Bishop Schneider on Receiving Holy Communion
Nearly ten years ago an unknown auxiliary bishop from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, the Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider, wrote a brief treatise on the reception of Holy Communion, Dominus Est-It is the Lord! In the years since, there has been no greater defender of the Eucharist than Bishop Schneider. The below argument in favor of the traditional discipline of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling comes at the conclusion of Bishop Schneider’s book.
Dominus Est should be read by bishops, priests, and laity alike; it is that important. The below excerpt is reprinted here with the permission of the publisher.
Against the background of the two-millennia-long history of piety and liturgical tradition of the universal Church, East and West alike, especially regarding the organic development of the patristic patrimony, we can offer the following summary:
1. The organic development of Eucharistic piety as a fruit of the piety of the Fathers of the Church led all the Churches, both in the East and in the West, already in the first millennium to administer Holy Communion directly into the mouths of the faithful. In the West, at the beginning of the second millennium, there was added the profoundly Biblical gesture of kneeling. In the various liturgical traditions of the East, the moment of receiving the Body of the Lord was surrounded by various awe-inspiring ceremonies, often involving a prior prostration of the faithful to the ground.
2. The Church prescribes the use of the paten for Communion to avoid having any particle of the Sacred Host fall to the ground (see Missale Romanum, Institutio generalis, no. 118; Redemptionis sacramentum, no. 93) and that the bishop wash his hands after distribution of Communion (see Caeremoniale episcoporum, no. 166). When Communion is given on the hand, not infrequently particles separate from the Host, either falling to the ground or remaining on the palm and fingers of the communicants.
3. The moment of Holy Communion, inasmuch as it is the encounter of the faithful with the Divine Person of the Redeemer, demands by its very nature typically sacred gestures such as prostration to the ground. (On Easter morning, the women adored the Risen Lord by prostrating themselves before Him [see Mt 28:9], and the Apostles did the same [see Lk 24:52], and perhaps the Apostle Thomas as he said, “My Lord and my God!” [Jn 20:28].)
4. Allowing oneself to be fed like a baby by receiving Communion directly into the mouth ritually expresses in a better way the character of receptivity and of being a child before Christ Who feeds us and nourishes us spiritually. An adult, on the other hand, takes the food himself with his fingers and places it into his own mouth.
5. The Church prescribes that during the celebration of Holy Mass, at the Consecration, the faithful must kneel. Would it not be more liturgically proper if, at the moment of Holy Communion when the faithful approach the Lord in a bodily manner as closely as possible, the One Who is the King of Kings, that they would greet Him and receive Him on their knees?
6. The gesture of receiving the Body of the Lord in the mouth and kneeling could be a visible testimony to the faith of the Church in the Eucharistic Mystery and even something that heals and teaches our modern culture, for which kneeling and spiritual childhood are completely foreign phenomena.
7. The desire to offer the august Person of Christ affection and honor at the moment of Holy Communion in a visible manner would correspond to the spirit and example of the bi-millennial tradition of the Church: Cum amore ac timore (“with love and fear,” the adage of the Fathers of the first millennium) and quantum potes, tantum aude (“do as much as you can,” the adage of the second millennium, coming from Aquinas’s Sequence for Corpus Christi, the Laude Sion).
[Athanasius Schneider, Dominus Est-It is the Lord, Newman House Press, 2008, pp. 49-50].