History to Communion in the Hand?


Didn't the church stop communion in the hand because of disrespect for the eucharist? Why did it start again?

--Concerned in Crescent City


Communion in the hand has been the norm for most of the church's history, especially the first 1000 years. It is true that because of dangers of misuse, communion hosts received on the tongue entered into practice, when people received communion at all, during the ninth century.

The present practice was renewed in 1969 when Pope Paul VI allowed episcopal conferences to reintroduce communion hosts received in the hand. Our US bishops received permission in 1977. A study of how we received communion led to its return. It is felt, by most liturgists and theologians, that this practice is faithful to Jesus' command, "take and eat, take and drink."

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in the fourth century, gave instructions on the proper way of receiving communion in the hand. He said the when people are to approach the altar, they are to have their hands like a throne, open to receive "the King." He continued by saying, "cup your hand and receive the Body of Christ, saying, 'Amen." He also said, "Touch the Sacred Body, and receive it."

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