Receiving Holy Communion

12-10-2017What We Do as CatholicsFr. Joe Fessenden

Note: This is the first installment of a series Fr. Joe is writing over the next several weeks on the history of the Mass and what’s going on when we do what we do as Catholics. Some of these things you will already know. Some will be new. We invite you to read all of them, because, even if you have heard them before, it’s a good refresher as we start a new liturgical year.

You’ll notice that starting this past weekend, we have brought back the communion patens during the distribution of Holy Communion. The communion patens serve two purposes. Remember, we, as Catholics, believe that Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity even in tiny particles of the host. Therefore, the patens provide a protection against the host falling to the ground, and they catch any particles (crumbs) which may fall from the host as it is carried through the air. Since our Lord comes under the appearance of bread and wine, there are bound to be such crumbs, and we want to do all we can to prevent Him being trampled underfoot.

With that in mind, I would like to offer some reminders on how to receive communion. All of us learned much of this when we were children, but I encourage you to read through since refreshers are good for all of us. As members of the faithful in the United States, you have the option of receiving either kneeling or standing, and either on the tongue or in your hands. In either case, before you receive we reverence the Lord in front of us. The Church instructs us that this reverence should come in the form of a bow of the head.

Receiving on the tongue

If you choose to receive Holy Communion on your tongue, after you say “Amen,” open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue like you are at the doctor’s office (just don’t say “ahh”). The priest or EMHC will place the host on your tongue. Please don’t move your head until the priest or EMHC pulls his hand away (it’s kinda gross to get our fingers licked). The host will stick to your tongue and you can take Jesus into your mouth. Notice, you aren’t grabbing Jesus in your mouth as the priest holds Him out; the priest or EMHC does all the moving.

Receiving in the hand

Please put your hands one on top of the other (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem beautifully describes this as making a throne to receive the King) and hold them up and out. After you say “Amen,” the priest or EMHC will place the host on your hand. Please do not grab the host from the priest; you are receiving the Lord, not taking something being handed to you. When you have received the host, pick it up with your other hand from underneath and put it in your mouth immediately. You may step aside to do this to allow the line to move, but please do not go walking and receive Jesus on-the-go. He deserves a moment pause from us. It is a good idea to look at the palm of your hand to makes sure that no particles are in your hand, still; if you find one, consume that, too - remember, it is still Jesus Christ.

Receiving from the chalice

If you choose to take the Precious Blood, when you arrive at the person distributing the chalice, again make a profound bow. Respond “Amen” to “The Blood of Christ.” The person distributing will then hand you the chalice. Carefully take it and take a small sip. Then, hand the chalice back to the person distributing.

Gluten free hosts

Several people have come to me in the last few weeks to ask if we can provide gluten free hosts. To be valid matter for communion, it is impossible that a host be 100% gluten free. However, we do have hosts that are ultra-low gluten (we can get you details if you need). The vast majority of people with a gluten intolerance can tolerate this amount. If you cannot, you are welcome to receive from only the chalice, which is also a complete reception of communion. To avoid any contamination from the host from persons in front of you, I would encourage you to sit in the front row so that you can receive first. If you need to receive one of the ultra low gluten hosts, please come up the back of the line and let us know when you reach the front that you need one. We will get them from the altar and give you communion.

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