Why do some people receive Communion in the hand, while others have it put on the tongue?
And is one better than the other?
Answer: Prior to the liturgical reforms that accompanied the Second Vatican Council, it was the universal practice that Catholics would receive communion “on the tongue,” meaning that the one receiving would allow the priest distributing communion to place the consecrated host on their outstretched tongue. At this time, only the priest celebrant (and, on special occasions, priests assisting at the Mass) was allowed to receive the Precious Blood.
Since 1977 (with the approval of the Holy See) the bishops of the United States have officially approved two equally valid options for receiving Holy Communion in Masses celebrated according to the Ordinary Form of the Mass. As the bishops’ statement Norms for Holy Communion Under Both Kinds states:
The communicant may choose whether to receive the Body of Christ in the hand or on the tongue. When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost” (no. 41).
As we noted, both ways of receiving communion are equally valid in the United States and it is important that we always keep the instructions of the bishops in mind as we reflect on which method we might prefer.