“Kneeling and Communion on the Tongue” will bring back True Devotion


It is interesting to see how an old post on the topic of receiving Holy Communion devoutly, “Cardinal Ranjith to his clergy – communion on the tongue only and while kneeling is mandatory”, has suddenly had another surge of visitors and some lively new comments. Why this surprising renewed interest?

The only explanation has to be that the subject is of enormous concern to very many traditional Catholics who are weary of witnessing the lack of Faith in communicants, and sad or disheartened at the constant abuses of Our Blessed Lord’s Sacred Body at many Ordinary Form Masses. If reverence and piety could be restored in the way we celebrate and participate at Mass, faith would increase, hope strengthened, and charity (containing all the virtues) would naturally follow and turn unhappy or lukewarm Catholics into fervent members of the Church once more.

Kneeling to Receive Communion on the Tongue

Receiving the Sacred Host on one’s knees and directly onto the tongue (from the consecrated hands of the priest) should not be restricted to a Latin or Tridentine Mass (in theory), but where, if anywhere, is one able to receive Our Blessed Lord in this humble, reverent way at a Novus Ordo Mass? I can only think of two churches of the many that I have visited at home and abroad where this practice can be seen during a Novus Ordo Mass.

And yet as the commenter Geoff Kiernan points out, all three of the last Popes, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI encouraged solely, kneeling and on the tongue, as the preferred way of receiving Holy Communion.

Bishop Schneider noted that the reverence and awe of Catholics who truly believe they are receiving Jesus in the Eucharist should lead them to kneel and receive Communion on their tongues. “The awareness of the greatness of the eucharistic mystery is demonstrated in a special way by the manner in which the Body of the Lord is distributed and received,” the bishop wrote.

Before he became Pope, Card. Ratzinger said: “The kneeling of Christians is not a form of inculturation into existing customs. It is quite the opposite, an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God. Kneeling does not come from any culture – it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God… The Christian Liturgy is a cosmic Liturgy precisely because it bends the knee before the crucified and exalted Lord. Here is the centre of authentic culture – the culture of truth. The humble gesture by which we fall at the feet of the Lord inserts us into the true path of life…”

The (Extraordinary Form) Tridentine Mass

Every single detail of the Tridentine Mass of the Ages is centred towards Adoration of God from the very opening words of the priest, “introibo ad altare Dei”. The culmination of this sublime Mass is the Consecration of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour. It follows that by the time the faithful then move toward the altar rails to receive the Sacred Host, they are better prepared spiritually by the deeply prayerful ‘build up’. They now have an ardent desire to receive the Blessed Sacrament, and to do so with great piety, gratitude and reverence.

A Holy Mass and a devout reception of Holy Communion go hand in glove.

Fr. Peter Carota, on his blog Traditional Catholic Priest says:

“I believe that the Latin Mass is superior from my own empirical experience of offering the English, Spanish Novus Ordo Masses along with the Latin Mass for 6 years.  Any priest who offers the two masses together, day in and day out will, in all honesty, find out that the Latin Mass is more pleasing to God.  It is because of its total orientation toward God, its adoration of God and perfection that was organically developed over centuries and centuries.”

The Solution

A obvious solution would be to only attend a Tridentine Mass. Or at least a Latin NO Mass where kneeling to receive the Sacred Host is more acceptable. But sadly for most of us, these are options that are not easily available.

In spite of Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘motu propio’, the Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum, allowing the return of the Mass that “nourished the faithful for centuries”, this has not been applied in many dioceses yet, probably because a great many priests no longer know how to celebrate it!

So what can we do to return to the sacred traditional way of receiving Holy Communion whilst kneeling and on the tongue? Another answer would surely be to get together to collectively beg our priests, and perhaps even petition our Bishops later on, to bring back the facilities for the laity to receive Our Blessed Lord in this humble way. If altar rails (so tragically ripped out of many churches in the aftermath of VII) cannot be replaced, at least a few prie-dieus (kneeling pews) could be strategically set in front of the altar for those who are unable to kneel on the ground.

Is it not worth a try? Is Our Lord not the King of Kings? Does He not deserve the maximum efforts on our part to devotion and respect in receiving His Sacred Body and Blood?

Lex orandi lex credendi lex Vivendi. With this move, and then the slow but sure bringing in of other pious practices during Holy Mass that have been discarded since the 70’s, the faithful will be invigorated in their faith. Let’s start the long climb back to reclaiming all that is sacred and beautiful and holy in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

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23 Responses to “Kneeling and Communion on the Tongue” will bring back True Devotion

  1. Jim Sokola says:

    What is stated in this article must be implented now! It is imperative. If these actions are not implemented it will only get worse. God needs to be the focus of our worship. Please dear God, have mercy on us and touch the hearts of our leaders so that we get back to sanity.


