Kneeling for Communion

(Please excuse the poor choice of music for this YouTube video.)

I have no alternative but to attend a Novus Ordo Mass, except for every first Sunday of the month when a visiting priest comes to our city to celebrate a beautiful Traditional Latin Mass. Sometimes (not always) at the N.O. Mass I am the only one who, when reaching the priest distributing Holy Communion, kneels down to receive the Sacred Host on my tongue. I feel I cannot do otherwise at such a momentous occasion as the Sacred Body of Christ being received into my unworthy person. All around me I get stares and looks of surprise from the people who file up to receive standing. At first this embarrassed me terribly, not because of the ridicule I may have been making of myself in their eyes, but because knowing myself a sinner, I found it mortifying that they may think I was attempting to show myself up as ‘holier than thou’ – totally untrue of course. I offered up this suffering to the Lord and now with time it has become no more than a minor discomfort.

I must add that I have never had a priest refuse me Holy Communion for breaking the common custom here to stand to receive (as I have heard has happened to some Catholics on occasions, especially in the US) but once a priest made a very audible sigh to show me, and the other communicants nearby, his displeasure at my ‘audacity’!

Pope Benedict XVI emphasised, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favour “a centuries-old tradition”, and that it is “a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species”.

Kneeling for Communion may be seen as a small thing in the great scheme of things (that many laugh off as unimportant) for after all, there are such multiple problems and dangers assailing us in Our Holy Catholic Church these days. However, we should never forget the old maxim: ‘Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi’ (As we Worship, so we will Believe, and so we will Live.) Perhaps the tradition of kneeling to receive Our Blessed Lord could start a gradual return of all that is holy and reverent in the practices within the Holy Liturgy once more.

“That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10)

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18 Responses to Kneeling for Communion

  1. steveesq says:

    How hard would it be to provide a prie Dieu for those who want to receive while kneeling? In fact, I will be speaking to my pastor as soon as I can to make that request.

    I don’t kneel, partly because I don’t want somebody tripping over me, but I guess also because I don’t want to make a scene as you have said. I do have the sense I should be kneeling as I approach, but I conform. You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks for being true: He is our Lord, our God, and we should show complete adoration and reverence.

  2. I know something of the origins of this video. It was made by traditionalists with the aim of trying to promote Catholic youth workers to take this issue more seriously (which they never do as they mostly promote the ‘man’ centered aspects of the faith rather than the Christ centered aspects of the Faith). Catholic youth workers would never dream of getting young Catholics to kneel for communion, mainly because they are often poorly catechised and evangelised themselves. It was a case of attempting to talk to them in their own language so that they would finally understand that there was a supernatural element to Christ that they would have never considered before.

    In short, it was made to evangelise Catholic youth workers, in their own language, to the ultimate reality of Christ.

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    “…once a priest made a very audible sigh to show me, and the other communicants nearby, his displeasure at my ‘audacity’!”

    I’d say that was a sign of your mettle, Kathleen, not audacity. I’d also say that priest’s “very audible sigh” relects very poorly on his breeding and draws more attention to his lack thereof than to the steel in your backbone.

    One problem with kneeling for Communion in our time, what with the removal of altar rails (especially in a parish with a large congregation) where 20 or so people could all kneel at once, is that it takes quite a bit more time to complete, especially given the prevailing peer-pressure for everyone to receive communion every week no matter what the condition of their souls. ‘Undue’ passage of time is not an much of an argument when speaking about the Mass, but still…
    ___
    Gosh, how I dislike Mel Gibson’s movie. Just saying.

  4. Edwin Barnes says:

    In the Ordinariate it is usual to kneel to receive; though generally into the hand, since many of us were taught (from St Augustine?) to place one hand on the other ‘to make a throne for God’. Are our hands less holy than our tongues? St James seems to think that the tongue, the smallest member, is the greatest cause of our sinning. (James 3:5,6 ‘How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire’.)

  5. kathleen says:

    “Are our hands less holy than our tongues?”

    Yes Edwin, I believe they are – in this sense at least. Only the consecrated hands of the priest should touch the Sacred Body of Jesus; no layman should really have that right. This is why the Holy Priesthood is so set apart from the rest of men, and a holy priest, the alter Christi, is such a gift to the whole Church.

    When placed in the hand, tiny particles of the Sacred Host almost invisible to the naked eye can stick to it, especially if it is hot and the hand is a bit sweaty. In each of these tiny particles is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – do people realise that? And then think of all the mundane and unholy ways we may be leaving these Sacred particles once we leave the church, albeit quite unwittingly of course.

    I think you are seeing the passage from James referring to the tongue only in its negative sense. It can indeed be put to bad use, and we can sin, and grievously through our tongues. Yet the tongue is also used to sing God’s praises, to glorify His Holy name, give thanks, beg repentance, etc., and to preach, instruct, evangelise… Is not Our Lord Himself known as The Word?
    But the point is: when the priest places the Sacred Host straight onto the tongue (especially when a paten is held beneath) there is less danger of any part of it breaking off. So many sacrileges committed against the Blessed Sacrament every day! Should we not do everything in our power to avoid such a possibility from occurring?

    Anyway, it’s very nice to see a newcomer from the Ordinariate here; I hope you comment again and that I haven’t frightened you off with all my words of disagreement.🙂

  6. kathleen says:

    @ Steve & JH

    Thanks to both of you for your kind words.🙂

    Yes Steve, the placing of a prie Dieu or two for those who wish to kneel for Holy Communion is a very good idea. I only know of one church of the Opus Dei order of priests, right on the other side of the city (so rather inconvenient to get to) where you can find this. Even there, only about 10% to 20% use them!

