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The Holy Communion

02 May 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

communion in the handSo many Catholics in Nigeria vehemently objected to the reception of the Holy Communion in hand. This objection was made manifest when the Catholic bishop conference of Nigeria encouraged the reception of Holy Communion in hand 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 the memorial meal turned into the 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 hand. So, when they were directed to receive communion in hand, it sounded 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 of their resistance; first, it shows a 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 lay faithful’s hands, 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 lay faithful’s hands are not good enough to touch the consecrated bread, then while should their tongue touch it? The hands and the tongue belong to 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.

  • ada Reply

    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.

  • mary Anyanwu Reply

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

    • Avatar photo

      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.

  • Anvel Matilda Zoommen Reply

    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.

  • Maria - Vitus Chukwuemeka Ojimanu Reply

    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