Do you take the Eucharist in your hand or in your mouth? When you hunger for the Lord and open your heart and mind, He opens doors to allow you to find Him. The timing was right for the Lord to open those doors and for me to reconsider how I took the Eucharist.
I had begun to see articles urging Catholics to take Communion by mouth rather than by hand. It seemed an antiquated concept. I thought only old people took Communion by mouth, and, despite what my children say, I am certainly far from old!
I continued taking Communion in my hands, left over right as I was taught in 2nd grade, but those articles kept popping up as I researched things I never even knew to ask about my Catholic faith. I realized I was taking Communion the same way I had when I was 8 years old, that I hadn’t really grown much, if at all, since then.
As a single mom of five boys, I didn’t have enough time to research why some feel we must take Communion only by mouth. It’s on a very long to-do list, but I began to question myself and what I could do now to change my approach since I had seen enough evidence in my own behavior to convince me to at least open my heart to the idea of taking Communion by mouth rather than by hand.
My first time was awkward and I was incredibly self-conscious. Nobody takes Communion by mouth anymore, at least, not in my parish. I approached the Eucharist pushing down the urge to lift my hands. The action had become almost mechanical, thoughtless. That thoughtlessness was what made me know I had to take Communion by mouth. The Eucharist should never be taken thoughtlessly.
I approached the altar not sure of what to expect. The uncertainty inside me was a bit unnerving, but I was determined. I made a quick bow as the person ahead of me turned, Host in hand, to walk back the the pews. I opened my mouth and stuck out my tongue. It was most undignified. The priest fumbled for just a second and then quickly deposited the Eucharist in my mouth. I faced Jesus on the Cross, made the Sign of the Cross, and turned to find my seat feeling somehow different, more connected.
I have yet to find a really attractive way to take the Eucharist by mouth, and yet it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. Taking the Lord is not meant for me to feel attractive. It is not about me. Maybe I should feel a bit undignified as I approach Communion. Maybe I should feel a bit humbled as I approach the physical presence of God. I again thought of how I would feel at Judgment. How would I approach the altar then?
I considered what taking Communion by hand meant. Years ago I had decided to take Communion in my hands so I could hold onto our Lord. I wanted to embrace Him and holding Him in my hands seemed the best way to do that. It seemed to prolong our time together just a little bit, but maybe over the years, things had changed.
I was proud of taking Communion each week. I was proud of making it to Mass every Sunday. I was proud to have no mortal sins holding me back from participating in this most Sacred part of Catholic celebrations, but pride itself is a pretty big sin. The Lord wants us to receive His Body and His Blood in humble confidence, not in self-centered pride.
Not that pride was the be all and end all of this question for me. I thought back to why I had decided to take the Host in my hands in the first place, why I still sometimes do so. To me, Communion in my hand meant holding the Lord in the palm of my hand, keeping Him close by closing Him in my grasp for just a few extra seconds, but perhaps I was trying to control situations I had no right trying to control. Perhaps I should have had more confidence in the Lord taking me in His hands rather than the other way around.
I still need to research more on the best way to take Communion, and I welcome your thoughts and comments, but for now, as long as I am healthy, I continue to take Communion by mouth (If I have a cold or some other possible ailment, I do take Communion by hand so as to not have the priest risk infection, but for the most part, I take Communion by mouth).
Receiving Communion has gotten easier, less awkward. My parish priest remembers now and smiles as he places my Lord on my tongue, and I’ve gotten used to a moment of surprised fumbling when I visit other parishes. It opens my heart to the Eucharistic minister and reminds me to be more patient and humble.
And humility and patience is something any mom of five boys can use more of. 🙂
How do you take Communion? Has your method changed at all over time? Why do you take the Host as you do? I’d be interested in knowing what others think too!