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A Letter from Our Cathedral Rector by Very Rev. Fr. John Lankeit, Rector, Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral Phoenix, AZ January 23, 2011

Dear Parishioners,

During my last year in the seminary, I deliberately stopped receiving Holy Communion in the hand, and began receiving on the tongue. It was awkward at first and I was particularly anxious about dropping the Host, since I no longer had the "control" of receiving in the hand.

Awareness of this lack of control actually offers an additional spiritual benefit. In my previous letter I used the term "vulnerability" to describe receiving on the tongue. Some of you told me that this term was particularly helpful. At the 11:00 a.m. Mass last Sunday, I used an ancient symbol for Christ (which happened to be on the vestment I was wearing) to illustrate this vulnerability - a symbol rooted in a pre-Christian legend:

"[I]n the time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life. Given this tradition, one can easily see why the early Christians adapted it to symbolize our Lord, Jesus Christ."

Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue emphasizes our complete dependence on the Lord's initiative to nourish our souls - an important distinction between "being fed" vs. feeding ourselves. Yet, the natural anxiety that accompanies trying something new may still be there.

Here are a few tips for receiving Holy Communion on the tongue intended to ease anxiety while reducing the risk of the Host falling to the ground.

  1. When you hear the words "The Body of Christ" respond "Amen"... before receiving. We can be so focused on receiving in a new way and forget to say "Amen" or say it while receiving or afterwards.
  2. Open your mouth and extend our tongue. This will make it easier for the minister to place the Host firmly on your tongue.
  3. I suggest closing your eyes while receiving. This reduces the all-to-common temptation to lunge forward toward the minister, which increases the chance of dropping the Host. Lunging also increases the possibility of contact between the minister's finger and the communicant's tongue.
  4. Pause a moment before pulling the Host into your mouth with your tongue. Retracting your tongue too quickly makes your tongue a moving target. I suggest a short "one-thousand-one" count before retracting your tongue. Take your time!
  5. No biting! Receive on your tongue, not with your teeth.
  6. Keep your hands folded in prayer. It confuses the minister when a communicant simultaneously extends their tongue and holds their hands in a way that looks like they intend to receive in the hand.

God's Blessings... my prayers...