We are fed at the Word of God – who has fulfilled His promise of salvation through the Son, Jesus Christ. As He saved the Hebrews from the deprivations of life at the hands of their oppressors - feeding them manna in the desert and making water flow from the rock – he bring us life giving food and drink - His promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.
In the Body and Blood of Christ we are continually refreshed. This is food and drink for our journey – sustaining us, strengthening us, giving us all we need for the challenges of discipleship in Christ, Jesus that leads us to everlasting life.
There are two dimensions to the saving grace of God. Food and drink for the journey and companionship, so we may be alone. As we each receive the life giving bread and wine we also gather together in community, the Body of Christ, His Church. We are the people of God, all together – called to love one another and live in that love together as a people.
We come together, gathering in worship and praise, around the table of the Lord. Just as our Lord, Jesus gathered with others at meal, teaching, sharing and giving of Himself, we gather around the holy table of the mass, with Him in our midst, teaching, sharing and giving of ourselves with His same love - to all our brothers and sisters.
And, as in the feeding of the five-thousand – we share together in the Body and Blood of Christ - all at the table are fed, - yet the drink is not diminished and the food is not decreased – the larder always remains full.
Jesus is the well that does not run dry – the living water that quenches our thirst forever. Come, gather round all you who are thirsty, have your fill. All you who are hungry, partake of this life-giving food and everlasting drink. Be nourished with that which satisfies our real hunger and thirst – our real desire – for that which is holy and everlasting.
The other day I had the pleasure of meeting and training new Extra-Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for our two churches. Now, we call them Extra-Ordinary Ministers because they are ‘Extra’ to the Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion – Priests and Deacons, but they also are extraordinary people - as the beloved of God, because they have discerned the call of God in their hearts to serve our community in bringing the Blessed Sacrament to His holy people during the mass.
As we were going over the basics of distributing communion during mass, I thought this would be a good opportunity to refresh everyone on the proper reception of Holy Communion. From my observations our communities have a good understand of how to receive, but it never hurts to brush up on our table manners.
Communion in the Hand
First, I will address those of us who receive Communion in the hand. By special indult from the Holy See in 1977, the Church in the United States is permitted to receive the host in the hand. Pope Paul VI cautioned against certain abuses, especially a lessening in our belief in and reverence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
- Remember you receive communion, you do not take communion – the Host is placed in your hand – not taken by you with your fingers.
- Don’t reach out to take the host from the minister, but elevate your hands to the chest level (especially children)
- Hold your palm opened, with your recessive hand resting on top of your dominant hand (if you are right-handed – your right hand should be under your left hand). The minister will place the host in your open palm – then using your dominant hand - pick up the host and place it in your mouth
- Consume the host while standing in front of the minister, not as you walk away. Don’t worry about holding up the line. The host should be consumed when received. The ministers are required to ensure the host is consumed by the communicant at reception.
- Also, please note that no one is allowed to bring the host to someone who is unable to join the communion reception line. If someone attends mass, but cannot stand in the communion line, please notify an usher who will escort a minister to where the person is sitting, so they may properly receive communion.
- Please, do not present a pyx or other container to a minister, so you can receive a host to take to someone at home. (the host may never be placed or carried in anything but a solid metal – gold, silver or brass – container designed for such appropriate use)
- Only properly commissioned ministers may bring communion to the homebound. Please call the parish office to arrange for someone from our Pastoral Care ministry to bring communion to the homebound.
Communion on the tongue
It is good to see that at many of our communicants continue to receive the Eucharist on the tongue. This is the regular and normal practice for reception of the Body of Christ. By receiving communion in this manner, the chance of stray particles falling or remaining on someone’s hand are reduced or eliminated. Remember – we believe that at the consecration – the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ and remains so, until consumed. This is the Real Presence of the Lord, the gift given to us by Him at the Last Supper.
When receiving communion on the tongue remember to:
- Give the minister a proper platform upon which to place the host. Stick out your tongue – we will not be offended or insulted (unless you do so in the parking lot after mass).
- Do not try to take the host in your teeth
- And my personal favorite - Do not present your mouth as if it were a CD player - where the minister has to insert the host in a narrow slot.
- Stick out your tongue and receive the Bread of Life!
For as we heard in the Gospel of John:
“I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh!”
And His Church responds, “Amen, Alleluia!”