Knees, Tongues, Laps, and Maturity

The essay on receiving Communion while kneeling and on the tongue from Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan is getting tons of traction in the blogosphere. CNS mentioned it earlier this week. I wasn’t sure what to say about it. It just struck me as plain wrong.

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.

The image is strange. I couldn’t help but envision an adult communicant scrambling up into the lap of a bishop to receive Communion like a baby. Maybe the hierarchy is really intent on keeping us layfolk as infants.

Metaphors are really great for giving us spiritual insight. But they don’t travel well beyond the single point or two they stress. My suggestion is to receive Communion with a mindfulness and an awareness, to receive with devotion and in prayer, to stand up in doing so. Likewise we stand tall in the world as an advocate for the Gospel. We don’t need a bishop giving us advice like this.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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8 Responses to Knees, Tongues, Laps, and Maturity

  1. Liam says:

    I actually love the metaphor of feeding used by the bishop, but believe that intinction is a much better sign for it.

  2. Randolph Nichols says:

    While the bishop’s nursing imagery has spawned a deal of sarcasm, the subject of kneeling to receive communion should not be linked to this ridicule. Though a Catholic for over forty years, among the things I still miss from my childhood experiences in the Episcopal Church is kneeling at the altar rail. The slow paced, quiet intimacy of receiving both species while kneeling left an indelible impression. Of course, Episcopal congregations tend to be small and do not need consider, as do heavily populated Catholic parishes, the time involved for communion. Practical, perhaps more than theological, considerations inform current practice. So let’s not foster division unnecessarily. Standing tall as an advocate of the Gospel is a powerful symbol. But in fairness, most probably don’t approach communion with that foremost in mind. Kneeling, as a posture of grateful devotion, still resonates.

  3. John Heavrin says:

    Todd, I’m not surprised that you find the Bishop’s simile contemptible, since it powerfully advocates for a posture of humility before the Lord rather than a posture of pride expressed with the words “standing tall.” Kneeling for Holy Communion is a powerful symbol of humility before the One Whom we receive, a much needed symbol in this age, and in any age. “Standing tall,” as you put it, is a symbol of pride. The bishop’s simile is a beautiful one. Unless you become as a little child…

    If you want to “stand tall” for the Holy Gospel–as perhaps a bishop in Kazakhstan does daily in a way those in cushy U.S. parishes cannot even conceive–get out in the world and do it. The Holy Mass is a place for humble submission before and worship of the Triune God, not political statements and prideful self-assertion.

    “We don’t need a bishop giving us advice like this.”

    You and many thousands of others are exactly the ones who need it: those who favor the natural over the supernatural, a posture of pride over a posture of humility. Such a mindset, which has done so much damage in the Church, reminds me of the disciples who urged Our Lord to rain down fire and strike dead the evildoers, and kept waiting for Him to “stand tall” as an earthly King, and were stupefied by his consistent humility and forbearance, and were scandalized and abandoned Him when He triumphed through the ultimate act of humility, which of course in the natural order appeared to be an ignominious defeat, a disaster, an annihilation.

    What you call “maturity” is a rationale for self-glorification. Thank God the faithful have other options and they increase daily.

  4. Anne says:

    Kneeling, receiving on the tongue with mouth open, breast feeding….all these things take away from the most important metaphore which is gathering around and coming to the Lord’s TABLE. To come reverently to the Lord’s table is to share in a holy MEAL. We eat and drink and share in anticipation of that heavenly banquet. Mothers don’t need a table to breastfeed or feed children who have open mouths because they are incapable of feeding themselves.

  5. John Heavrin says:

    “…the most important metaphore which is gathering around and coming to the Lord’s TABLE.”

    On what basis do you judge this to be “the most important metaphore”? Just curious.

  6. Todd says:

    Table is co-vital with sacrifice. Pope Benedict made that clear during the Eucharistic synod, but it is also the wording of the Eucharistic Prayers.

  7. sacerdos says:

    If we are to speak of the table, let us consider that in another age, the Communion rail was often considered the extension of the altar – the table to which the Lord calls us, and from which he feeds us with his body and blood. These things need not be mutually exclusive. We can gather AT THE TABLE more easily when it spreads out to the width of the Church.

    Somehow, the current de-facto arrangement of a double file line continually moving forward to receive (or more often take) Holy Communion and keep on moving (God-forbid we slow down the process) does not conjure anything akin to what Anne is speaking of.

    To those who have not had the opportunity to receive Holy Communion at an altar rail, I highly recommend it – if a “nice meal” is what you are looking for, we will all agree that this arrangement is much close to that then the “grab and go” drive through approach of 99% of parishes.

  8. Todd says:

    sacredos has a good point. A liturgical consultant I worked with once, while not recommending an altar rail, did suggest that communicants encircle the sanctuary, and return to their seats after the ministers of Communion came to them. Our pastor was less intrigued by the idea, and unfortunately, lots of parishioners would have to adjust expectations. But if I could ever engineer losing those lines, I’d be pleased.

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