Had I not had a good understanding of Vatican II wars, I confess I should have been puzzled by the way Catholics go on about reception in the hand. As an Anglican I had always thus received and known why. It was not simply that we followed the example of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, it was that we followed it to the letter. We did indeed make our hands into a throne to receive Our Lord. The ancient canons of the Chaldean Church forbade the priest from putting the host directly into his mouth with his fingers, but to consume it straight from his palm. This I did as an Anglican, and as an Orthodox. It was also (and remains) my practice to bow before receiving the host and to make the sign of the Cross after reception.
Let me say here that whilst I am aware that there are those who question whether the lectures are by St Cyril, that is irrelevant for this argument; they are stated as the practice of the Church, and I have yet to meet someone who can show me that this was not the case. In other words, the validity of the argument has nothing to do with the authorship of the lectures, and the attempt to divert it into one shows simply the paucity of evidence in favour of the later practice of receiving on the tongue.
I am also aware that Pope Paul commended the practice of receiving on the tonge as an ancient tradition, which it is – in the Latin Rite. But tradition is not confined to the Latin Rite, and the Latin Rite os not the whole Catholic Church. I have no doubt that some reception in the hand is irreverent, but then equally little doubt that sticking your tongue out at the priest and him getting your saliva on his fingers is hardly reverent either. All of these arguments are ones of preference, not from tradition, which actually supports both methods of receiving.
What I would argue here is that those who dislike aspects of modernisation in the Church are picking on this issue to express their disdain, dislike and even hatred of what happens at the Novus Ordo Mass most Sundays in most places. Well, they are wleocme to their opinion, I hold a similar one of the practice of pulling tongues at my priest, but my feelings, like their feelings, are irrlevant – both practices were present in the Church from about the fifth century, but the practice of receiving on the tongue and in on species only is the newer of the two.
It is often said that Leo the Great provides evidence that by the fifth century reception on the tongue was practised. But if one looks at the sermon cited it says no such thing, it simply refers to ‘what is taken in the mouth’, which is not evidence about how the host got into the mouth. This is one of the arguments used by Bishop Athanasius Schneider to show that reception in the hand was a ‘Calvinist novelty’. Well. the Bishop needs to read more history, as I say, the citation from St Leo is reading into it what the Bishops wishes to find, the same is true of the argument about St Gregory and about St Basil. The last is especially puzzling as it clearly means what it says, which is that people received in the hand and, in the absence of a priest, could administer it to themselves; only those committed to the idea that communion on the tongue was the norm could read it in any other way.
I ask one thing only, an account from tradition that the Tridentine practice was, in fact Apostolic, and I am sorry, but statements by a Council in the Middle Ages without backing are evidence only of the sorry practice of men supposing that what they did had always been done, and then claiming the sanctity of tradition in support. No one doubts that by then reception on the tongue was the norm in the Latin West – but the argument that it had been since the days of Leo the Great falls flat.
Let me emphasise in closing that none of this is an agument against one practice or the other, just against self-styled traditionalists misunderstanding their own traditions – or worse, misrepresenting them.
Of course I want reverence for the Blessed Sacrament – but there has never been just the one way of doing that in the Catholic tradition, so let us not pretend otherwise and let us not beat one another up over it