    I am lucky: being both quite slim and agile, kneeling on the ground is no problem for me, but I am pretty sure there are many people who would like to kneel, but just physically cannot do so.
    Only once in all the years I have been kneeling for Communion did someone almost trip over my legs – not a bad record!😉

  7. kathleen says:

    @ lincolnshirecatholic

    Thank you – that was very interesting. Quite a challenge for those traditionalists with the Catholic Youth workers I think!🙂

  8. toadspittle says:

    “…they may think I was attempting to show myself up as ‘holier than thou’ “
    Are you sure you’re not taking those last three words out of context, Kathleen?
    Anyway, not many people on here would argue that you are holier than Toad.

    The words, “When in Rome…” spring to mind, don’t they? But they’re probably out of context, too.

    I would also have thought that video represented everything you find detestable, Kathleen. All grist for the mill, (whatever that means) though – I suppose.

    ““Are our hands less holy than our tongues?”
    Yes Edwin, I believe they are..”

    Why not a celestial anatomical chart – indicating on a scale of, say, 1-50, what body parts are the holiest and which are the least?…..On second thoughts…no.
    (Surely the only “part” that’s really sinful is the brain?)

    “When placed in the hand, tiny particles of the Sacred Host almost invisible to the naked eye can stick to it, especially if it is hot and the hand is a bit sweaty. In each of these tiny particles is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – do people realise that?”
    Surely God can easily organise things that so that such an unwanted eventuality doesn’t happen? Hasn’t He considered the possibility? If not, why not?
    There’s something theologically highly dubious – I suspect – about the idea of scattering little crumbs of God all over the place.
    You remind me of the good nuns when I was about seven, Kathleen. Nice. And nostalgic.

  9. The Raven says:

    Hello Monsignor Barnes,

    The passage containing the description of making “a throne with your hands” comes from something attributed to St Cyril of Jerusalem- I am told that the letter’s provenance and authorship is no longer regarded with such certainty as it was in the 1960s when it was used to justify the change in practice among Latin Rite Catholics.

    When it is used by people wishing to make the case that communion in the hand was normative in the early Church, they frequently omit the rest of the passage, which describes some frankly alarming devotional practices like dipping ones fingers in the consecrated wine and anointing their eyes!

    Am I right in thinking that the practice of receiving kneeling and in the hand is quite old in Anglicanism?

  10. johnhenrycn says:

    In every Anglican church I attended, TR, that was the norm, as was distribution of Communion under both kinds.

  11. kathleen says:

    @ Toad

    You can’t fool me Toad; I know you understood me perfectly well with the “holier than thou” remark that you pretend was taken “out of context”. However, I’ll spell out what I meant for you to assist “your further education” (h/t to JH😉 ) if you so wish.

    We all know ourselves better and more intimately than anyone else does. I know for a fact (no false humility here) that I have committed many many sins, past and present; so when I kneel to receive Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion whilst everyone else remains standing, it could give the impression that I am stupidly ignorant of that fact, and see myself as sort of holier and more pious than all the other communicants. Of course this is not true, and I am sure than a great many (if not all) the other communicants are a lot holier than me… The point is, I just feel compelled to fall on my knees when my Lord and Saviour comes to flood my poor and unworthy soul with His great Love. I am not judging anyone who does not feel that same overpowering urge… and as I said before, there are probably many who would fall to their knees too, but are simply unable to do so.

    As to Our Lord’s presence in every particle of the Sacred Host, no. 1377 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say:
    “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.”

  12. On weekdays I have to go to a Novus Ordo Mass, because a Traditional Latin Mass is available only on Sundays. For the past couple of years I have knelt to receive Communion, on the tongue, at every Novus Ordo Mass. Usually I am the only one who does that, and at first, I too worried that everyone else would think I was trying to be “holier-than-thou,” but that worry went away after a week or so. I came to understand that kneeling really is the only way to receive the Eucharist.

    I sometimes think of a comment that a devout Moslem is supposed to made about Catholics who receive Communion standing and in the hand: “If I truly believed that that little piece of bread was Allah, I would CRAWL on my hands and knees to receive Him.”

  13. toadspittle says:

    Try and fool you, Kathleen? Fie! What a hope!

    “Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.”

    “When placed in the hand, tiny particles of the Sacred Host almost invisible to the naked eye can stick to it, especially if it is hot and the hand is a bit sweaty. In each of these tiny particles is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – do people realise that?”

    Christ in every crumb, eh, Kathleen?
    ….Fair enough. But even if the host goes straight into the mouth, this is still a potential hazard, surely? Supposing a particle of Christ gets stuck under your false teeth?
    But anyway – is it worth getting so het up about?
    Also – presumably God knows our intentions. …And makes allowances for human error?
    Or can we go to Hell for it?

    Another Thick Question: Does it have to be a certain sort of bread – or else it’s no good?

  14. toadspittle says:

    “I came to understand that kneeling really is the only way to receive the Eucharist…”

    …So, you’ve not tried CRAWLING yet, then, Robert John?

  15. Edwin Barnes says:

    Well it’s S Least as old as I am, which is pretty old – prepared for Confirmation and First Communion in – goodness! – 1946!

  16. geoffkiernan says:

    Well said JRB at 2015.

  17. geoffkiernan says:

    EB at 1616… There are still some of us left… That is re -assuring

  18. Interesting Article. I will come back often!

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