Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Receiving Holy Communion
As our Diocesan Year of the Eucharist continues, we now reflect upon the theme of receiving Holy Communion. And we must always remember, first and foremost, that Holy Communion is not just some piece of bread or sip of wine. Holy Communion, rather, is our worthy and reverent reception of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we do well to take great care in how we prepare for Holy Communion, how we approach the Lord to receive Him, how we regard the various gestures involved, and how we ought to reflect upon this most sublime gift after receiving Him.
Regarding our preparation for Holy Communion. We do well to consider our overall preparation for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We remember that the Mass is always primarily a sacrifice: the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross made present in our own time and place. We ought to prepare for this by meditating on that Sacrifice in quiet prayer before Mass begins. We may even consider our own little sacrifices that we would like to offer up with the Lord’s Sacrifice. (What petitions do we ask of God? What sufferings are we made to endure? What can be our personal intention that we bring to the Mass?) It is for the purposes of prayerful preparation that we absolutely must insist on reverent silence in the church before Mass begins. Conversations and catching up with our friends is good, no doubt about it…and that is why our church is equipped with a fairly sizeable gathering space at the church entrance. But inside the church proper, that is a sacred space, consecrated and set apart for sacred use, and we need that place to be immersed in reverent silence so that folks can pray and thus prepare for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Once Mass begins, we recognize that there are several moments (rites) within the context of Mass that help us further to prepare for our reception of Holy Communion. The Penitential Rite has us call to mind our sins that we may beg the Lord’s mercy upon us. (This assumes of course that for mortal sins, we went to confession and received absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; we dare not presume on God’s mercy for any mortal sins that we know need to be confessed but have not been confessed yet. See 1 Corinthians 11:27-32)
Then, just before we come forward for Holy Communion, after what normally would be the Sign of Peace, we pray the
(“Lamb of God”), wherein we beseech God’s mercy yet again; and we pray our unworthiness. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Notice that we kneel after praying the
. That is because the Real Presence is before us, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – and we are about to come forward to be given Him. How can we not help but fall on bended knee in His Presence, at the prospect of being given such a sublime gift!
When we come forward to receive Holy Communion, the local tradition is that we bow at the waist, or at least bow our heads, before we step forward to receive a Eucharistic Host. This is our bodily recognition of the sublime gift that is being given to us. Some of our people genuflect rather than bow, and some people even kneel and remain kneeling as they receive. All of this is permitted.
There are two ways to receive Holy Communion: on the tongue or on the hand. Receiving on the hand tends to be the more common, and in times of COVID, it is requested (though not required), and the procedure for this is as follows: simply lay open the flat palm, one hand over the other, in order to have the Eucharistic Host be placed securely directly on the palm. The lower hand takes the Host from the palm of the upper hand and places the Host in the mouth. Then, the recipient moves on. Please do not “snatch” the Host from the Communion minister’s hand; the Lord gives Himself to us and we are to receive – there is no taking where the Lord’s gift of Self is concerned.
Please notice that it is actually required that you consume the Host
. It does not happen frequently, but it does happen nonetheless that someone will receive a Host on the palm and then will walk away. There are too many servants of the Enemy who are always trying to contrive ways to steal a Host for the purposes of desecration as a “black mass” ceremony. I will follow someone to their pew and ask them either to consume the Host or else to give the Host back to me if I see someone walk way – and in fact I have done that many times!
Which is why I personally much prefer that people receive the Host directly on the tongue. Then I can actually see right in front of me that you have consumed the Host.
When we receive on the palm, we might reverently regard our palm as something of a little manger crib that receives the infant Christ-Child. When we receive on the tongue, we might reverently see that gesture as a display of our utter helplessness before God, Who feeds us. (Think of a nest of chicks, helpless, needing to be fed directly from the mother bird.)
After Holy Communion and our return to our pews, we do well to kneel or sit in silent prayer so as to reflect upon the utter magnitude of this most sublime gift of the Eucharist that we have just been given. We have recently given
prayer cards for parishioners; this is a wonderful prayer that helps us to meditate upon our reverent reception of the Eucharist.
And finally, when Mass ends, we are sent back into the world so as to proclaim the Gospel with our lives, but before we rush outside, we might remain in silent prayer inside the church for perhaps five minutes, offering a prayer of thanksgiving that the Lord of all Creation would give Himself to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, the Eucharist.
~ Fr. Lewis
on Saturday, October 3 at 2:00PM