  2. An Anglican Use Mass will also have the Communion rail and from the ones I have attended, if far more reverent than the ‘normal’ Novus Ordo.


  3. Anastacia says:

    Attend a FSSP parish, only way we receive.


  4. Sadly, the culture of the Roman Catholic Church was dramatically affected by the supposed reforms and relevancies of the post Council years. I may be incorrect in this, but I do not believe that there were any pronouncements from the collective Bishops demanding that the kneelers and altar rails be removed. Yet, as a result of misguiding parish councils, go along get along pastors, and others who looked the other way, we have the resulting generations who misunderstand, or don’t understand at all, the concept of “the sacred.”
    Attached to this loss, and the lack of clear catechesis, is the confusion over the true presence of Jesus Christ – in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Holy Eucharist. Also, the beach attire at Sunday Mass, and the acceptance in some circles that Jesus Christ is an “all hail, good fellow sports buddy” rather than the Son of God and our Redeemer compounds the lack of reverence for the Holy Eucharist and the sacredness of the church’s architectural space.
    People no longer understand the concept of Holy Ground.
    Prayer, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, and leadership could solve these problems. Culture can, and does, change – many times for the worse, sometimes for the better.


  5. Jack says:

    In the Byzantine tradition, as in most of the Eastern Churches, Communion has NEVER been received kneeling. The Latin way is NOT the only Catholic way of doing things.


  6. Toadspittle says:

    …Then , following the headline ( and text) here, we can only assume that upright Byzantine Catholics are less devout than the kneelers. Which is difficult to verify, I suspect.

    However, we occasionally talk on here about the big and heartening upswing of Catholicism in other parts of the world then Western Europe.
    What form of Mass is doing so well in Africa and Asia? The Traditional one? The Novus Ordo?
    And does it matter?


  7. The writer states, “I can only think of two churches of the many that I have visited at home and abroad where this practice can be seen during a Novus Ordo Mass.” There are two additional churches. Here in Dusseldorf, Germany, at the churches of St. Andreas and St. Lambertus, where only the Novus Ordo Mass is celebrated, there are always one or two people who simply kneel on the ground (there no altar rails or prie-dieus) before the priest at daily Mass and receive the Eucharist on the tongue. None of the priests in these parishes, fortunately, has ever refused to give Communion in this way. For those people who are healthy enough to do it, this would seem to be a better way to receive Communion.


  8. kathleen says:

    @ Jack
    Some years ago I occasionally attended the Catholic Mass in the Byzantine rite whilst staying at the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s campus in Austria. (There were a lot of Eastern European Catholics studying there on scholarships.) The Byzantine Liturgy is indeed a very beautiful rite with Holy Communion distributed whilst standing and in the way you described on the other thread.
    There is so much Biblical, historical and traditional evidence to receiving Holy Communion whilst kneeling, I just wonder what their theological reason is for it to be done this way.

    @ Robert
    Yes, I’m sure there are many more places where a few brave people will kneel to receive during a Novus Ordo Mass. I was referring more to large numbers of kneelers. One of the churches I was thinking of is the beautiful Brompton Oratory in London, and the other is a church run by Opus Dei priests.


  9. Jack says:

    \\There is so much Biblical, historical and traditional evidence to receiving Holy Communion whilst kneeling, I just wonder what their theological reason is for it to be done this way.\\

    Please give ONE Biblical verse that describes Communion being received while kneeling.

    And actually, according to liturgical history, it was only the West that began to receive while kneeling, and that only after the split between East and West. Curiously enough, this never became an issue in the polemics.


  10. Jack says:

    I forgot to add that, contrary to the pious picture given here, the Apostles received their first Communion while reclining on couches, if the words of the Greek NT and custom at the Seder mean anything.


  11. Toadspittle says:

    “…the Apostles received their first Communion while reclining on couches…”
    …Now we are getting somewhere.
    Maybe a celestial version of the barber’s chair would be most efficient these days?
    Fling the communicant’s head back, administer The Golden Spoon, or whatever – then right him (or her, of course) with a practised flick of the lace-decorated wrist.

    Three chairs – no waiting! ( …as it said when I was a Toadpole.

    If that does not bring lapsed Catholics back in legion – I don’t know what will.
    But what will they think of it in Africa?


  12. The Raven says:

    There is a fair amount of dispute whether the Last Supper was a Seder, with different sides drawing on the accounts in St John and the Synoptic Gospels to justify their views.

    It also seems rather unlikely that the descriptions in the gospels support communion in the hand: as I understand it, the custom was and is for hosts to feed their guests a morsel from their own hands.

    Despite what you say here and elsewhere, the genuine fissure between the practice of East and West has been reception in the hand, not the posture of the body.

