This Sunday the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, commonly known as Corpus Christi. This is to help us honour Jesus present in the Eucharist, and to express gratitude for this tremendous gift which we receive as Catholics. This is also a good time to review some guidelines about reception of Holy Communion. How we receive the Eucharist expresses our belief in Jesus in this sacrament. So, here is a review:
1. Who can receive the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass? Only Catholics who are in the state of grace can receive Holy Communion. A Catholic is someone who has been initiated into the Catholic Church through one or all the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation. To be in a state of grace is to be free from having committed any serious sin. The best way to ensure being in a state of grace is to go to Confession on a regular basis (since confession is the only means of removing serous sins). Since we do not allow people of other religions to receive Holy Communion at our Mass, those who are not Catholic and attend the Mass can either remain in their seat during Communion, or come forward for a blessing. To receive a blessing they would cross their arms on their chest as they approach the priest, touching each hand to the opposing shoulder area.
2. When can we receive the Eucharist? We can receive Holy Communion up to 2 times in one day, provided that the second time we participate in the Mass.
3. How do we receive the Eucharist? We receive Holy Communion with the internal disposition of faith. It is important to renew our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist before reception. It could be as simple as saying a prayer “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”.
4. On the tongue or on the hand? Every person in Canada is free to choose one of 2 ways of receiving Holy Communion: on the tongue or on the hand. The traditional way to receive Holy Communion is on the tongue. To do this the person would respond “Amen” to the priests words “The Body of Christ”, and then open their mount and rest the tip of their tongue on their lower lip. The priest will then place the host on the tongue and the person can walk away. The more contemporary way is to receive Holy Communion on the hand. The person approaches the priest with two hands placed in front of their chest, one hand on top of the other, with the palm open. The priest presents the Lord with the words: “The Body of Christ” and the person responds “Amen”. Then the priest will place Holy Communion on the palm of the hand, the person receiving picks up the host with the hand that is not holding the Host, and places the Host in their mouth. Then the person walks away.
I hope that this review can help us to honour Jesus present in the Eucharist each time we receive Him at Mass.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma