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RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION BY HAND – FR MBAKA THEOLOGIZES THE POSITION

RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION BY HAND – FR MBAKA THEOLOGIZES THE POSITION

At the wake of the spread of the Ebola virus, Fr. Mbaka had advocated and opined that if it were within his powers, he would direct that as a preventive measure to the spread of the virus in the churches, the reception of the Holy Communion should be by hand and greeting during mass, by wave of hand. His suggestion came even before the orthodoxical approval which now directs that the reception of the Holy Communion in the Churches should be by hand. Several reactions have trailed this new directive from the authorities of the church in Nigeria that the reception of the Holy Communion should now be by hand. The reason for this is to contain the fear of the risk of spread of the Ebola virus by reception of the communion in the mouth.  While some faithful believe that this directive is the best thing that has happened to save the church from the risk of the virus and other associated dangers of saliva contact during the reception of the Holy Communion, others are of the view that the new directive negates the essence of the catholic faith that God is in the Blessed sacrament. The latter’s argument hinges on the fact that since God is what is being received, He will not allow the transmission of the virus however it is received . It is also argued that the reception of the Holy Communion by hand is an act of disrespect and sacrilege to God. In the face of these divergent views, Fr. Mbaka in defence of the orthodoxical position theologizes the reception of the Holy Communion by hand. In his words:

The level of the reception of the communion in Europe is not the level of receiving it by hand. They have gone beyond this to the level where the worshipers take it by themselves and put in their mouth after the consecration. This is the current practice in that Land from where Christianity came to us. Our problem is that we are not easily adaptable to changes.

We don’t joke with transmissible sickness.  There are some people who are too holy and they feel that those who are receiving the communion by hand are being disrespectful to Jesus. If you want to still continue to receive the Holy Communion by the Priest placing it in your mouth, you can go to another place and do such; not here. In this type of environment which is a healing ministry, you don’t know who has what sickness. I give it as an instruction; no body receives the communion through the mouth here again. Because when one contacts this Ebola here, I don’t know who will escape it.

“ In your various parishes, you can even put it in your nose if you like, but not here. The Bishop of the diocese has given us the orthodoxical approval to maintain the healing ministry here, so I must use my own pastoral ingenuity to adapt to the contemporary situation.  It is a pastoral problem that has to be wisely arrested.

“It is difficult for a priest to finish administering communion to the congregation in their mouths without his finger touching someone’s tongue. Even as careful as the priest may be before he withdraws his hand some communicants would try to bite off his finger. So the hygienic nature of the people of God must be protected. The ways of contact with people during the Mass is during the sign of peace and reception of the communion. If waving at you during the time of sign of the cross is not sufficient for you, manage it that way. If you had a vow that you must embrace another, it is not here. If we could greet God by waving at him, are you greeter than God that waving at you wouldn’t be enough greeting for you?

“The way to receive the communion now is that when it is placed in your hand, use respect and faith and leak it up, then check if there are still some particles in your hand and leak it clean. The hand we are talking of here is your hand of destiny. What we are saying here is that whatever you put your hand in, you shall prosper.

“In the white man’s land, people are sincere and truthful to disclose you their health condition. A HIV positive patient for example will disclose that to you when you having dealings with him or her. It is not the same in our culture here, we are good at hiding the truth. That is the way we are trained. An Ebola carrier over there will freely disclose it so that he will be treated, but here such a person will hide and come to eceive the communion. Ebola is spread through liquid contact, and that is why the hand is better because there is no liquid in one’s hand. Ebola virus cannot survive open air.  And one’s saliva and sweats are the liquid we are talking of. We are not talking about your holiness now but about the safety of people’s lives. We are talking of salus animaru and agape. We are talking of coinunia, on the table of agape.

“It is not a question of if you like here, because you are not holier than the priests who use their hands to receive their own communion. The Reverend Sisters receive it by their hands. And you are there saying you are not qualified to partake in reception of the communion by hand. I shudder at you. Before ever we began to hear of Ebola, we have begun to eulogize God with the name “Ezechitaoke”. When He collects your portion He will pour them in your hands. Stop painting others black so that you will be white and do what others are doing. How is it a sacrilege to receive communion by hand?

Hosea 4:6 says “My people perish because they lack knowledge. You shall know the truth before the truth can set you free. What we don’t know is whether it has to be received with left or right hand; whichever it is provided you received it by your hand; no troubles. Bishops in this country have approved this. Mary said “Whatever he asks you to do, do it”.

“Beside Ebola, it is not even hygienic to be administering the communion in the mouth. A situation where a priest puts his hand in one person mouth, withdraws it, and put in another person’s mouth. This is not minding those who ate Okanwu, gwuoro, garlic and hardly brush their mouth. May God bless our bishops for us.

“In everywhere I went for crusade at Europe, I didn’t see where it is administered in the people’s mouth; they do receive theirs by hand. And I can’t help wondering if we are different from them. When the Holy Communion touches your hand, it will become a blessed hand of destiny.

“In the spirituality of the scripture in Deut 12:7, it is said, whatever you put your hand upon, you will rejoice over it. Let us theologize what we are doing now. Why you should rejoice over what you put your hands upon is when Jesus touches the hand.  Psalm 127:6 says that you shall eat the works of your hand. Mark 16:18 says “you shall lay your hand on the sick and the sick shall be hand”. A hand that is not touched by Jesus will not heal the sick. It is that your hand that the communion is being placed. So we are gradually leading you into the healing ministry.

“You will see this hand signing a cheque of a big amount of money.  This hand shall carry your child. It is the hand of Zechariah 4:9 where it is written “go and tell Zerubbabel, because your hand has laid on the foundation, you will finish it.” I am talking of the theology of the hand. The charm markers can’t charm you to death when you receive the communion by hand. Whatever you put your hand, you shall prosper. It is in this hand that the wedding ring will be put on the wedding day. In our tradition, we believe that the marks in ones hands have to with one’s destiny.   In Mathew 16:20, 22 ff. “the son of man is going as he is destined”. I believe in the power of destiny. Everybody is destined onto something.  When you receive the holy communion by hand, your destiny will be blessed in the Eucharist. This is the Eucharistic spirituality, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, he will live in us and we live in him.  We shall continue to say this until we become used to it. It is not sacrilegious to receive communion by hand. You can receive Him by your mouth and receive sacrilegiously.

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