Monday, March 06, 2006

On the hermeneutics of fittingness: Communion in the hand, standing

As promised in the comment box on our earlier discussion "On the hermeneutics of fittingness in posture for prayer" (March 2, 2006), I said I would continue this discussion with more specific gestures and postures in the Mass. Specifically, in response to "St Pio," I said:
I suppose what I should do is to raise more specific questions as to what gestures and postures would be more or less fitting in specific parts of the Mass. This I may do in forthcoming posts.
So here we go: the first change in the new Mass I propose we discuss is Communion in the hand, standing (as is currently widespread in the new Mass), as opposed to Communion on the tongue, kneeling (as is normative in the Traditional Latin Mass. As I recall from my reading, Communion in the hand was first re-introduced in the Netherlands after Vatican II by those who used ancient precedents for this practice in the Church as a pretext. I say "pretext," because when it was reintroduced in the Netherlands, it was done so in violation of what was then the normative practice of receiving on the tongue, and promoted particularly by those who had already embraced a diminished view of Christ's Real Presence in the Sacrament, those who found the traditional language of "transubstantiation" embarrasing and had embraced an essentially Zwinglian view of the Sacrament as symbolic of Christ's Body rather than the transubstantiated Body of Christ. If any of you wish to offer commentary that would shed further light on the re-introduction of Communion in the hand, would be grateful. The additional matter of standing to receive Communion, rather than kneeling, was introduced perhaps more gradually, only becoming the accepted norm in the United States comparatively recently.

The main question I would like to address in our discussion is this: What, if anything, is more fitting about receiving Communion in the hand, standing? Since the Church has accepted these practices, there must be a plausible rationale. The obvious ancillary question, then, would be: Is the rationale adequate, or has something important been lost in the currently widespread acceptance of Communion in the hand while standing -- something that can be found in the sacramental hermeneutics of the earlier manner of receiving Communion on the tongue while kneeling?


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