A quick reminder for those unfamiliar with Catholic Theology who happen to read this post. The Consecrated Host is Truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is not a symbol - it is really and truly Him. It is Him. It IS Jesus.
Absolute great care is taken to ensure that our Lord's True Presence in the Consecrated Host is protected. A recent article by John Vennari of Catholic Family News summarized some of these:
The Eucharist - Holy Communion - simply is Christ's body, blood, soul, and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine. It is not a symbol of Christ, but rather, it is truly and really Jesus Christ! At the point in the Mass known as the consecration the priest, acting in persona Christi, will say "This is My Body, which will be given up for you" and "This is My Blood...". These were the words of Our Savior when He turned the bread and wine at the Last Supper into His Body and Blood, and, by the divine power of God in the priesthood, the bread and wine become Jesus Christ.
At the Consecration during the Mass everyone present except the celebrant should kneel in adoration because by God's divine power the bread and wine become His eternal Son, Jesus Christ. The bread and wine become Jesus Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as Our Lord Himself taught in Sacred Scripture specifically at the Last Supper. The only thing remaining of bread and wine is the appearance of bread and wine (called the "accidents"). Jesus Christ gave this awesome power to His disciples, the first bishops who have passed this down through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Continuing reading the de-brief on The Eucharist
This reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and even for the smallest particles, was incorporated into the traditional Mass — the Old Latin Mass — which contained strict rubrics on this point:
1) From the moment the priest pronounces the words of the Consecration over the Sacred Host, the priest keeps his forefinger and thumb together on each hand. Whether he elevates the chalice, or turns the pages of the missal, or opens the tabernacle, his thumb and his forefinger on each hand are closed. The thumb and forefinger touch nothing but the Sacred Host;
2) During Holy Communion, the altar boy holds the paten under the chin of those receiving Communion, so that the slightest particle does not fall to the ground. This paten is cleaned into the chalice afterwards;
3) After Holy Communion is distributed, the priest scrapes the corporal (the small linen cloth on the altar) with the paten, and cleans it into the chalice so that if the slightest particle is left, it is collected and consumed by the priest;
4) Then, the priest washes his thumb and forefinger over the chalice with water and wine, and this water and wine is reverently consumed to insure that the smallest particle of the Sacred Host is not susceptible to desecration.
Communion in the hand and so-called Eucharist lay-ministers make a mockery of the Divine Truth that Our Lord is truly present in every particle of the Eucharist, and make a mockery of the holy rubrics used by the Church for centuries as a safeguard against desecration.
Great care should always be given to present the Body of our Lord from ever falling on the ground. Yet, due to human error and despite precautions, it may happen. What we do to respond to it shows our piety (or lack thereof).
Mr. Vennari continues with a wonderful explanation of what should be done and the results it brings to those who witness such reverence:
How does the traditional and reverent practice mentioned above compare with what takes place at most Novus Ordo parishes today? Mr. Vennari concludes:
The pre-Vatican II rubrics for when a Host is dropped, like the rubrics of the Latin liturgy, safeguarded the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament. The May 1949 American Ecclesiastical Review explained:
“This procedure requires that the spot on which the Sacred Host has fallen be purified, usually with a dampened purificator, and then scraped and the scrapings thrown into the sacrarium [small sink in sacristy that drains into ground under the church]. Authors, generally, in order to avoid delay in going on with the distribution of Holy Communion, interpret the fulfillment of the rubric to allow marking the spot on which the Sacred Host has fallen, either with a linen cloth or with the plate used with the cruets, the priest returning after Mass to purify the place in the manner prescribed in De defectibus.”
This strict procedure not only gives God the reverence that is His due, but profoundly impresses the spectator, as it impressed me at a young age.
The year was around 1965, I was a boy of about 7 years old. My father took me for Sunday Mass to the “Italian Parish”, Our Lady of Consolation in Philadelphia. The Mass was still in Latin, the sacred atmosphere still pervaded the church and the liturgy, though the first updrafts of change were in the wind.
During Communion time on this particular Sunday, the priest accidentally dropped a consecrated Host. We were sitting up front, and my father drew my attention to it.
The priest briefly interrupted the distribution of Communion to fetch a small white cloth which he placed over the Host on the floor. The distribution of Holy Communion resumed, with the priest and altar boy carefully stepping around the Veiled Guest.
My father purposely kept me after Mass so that I could see the purification rubric from the front pew.
All was done simply, quietly, for there was no talking in church whatsoever back then, in reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.
The priest and the altar boy approached the spot near the altar rail inside the sanctuary, the spot covered with a white cloth. The priest then dropped to his knees, lifted the veil, retrieved the Sacred Species and consumed it with dignity and decorum. Slowly, reverently, still on his knees, he then cleaned and purified the section of the floor where the Host had dropped.
He took his time. There was no rush. An air of solemnity, holiness and adoration pervaded his every move.
I was fascinated and edified by the procedure. I remember thinking to myself, “truly, the Sacred Host is the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” because the priest tended to It with awe-inspiring care and reverence.
It was the best catechism lesson on the Real Presence I ever had.
