The Holy Communion
So 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.