At the Foot of the Mountain: Changes to the Distribution of Holy Communion

10-04-2015This Week in Vidi DominumFr. Will Schmid

Isaiah 2:2: “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it.”

Isaiah 25:6: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wine.”

Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King!’”

Matthew 5:1-2: “When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them.”

John 6:3-11: “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?’ He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (bit).’ One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?’ Jesus said, ‘Have the people recline.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.”

In Sacred Scripture, the mountain is a place where God chooses to feed and strengthen His people. In the Old Testament, God speaks to Moses on a mountain, and feeds the people of God with the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament, Jesus frequents the mountains as a place of prayer and communion with His disciples and the people of God. From the mountain of Golgotha, Jesus pours out His very own Body and Blood as a source of salvation for the entire Church. Indeed, the mountain is a special place for God’s people.

In the Church today, the mountain is still very much a place of significance. In most Catholic Churches, the sanctuary is elevated above everyone else (with the exception of those positioned in the choir loft). Sanctuaries are constructed this way not just for practical purposes, so that everyone might see what goes on at the altar, but also for spiritual purposes. It is from the mountain of the sanctuary that God nourishes and feeds His people with the Eucharist. At every Mass, Jesus, in and through the priest, makes His Body and Blood present to us in a sacramental way. We, as the people of God, are called to come to the mountain – the altar – to be fed by the Bread of the Angels – the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

In order to recapture this beautiful symbolism, we are changing our practice of distribution of Holy Communion beginning this Sunday so that all who are present at the celebration of the Eucharist may come to the base of the sanctuary, the base of the mountain, to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We will no longer be distributing communion at the halfway point of the Church. Rather, we will be inviting those who sit in the back to come all the way forward to the altar to receive communion.

In addition, there are many in our community who desire to receive communion on their knees. This is also an ancient tradition and an acceptable way to receive our Lord. In order to better accommodate those who desire to receive Jesus while kneeling, we will be placing two kneelers at the middle stations. For those who desire to receive the Eucharist while kneeling, we invite you to come to the middle stations for the reception of Holy Communion. For those who would like to continue receiving communion while standing, whether on the tongue or in the hand, you are still welcome to receive in such a manner. All of the stations, including the middle stations with kneelers are acceptable places to receive in this manner.

We believe that this new procedure for the reception of Holy Communion will provide a more beautiful and reverent way of encountering Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It will be a greater sign of unity for all present at the Liturgy in that it will draw all present to the foot of the Cross, where we as a community together celebrate and receive our salvation.

Over the past few years, many of our extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who have distributed Holy Communion in the back portion of the Church have expressed their frustrations about being pushed aside during the distribution of Holy Communion by those seeking to leave the Church early. What a depressing concept! Pushing aside Jesus so as to exit the Church! Hopefully, this new procedure will bring about a greater love and respect for the Blessed Sacrament.