This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, commonly known as Corpus Christi.
Corpus Christi is a special celebration honouring the great gift of Jesus present in the Eucharist and to express gratitude for this tremendous gift which we receive as Catholics. We can see Him, we can touch Him, and we can receive Him.
On this day we should take special care in reflecting how we honour Jesus in the Eucharist: do we receive Him worthily by going to Confession on a regular basis, do we follow the rubrics of the Church in the way we receive Holy Communion during Mass, do we have a devotion to the Eucharist by spending some time in Church in the presence of Jesus in the tabernacles of our churches, by genuflecting when we enter and exit the church?
This is 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.
1. Who can receive the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass? Only Catholics who are in the state of grace can receive Holy Communion. 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 serious sins). Since we do not allow people of other religions to receive Holy Communion at our Mass, those who are not Catholic and attend Mass can either remain in their seats 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.
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 two 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” when the priest says “The Body of Christ”, and then open their mouths 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 priests 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 opposite hand than the one holding the Host and places the Host in their mouth. The person then walks away.
I hope this review can help us to honour Jesus present in the Eucharist each time we receive Him at Mass.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma