5/7/09 – The Real Presence

Each week, the Liturgy Links article you see in Carmel is also posted here.  Recently, a person asked for my opinion about the reception of communion:

I hear that in past times it [communion] was only received by the tongue upon kneeling, but in even more ancient times it may also have been received by hand.

As much as I believe that receiving communion by the hand (and standing up) may be true in history, I just suspect that in its reintroducing it has taken away from our minds (albeit in the subconscious) the great mystery of this gift.

Our correspondent is correct.  Many parishioners would remember a time when communion was received on the tongue, and that it was the universally accepted practice.  It is also true that in the earliest years of the Church, when people gathered to celebrate what they called “the Breaking of the Bread”, this was not the case.  Receiving communion in the hand as we do now was the common practice.

It is also a growing concern within parts of the Church that many people have lost a sense of the great gift we receive, and that we in fact receive Christ himself in the consecrated bread and wine.  It can be described as a loss of a sense of the “Real Presence”.  This is a real concern.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that the means by which we receive communion has been the cause of a diminishing sense of the real presence.  I also don’t think that reverting to reception on the tongue would solve the problem.  I think there are a number of factors that need to be addressed to ensure we do not forget “the great mystery of this gift” of the Eucharist.

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