What do seven-year-olds now see? In modern parishes, under the lax rubrics of the New Mass, the priest simply picks up a dropped Host and moves on, as if he dropped some loose change. Particles are left to be stepped upon and desecrated. Before and after Mass, people prattle away in church as if they are socializing in the parish hall. Many modern priests and laity disregard their duty of silence before the Blessed Sacrament. They forget the stern warning of little Jacinta of Fatima, “Our Lady does not want people to talk in church”.
Where is this reverence and care for the Blessed Sacrament in the post-Conciliar Church with the introduction of Communion in the hand and the “anyone can handle it” attitude? How will our young people gain any understanding of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament when He receives cavalier treatment from clergymen? How can reverence for the Eucharist be instilled in the Catholic faithful when they see It given in the hand as common foodstuffs, and distributed by ill-trained lay people who should not be handling the Blessed Sacrament in the first place?
It is no mystery why so many Catholics have lost faith in the Sacred Mysteries. Too many of our priests have abandoned the outward devotion necessary: 1) to give proper reverence to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; 2) to teach the people through example that the highest reverence must be shown to Our Lord Jesus Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.
Yet, the post-Conciliar catastrophe will not go on indefinitely. Someday the Church will once again be blessed with a hierarchy that gives Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament the reverence due to the King of Kings.
In the meantime, let us resist sacrilegious innovations such as Communion in the hand and lay-Eucharistic ministers, encourage others to resist them, and cling to the Latin Tridentine Mass wherein the rubrics that safeguard the reverence to the Blessed Sacrament are meticulously preserved.
Act of Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament By St. Louis Marie de Montfort
Let me cry, let me weep bitter tears to God above,
For Jesus is abandoned in his Sacrament of love;
Forgotten and insulted in the dwelling of the Lord,
Derided and rejected where once he was adored.
The mansions of the nobles are all clean and set with care,
Yet the house of God's forgotten, its altars standing bare;
The floor is all broken, the roof lets in the rain,
The crumbling walls are marked with holes and every kind of stain.
The crucifix is broken, the pictures green with damp,
The altar cloths are rotting, no light burns in the lamp,
The missals torn and battered, the brasswork stained with rust,
The things of God are thrown about and scattered in the dust.
The ciborium is tarnished, the chalice turning black,
The monstrance, which is made of tin, is mouldy at the back;
From font right up to sacristy the picture is the same,
Such disorder in the house of God is our reproach and shame.
The pagans in their temples dare not spit upon the floor,
But in our church a crowd of dogs run in and out the door;
They bark and fight continually and fill the place with slime,
But no one cares enough of this to avenge the dreadful crime.
There is just one exception in all this sorry scene:
My Lord and Lady's special pew is always neat and clean;
And standing out in bright new paint upon the dingy wall
Their gaily-colored coat-of-arms looks down upon it all.
Above the Lord's own altar, instead of the Lord's own name,
The banners of his Lordship, a place of honor claim;
Both priest and mule are flaunting the badges of their thrall,
The former at the altar, the latter in his stall.
The houses of the nobles are so crowded and gay,
And fashionable young ladies are courted night and day;
But the Church of God's deserted, unless they condescend
To go to church for one short Mass they think will never end.
Behold the worldly cleric coming in with haughty face
How his lady friends admire him as he bows with courtly grace!
He bobs a genuflection, then seeks whom he should greet;
He strolls about and chatters as though walking in the street
Still worse, he has a snuff-box, which he opens with a jest,
And delicately takes a pinch, then passes around the rest
Puffed up with self-importance and with his graceful ways,
He squirms about and poses, making faces as he prays
Alas, it's often happened, the way to church he's trod
To pay reverence to Venus, to a goddess not to God;
Every thought and aspiration, every word and loving glance
Are but homage to a creature, a prayer to find romance
Behold upon the other side a sorry scene is played,
A shameless hussy sitting in all her fine brocade;
In her dainty little slippers and head-dress trimmed with lace,
Come simply to parade herself within the holy place
This empty-headed madam, with an impudence unknown,
Up to the very altar ostentatiously is shown,
And poses on a bench in front, so to be seen by all,
To captivate the eyes of men and hold their hearts in thrall
To think this devil's agent, while her knee to Jesus bends,
Must rob him of his glory and lead astray his friends!
The splendor of her finery the thought of Jesus harms,
Forgotten is the altar in the presence of her charms.
And if the time seems tedious, she always has her fan,
Her dog and gloves, to pass the time, and often her young man;
She'll read a bit, and roll her eyes, and fix her hat with care,
Then look around the chapel to see who's watching her
O strike them, God almighty, strike this ungrateful lot!
At least let them respect thee, if they will love thee not
Too long hast thou been patient; thy justice let them see;
Let fear replace that insolence with which they now mock thee
Thy glory has been ravished, dishonored is thy name,
Such sinners against thy majesty must bow their heads in shame
And yet restrain thy anger, at least a while I pray;
The greatness of their wickedness with greater good repay
Forgive them, dearest Jesus, for they know not what they do;
Remember thy great Passion, and have mercy on us too
And if we are unable to atone for all our guilt,
Accept our feeble homage, and treat us as thou wilt
We confess before thy altar that we are sinners still;
Thou canst punish us or spare us according to thy will
But remember thy great mercy and the tears that we have shed,
And hear our cries for pardon, for our hearts are full of dread.