Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, CA celebrating the EF Mass
“The proper posture is standing”

Oakland bishop provides detailed instructions on receiving Holy Communion in his diocese

(The following undated “Instructions on Receiving Communion Properly” by Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone have been posed on the website of the diocesan Office of Worship.)

All Catholics, before receiving Communion, are to be free from serious sin and fast from all food and drink (except water and necessary medicine) for one hour before receiving. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1385; Code of Canon Law, canons 916 and 919)

The proper posture for receiving Communion is standing. This is to show the respect that is due the Most Blessed Sacrament (in our culture, standing up shows respect to someone of importance who enters the room); the bow before receiving Communion signifies the humility with which we must approach the Sacrament.

The deeper meaning of this posture, though, is that the position of standing is symbolic of the Resurrection, and so -- as is done in the Eastern Rites of the Church -- we assume this position when we receive the Sacrament of our salvation.

Receiving Communion kneeling, or genuflecting before receiving, while often motivated by the praiseworthy desire to show greater respect to the Most Blessed Sacrament, is not proper according to the liturgical norms.

It can also create practical difficulties, such as people inadvertently tripping over the person in front of them in line. It should also be remembered that the greatest respect we can show is to always ensure that when we receive Communion, we do so worthily.

When receiving Communion on the tongue: Hold your hands in front of you in a gesture of prayer, and when you approach the minister of Communion, bow, and then say “Amen” after the minister says, “The Body of Christ.” After the minister places the Host into your mouth, return to your place in the pew (or approach the Communion station for the Blood of Christ, as the case may be).

When receiving Communion in the hand: When you approach the minister of Communion, hold one hand on top of the other and extend your hands flat, like an altar top. (This follows the counsel of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who instructed the faithful: “make a throne of your hands in which to receive the King [in Holy Communion].” He also urged them to exercise great care for any fragments which might remain in one’s hand.)

Bow, and then say “Amen” after the minister says, “The Body of Christ,” and places the host in your hand. Step to the side, reverently place the Host into your mouth with the other hand, taking the Host from the hand that it rests upon.

Take care to consume any particles which may remain in your hand and return to your place in the pew (or approach the Communion station for the Blood of Christ, as the case may be). Note: if one of your hands is impeded such that you cannot receive Communion in this way, you should receive on the tongue.

When receiving Communion from the cup: Approach the minister of Communion, bow, and then say “Amen” after the minister says, “The Blood of Christ.” Take the cup with your hands and reverently place it to your lips to take a sip of the Blood of Christ. Hand the cup back to the minister, and return to your place in the pew.


Anonymous said...

I suspect it will take quite some time for the good Bishop Cordileone to gain control over the progressive functionaries in his chancery who grind out things like this and have been in control of this diocese for so long. (As his predecessor Bishop Vigneron was not able to do in six years.)

No one who knows much about Bishop Cordileone would suspect him of personally authoring a factually incorrect statement (for the Roman Catholic Church) like "The proper posture is standing". Or risibly suggesting that we'd all remain standing if Christ himself entered the room. As indeed he does in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

But most ordinary Catholics don't realize that, especially in a large diocese with entrenched functionaries, a new bishop has little real power, and must pick his fights very carefully. Understandably, a document like this is not worth the quibble when it's put in front of him to sign off on.

Ave Verum said...

Father, I can remember when you said pretty much exactly the same things at MHT in Augusta, except the part about the "deeper meaning" of standing being the norm in the Eastern Catholic rites...which it is!

Marc said...

Henry, I was pretty annoyed by the blatant falsehoods included in this letter as people continue to support their false ideas with pseudo-liturgical antiquarianism (which was decried by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei).

In this case, this bishop's office has started the document detailing the importance of the Eucharistic Fast and abstaining from Holy Communion when not in a state of grace. They then go on to cite St. Cyril for the proposition that Communion in the hand was the practice of antiquity by providing a quote from that Saint. Well, here's the rest of that quote from "St. Cyril":

"Then, carefully sanctifying the eyes by touching them with the holy Body, partake of it,... Then, after you have partaken of the Body of Christ, come forward only for the cup of the Blood. Do not stretch out your hands but bow low as if making an act of obeisance and a profound act of veneration. Say 'Amen'. and sanctify yourself by partaking of Christ's Blood also. While the moisture is still on your lips, touch them with your hands and sanctify your eyes, your forehead, and all your other sensory organs…Do not cut yourselves off from Communion; nor deprive yourselves of these sacred and spiritual mysteries, not even if you are defiled by sins."

