Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why Communion on the Tongue?

In this article the Holy Father is suggesting his preference that the Eucharist be given while people are kneeling and that it should be on the tongue and not in the hand. The fact that we receive in the hand is an indult that was made for Canada, Phillipines, Mexico and the US while the rest of the world still receives the Bread of Life on their tongue.

Is it really a big deal? Why does it matter? When the God of the universe humbles himself to come to us, I think it is only appropriate that we kneel before Him and receive Him on our tongue. Actions do speak louder than words. Think of the young child who doesn't understand transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. He/she isn't able to comprehend the mystery but I believe they can understand the body language they see when their parents go up to receive Christ.
The message that they get is "Something(someone) bigger and greater than all of us is here"

"It could also be noted that the (Pope's) preference for such form of distribution which, without taking anything away from the other one, better highlights the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful, and introduces more easily to the sense of mystery. Aspects which, in our times, pastorally speaking, it is urgent to highlight and recover."

In a time when many American Catholics don't believe or understand that Christ is truly really present in the Eucharist, perhaps a simple gesture of kneeling and receiving Christ on our tongue
will cause some to reflect on what the Mass is really all about.

After all, if you understood and believed that Jesus was truly present in your church, would there be anything that would ever make you leave? Personally, if I knew and believed that Jesus Christ was made present on the altar of the Catholic Church of my youth and I was allowed to receive Him physically, would I have left that Church? It is not likely.



Blogger A Roaming Catholic said...

As a cradle Catholic convert to evangelicalism who spent a few years in an Anglican church while at seminary, I always looked with fondness on how communion was given in that tradition. There was a reverence and you took time to contemplate the sacrifice of Christ as you were kneeling and the priest came around to give you the bread and cup. Now that I've been re-looking at the Catholic Church and attending Mass regularly over the past 8 months, it often strikes me that parishoners partaking of the Eucharist file up to the front like a cattle line. This is one of the things that has bothered me about the way the Eucharistic part of the liturgy is done - and I've often wished they would do it by the 'Anglican method.' If I do revert, kneeling to receive the Eucharist would be like a dream come true.

June 28, 2008 12:48 PM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

I started to receive communion on the tongue about a year ago. It is much more humbling, and I believe it has helped me to "commune" that much more intimately with Christ.

June 29, 2008 11:05 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

In our current parish, most people don't genuflect or bow before the Eucharist, but we always do. It turns out that it is not an option!
InInaestimabileDonum the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship noted that, "when the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling itself is a sign of adoration." When they receive Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament. This should be done at the right time and place, so that the order of people going to and from Communion is not disrupted"

It definitely is humbling Susie, and we usually don't receive on the tongue but perhaps we should start regardless if no one else does.

June 29, 2008 5:56 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

People may think we are being the "liturgy police" to make a big deal about how Christ is received, but let's face it, when the King of the Universe invites you to receive Him, something should be stirred in our hearts which would make us want to bow , humble ourselves etc.

June 29, 2008 5:59 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Greetings! Reading my daily litany of evening blogs and noted that you posted on something I've pondered days past.

>"The fact that we receive in the hand is an indult that was made for Canada, Phillipines, Mexico and the US..."

Personally, I've always wanted to know when and how the practice of reception on the tongue got started as the early Church received in the hand.

Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, tells us arounf 360 AD:

"21. In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King . And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof ; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?

22. Then after you have partaken of the Body of Christ, draw near also to the Cup of His Blood; not stretching forth your hands, but bending , and saying with an air of worship and reverence, Amen , hallow yourself by partaking also of the Blood of Christ. And while the moisture is still upon your lips, touch it with your hands, and hallow your eyes and brow and the other organs of sense . Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks unto God, who has accounted you worthy of so great mysteries .

23. Hold fast these traditions undefiled and, keep yourselves free from offence. Sever not yourselves from the Communion; deprive not yourselves, through the pollution of sins, of these Holy and Spiritual Mysteries."

I have never discovered anything earlier than Cyril which describes proper reception of ther Eucharist.

So, my question is who changed the tradition, when, why, and by what authority?

God bless...


June 30, 2008 7:57 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Timothy. Good questions! I was aware of the Cyril quote and used to use it to "prove" that the early church believed Christ was present in the Eucharist. However , I later read that these writings attributed to St Cyril have been considered suspect and I don't know what to make of it now. Check out this link for an interesting history of Communion in the hand. It may answer some questions.

June 30, 2008 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello again Tiber, I do not know if it is appropriate to asked this question in this blog section, although it is still about communion. Am just an ordinary person with a few theological background that is why I need someone to explain to me these things instead of reading theological books or even catechism. Could you please explain to me if during this communion or eucharist right or tradition (i hope i mentioned the right term) really changes the wine to Christ blood, and the bread really changes it to Christ's body, because as per bible verses that I had read it is said we only do it IN REMEMBRANCE of Christ. thanks in advance for your reply.

