In recent years, there has been evidence of a decline in reverence and respect shown to the Blessed Sacrament, which unfortunately and unintentionally is a result of reforms made post Vatican II. Reception of the Eucharist in the hand was introduced, altar rails were taken away, and even stand-alone kneelers were eventually phased out. Standing while receiving has become the norm, unless you’re at a Traditional Latin Mass or you are one of the few who still will adhere to the respectful tradition and kneel on the floor while receiving.
Why does all of this matter? We believe as Catholics that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. He is TRULY PRESENT in the tiny white host that we receive. And He’s God! As our God, He deserves our utmost respect. And kneeling has long been associated with worship and reverence and it can also mean that we are penitents before God, which we are. That is why we should be kneeling (if we are physically able of course) when we receive.
But why on the tongue and not in the hand? A priest’s hands are consecrated and anointed with the holy chrism oil before handling the Eucharist and they act in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, when they are consecrating and distributing the host. They are ordained specifically for this occupation and quite simply, the laymen are not. The Eucharist should not pass into unanointed hands because God has given the task of handling the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of His Son to bishops, priests, and deacons alone by virtue of their ordination.
This is the same reason that lay Eucharistic Ministers should not be used except in extreme cases, and within the Mass it’s hard to find a legitimate extreme case. In the Novus Ordo, there are usually multiple priests who concelebrate or who can come out to assist with the distribution of Communion. In the traditional rite, the priest will usually go around the altar rail as many times as needed or if absolutely necessary another priest will assist with the distribution. It’s not a race to get Communion over with so the Mass will be over and everyone can go home. One priest taking multiple trips around the altar rail gives ample time for the faithful who have received to pray and have time to spend with the Lord Jesus, Whom they have just received, and really meditate on the fact that the Lord of heaven and earth has come down to unite Himself with us and is inside of us physically at that very moment.
But what about during COVID? In many places in the Novus Ordo rite, communion on the tongue has been banned or discouraged for sanitary reasons. However, the Catholic Medical Association says that in fact, communion in the hands is actually more infectious than on the tongue. That article can be read in full here.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our life as Catholics. And since we believe that the host is Jesus Christ really and truly present to us, we have it as our duty to give Him the worship and reverence that is due Him as our God. It may seem like a lot of little details, but nothing is too little or too great when it comes to our worship of God.