St. Cyril of Jerusalem:

On Communion in the Hand


"When you approach, do not advance with open palms and fingers apart, but make your left hand like a throne for your right, which is about to receive the King.


"And, having supped your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying, ‘Amen.’


"Then after you have with care hallowed your eyes by touching them with the Holy Body, partake, thereof, taking heed lest you lose any of it."


St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Lectures on the Christian Sacraments: The Protocatechesis and the Five Mystagogical Catecheses, Frank L. Cross, ed. (Crestwood, NY, 1977)










"36. The Church is a church of sinners, and the fact that God forgives, accepts, and loves sinners places the liturgical assembly under a fundamental obligation to be honest and unpretentious, without deceit or affectation, in all it does.


If all distinctions have been stripped away, then basic honesty has to be carried through in all the words, gestures and movements, art forms, objects, furnishings of public worship.


Nothing which pretends to be other than it is has a place in celebration, whether it is a person, cup, table, or sculpture."


Environment and Art in Catholic Worship

The Communion Rite & Procession:
Receiving Communion in the Hand

[Responses are taken from a St. John's parish reflection session, Winter of 2001]


Communion in the Hand IAn Orectic Meditation:

In this phase of Liturgical Contemplation, we begin by attending to our own hands. Assuredly, we need to contemplate the mystery that our hands show forth on their own. But for now, we simply focus on our hands brought together in the characteristic gesture of receiving the Body of Christ.


At this moment, I invite you, the reader, to sit quietly for several moments.


Open your hands, place them together the way you do when you receive Communion, and hold them in your lap. And, reflect:

What do you notice about your hands?


What do you notice while you hold this gesture?


What feelings surface as you hold this gesture?


Please note what appeared for you in this brief exercise.

You may also want to read what others said in a similar exercise done here at St. John's. The authors / speakers remain anonymous.

I feel like a beggar, offering myself to Christ. As a beggar, I feel alone, hungry, and yet hopeful... that I'll be fed.


My hand resembles a crucifix here now.


I feel a kind of sadness, an emptiness. I hold my hands out hoping I won't be rejected.


Cradling... tenderness... both hands cradling... working hands...

My hands poised to receive the Eucharist remind me of the cradling of the Lord's hands around us (How very tiny we are!). They remind me of the vessel of the womb holding the perfect creation planted there. Holding so dearly, tenderly.


The hand position represents three things to me:
— begging, asking for Jesus
— open, tender receiving of Jesus
— offering myself to Jesus


Communion in the Hand II Meditating on the Normative:

These last two comments help us make the transition to the 'Reflection' / normative phase of Liturgical Contemplation. Here, the community that gathers to reflect focuses now on the theological meanings that are drawn to their open hands.


It is very important to notice that there really are two moments here.

During the first moment, the community focuses on the physicality of the gesture or symbol and the emotions it calls forth. In this way, it brackets off the theological meanings for a brief time in order to let their very human responses appear in this moment of 'Awareness.'


Then the community turns to the theological meanings by considering, at different times, aspects of the history of the Eucharist, the focus that comes from Church teaching, as well as the prayers of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

For example, the group might simply meditate on the words that the priest or deacon or Eucharistic Minister proclaims: "The Body of Christ!"


Finally, during the moment of 'Reception' the community holds both the theological and the orectic meanings together.

For example, people mentioned feeling hungry or lonely in the orectic phase of the meditation. The community would try to hold those meanings together with the theological aspects — Christ, the Bread of Life is present, is feeding, is guiding the Church.



Here's the point of it all:

In this way, the fruits of the orectic meditation point to and open up those places in the human spirit that need to meet the Church's proclamation of the Gospel in and through the prayers — the normative / theological aspects — of the Liturgy.


In this way a community that practices Liturgical Contemplation of the mystery of God revealed through these gestures and symbols is ready to return to the Liturgy with a new depth of perception. And, so, Liturgical Contemplation serves the "full, active, and conscious participation" of the worshiping community.


If you would like to e-mail your reflections to me, I will add them to the above reflections,
with your permission, of course.
Send them to


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