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Eucharistic Catechesis

As was touched on last weekend, it can be difficult for some to embrace an emphasis on the Mass as the action of the community rather than an individual act of one’s own faith and piety, but it remains important that we make every effort to do so. Christ himself at the Last Supper pleaded with his Father: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are … as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us …” (Jn 17:11, 21). Baptism has joined us to Christ and to one another as the vine and its branches. “The life of Christ, the Holy Spirit, animates each of us individually, and all of us corporately and guides us together in our efforts to become one in Christ” (USCCB). The fact that the Communion Procession is a profoundly religious action tells us something about the way in which we should participate in this procession. We are the Body of Christ, moving forward to receive the Christ who makes us one with himself and with one another. Our procession should move with dignity (hands folded in prayer or fingers laced) and our bearing should be that of those who know they have been redeemed by Christ and are coming to receive their God!

Each country’s Conference of Bishops determines the posture to be used for the reception of Communion and the act of reverence to be made by each person as he or she receives Communion. In the United States, the body of Bishops has determined “the norm is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling and that a bow is the act of reverence made by those receiving” (160). This is a simple bow at the neck. It is not a profound bow at the waist. There is a distinction. Anything more than a simple bow invites an accident. There is a distinction. Anything more than a simple bow invites an accident. A profound bow at the waist is appropriate: 1.) any time an individual crosses in front of an altar; 2.) is unable to genuflect when passing in front of a Tabernacle; 3.) at the words regarding the Incarnation when reciting the Profession of Faith at Mass ("…and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man" or, "...who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…"); and 4.) in churches without kneelers—during the Eucharistic Prayer—after the elevation of the host and then the chalice, as the presider genuflects each time.

Those who receive Communion may receive either in the hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not of the minister distributing. If Communion is received in the hand, the hands should first of all be clean. If one is right-handed the left hand should rest upon the right. The host will then be laid in the palm of the left hand and taken by the right hand to the mouth. If one is left-handed this is reversed. It is not appropriate to reach out with the fingers and take the host from the person distributing. It should be thought of this way: gifts are received, not taken.

The minister distributing Communion says audibly to each person, “The Body of Christ,” or “The Blood of Christ”—nothing more, nothing less. This formula should not be altered, as it is a proclamation which calls for a response of faith on the part of the one who receives. The communicant should audibly respond, “Amen,” indicating by that response: 1.) his or her belief that this small wafer of bread and the wine in this chalice are in reality the Body and Blood of Christ; and, 2.) that he himself or she herself is a member of the Body of Christ!

It should be noted that it is never permissible for a person to dip the host he or she has received into the chalice. 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. When one is not feeling well, common sense and courtesy dictate that one would respectfully refrain from receiving from the cup.

— Fr. Terry


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