I guess "St. Cyril" is not as concerned that we be in a state of grace like this bishop seems to be. So, which part of "St. Cyril's" advice should we follow... The answer is that there is doubt that St. Cyril wrote the document in which the above quote is given (and the quote used by this bishop's office).

Finally, as Pope Pius XII cautioned in Mediator Dei, even if a practice was common in antiquity, that does not mean that it needs to be resurrected in today's Church. If the point of the Council was to bring the Church to the modern world, why must we do so back going even further back in antiquity?

No thanks, your Excellency! And I will pray that, in the future, you more heavily scrutinize the junk writing that comes out of your office. And since you're so concerned about respect, please don't be offended that, if we ever meet in person, I will genuflect on the left knee and kiss your ring or, should I simply stand there and shake your hand... which shows more respect?

Templar said...

Someone who posts on this Blog from time to time happens to know the good Bishop from past experience. I would be curious to hear what he thinks of it.

I believe Henry's assessment of the good Bishop is quite accurate by the way, and in any case, even if this were penned by the Bishop himself, he would have exceeded his authority. He can NOT deny communion to any Catholic based upon their desire to kneel for receipt.

Anonymous said...

Templar, I'm sure you can be confident that–whatever his chancery denizens think and write–the good Bishop Cordileone does not disagree with his Supreme Pontiff’s view that the proper posture for receiving Holy Communion is kneeling.

Marc, it is also true (as stated in Bishop Athanasius Schneider's book) that in ancient times, one who received the Host on his right hand (held as a throne by his left) then bowed profoundly take it off his hand into his mouth with his tongue. It would have been unthinkable then to snatch the Host with his hand and place it in his mouth; indeed (for whatever reason) to touch it at all with his left hand. So this was really "communion in the mouth" if not communion on the tongue, NOT communion on the hands as current practiced.

Carol H. said...

I don't have a copy of the document that came out a few years ago that stated one should bow before receiving standing, but I remember learning all about it when it came out.

The intent was to stop people from irreverently walking up and taking the host as if the priest and EMs were passing out candy. The intent was to make people stop, think about what they were about to receive, and show at least some form of respect before receiving.

It was also made clear that this was not intended to stop those who already show respect by kneeling or genuflecting from doing so.

As I stated before, I don't have a copy of the document, so I don't know if the intentions were stated clearly in it. If not, maybe the Bishops should consider stating the intentions they hope to acheive in future documents in order to help prevent future squabbles.

Anonymous said...

Provide kneelers = problem solved.

pinanv525 said...

My reaction to just the headline was to think, "Ah, bull."

pinanv525 said...

Kneeling is the universally understood posture, among Christans and Jews, of reverence, worship, and humility. We may start with Holy Scripture...let's see, where would you like to start? How about with a Psalm:
"...for the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all Gods.
In His hands are the deep places of the earth:the strength of the hill is his also.
The sea is his and he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
O come and let us bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker." (Psalm 95:3-6.)
Now, this is a nice one with a sharp edge: "Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else. The word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." (Isaiah: 45:23)
And, it does seem that it was good enough for Jesus himself in the Garden: "And he was withdrawn from them, about a stone's cast, and kneeled down and prayed." (Luke:22:41)
In every Gospel, those who approach Jesus or ask him for mercy, kneel...the Syro-Phonecian woman, Lazarus' sister pleading at Christ's feet before her brother's tomb, the man with the lunatic son, and countless other places in Scripture, OT and NT (hey, we can do this all night), people kneel in the presence of Christ.

