The eternal debate: receive the Eucharist on the tongue or in the hands?
The great debates Catholics get into can be rather heated (and honestly quite entertaining at times), but let’s start with this – Receiving the Eucharist on your tongue vs. in your hands isn’t the determining factor of reverence.
That’s right. When discussing how to receive the Eucharist, I’m not just talking about the physical reception (which I will get to), but the spiritual preparation too.
Here are 5 key points to keep in mind when preparing to receive the Eucharist:
1.Receive the Eucharist in a state of grace
This first key point isn’t only a good recommendation, but actually a requirement. The Code of Canon Law gives us some insight into this.
Can. 916 “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing…”
In summary: If you have committed a mortal sin, walk right on over to the confessional, be reconciled with the Lord, and then go receive Him in the Eucharist.
2. Observe the 1 hour eucharistic fast
Again, this one is also a requirement…
Can 919: One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.
This doesn’t apply to those who are sick or elderly.
It’s great to know the requirements, but why does the Church require us to do this?
There are two main reasons.
First, mortification is good and helps us grow in spiritual discipline. Second, the physical hunger we feel should remind us of the hunger and thirst we should have for the Eucharist.
And really, one hour isn’t that long, the fast used to begin the midnight preceding receiving the Eucharist.
3. Arrive at Mass a few minutes early
Attending Mass and receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is the most significant thing we could ever do.
If you were going to an important dinner, say with diplomats or bishops, would you just walk right in, seat yourself at the dinner table, and start eating? Probably not.
You would get dressed and ready, arrive early to speak with people, seat yourself when called to dinner, and follow the “protocol” for such an event. There is a certain sense of preparation.
If we put this much attention into a formal dinner, how much more should we prepare for the eternal wedding banquet? Take a few minutes before Mass to prepare your heart to receive Christ, pray, and be intentional.
4. Make an act of reverence before receiving the Eucharist
You are going to receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the King of the universe, how could you possibly show the respect and reverence due in this moment?
Honestly, we can probably never show the amount of respect that our Savior deserves, but we can do what we can!
How? This can be done by genuflecting or making a deep bow before receiving the Eucharist. In this reverential act, we acknowledge who we are before God and humble ourselves to receive Him.
5. Make a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass
Let’s return to the fancy dinner scenario (remember the bishops and diplomats). Once you have finished eating, would you get up and walk out of the room? No! Especially if other people were still eating dinner and there was more to come.
After we receive Communion, we are the most united with Jesus we can be on this side of heaven.
This is our chance to open our hearts to Him without reserve. To pour out our love, and ask for whatever grace we need.
By staying a few minutes after Mass we are telling Jesus that He is important to us, that our relationship with Him matters and warrants our love and attention.
So, back to the opening click-bait question: Receive Jesus on your tongue or in your hands?
Both are allowed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
When receiving in your hand, St. Cyril of Jerusalem offers some further instruction: “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.”
Want more information on how to receive the Eucharist with reverence (and some more details of what was summarized above)? Check out this video!
Photo credit to Ric Perezmont.