How does one receive the gifts of Christ Jesus? The “old man” doesn’t even want them to be sure, so we understand that our own recalcitrant nature wants only to grab and take the “way we want”…when we want [hence the refusal of many to countenance Every Sunday Mass].
We do well to let Jesus inform us even as He continues to mold our bodies and souls in His cruciform . The Lord tells the prickly and controlling “12”: “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” [Lk 18. 16-17]. Certainly the paradigm for entrance into the Lord’s sheepfold is as little lambs not self sufficient Billy Goats. Passivity.
Much has been written recently in Roman Catholic publications (especially online) about the aberration to centuries of official teaching on both the propriety and rule of Communion “on the tongue.” The Church of Trent (and long before) up until the notorious Vatican II Council knew nothing of receiving The Lord’s precious Body in the communicants hand.
We are not Romanists and are not bound by some Ecclesial “law” but nonetheless share in their traditions of the Western patrimonies. Save for only one (1) reference to the permissibility of communion “in the hand” by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem—and that reference coming from the disputed Fifth Mystagogical Lecture (perhaps we should say “Pseudo-Cyril”) all Church Fathers write of the Holy Communion “on the tongue” as the rule and norm. Even Saint Basil who seems to make an exception does so only in matters of extreme emergency and persecution.
So, while not bound by a “law” nor constrained by a virtual unanimity of Patristic consensus, we of the Evangelical Lutheran persuasion are buoyed by the traditions of 2,000 years which are meet and right. How So?
Novelty is to be eschewed and the “thing” should always inform the “doing.” That is, the “essence of what we believe” should be observed in what and how we “teach and confess.”
We genuflect at the Verba not because we like ostentatious gestures and showmanship from our pastors and lay but because we truly believe we are in the presence of The Living and Present God/Man! Might this not be a, or even “the” perfect reason to receive our Lords Immaculate Body on the tongue and not in “our” hands? Yes.
In our age of relaxed casualness and “buddy-buddy-familiarity” might it not be salutary to let the Lord come into our sinful selves in passivity—the passivity of Holy Spirit worked faith?
How are we fed by our loving and caring parents when we are children? Babes are fed by the hands of their parents and caregivers and do nothing save open their little mouths. How are we fed at the end our long travails when we lie dying on our beds? The old and infirm parents are fed by the hands of their dear children and grandchildren and do nothing save open their aged mouths. All sustenance is ultimately a pure gift and the receipt of Grace. Even those little birds that The Christ loves so much that not one falls without His knowledge, [Mt. 10. 29] receive their daily bread (or worm) by the act of mamma Robin dropping the life into their hungry little gullets.
Communion “in the hand” is not a sin but does it not add to the lessening of The Mystery of the Hosts true “res?”
As for me and my house—we will gladly join with Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Augustine, Ambrose, Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz, Johann Gerhard, Wilhelm Loehe, and two millennia of Saints and simply open our mouths, tilt back our heads, and join in the great “Amen” to the words: “The Body of Christ for you.”
--Fr. Jay Watson SSP