Monday, January 31, 2011
Eucharist on the Tongue
(High altar at St. Stephens Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio - amazing, amazing, amazing church)
I know this sounds completely ridiculous but I have NEVER received the Eucharist, at Mass, any other way than in my hand. I'm a girl that made her 1st Communion in 1978 and we were in the swing of Vatican II reform so it wasn't even taught to us nor was it encouraged. I'm not one that tends to take a position on what is the "correct" way to receive the Eucharist. I believe that the intent is way more important than how you do it. I know that many think that it is irreverent to receive something so holy and special like the consecrated Host in your hand and I tend to find some compelling truths to that. I've seen people just willy-nilly walk up to the Eucharistic minister and stick their hand out like they're at a gumball machine. But, I don't know their hearts and their minds. These same people may very well have the purest hearts and the greatest love for Our Lord and why should I judge whether or not it is "valid" that they've just received the Eucharist by hand?
It opens yet more questions that I have...well, maybe concerns that I have. I have witnessed the watering-down of my beloved Catholic Church. Can anyone say the 80s? The sacredness of the Church suffered quite a hit in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The invention of the birth control pill, Roe v. Wade, the Women's Lib movement, and Vatican II all ushered in an environment, in the Church, of anything goes. We were taught that it was ok to have small families or no families at all - it's our body, after all. I remember a homily when I was in my early teens in which the priest, from the pulpit, gave "us" women permission to take back our lives. We didn't need to feel obligated to be wives and mothers. This is fine and dandy if that's where one finds oneself - some are not able to have children and/or some may not feel the call to be a wife but to say that to be a wife and a mother is akin to some sort of slavery option? Hmmm? I still struggle with the guilt I have that I don't have a real job. It was the culture in which we were formed. To break from that culture is tough.
So, here I sat at my third Latin Mass ever - my first one, I was a bridesmaid at my college roommate's wedding and, the second one, I left after a woman yelled at me because my head wasn't covered - I was having a minor freak-out because I really did not know how to receive the Eucharist on my tongue. I've always done the "hands as a cradle" communion procedure (sounds so sterile) and so I squeezed Bill's arm and revealed to him that I had never done this before today. He, very sweetly, took my hand, kissed it, and led me to the altar railing and reassured me that the priest would know what to do and for me to watch him. Well, I survived and, I must say, I was overcome at the beauty of the whole thing. I was, actually, surprised at how different I felt after Mass. I'm an "on fire for Christ" kind of a gal but, this time, it was amazing how I felt such an element of peace that it overwhelmed me with tears. To celebrate Mass in the Latin tradition was one of the most powerful experiences of my life (even if, most of the time, I didn't even know which part the priest was on) To have shared that experience with the man I am to marry was a gift that I shall be forever grateful!
Just thought that I'd share how enriching it was to attend a Latin Mass with all of its chanting, silence, incense, tradition, etc. I may be a convert to it if there were any churches around here that had Latin Mass. This doesn't mean, however, that I am an anti-Vatican II person. I do think that Vatican II watered down our beautiful traditions. I believe the intent of VII was to make the Mass more relatable to those in the pews and, for that, I am bowled over that I can feel a true part of the miracle. I do feel that, in the process, we've lost the sacredness of the Mass. It's become so ordinary to so many that the mystery seems gone.
I have more thoughts on the matter but, for now, I'll stop and maybe study some Latin so I won't look like such a dork the next time I go to Latin Mass :)