I remember the procedures we were to follow as acolytes for such accidents, and how we used to place bets on which one of us would be the one to eat a wafer off the floor... yeech.
I also remember how we poured water over the fingers of the priest after he had distributed the wafers so that any tiny particle would be washed into the chalice so that the priest could consume that too.
I am not sure that people in most Protestant denominations share the same degree of reverence for the host anymore.
This Sunday's Gospel reading, John 6:35,41-51 (note the missing verses), reminds us of exactly why we should be reverent,
35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
The missing verses were 36-40
But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’Why the lectionary editors left them out is beyond me, but I suspect it is to make it simpler for the preacher in preparing his sermon, to focus on the bread from heaven bits, and for the poor dumb pewsitters who musn't be fed too much information.
It has always been a mystery to me that the lectionary editors did not pair this reading from John 6 with a reading from Exodus 16,
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.My old priest was right when he insisted that any of the bread from heaven that he was passing out should be consumed immediately if it hit the floor... lest it breed worms!
We Protestants are not alone in that some concerned Roman Catholics have also noted a decrease in reverence for the host shared at the Eucharist. The following is from the Catholic Family News pages,
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”.I think they have a point in that a public display of reverence by the priest toward the sacraments will send a strong message to the people and most importantly, the children, that the Bread from heaven is very, very important, and may lead some of them to some day realize that it is the most important event ever to happen to them and to the world.
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.