Receiving Eucharist


I have a protestant friend who was Catholic before the new mass. She said it was considered a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist in the hand at that time. (Question 1-Is this true?) She said that one she went to confession on day because the Eucharist got stuck on the top of her mouth, and she had to use her finger to pry it off. When she told the priest in confession, he was shocked and said he almost did not want to give her absolution.

She gave this as one of her reasons for leaving the church.

I have heard other stories such as this. For example, a priest would not let a woman enter the church because she was not wearing a hat. Or a woman, while walking to church, had a rain drop fall in her mouth, and the priest told her not to receive communion. (Question 2-Are these rules still in effect for the traditional mass?)


I think you have been hearing urban legends! The Church permits the reception of communion in the hand, it was also the tradition in the Church for at least 500 years – how can what was acceptable be a mortal sin? While many will claim that it is less reverent or that the eucharist should be handled only by a priest, it is not now and never has been a mortal sin.

Water has never broken the fast, not when it was from midnight, not when it was three hours and certainly not now with an hour fast.

There were never such rules as your friend claims. However, the best way to deal with this is to ask your friend for proof – get it in writing since all Catholic “rules” are, in fact, in writing.

Deacon Ed

The Church permits the reception of communion in the hand, it was also the tradition in the Church for at least 500 years

Wow really? Can you help me with a reference with this tradition? I guess I have been fooled into thinking tis was a Vat 2 ‘invention’ by the trads???:confused:

This information is very helpful. So in your opinion, my friend was either misinformed by the priest, or she is lying about the story?

Do you know of any official source for the 500 year tradition of receiving the Eucharist in the hand?


From St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures (AD 300s):

  1. In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?

I’m quoting from an old edition of De defectibus (no. IX) so maybe this only applies to priests but I’ve also read about the no water rule elsewhere.

Si quis non est jejunus, post mediam noctem etiam post sumptionem solius aquae, vel alterius potus, aut cibi, per modum etaim medicinae et in quantacumque parva quantitate non potest communicare ne celebrare

Also, here is the portion from the above lecture on receiving the Precious Blood:

  1. Then after you have partaken of the Body of Christ, draw near also to the Cup of His Blood; not stretching forth your hands, but bending, and saying with an air of worship and reverence, Amen, hallow yourself by partaking also of the Blood of Christ. And while the moisture is still upon your lips, touch it with your hands, and hallow your eyes and brow and the other organs of sense. Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks unto God, who has accounted you worthy of so great mysteries.

Thanks for the quotes Genesis. They are very helpful.

AJV, can you translate that quote for me? My latin is rusty.

Si quis non est jejunus, post mediam noctem etiam post sumptionem solius aquae, vel alterius potus, aut cibi, per modum etaim medicinae et in quantacumque parva quantitate non potest communicare ne celebrare

Does this mean that if the priest had food or even water, that he cannot receive communion or celebrate the mass? What kind of authority does De defectibus (no. IX) have?


Forgot: the above was with reference only to the midnight fasting- the paragraph being altered with Christus Dominus in 1953. IIRC it was Christus Dominus itself and the accompanying decrees by the SCR which removed this rule-but I’ll have to check and get back for that.

Genesis tyvm:)

Yes. It says that if anyone (the priest) has broken his fast before midnight even if taking water only, or any food or drink, even by way of medicine, and in however small a quantity, he cannot communicate or celebrate.

The provisions of De Defectibus were binding on all priests until 1970 when the NO and the GIRM came out. There are versions online-but they all seem to be one of the post-1953 versions and so do not contain the provision that I posted as no. 9- it is altered.

I’ve found Christus Domnius online here- I think it confirms what I posted earlier- see particularly number I.

AJV - Would it have been a mortal sin to violate this fast?


Just a question for you Deacon. I was taught as a child way back in the dark ages of 1952, that touching the host was even worse than a mortal sin–it was sacrilege. That being the case, if I touched the host, wouldn’t it be a mortal sin for me since I believed it was? If the OPs friend believed the same thing, wouldn’t it be a mortal sin for her?

Here is a little booklet online by Michael Davies about Communion in the Hand and Similar Frauds:

It is well worth the read, if you have the time. It clearly shows that the Holy Father, John Paul II, allowed communion in the hand after it was being introduced, without permission, in certain European countries. IMHO, he allowed it to keep the laity from being in sin. The bishops disobeyed the norm of communion on the tongue, so he went ahead and gave his permission. Kind of like Moses allowed divorce. In this present time, it originated from an abuse.

During the early Church women were not allowed to receive in the hand. Men were, but as time went on the True Presence was more deeply comtemplated and understood, a more pious position was assumed to receive Our Lord, on the tongue. One can only imagine Our Lord’s words to St. Peter, “Feed my sheep.” If I come to my Master to be fed, the picture comes to mind of a sheperd feeding his sheep. Sheep do not have hands and the sheperd feeds them by way of the mouth. Simplistic as that seems, it makes sense to me.

Finally it is an act of humility to fall on your knees and lift your head in submission to your King. The tongue is no holier than the hand, but assuming the position is an act of showing your God the desire to humble yourself before Him. It is an act of the will and of LOVE.

Jesus Meek and Humble of Heart, make my heart like unto Thine!

  1. Do you have objective proof, in the form of something written by our late Holy Father or the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments to validate this claim that it was allowed in response to disobedience? 2) So what if it was… the practice is permitted, and no less pious, reverent or holy than receiving on the tongue.


It was also customery with early Christians to place a host on the grave of the dead, but the Council of Carthage forbade it after it was previously allowed, just like communion in the hand as quoted here. Perhaps we should also to go back to the severe penances the early Christians were publically exposed to before they were allowed to receive Our Lord? If you were a cutter of fringed cloth you were not allowed to become a Catholic. Alot of customs and rubrics were organically changed through time to show MORE respect and honor to Our Lord, and more mercy to us sinners.

I said it was IMHO, so it was plain to see my comment is not objective proof. What IS objective is that Cardinal Suenens was permitting communion in the hand before it was allowed by the Holy Father. It’s called disobedience. It’s in the booklink I have here and you can google it up. I don’t have the time to right now.

I am not too clear to what you are asking in the second part of your question. If you want to receive communion in the hand, an act of your will, sobeit. Your in the same company as Luther and Cramner who wanted to do the same during the Reformation. It was a bone of contention for these men as well.

I lost my last response, my server is acting up.

No objective proof, read I said, IMHO in capital letters.

Luther and Cramner wanted communion in the hand as well. I much rather ally myself with all the saints in heaven who received the Holy Eucharist on their tongue, than two heretics. How you direct your will towards God, is up to you.

Ah yes, the Church of Jerusalem has spoken and all must bend their knees:thumbsup: . Unfortunately, Sy Cyril was speaking of his particular church at the time, the Church of Jerusalem. He was not speaking of the church at large. Every church had a slightly different practice.

Reception was in the hand however for a very good reason. It was taken home for consumption during the week. The way ot worked was each family brought their bread. It was given to the Deacon and it was all brought forward in the altar. The Priest after saying the consecration would then distribute Communion. Normally the heads of the families, males mostly but also widows and in rare cases females would come forward. They would then receive one of the loaves and take it back with them. A small piece would be consumed at the Church or wherever the Mass was being said and the rest brought home for consumption during the week. White cloth was prescribed for wrapping the Host so that mice would not be tempted to consume it. As time went on the portions became smaller as people stopped bringing their own and the Church started providing it.

The supporters of the practice neglect to mention that somewhat significant detail when extolling the antiquity of the practice.The Church went to receiving on the tongue in an attempt to get people to accept that the Host was indeed the Body of Christ rather than a symbol, as many were starting to believe as well as to combat some of the more occultish practices that were cropping up, ie:using the Host as a love charm, to heal sicknesses or carried in the pocket to ward off evil. It was not at all uncommon to see the host being sold on the streets for just these purposes.

Imagine selling the Host.:bigyikes: We in modern times would never condone such a thing now would we? Of course, it has been tried, remember the E-Bay incident?

First, at my parish, we receive on the tongue, via intinction (and it is my preferred method). I attended another parish this past weekend, and most folks received in the hand (including myself, as it seemed that the EMHCs didn’t distribute on the tongue), and a few received on the tongue from the priest

Your tactic of aligning me with heretics is quite interesting, when receiving on the tongue is a permitted practice within the Church today, and therefore, far from heretical. If you insist that this is the only legitimate way that the Eucharist can be received, it isn’t me who’s placing himself outside the bounds of Church authority, but rather, you.

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