Friday, January 11, 2008

Bishop Schneider: Reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue

There is an extraordinary article by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan to which I would like to direct your attention. It is on kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving Our Lord on the tongue. Bishop Schneider was ordained a bishop in June of 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI. I recognized the name as soon as I saw the article.

The bishop's article originally appeared in the L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper, but it does not appear to be online. However, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service has written about it, and I am hoping either Bishop Schneider on his site, or OA on theirs, will provide us with the original article in full.

EDIT 3-10-2008: The full length article is available in my post today, entitled, Historical-Liturgical Note for the Roman Rite on the Eucharist by Bishop Schneider.

In 2005 in a periodical, I recall reading statements made by various bishops at the Eucharistic Synod. Bishop Schneider was at the Synod, and had publicly advocated kneeling for Holy Communion and on the tongue. I scouted for it online and could not find it, so if someone has a link to those statements, please put it in the combox or email me:

The L'Osservatore Romano has recently had a change in editor, and as Fr. Z notes, there are some real changes in what kinds of things are being published.

Bishop says Catholics should kneel, receive communion on tongue

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The reverence and awe of Catholics who truly believe they are receiving Jesus in the Eucharist should lead them to kneel and receive Communion on their tongues, said a bishop writing in the Vatican newspaper.

"If some nonbeliever arrived and observed such an act of adoration perhaps he, too, would 'fall down and worship God, declaring, God is really in your midst,'" wrote Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, quoting from the First Letter to the Corinthians.

In a Jan. 8 article labeled a "historical-liturgical note," Bishop Schneider reviewed the writings of early church theologians about eucharistic reception and said the practice of laypeople receiving Communion on the tongue was the predominant custom by the sixth century.

The article in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, appeared under the headline, "Like a nursing child in the arms of the one who nourishes him."

Bishop Schneider said that just as a baby opens his mouth to receive nourishment from his mother, so should Catholics open their mouths to receive nourishment from Jesus.

"Christ truly nourishes us with his body and blood in holy Communion and, in the patristic era, it was compared to maternal breastfeeding," he said.

"The awareness of the greatness of the eucharistic mystery is demonstrated in a special way by the manner in which the body of the Lord is distributed and received," the bishop wrote.

In addition to demonstrating true adoration by kneeling, he said, receiving Communion on the tongue also avoids concerns about people receiving the body of Christ with dirty hands or of losing particles of the Eucharist, concerns that make sense if people truly believe in the sacrament.

"Wouldn't it correspond better to the deepest reality and truth about the consecrated bread if even today the faithful would kneel on the ground to receive it, opening their mouths like the prophet receiving the word of God and allowing themselves to be nourished like a child?" Bishop Schneider asked.

In 1969 the Vatican published an instruction allowing bishops to permit the distribution of Communion in the hand. While at papal liturgies most people who receive Communion from the pope receive Communion on the tongue, they also are permitted to reverently receive the Eucharist in the hand.

At 46 years of age, I would not be surprised to see this bishop end up with greater responsibilities. His approach to the topic is one that is respectful and inviting, not condescending or disinviting. His tone teaches us how we should dialogue with others. Gentleness is a virtue, and Bishop Schneider exemplifies that gentleness. Spending time in Catholic forums where kneeling vs. standing is discussed, you understand how rapidly the dialogue can escalate with lack of charity on both sides. We learn from his approach, that when our words are guided by love, they carry much more power than all the jabs and digs we can possibly muster.

EDIT 3-9-2008: Newman House Press has been contracted to publish Bishop Scheider's book in English. See a video in this blogpost of Bishop Schneider talking about the book and Communion. In it, he explains the ancient practice of receiving in the hand, but it was much different than how it is received in the hand today. Watch the video to see how.

Go read Bishop says Catholics should kneel, receive communion on tongue at the blog of Fr. Z, where you can read through the lengthy discussion on the topic in the combox.

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