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How to Receive Holy Communion at Mass.

How to Receive Holy Communion at Mass.

 

Every so often, it is good to reflect on how we do things at liturgy. This is especially true of how we receive communion. In the course of doing something over and over again, we can easily lose sight of the reasons why we do things. We can also get “sloppy” with our gestures.

 

Two Options: Communion in the Hand or Communion on the Tongue

 

The Church has two legitimate ways of receiving communion. You may receive communion in the hand or on the tongue. Either way is perfectly acceptable. The decision to receive communion in the hand or on the tongue is that of the individual receiving communion. It is not the decision of the person distributing communion.

 

 

 

Communion in the Hand

 

The original way to receive communion was in the hand. This was the practice in the early Church from the time of Jesus Christ until the Middle Ages. There are many examples describing the reception of communion in the writings of the early fathers.  For example, St. Cyril of Jerusalem encourages communicants “to make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King.”  His description provides the basis for how we receive communion in the hand today.

 

The procedure for receiving communion in the hand is as follows:

  • Process to the communion station.
  • Bow your head as a gesture of reverence.
  • Extend your hands forward in the following manner: if you are right handed the left hand should rest upon the right. If you are left handed, the process is reversed.
  • The minister of communion will proclaim: “The Body of Christ.”
  • You respond: “AMEN.”
  • The person distributing communion will lay the host in the palm of your hand.
  • Step aside to make room for the next communicant.
  • Immediately put the host in your mouth.

 

The host must always be consumed immediately. You may not take the host and dip it in the cup that contains the precious blood. You may not take the host back to the pew with you. Any abuses of this kind should be reported immediately to the clergy or other ministers present.

 

Communion on the Tongue

The movement to receive communion on the tongue began in the Middles ages due to several factors: unhygienic conditions of the day; increased emphasis on adoration of the Eucharist; emphasis on personal unworthiness; and the transition of using leavened bread to unleavened bread among other events.

 

The procedure for receiving communion on the tongue is similar to

receiving communion in the hand:

  • Process to the communion station;
  • Bow your head as a gesture of reverence;
  • The minister of communion will proclaim: “The Body of Christ.”
  • You respond: “AMEN”.
  • Tilt your head back and extend your tongue to receive the host.

 

Oftentimes adults must carry small children in their arms when they process to communion. In these circumstances it may be prudent to receive communion on the tongue. This allows you to have both hands free to care for the child.

 

 

Communion from the Chalice

 

The Church teaches that “Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father.” [General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 281].

 

It is the choice of the communicant, not the minister, to receive from the chalice.

 

The procedure for receiving communion from the chalice is as follows:

 

  • Proceed to the station for the Precious Blood.
  • Bow your head as a gesture of reverence.
  • The minister will proclaim: “The Blood of Christ.”
  • You respond “Amen.”
  • Take the cup and drink a small amount.
  • Return the cup to the minister.
  • The minister carefully wipes both sides of the rims of the chalice after each communicant.

 

“Children are encouraged to receive Communion under both kinds provided that they are properly instructed and that they are old enough to receive from the chalice.” [Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion.]

 

It should be noted that in the United States a person may never self communicate even by means of intinction. If, for some reason, the communicant is not able or willing to drink from the cup then that person should receive only under the form of bread.

 

Please watch an excellent video entitled “Sacraments 101: Eucharist [How we receive] that demonstrates how to properly receive communion. It is published by Busted Halo and can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdGkTdv4Dt4