When and how to receive Communion. If we sincerely believe that what we receive at the end of Mass is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, not a symbol, but real Jesus, then what should follow is a good examination of how we celebrate this great gift of Jesus Himself.
1. Get rid of serious sin first. The teaching of Christ and the Church has been consistent from the very beginning until today that no one who is in grave sin is to approach the table of the Lord. And so we are called to examine our lives before we come to Mass and see if we are able to receive Holy Communion. And if we find that we have broken one of God’s commandments we are to first receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession.
2. Arrivals and departures. As much as possible trying to arrive on time and not leaving before the final blessing. As much as possible. I know that there are legitimate circumstances when sometimes we might have to do this. But when we make this a habit what are we telling God? One hour a week is too long, I have things to do, I gave you what you wanted, or almost what you wanted, I am better than many others, what else do you want. That is hardly an attitude of gratefulness for what Christ gives us. Why not make an effort to come a few minutes early to prepare for Mass and stay a few minutes after Mass to thank God for this gift.
3. Eucharistic Fast. The Church asks us to prepare for the Eucharist even before we come. Just as we would prepare for meeting Christ in person. One of the ways we do this is by keeping a Eucharistic Fast. This means that we are to refrain from food or drink (with the exception of water and medication) for one hour before the Eucharist. Chewing gum not only breaks the fast, but is also very inappropriate at Mass and limits our participation.
4. Conscious and Active participation. Our entire Mass is celebrated in such a way so as to prepare us for the worthy reception of Holy Communion. This is why active participation is so important, and by active participation, the Church asks us to sing together, pray together, listen together (but not to chew gum together). If you don’t know the prayers, we have books available in every seat to help you learn. And if you try you will know them very quickly. As you probably know Mass does not change that much from week to week.
5. Receiving Communion. When it is time to receive Holy Communion let us take great care to receive respectfully. When a minister says the “The body of Christ” the response should be one of faith and conviction “Amen”, and not “thanks” or “ok” or “ “good stuff”, but AMEN which means “I believe that this is Jesus, I believe that He is here for me, and I desire Him in my life”. Our interior disposition should be reflected by our external actions of great love and respect.
The greater the gift, the greater the responsibility to use it properly and with most respect. The gift of the Most Holy Eucharist is the greatest treasure we possess. May we never grow indifferent when it comes to Our Lord present in the Eucharist, but treasure that Gift by the way we celebrate every Mass.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma