Communion -Why kneel?
May 26, 2019
Pope Benedict XVI, has noted that kneeling is "an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God." He reminds us that "the word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own liturgy."
In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict speaks of a "story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frightening thin limbs, but, most strikingl y, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical." Communion -Why receive on the tongue?
Despite the widespread practice of Communion in the hand, the universal discipline of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue has not changed . A bishop, for example, may forbid the practice of Communion in the hand but not the practice of Communion on the tongue. The Church strongly encourages the latter but not the former. With respect to Communion in the hand, the Church speaks only in a cautionary tone because of the many abuses that often accompany this practice.
St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, with respect to Communion in the hand that reverence demands that only what has been consecrated should touch the Blessed Sacrament. He writes: The dispensing of Christ's body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because . . .he consecrates in the person of Christ. . .Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people's gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence toward this sacrament nothing touches it but what is consecrated, hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it, except from necessity-for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency.
In his apostolic letter Dominicae Cenae, Pope John Paul II also states:
"How eloquent, therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary. To touch the sacred species, and to distribute them with their own hands, is a privilege of the ordained , one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist ."
Mother Teresa reportedly said, "Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand ." Even the great Pope John Paul II reportedly said: "There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this [ Communion in the hand]. But I tell you that I am not in favor of this practice, nor do I recommend it."
Communion on the tongue helps to foster a proper sense of reverence and piety. To step up to a communion rail, and kneel, and receive on the tongue, is an act of utter and unabashed humility. In that posture to receive the Body of Christ, you become less so that you can then become more. It requires a submission of will and clear knowledge of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what is about to happen to you.
Frankly, we should not only be humbled, but intimidated enough to ask ourselves if we are really spiritually ready to partake of the sacrament. Kneeling means you can't just go up and receive without knowing how it's properly done. It demands not only a sense of focus and purpose, but also something else, something that has eluded our worship for two generations.
Itdemands a sense of the sacred. Just like Peter, James, and John before our Transfigured Lord, it challenges us to kneel before wonder. It insists that we not only fully understand what is happening, but that we fully appreciate the breathtaking generosity behind it. Itasks us to be mindful of what "Eucharist" really means: Thanksgiving for GOD we are receiving.