Communion on the Tongue and Tradition

‘chalcedon451’ over at ‘All Along the Watchtower’ has written a post in which he states that one of his pet peeves is when ‘Traditionalists” appeal to tradition to defend the practice of receiving communion on the tongue.

Summing up his position and background, (provided I have correctly understood it) this person was an Anglican, converted to some form of Orthodoxy and then finally became a Catholic. Chalcedon451 states that he received reverently in the hand in both of his previous churches’ and that his problem is not with communion on the tongue but appealing to tradition to defend it (but later makes a distasteful quip about communion on the tongue and spittle). It seems the author feels that appealing to our tradition to defend the authentic practices of the western church is a misuse of tradition, to argue in favor of mere preferences. By extension one can conclude the author is opposed to any argument that references historical practice to support one practice over another. Latin, Gregorian chant, communion railings, high altars, bells etc. are by logical extension merely preferences. An appeal to St. Cyril is made to demonstrate that communion in the hand is legitimate. I quite disagree with both the reasoning and conclusions and think there are real problems with his position.

First let me state my opinion: that Holy Communion should be received, in the Latin branch of the Catholic Church, on the tongue while kneeling. This should be the usual and universal practice. In the west it is the traditional and authentic practice, regardless of whether the Mass is Roman, Dominican or another western rite. Also I take the position that it is possible for communion to be received reverently in the hand, but inappropriate in the western rite. In the typical Roman Rite parish, communion in the hand has been a disaster.

There are some real problems with the reasoning of the post. First there is no clarification of what sense the word tradition is being used. Are we talking about capital T Apostolic Tradition from the apostles, or lower case t tradition as regards practices? There also seems to be no distinction or understanding the development of ecclesiastical structure. In other words there is no distinction between the Latin, Byzantine and Oriental churches and the fact that they developed independent modes of expression and doing things. There also seems to be no awareness of the fact or context in which communion in the hand was introduced (or reintroduced) in the west. You can read it for yourself, here http://jessicahof.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/myths-about-tradition/ and part 2 here http://jessicahof.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/in-the-mouth-or-hand-myths-examined/ . The post is not put together in a clean logical manner but is rather conversational in structure; rather than respond to it point by point I will give my take and why I think it’s legitimate.

To be continued….

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