    Let’s not forget that orthopraxy in the East makes many demands of communicants above and beyond the mere act of kneeling: the prostrations, bows and crossings that precede orthodox communion are far more exhaustive and reverent than lowering oneself to one’s knees to make the act of receiving communion easier.


  13. The Raven says:

    Well, Toad, the master of ceremonies at the wedding at Cana was described as the “αρχιτρικλινω” or “master of the three couches”, so you might be onto something there.

    (In Geaco-Roman culture, the perfect number of guests would be nine at a a dinner, they would recline on three couches arranged to form the sides of an open square, so that the slaves could serve each guest with ease.)

    Poussin shows something of it here


  14. GC says:

    Toad @Toadspittle, February 13, 2014 at 06:23 : Does it matter?

    Of course not, dear Toad.

    I recall a group of friends and me, more years ago than I care to say, agreeing that we all wanted Communion on the hip thenceforth. We even practised in the mirror and got the bodily actions required pretty right.

    I recall it was on the left hip.


  15. kathleen says:

    @ Jack

    I made it clear that I see the Byzantine Liturgy as “holy and beautiful”, so the fact that Holy Communion is distributed whilst the people stand is not really an issue here, and could even be said to be a tradition of the Eastern Catholic Church. It is also distributed directly into the mouth – IOW it is not touched by the hands of the recipient – so there is no danger of particles of the consecrated Host sticking to the hand or falling to the ground.
    (I believe that even if kneeling is not a customary prayer posture in the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is a part of ordination ceremonies.)

    Jack, I am not trying to convince you that you should change your traditions, only that in the Latin Catholic Church these customs of kneeling before God have always been our traditions…. That is, until they were partly done away with after VII without any reasonable explanation in any of the Church documents!

    There may not be a specific Biblical text of receiving Holy Communion whilst kneeling, but there are numerous passages where going to meet the Lord one should kneel. We have already mentioned some of them.

    Here is an excerpt of a letter by Bishop Thomas Olmsted, of Phoenix, addressing the significance of kneeling:
    Already in Biblical times, knees were a symbol of humility and strength. To bend one’s knee before God was a profound act of worship; it stated boldly yet simply that God is the source of all power and that the one on bended knee is ready to place his life and all his energy at the service of the Lord. What we do with our knees gives evidence of what we believe in our hearts.
    The practice of kneeling assists our whole person to be attentive to the Lord, to surrender tHis will, to lift our soul and our voices in worship. Indeed, it points to the heart of what faith in Christ is all about. We see this reflected already in the earliest days of the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that Saint Peter “knelt down and prayed” (9:40), and that Saint Paul “knelt down and prayed with them all” (20:36); we see how the first Christian martyr Saint Stephen fell to his knees and prayed that his enemies be forgiven (cf. 7:60), and we see how the whole community, men and women and children, prayed on their knees. (cf. 21:5)
    Jesus Himself knelt to pray to His beloved Father. We see this most dramatically in the Garden of Gethsemane where, on His knees, He speaks those deeply moving words: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done”. (Luke 22:42)
    The passage of Sacred Scripture that gives the strongest theological foundation for kneeling is that famous hymn found in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 2:6-11, where we are told that, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.
    Kneeling is a fundamental act of faith, a strong expression about Who stands at the centre of one’s life and Who stands at the centre of all creation. Bending the knee at the name of Jesus is a decisive act of those with athletic souls and humble hearts. There is nothing passive about kneeling in humility and adoration. When the knees act in response to a heart that loves Christ, there is unleashed a force so strong it can change the face of the earth. Grace is the name we give to this force.”


  16. Laura says:

    Don’t we bend ONE knee when our Lord is in the tabernacle but BOTH knees when He is exposed? How much MORE exposed can He be right in front of our face when the PRIEST says, “The Body of Christ”? I would say both knees would be appropriate. Even the demons are forced to go on bended knee at the sound of His name. Yet, we have a problem when receiving Him body, blood, soul and divinty into our own being? Makes no sense to me.


  17. Toadspittle says:

    What a magnificent Poussin, Raven – I’ve never seen it before, thank you.
    The lads are all looking agog at Jesus – as if he is about to produce the Flags Of All Nations out of the cup, aren’t they!

    It’s also an ideal topic for debate on CP&S – because in the end, it doesn’t really matter a damn, does it?


  18. Toadspittle says:

    “Even the demons are forced to go on bended knee at the sound of His name.”

    Laura is right. And some of mine even get peevish about that.


  19. Jack says:

    \\Fling the communicant’s head back, administer The Golden Spoon, or whatever – then right him (or her, of course) with a practised flick of the lace-decorated wrist.\\

    If you went to a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, you would see that the head is not “flung back” at a greater angle than in the Western Church when receiving on the tongue.

    **There may not be a specific Biblical text of receiving Holy Communion whilst kneeling**

    Then why did you say there were, Kathleen?


