Communion Procession or Queue? What’s the Difference?
Processions are a part of the fabric of Catholic life. It used to be that everyone knew how to process. If there was a procession in the Church, you automatically knew how to line up two by two, walk in even measure [never run], hands folded [never dangling loosely by your side]; and head facing forward. Today it is not a “given” that everyone knows how to process. The way we walk through the mall is different from the way we walk in Church.
Procession are important because they manifest our journey as a pilgrim Church on the way to the heavenly Jerusalem. One of the most important processions in the liturgy is the Communion Procession. Here the faithful processes forward as one body to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Our procession forward is a sacred moment; a sacred gesture that realizes we are a sign, a symbol of that pilgrim Church “on the way.”
Unfortunately, too often our Communion Procession looks more like people lining up for a ride at Disney or standing in line at the grocery store. There is obviously a gap of Grand Canyon proportions between the church’s understanding of the communion procession and how the communion procession takes place during Mass. In an article entitled “The Reception of Holy Communion at Mass” on the USCCB website, it talks about the misunderstanding of the communion procession:
“A perception such as this is a dreadfully inaccurate and impoverished understanding of what is a significant religious action. The Communion Procession is an action of the Body of Christ. At Christ’s invitation, extended by the priest acting in Christ’s person: “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb,” the members of the community move forward to share in the sacred meal, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ which is the sign and the source of their unity. In fact, each time we move forward together to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, we join the countless ranks of all the baptized who have gone before us, our loved ones, the canonized and uncanonized saints down through the ages, who at their time in history formed a part of this mighty stream of believers.”
The article goes on to explain that the sacred action of the communion procession is supported by the assembly singing the Communion Chant. The Communion Chant is not a hymn that is “added” to the Mass, but actually a prayer that is a part of the Mass. The Communion Chant begins immediately with the communion of the priest and lasts until every person receives communion. This sung prayer expresses our unity as the Body of Christ as we process forward to receive the sacrament of unity.
This same article comments on the lack of participation by the faithful during communion:
“For some, however, the singing of this hymn is perceived as an intrusion on their own prayer, their private thanksgiving after Communion. In fact, however, this hymn is prayer, the corporate thanksgiving prayer of the members of Christ’s Body, united with one another. Over and over again the prayers of the liturgy and the norms of the General Instruction emphasize this fundamental concept of the unity of the baptized, stressing that when we come together to participate in the Eucharistic celebration we come, not as individuals, but as united members of Christ’s Body. . . It is difficult for some of us to embrace this emphasis on Mass as the action of a community rather than an individual act of my own faith and piety, but it is important that we make every effort to do so. “
Thus, when we go to communion we should process forward with dignity. How we hold our hands in prayer and how we participate fully in sung prayer during this time, gives full expression of our understanding and belief that we are the Body of Christ moving forward to receive the Christ who makes us one with himself and with one another.
Father Anthony Ruff, O.S.B. recently wrote an article on “Receiving Communion: An Examination of Conscience” on the website www.praytellblog.com. This article enables us to reflect more deeply on the profound meaning of the communion procession.
“While processing to Communion, do I realize that I am journeying toward the “Jerusalem above” to feast with angels and saints, with deceased friends and loved ones, with the entire mystical Body of Christ?
Do I recognize those around me as the Body of Christ, and add my voice, however halting, to the processional song that expresses our “union in spirit” and “joy of heart”?
Do I bow humbly to the Eucharistic Lord, to the servant of the Lord ministering to me, to the altar on which the Lord’s dying and rising is made present?
Does my veneration of the Risen Lord, really present in sacramental sign, open my eyes to the “divine presence” which “we believe is everywhere”?
As I eat the “Bread of Life,” do I realize that my own body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit”?
As I drink the Precious Blood, do I realize that Christ’s love poured out for me in sacrifice calls me to pour out my life for others?
Does this sacred banquet strengthen my yearning for a world in which the poor have enough to eat?
Am I grateful that the Eucharist has the “salutary virtue” to “remit the sins I commit daily”?
Do I let the Eucharist Lord still my inner voices ready to speak in judgment of others’ piety and prayer?
Am I ready to “go forth in peace, glorifying the Lord by my life”?”
[By Anthony Ruff, OSB http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2018/03/06/receiving-holy-communion-an-examination-of-conscience/]