Thursday, 8 January 2009

Reception of Holy Communion

I was very impressed with the following, found on the blog, massinformation. It comes from an Anglo-Catholic parish, Christ Church, Tunstall. The priest, Father John Stather SSC, writes the following (in italics below) in his Parish Magazine to encourage a move away from 'dunking' the host into the chalice during Holy Communion.

I have been present in Roman Catholic churches where some members of the congregation did the same thing. It is forbidden by the Bishops of England and Wales, but when the matter is reported, usually, little or no action is taken. I once questioned whether parishioners should stand or kneel for the reception of Holy Communion. In most, if not all, Roman Catholic churches in England and Wales most people stand, and it seems to be expected that they will. I was told that it would be too difficult for people to kneel for reception of the chalice. My sister's father-in-law, an Anglican living in Italy who has special permission from the Catholic bishop to receive Holy Communion at Catholic Mass, said, "but we have always knelt in the Church of England and have had no problems".

Here we have an Anglican priest speaking about reverence and respect for the Real Presence in language which would not be used by some RC priests, and giving excellent instruction to his people.

The whole of our ritual at Christ Church is there to emphasise things that words alone cannot fully express. As we move, we highlight important things that are going on in the Mass, such as when we enter church and the Mass begins or at the Gospel procession. The bells are rung to give added emphasis to certain parts of the service, to remind us that something really special is happening and we are to pay particular attention and re-focus our prayers. The colours of the vestments have a message about the season of the year and the tone of that liturgical season. The whole of the liturgy of the Mass is there to support one central point; in the Mass we seek and find Jesus. We seek him in His word to us from Scripture and the way that is expounded in sermon and intercession. We need to look for and find Him in the people of God; we do this most when we share the Peace with one another, as a sign of our unity in Baptism and membership of Jesus Christ and His Church.We find Him most of all in the bread and wine which we present for His use at the offertory, which through the action of the Holy Spirit, together with the words and actions of His agent and servant the priest, becomes His actual Body and Blood. It becomes the Lamb of God, which was slain for us to bring us to God in a powerful and real way. Here, we are reminded that in each and every sacrifice of the Mass, He is present among us and for us.The Liturgy of the Mass all points us in this direction. In the Mass, Jesus Christ, God Himself, becomes present for us. It is with this understanding that great care is taken when we administer the great Sacrament of the Mass. We should prepare for the service with prayer and fasting. We at all times seek to offer the very best worship we can. We should be prayerful and devout when we come to the altar rail to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. We leave the altar humbled and awe-struck at the enormity of Him whom we have received and all that must mean for the followers of Jesus, returning to our seats with prayers of thanksgiving.As our whole reason for being finds its climax when we receive our Communion, it is so important that we receive in an appropriate way. We receive the Host itself either directly onto the tongue or on our hand and then one consumes it straightaway. We then receive the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ directly from the Chalice. Our Lord at the Last Supper said “Take this, all of you, and drink from it”, a simple command if there ever was one. Sometimes people feel they ought not to receive from the Chalice. Perhaps they have a cold or are feeling unwell and are worried about passing that on. With the care given when the Chalice is administered and the nature of the silver used for chalice construction (silver has always been considered to have properties that will resist transfer of infection, so the chance of passing something on to others is very small indeed). Those most at risk would be the clergy, as they are required to consume all that is left of the Precious Blood from the Chalice before the Mass ends. Perhaps the only occasion one might feel one ought not to receive from the chalice could be if one has an open sore on the lips.Some people feel a way around this is to dip the Body of Christ into the Chalice. This is not a practice of the Universal Church and is one that ought to be discouraged. On health grounds one is very likely to find that the germs on ones hands are infinitely more than on one’s lips. If we have a cold, then blowing of noses will transfer bacteria to the hands in vast numbers. This is why our hospitals today all have so many points for hand cleansing, for patients, staff and visitors. Hands are dirty things. To think we are helping by using our hand to dip the Host into the Chalice will not maintain any clean or sterile procedures at all; in fact it may make things worse.There is an added problem here; one that is noticed when Holy Communion is being administered. People, who dip, may endanger the Blessed Sacrament. Endanger the Body and Blood of Jesus. This is not a reverential way to proceed. There are times when the Sacrament is dipped when things can go wrong. Too much of the Precious Blood is taken up by the Host and the Host drops into the Chalice. At other times, too much of the precious Blood is taken up by the Host and then drips on to the clothing of the person concern or onto the floor. Is this any way to treat God’s Body and Blood?If we have concerns about taking the Precious Blood of Christ from the Chalice, then we ought to receive in one kind only and receive only the Host, the small wafer that has become Christ’s Body. This has been the practice of the Church for hundreds of years. We all receive our Communion on Good Friday in this manner. If we are ill or in Hospital we would receive our Communion in this way. Whether we receive in one kind or both kinds we receive the fullness of Christ’s saving power. To receive in one kind only does not put the Sacrament at risk and will not lead us into a state of sin. The sin of not recognising God when we find Him in the Sacrament and then treating Him appropriately. To fall into this sin brings us face to face with God’s wrath, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it with regard to this particular sin.If one chooses not to receive from the Chalice, for whatever reason, that is up to one’s own conscience but if one decides not to, then one ought then to receive only in one kind and allow the chalice to pass one by. People will not think any less of us; they ought to be focused on their own prayers anyway. One would not be missing out on anything, as one will have received the fullness of the Sacrament already.Two other small points with regard to receiving from the Chalice.It is important to allow the Chalice to pass by and be at a safe distance before we stand from the altar rail and move away. A good guide is to allow the person next to us to receive their Communion and for the Chalice to pass from them before we ourselves move. If we stand too quickly, we may knock the person receiving or administering the Blessed Sacrament.If any of us find kneeling difficult or getting up from the rail difficult, please stand to receive your Communion. You may need to steady the foot of the Chalice if you stand to aid the Eucharistic Minister

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