When I was a protestant minister, shortly after I began my first pastorate, I got sick and tired of looking out at people sitting on their (expletive deleted) passing a rattle trap tray full of plastic glasses around the pews and gobbling little things that looked like Chiclets off a silver-plate paten. The old church had an altar rail so, from that day on for the five years I was there, I had them come to the altar rail and kneel to receive. I passed along first with the bread, saying, "May the Body of Christ preserve you unto eternal life," and then with the wine, saying, "May the Blood of Christ cleanse you from all sin." No one ever complained to me. In fact, many said they felt much more moved and reverent coming down to the rail. None of that "Let Us Break Bread Together..." hippie nonsense from the choir, either. I usually requested something like, "When I Survery the Wondrous Cross," or "In the Cross" for Communion hymns. Now, if that is good enough for a one-time hard core Calvinist, why ain't it good enough for us Catholics?

Anonymous said...

OK, here is the non-theologian question: If the sacrament was instructed by Christ, and if I recall the prayer correctly, He does not tell us that we are resurrected at this point. I am more and more in the Templar, Pin camp with the understanding that I am now standing before God and about eat of His body. I feel it would be presumptuous to stand as a symbol of anything. I can conceive of an allowance, but I can kneel just fine so I don't need it. In our mission this weekend the Real Presence was explained a few times and each day we followed with a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament with the Litany of the Saints. It seems like I do so little else to make Him happy that kneeling is the least I can do.


Anonymous said...

Had a more clear thought: (shut up, Pin): If Holy Communion is not a reenactment of the Last Supper as a meal, then why would consuming the host be a reenactment of the Resurrection? Especially since they are separate events?

OK, back to the fog....


pinanv525 said...

RCG, Since when was consuming the Host a reenactment of the Resurrection?

Anonymous said...

That's my point, I don't think it is, but the Bishop seemed to imply this was why one should stand for communion.

See para 3 of the body of the post.

"The deeper meaning of this posture, though, is that the position of standing is symbolic of the Resurrection, and so -- as is done in the Eastern Rites of the Church -- we assume this position when we receive the Sacrament of our salvation."

Seems totally backwards to me.


Anonymous said...

I wish people would stop using Eastern Rite practices to justify things in the Latin Rite. There are a number of reasons this should not be done both from the Latin side and from the Eastern side.

With standing for Holy Communion in particular, it is my understanding that the Eastern Churches put a MUCH greater emphasis on the Resurrection in the Divine Liturgy whereas we Latins put a heavier emphasis on the Passion and Cross. Both are fine theologically within the context of the particular Rites. Mixing them disregards the differences that have developed separately in the liturgy, spirituality, and theology of the two branches of the Church.

This is but one reason the Eatern Rite should not be used to justify Novus Ordo practices. But, if any Latin Rite priests are willing, I'm sure many people would love to have the Divine Liturgy offered at their Church and then everyone can stand for Communion!


Anonymous said...

In a recent debate with a former friend over this impiety at Holy Mass 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. Does not the scriptures say “we will meet the Lord in the air?” 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.

That being said. For wedding couples, kneeling for reception is a good idea at their weddings and later that night as well.

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.

Anonymous said...

With all respect, Your Excellency, the universal norm for reception of the Blessed Sacrament in the Latin Rite is to receive on the tongue whilst kneeling. This has been normative for centuries, and was used as early as the sixth century, if I recall correctly. In the Eastern Rites, standing is preferred to kneeling as, in the Eastern Rites, kneeling is a position of penance. In the Latin Rite, however, kneeling is a position of reverence as well as penance; therefore, the norm for the Eastern Rites has no bearing on the norm for the Latin Rite. Also, as for practical problems caused by kneeling, the closest I have ever seen to a "problem" is when I kneel to receive if I am an Altar Server. The alb I wear is slightly large on me, and if I'm not careful, I might have a hard time getting my left knee to the ground, or might nearly trip whilst standing again (this poses no danger, though, as the Blessed Sacrament is no longer in front of me when I stand).
Finally, though, if I am expected- as is the norm- to kneel before the Bishop of my Diocese and the Archbishop of my Archdiocese, I in no way see reason for me to stand before my God. I understand that some may consider standing higher reverence than kneeling, or may simply not consider the Traditional perspective, and I do not accuse any who have such a view of irreverence; however, as for myself, I will kneel before God. "spera in Deum quoniam adhuc; confitebor illi salutare vultus mei et; Deus meus" Psalmi 42 (in part).