We need to constantly be wary of the fallen human tendency to begin to take for granted that which can be a regular, even daily, part of our life. St. Paul has warned us that we ought not dare to receive the Blessed Sacrament unworthily. As he states, “…whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.” (I Cor. 11: 27-28)
If you have not been to Confession in a long time and especially if you are aware of having committed any mortal sins since your last Confession or if living in a state that is not in keeping with the moral teachings of the Church (For instance, if you are living with someone without the benefit of the Sacrament of Marriage.) you should refrain from receiving Communion until you can resolve that situation.
Reception of Holy Communion also calls for appropriate spiritual preparation. Prayer and reflection should be a regular part of the life of the person who seeks the deeper union of Holy Communion. We should do our best to be focused and participating at Mass so that when we approach this awesome Mystery we are conscious of Who it is we are receiving.
I would ask Pastors to take some time at Mass this Sunday or sometime soon to review with parishioners the proper way to receive Communion. One may receive on the tongue or the hand. The word “receive” is key. We do not snatch the Eucharist. It is Jesus who comes to us. To receive on the hand according to the ancient custom we are to make a throne of our two hands, the right hand under the left. When the priest or other minister says, “The Body of Christ”, our response is “Amen”. This “Amen” is very important because it is a profession of faith. “Amen” is our affirmation of belief that we are receiving the Body of the Lord.
When the host is placed upon our hands we should step to the side and with the free hand take the host and place it in our mouth. Out of respect the host should not be touched to any other part of our body.
Today we are encouraged to receive Holy Communion under the form of bread and wine at most Masses. We believe that receiving the host or from the cup alone is to receive the whole Christ. But to receive under both species is a fuller, more complete following of the very words of Jesus who said, “Take this all of you and eat.” “Take this all of you and drink.”
To receive from the cup one should also respond, “Amen” to the minister’s words, “The Blood of Christ.” We then take the cup from the minister, take a small drink from the cup and return the cup carefully to the minister.
When you return to your place in Church you are encouraged to remain standing and to join in the Communion song. The time for private prayer in quiet should come after everyone has received, but it is important to also recognize that the Communion you share so deeply at that moment not only unites you and Christ, but, rather your reception unites you and the whole Body of Christ, the community of the Church, with whom you are in that moment praising and thanking God.
My prayer is that you will have a great celebration of the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and that it will be an opportunity for us all, priests and laity alike to renew our sense of awe and heartfelt thanksgiving for this amazing gift of God.