Saint Athanasius is remembered and venerated today for his unswerving defense of orthodoxy against the Arian heresy of the fourth century. Exiled fives times during his life, and often greatly outnumbered by heretical bishops, Athanasius defended the divinity of Christ, eventually finding vindication at the Council of Nicea.
Today there is another Athanasius who is a lone, prophetic, voice speaking out in defense of Our Eucharistic Lord. Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan has spent much of the last eight years since being appointed a bishop by Pope Benedict advocating for the traditional practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling.
This modern Athanasius authored “Dominus Est -It is The Lord” back in 2008 on this very subject. It is widely believed that Bishop Schneider’s work played a significant role in Pope Benedict’s decision to only distribute Holy Communion in the traditional manner at all papal masses.
The following is an excerpt of a recent interview with Bishop Schneider conducted by journalist Sarah Atkinson which appeared in the Catholic Herald. The full transcript is available to read at the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales website.
Regarding the Reception of Holy Communion
“To my knowledge and experience, the deepest wound in the actual crisis of the Church is the Eucharistic wound; the abuses of the Blessed Sacrament…
“There is…the question of the objectively irreverent reception of Holy Communion. The so-called new, modern manner of receiving Holy Communion directly into the hand is very serious because it exposes Christ to an enormous banality.
“There is the grievous fact of the loss of the Eucharistic fragments. No one can deny this. And the fragments of the consecrated host are crushed by feet. This is horrible! Our God, in our churches, is trampled by feet! No one can deny it.
“And this is happening on a large scale. This has to be, for a person with faith and love for God, a very serious phenomenon.
“We cannot continue as if Jesus as God does not exist, as though only the bread exists. This modern practice of Communion in the hand has nothing to do with the practice in the ancient Church. The modern practice of receiving Communion in hand contributes gradually to the loss of the Catholic faith in the real presence and in the transubstantiation.
“A priest and a bishop cannot say this practice is ok. Here is at stake the most holy, the most divine and concrete on Earth.”
Q. You are standing out on your own in this?
“I am very sad that I am feeling myself as one who is shouting in the desert. The Eucharistic crisis due to the modern use of Communion in hand is so evident. This is not an exaggeration. It is time that the bishops raise their voices for the Eucharistic Jesus who has no voice to defend himself. Here is an attack on the most Holy, an attack on the Eucharistic faith.
“Of course there are people who receive Holy Communion in the hand with much devotion and faith, but they are in a minority. The vast mass, though, are losing the faith through this very banal manner of taking Holy Communion like common food, like a chip or a cake. Such a manner to receive the most Holy here on earth is not sacred, and it destroys by time the deep awareness and the Catholic faith in the real presence and in the transubstantiation.”
Q. Is the Church going in the opposite direction from where you are going?
“It seems that the majority of the clergy and the bishops are content with this modern use of Communion in hand and don’t realize the real dangers connected with such a practice. For me this is incredible. How is this possible, when Jesus is present in the little hosts? A priest and a bishop should say: “I have to do something, at least to gradually reduce this. All that I can do, I have to do.” Unfortunately, though, there are members of the clergy who are making propaganda of the modern use of Communion in the hand and sometimes prohibiting receiving Communion on the tongue and kneeling. There are even priests who are discriminating those who kneel for Holy Communion. This is very, very sad.
“There is also an increasing stealing of hosts, because of distributing Communion directly in the hand. There is a net, a business, of the stealing of Holy Hosts and this is much facilitated by Communion in the hand.
“Why would I, as a priest and bishop, expose Our Lord to such a danger, to such a risk? When these bishops or priests (who approve of Communion in the hand) have some item of value, they would never expose this to great danger, to be lost or stolen. They protect their house, but they do not protect Jesus and allow him to be stolen very easily.”
Something to Consider
Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s book “Dominus Est-It is The Lord” is published by Newman House Press. Upon its release in 2008 the publisher sent a copy to every bishop of the United States and Canada. At a list price of only $8.00 and under 65 pages, this book needs to be in the hands of every priest and bishop. Through catechesis, personal witness, prayer and reparation we will see an end to this practice of communion in the hand.