Tuesday, July 17, 2012
THE "NORM" AND THE "ABNORM" FOR RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION
Apart from the official norms for receiving Holy Communion, Catholics have always had some leeway in terms of their own piety as it regards personal devotional acts. For example, in the EF form of distributing Holy Communion, there is no rubric that states that the communicant bow before kneeling, or genuflect before kneeling as the actual kneeling is the sign of reverence; but today, at the EF some do what I describe. It is not illegal but it isn't prescribed. The same with making the Sign of the Cross either before or after receiving, this is custom for some but not in the rubrics.
In the OF Mass, the actual norm for receiving Holy Communion is that it is accomplished standing, with a bow prior to receiving and that the person place the Host in their mouth before completely departing the minister. This usually is accomplished by taking one step to the side and place the host in one's mouth before departing. Some though place the host in their mouth immediately without stepping to the side. Many of us witness communicants taking the host and placing it in their mouth as they walk, eating on the run as it were.
But for about 20 years we have seen people genuflecting in the place of a bow prior to receiving Holy Communion, making the "Sign of the Cross" either prior to receiving or after receiving or both. Some kneel on the hard floor to receive. None of these are prescribed in the OF rubrics or General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
Of course we know that more recent instructions have indicated that no one should be refused or harassed if they choose to receive Holy Communion kneeling. It is allowed in the OF by way of exception.
At Saint Joseph Church, we have placed kneelers that are very stable with a wide desk for the hands in front of the Host ministers. This makes it quite easy, safe and comfortable for those who wish to kneel to kneel. My own experience of distributing Holy Communion from behind the kneeler is that when those who approach to receive standing and either in the hand or mouth, it is as though the kneeler isn't there; I don't have to reach further out to them to give them Holy Communion.
What is your experience of receiving Holy Communion in your parishes? Is it rushed, do you have legitimate options and what personal devotions do you bring to receiving Holy Communion. If you kneel on the floor has any one tripped or nearly tripped behind you or someone else you observed? And what about congregational singing as you are in the Procession to Holy Communion?