  20. kathleen says:

    Because kneeling is a fundamental act of faith “when going to meet the Lord” as the many above-mentioned Biblical texts show. Where is one closer to meeting the Lord than in the reception of the Sacred Host (His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity)?
    In this gesture we show our smallness, humility, love and devotion.

    Once again, I am not saying the Eastern Catholics are not showing the same sentiments by not doing so… (you will have your own theological reasons for this I am sure.) All I am saying is that these are the reasons we in the West have always practiced it.


  21. Huey Dash says:

    This reminds me of a grand ole story about a bridge. Once, in the city of Lower Ungston, there lived a humble cobbler by the name of Meebers. Meebers worked night and day making the finest shoes in the city. On Saturdays, though business had been poor, he would carry his shoes across the bridge so that he could offer them at the central market. One particular day, a would be patron, a young man not know to these parts, stopped to inspect his wares. The young man inquired if he might simply have a pair of shoes for free. Poor ole Meebers became indignant. Yet the young man persisted until Meebers gave in and let him take a pair of shoes. The young man chose the most expensive pair and then handed them to Meebers as a gift. Surprised, Meebers asked the meaning of this gesture. The young man said, “Sir, I noticed that while you are about the business of telling others they need better shoes, you have neglected to look at your own. This is why you have difficulty selling your shoes. Everyone can see that you do not practice as you preach.” Meebers looked at his own ragged shoes and then hung his head in shame. He went home and tied a rope to his ceiling fan.

    I suppose that story isn’t really about a bridge but it has a bridge in it.

    In a recent debate with a former friend over this story I encountered a very serious issue on exactly the matter of Communion. I was confronted with the argument that since the priest, himself, stands and commingles both species on the altar after consecration, then there is nothing sinful about doing the same in one’s mouth while standing. I quickly retorted words that could have only been divinely inspired. I said, “Do you eat that way?” Do you stand up and publicly stuff in a fist full of M&M’s while you already have a mouthful of Skittles?” Although this did not change his mind, it did seem to make him think. In fact, he got up and left. Getting a person of faith to think is a great accomplishment in my book.

    I feel I must add one more thing. We must not, in discussing this matter, confuse illicit Public Oral Commingle or Asynchronous Tongue Intinction with the form of these acts made licit by valid petition to the local ordinary’s faculty to dispense with the demands of Canon Law regardless of posture. For a licit and properly sanctioned POC or ATI is in no way to be understood as contrary to Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxy. As long as it is sanctioned you may even hop while doing it. It is the illicit form of these, despite resembling exactly the licit form of these, which rightfully draws our righteous and utterly justified rebuke and condemnation.

    Yes. The pope, himself, might agree that the mouth must be clear and that some part of the body should be touching the floor. Otherwise, the same thing will touch the same thing and become one, big thing of sameness whether up or down. I think this is the biggest problem facing the Church today. Too many people are refusing, sinfully I might add, to swallow on time and while kneeling. In some sense, this is a theological nightmare if you think about it too long. Christ wants those things separate until they are well past the epiglottis. Let them touch and who knows what might happen. I for one do not wish to find out.

    Come to think of it, if you read the Synoptic Gospels closely, you’ll see that Judas was in a big hurry at the last supper. He stood up from the table. No doubt, he also committed an illicit erect Public Oral Commingle or Asynchronous Tongue Intinction, if you prefer. I use both terms as I think something this terrible requires great description. When we think of Judas, we tend to only focus on his betrayal of the Lord. But I think this standing while chewing was even worse.

    Thank you for bringing this atrocity of sinful mouths swallowing the Eucharist while standing erect to the attention of many who were worrying about it. I hope the Pope does something about this blatant epidemic of impiety.


  22. joe says:

    Kneeling for Communion ( Christ Himself ) is perfectly appropriate in all space & time in the history of the world…..& beyond, & forevermore. The 3 kings did so in the manger. Bishops kneel before The Pope ( Christ’s vicar on earth ) when being elevated to Cardinal. Some clerics throughout all of history have been temporarily “blinded” in whatever manner. Our times are no exception. Have no fear, & adore……& pray.


  23. Michael says:

    The Church is living organism and therefore the way the Apostles received the Holy Eucharist is not necessarily how future communicants should receive it. After centuries of prayer and study, the Church would discover that the Eucharist was concealed in the Old Testament. From the scroll that is “fed” to the mortal in Ezekiel 3 or the hot coal that is “touched” to the lips in Isaiah 6, the Church would learn that Our Lord was too sacred for anyone other than a priest to touch. Likewise in Isaiah 6 when the “pivots and thresholds” shook when the angels sang out “Holy, Holy, Holy”, it became evident that the people should fall to their knees. Even the 24 elders in heaven “fall down” whenever the angels give glory and honour to the one seated on the throne (Rev 4:8-10)


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