The Holy Communion

communion in the handSo many Catholics in Nigeria vehemently objected to the reception of the Holy Communion in the hand. This objection was made manifest when the Catholic bishop conference of Nigeria encouraged the reception of Holy Communion in the hand in attempt to help curtail the spread of the Ebola virus that threatened the country at a time. The resistance of so many Catholics gladdened my heart and at the same time broke it; it was a mixed feeling for me. This is not to say that I am neither hot nor cold, I know the truth of the matter.

My heart was gladdened because their resistance goes a long way to show that they know what they believe in, they know that the Holy Eucharist is not just ordinary bread. It is the mysterious presence of Jesus Christ in the Church in the form of bread and wine. It is the Passover and memorial meal turned into bread of eternal life. The Holy Mass is a sacrifice, and at Mass Jesus is the priest and the victim of the sacrifice. That means that he is the priest offering the gift and he himself is the gift being offered. Therefore the Holy Eucharist is all about Jesus and his real presence in the form of bread and wine.

At Mass, Nigerians are used to receiving communion on the tongue and not in the hand. So, when they were directed to receive communion in the hand, it sounded so disrespectful and degrading to so many. But whether it is actually disrespectful or degrading is another question, but my heart was gladdened because at least the people know that the Holy Eucharist is not to be joked with.

On the other hand I was heartbroken because their resistance first of all shows lack of submissiveness to the Church’s authority. In their fight in defense of the real presence of Christ Jesus in the Eucharist which the Church teaches with all her strength, they disobeyed the Church. Above all, they distorted the theology of the Eucharist. Their fight for the defense of the real presence was heavily coated with ignorance. Some of them strongly believe that once the consecrated bread touches the hands of the lay faithful it loses the real presence. That is not true and it is not the teaching of the Church. Private and personal devotion should not be injected into the liturgy. If the hands of the lay faithful are not good enough to touch the consecrated bread, then while should their tongue touch it? The hands and the tongue belong to one and the same person. The tongue cannot be holy while the hands are sinful. If one is holy, it is the whole person that is holy, and if one is sinful it is still the whole person that is sinful. Some parts cannot be holy while others are not.

The Holy Communion can therefore be received in both ways depending on the directives of the bishop. The real presence of Christ is the work of God himself, a gift to the Church and we are very proud of it.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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5 comments on “The Holy Communion
  1. ada says:

    Excellent teaching!Personally, it was the reverence i have for the holy Eucharist that made me not to receive with my hand and nothing more.

  2. mary Anyanwu says:

    Fr if u watch tv on sundays where mass is celebrated, u will see lay faithfuls especially women distributing communion, is dis right

    • They too are sons and daughters of God. They are not ordained
      ministers and that is why they cannot consecrate bread and wine, however,
      they can help distribute the consecrated bread with the permission of the
      bishop and after been trained.

  3. Anvel Matilda Zoommen says:

    Good one that is the truth, thank you for the explanation, may God continue to guide you and give you more wisdom to carry on the good work in his vineyard.

  4. Maria - Vitus Chukwuemeka Ojimanu says:

    Father, My joy is that Ebola disease afforded me the opportunity to touch the consecrated Host with my Hands, for it was my longing desire to touch the body and blood of Jesus with my hands once before I die

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