Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Varieties of Eucharistic Reception

I've long wanted to blog about some of the odd behaviors people exhibit at Mass. If I were an artist, I'd try to render them in drawings and put captions underneath. Alas, my drawing skills seem to have been arrested sometime around pre-school, so I have to use words to make my point.

I'd like to spend a few moments describing the Varieties of Eucharistic Reception I have experienced. This is not meant as a critique of piety but as a bit of a jab at practice. As one tasked with distributing the Host and Precious Blood, it's less of a concern for me what you do and more problematic how it is done.

1. Holy Halitosis!

I make a concerted effort to elevate the host or chalice, make eye contact, and say clearly, "The Blood of Christ" or "The Body of Christ." Sometimes the vigorous assent of "Amen" carries with it a waft of garlic, or curry, or the sewer. I don't believe there is such a thing as good breath, but there certainly is a wide array of bad breaths. Even if you're going to mind the fast of one hour before receiving communion, I don't think a good dose of Scope or a quick brush of the teeth before walking out would be out of order.

2. The Fig Leaf

These are the people who approach and have their hands folded...but the hands float somewhere at the level of the belt buckle. For inordinately tall people, this doesn't pose a tremendous challenge. But for those who dwell closer to the ground, I find myself having to stoop. I find it best if people elevate their hands to about chest level and a foot or so away from their chest.

3. Easy Access

Maybe it's a trend - like skinny jeans or the slap bracelets - but I've noticed people "cupping" their hands. To be sure, it is understandable that one does not want to drop the Host to the floor and "cups" one's hands to provide a guardrail. Well and good. But it does make it a bit awkward when distributing, because it sort of forces the minister to "deposit" the host into a cupped void. If you offer me two hands relatively flat, one atop the other, I'll aim for the palm of the top hand. You can then use the bottom hand to bring the Host to your mouth for reception.

4. Bait-and-Switch

How I hold the Host varies based on whether I can anticipate you receiving on the tongue or in the hand. I'm fine with either - and it's your right to do either - but if you approach with your hands elevated and then, at the last moment, drop your hands and thrust your head forward: it throws me off! Try to signal how you're receiving as you approach. If you're hands are up, I'm assuming in the hand. If your hands are down, I'll probably assume on the tongue.

5. Give me a Target

So, a few months ago I was distributing the Host and encountered the phenomenon of people not wanting to extend their tongue out to give me a target. The problem is that the closer my hand gets to your mouth, the more likely it is your saliva will get on my fingers and transmitted to the next person in line. Indeed, I tried to offer the host to one person who opened her mouth and then put her entire mouth around my two fingers, up to the cuticle. Like, both nails were for a moment in her mouth. I felt like I was a little kid at the zoo when the goat eats out of your hand and seems to engulf your fingers with its mouth. That really threw me for a loop and I had to try to dry off my fingers as discretely as possible.

6. The Cobra

If you're going to genuflect in order to receive - and this is fine - it is vitally important that you lean forward a bit. I saw some weeks ago a guy drop to two knees and as the priest attempted to offer him the host, he began to lean backwards. A lot. Really far back. I marveled at this because he appeared as a cobra preparing to strike.

7. Amen

I'm all for innovation with flavors of ice cream and cocktails. But I think it best to leave the response to "The Body/Blood of Christ" as "Amen." Of late I've gotten "I am," "We are," "Truly it is," and most fascinating, "Thanks." One Jesuit friend reported of the response, "No problem." I think Amen is a great way to go: short, simple, and not open to interpretation.

8. Receiving the Cup

Just as a public service announcement: there is a moment in the liturgy when the priest breaks off a piece of the consecrated Host and adds it to the Precious Blood. So if you see a small piece of something floating in the cup, odds are that it is not backwash. I make it my custom, as best as possible, to drink the particulate Host so that it doesn't freak people out. If you're at the beginning of the communion line, consider it a public service to do so.


Anyway, those are some musings on the topic. It's meant to be funny and taken as a moment to help people think of how they themselves receive (but, Lord knows, the Catholic community is not always known for its sense of humor). 

No comments: