Over this past year, an awareness of how we handle the Eucharist has been growing within me. It has become clear to me that widespread belief (or non-belief) in trans-substantiation is intimately tied to the actions others see surrounding the consecrated bread and wine. If as I watch the priest, I see him carefully keeping his thumb and forefinger together after the consecration, I believe that he believes there is something special about this "bread." Is the Precious Blood covered after consecration to keep the wayward insects out? Is there a ciborium veil in use? How is the ciborium carried to the altar (in churches which have a distant tabernacle)? During the distribution of Holy Communion, is a paten utilized to catch any particles which may fall? Do the communicants make visible signs of reverence prior to reception of Holy Communion? After the people's communion, do the priest and any EMHCs who distributed the Body of Christ take care that there are no particles remaining on their fingers? Is there an ablution bowl available? Is care taken in the purification of the sacred vessels? What of the purificators which are used to wipe the chalices - if they are soaked in Precious Blood (which can happen at a busy Mass), how are they handled? Are they used to wipe the chalice or are they carefully set in a safe, non-porous place? How are the linens cared for after Mass? Are the linens, which have come in contact with our Lord's Precious Blood, immediately rinsed into the sacrarium or placed in a special basin to soak prior to pouring the water down the sacrarium? Or are they set aside, perhaps in a plastic bin? Is the sacristy a place of quiet reflection, or a place of conversation and joking? If we believe what we say we believe, how should we act?
I happened upon a homily one Sunday, in which the pastor was discussing the Eucharist: How to receive and why they do what they do there. He gave all the options, reminded those not kneeling to receive that a profound bow or genuflection should be performed prior to reception, and explained the use of the paten in that parish. He said there are always particles after the people's communion . . . always. I doubt there is any way we can be 100% certain that no particle of consecrated host is lost, but we should do the best we can to protect our Lord in this tiny little piece of bread . . . that is, if we believe what we say we believe.
A few weeks ago, as I processed up to receive Our Lord, an interesting thing happened. I usually kneel to receive Holy Communion. This particular Sunday, Father had to step to the side to discipline some children in the front row who were chatting and swinging their legs. He did this just as I came up to receive. I wasn't sure whether to kneel then, or to wait for him to return, but this quiet voice inside me said: "Kneel, now, quietly and slowly." So I did. And I waited. I waited for Jesus to be brought to me. In those few seconds, I was able to collect myself, to remember why I was there, to remember Whom I was about to receive. I was able to be settled before Our Lord was brought to me. Honestly, I was nearly in tears because my interior disposition matched my exterior. I received Him in a recollected state, and had no other thought in my mind except Him. After this year of becoming aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly in our treatment of the Blessed Sacrament, I was gifted with this experience. I pray that everyone can experience this - to be able to be recollected at the moment of reception, not worried about others or feeling rushed or being concerned about getting the timing just right. Just to be able to settle for a moment, to gather all one's thoughts, to kneel (or stand, or sit) for enough time to be gifted with that experience of waiting for Jesus.