leavened bread with a spoon in the Blood of Christ and dropping them onto the Christian’s tongue. The Roman Rite Extraordinary Form of the Mass continues to use the altar rail for communicants to kneel to receive. The option to receive the Body of Christ in one’s hand did not arrive in the United States until 1977.
The communion rail was a visible reminder that a sacred event was taking place in a sacred space. Since many churches no longer have this feature, and because we are not required to kneel while receiving communion, we must still remind ourselves of how sacred the Mass and the church are - and especially the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.
An idea during this Eucharistic Revival is to observe how we receive our Lord, and to consider making one change, however small, to increase our reverence while doing so. If receiving in the hand, perhaps reflect on the weight of holding your Creator and God in your hands before very gently and humbly placing in your mouth. If you’ve never received on the tongue before, pray about adopting this stance. I have found this has made a beautiful difference in my own closeness with Jesus in the Eucharist the past several years. The most important thing is to show, with our actions, our steadfast belief in the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.