July 10, 2008 6:53 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Dear Anon:

Thanks for the question. When Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist at the last supper before He said do this IN REMEMBRANCE of me, He said:
One year before the last supper, in John 6, Jesus said to the disciples unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life in you. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Many disciples walked away that day because they refused to believe this, and he did not call them back to tell them it was a parable (Jn 6:66)
When the priest consecrates the bread and the wine, we certainly remember Him, but not only is it a memory, it brings Him to the present reality. When the Jews celebrated the Passover, they were bringing to the the present, the past events of their redemption from the Jews based on the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb. You had to eat the Lamb in order to be spared the angel of death, re-living the original Passover.

Jesus being a Jew and instituting the Eucharist likewise gave us a sacrament that when it is performed, brings to the present the past, once and for all sacrifice for our sins. It is re-presented in the Eucharist.
Later, St. Paul asked the Corinthians:
This cup we bless, is it not the blood of Christ? If it was just symbolic, why did some christians get sick and die when they inappropriately received the body and the blood of the Lord?

So the early Church has always believed that Communion is the real presence of Christ, the bread is no longer bread but his flesh. The wine is his blood. The idea of the Eucharist being just symbolic was almost completely unknown until after the reformers decided to change the beliefs of the 1500 year old Church. The reformers themselves argued vehemently over what the Eucharist was, with Luther siding more with Catholic belief and Zwingli promoting the modern belief that it's only symbolic.

Rather than listen to my explanation Anon, just read history and see what the early Church said about Communion, including Augustine who many believe was Protestant in his beliefs. Isn't it unlikely that all the early Christians closest to the apostles would get Communion wrong and practice it wrongly for 1500 hundred years until the reformers got it right?
The stream is always purest when it is closest to the source. Check out a few of the early christians writngs about the Eucharist.

Ignatius of Antioch

"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible" (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).


"If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?" (Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D. 189]).

"He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?" (ibid., 5:2).

Clement of Alexandria

"’Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children" (The Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 [A.D. 191]).


"[T]here is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe whilst it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed [in baptism], in order that the soul may be cleansed . . . the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands [in confirmation], that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds [in the Eucharist] on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may be filled with God" (The Resurrection of the Dead 8 [A.D. 210]).


"‘And she [Wisdom] has furnished her table’ [Prov. 9:2] . . . refers to his [Christ’s] honored and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper [i.e.,
the Last Supper]" (Fragment from Commentary on Proverbs [A.D. 217]).


"Formerly there was baptism in an obscure way . . . now, however, in full view, there is regeneration in water and in the Holy Spirit. Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink’ [John 6:55]" (Homilies on Numbers 7:2 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

"He [Paul] threatens, moreover, the stubborn and forward, and denounces them, saying, ‘Whosoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ [1 Cor. 11:27]. All these warnings being scorned and contemned—[lapsed Christians will often take Communion] before their sin is expiated, before confession has been made of their crime, before their conscience has been purged by sacrifice and by the hand of the priest, before the offense of an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased, [and so] violence is done to his body and blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with their hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord" (The Lapsed 15–16 [A.D. 251]).

Council of Nicaea I

"It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist to the presbyters [i.e., priests], whereas neither canon nor custom permits that they who have no right to offer [the Eucharistic sacrifice] should give the Body of Christ to them that do offer [it]" (Canon 18 [A.D. 325]).

Aphraahat the Persian Sage

"After having spoken thus [at the Last Supper], the Lord rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his body as food and his blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was to be arrested. But he ate of his own body and drank of his own blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With his own hands the Lord presented his own body to be eaten, and before he was crucified he gave his blood as drink" (Treatises 12:6 [A.D. 340]).

Cyril of Jerusalem

"The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ" (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).

"Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the body and blood of Christ. . . . [Since you are] fully convinced that the apparent bread is not bread, even though it is sensible to the taste, but the body of Christ, and that the apparent wine is not wine, even though the taste would have it so, . . . partake of that bread as something spiritual, and put a cheerful face on your soul" (ibid., 22:6, 9).

Ambrose of Milan

"Perhaps you may be saying, ‘I see something else; how can you assure me that I am receiving the body of Christ?’ It but remains for us to prove it. And how many are the examples we might use! . . . Christ is in that sacrament, because it is the body of Christ" (The Mysteries 9:50, 58 [A.D. 390]).

Theodore of Mopsuestia

"When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my body,’ but, ‘This is my body.’ In the same way, when he gave the cup of his blood he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my blood,’ but, ‘This is my blood’; for he wanted us to look upon the [Eucharistic elements] after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to their nature, but receive them as they are, the body and blood of our Lord. We ought . . . not regard [the elements] merely as bread and cup, but as the body and blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit" (Catechetical Homilies 5:1 [A.D. 405]).


"Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands" (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]).

"I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. . . . That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ" (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).


"What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction" (ibid., 272).

Council of Ephesus

"We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his holy flesh and the precious blood of Christ the Savior of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his flesh, he made it also to be life-giving" (Session 1, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius [A.D. 431]).

July 10, 2008 8:10 AM  

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