( NAB )
"...Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh
of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal
life, and I will raise him on the last day..."
Who Can Receive Communion?
The Holy Eucharist is the most important of the seven sacraments because, in this
and in no other sacrament, we receive the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Innumerable, precious graces
come to us through the reception of Holy Communion.
Communion is an intimate encounter with Christ, in which we sacramentally
receive Christ into our bodies, that we may be more completely assimilated into his. "The Eucharist builds the Church," as
Pope John Paul II said (Redemptor Hominis 20). It deepens unity with the Church, more fully assimilating us into Christ
(1 Cor. 12:13; CCC 1396).
The Eucharist also strengthens the individual because in it Jesus himself, the Word made
flesh, forgives our venial sins and gives us the strength to resist mortal sin. It is also the very channel of eternal life:
In John’s gospel, Jesus summarized the reasons for receiving Communion when he said:
truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats
my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my
blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and
I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not
such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever" (John 6:53–58).
Because of the gravity
of Jesus’ teaching on receiving the Eucharist, the Church encourages Catholics to receive frequent Communion, even daily
Communion if possible, and mandates reception of the Eucharist at least once a year during the Easter season. Before going
to Communion, however, there are several things one needs to know.
Catholics and Communion
The Church sets out specific guidelines regarding how we should prepare
ourselves to receive the Lord’s body and blood in Communion. To receive Communion worthily, you must be in a state of
grace, have made a good confession since your last mortal sin, believe in transubstantiation, observe the Eucharistic fast,
and, finally, not be under an ecclesiastical censure such as excommunication.
First, you must be in a state
of grace. "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning
the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Cor. 11:27–28).
This is an absolute requirement which can never be dispensed. To receive the Eucharist without sanctifying grace in your soul
profanes the Eucharist in the most grievous manner.
A mortal sin is any sin whose matter is grave and which
has been committed willfully and with knowledge of its seriousness. Grave matter includes, but is not limited to, murder,
receiving or participating in an abortion, homosexual acts, having sexual intercourse outside of marriage or in an invalid
marriage, and deliberately engaging in impure thoughts (Matt. 5:28–29). Scripture contains lists of mortal sins (for
example, 1 Cor. 6:9–10 and Gal. 5:19–21). For further information on what constitutes a mortal sin, see the Catechism
of the Catholic Church.
Out of habit and out of fear of what those around them will think if they do not receive
Communion, some Catholics, in a state of mortal sin, choose to go forward and offend God rather than stay in the pew while
others receive the Eucharist. The Church’s ancient teaching on this particular matter is expressed in the Didache,
an early Christian document written around A.D. 70, which states: "Whosoever is holy [i.e., in a state of sanctifying grace],
let him approach. Whosoever is not, let him repent" (Didache 10).
Second, you must have been to confession
since your last mortal sin. The Didache witnesses to this practice of the early Church. "But first make confession
of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one" (Didache 14).
The 1983 Code of Canon Law indicates
that the same requirement applies today. "A person who is conscious of a grave sin is not to . . . receive the body of the
Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this
case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing
as soon as possible" (CIC 916).
The requirement for sacramental confession can be dispensed if four conditions are
fulfilled: (1) there must be a grave reason to receive Communion (for example, danger of death), (2) it must be physically
or morally impossible to go to confession first, (3) the person must already be in a state of grace through perfect contrition,
and (4) he must resolve to go to confession as soon as possible.
Third, you must believe in the doctrine of
transubstantiation. "For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1
Cor. 11:29). Transubstantiation means more than the Real Presence. According to transubstantiation, the bread and wine are
actually transformed into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, with only the appearances of bread and wine
remaining. This is why, at the Last Supper, Jesus held what appeared to be bread and wine, yet said: "This is
my body. . . . This is my blood" (Mark 14:22-24, cf. Luke 22:14-20). If Christ were merely present along side bread
and wine, he would have said "This contains my body. . . . This contains my blood," which he did not say.
you must observe the Eucharistic fast. Canon law states, "One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from
any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion"
(CIC 919 §1). Elderly people, those who are ill, and their caretakers are excused from the Eucharistic fast (CIC 191 §3).
Priests and deacons may not dispense one obligated by the Eucharistic fast unless the bishop has expressly granted such power
to them (cf. CIC 89).
Finally, one must not be under an ecclesiastical censure. Canon law mandates, "Those
who are excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others who obstinately persist
in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion" (CIC 915).
Provided they are in a state of grace and
have met the above requirements, Catholics should receive the Eucharist frequently (cic 898).
Other Christians and Communion
The guidelines for receiving Communion, which are issued by the
U.S. bishops and published in many missalettes, explain, "We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist
as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw
us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally
disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21).
Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship,
members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Communion. Eucharistic sharing
in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and
the provisions of canon law. . . . "
Scripture is clear that partaking of the Eucharist is among the highest signs
of Christian unity: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor.
10:17). For this reason, it is normally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive Holy Communion, for to do so would
be to proclaim a unity to exist that, regrettably, does not.
Another reason that many non-Catholics may not ordinarily
receive Communion is for their own protection, since many reject the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Scripture warns that it is very dangerous for one not believing in the Real Presence to receive Communion: "For any one who
eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill,
and some have died" (1 Cor. 11:29–30).
However, there are circumstances when non-Catholics may receive Communion
from a Catholic priest. This is especially the case when it comes to Eastern Orthodox Christians, who share the same faith
concerning the nature of the sacraments:
"Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist
and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, if
they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in
the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned"
(CIC 844 § 3).
Christians in these churches should, of course, respect their own church’s guidelines regarding
when it would be permissible for them to receive Communion in a Catholic church.
The circumstances in which Protestants
are permitted to receive Communion are more limited, though it is still possible for them to do so under certain specifically
Canon law explains the parameters: "If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity,
in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments
to other Christians who do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community
and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed" (CIC 844
It is important to remember that, under the rubrics specified above, even in those rare circumstances when non-Catholics
are able to receive Communion, the same requirements apply to them as to Catholics.
Non-Christians and Communion
The U.S. bishops’ guidelines for receiving Communion state,
"We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Communion,
we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family."
Because they have not received
baptism, the gateway to the other sacraments, non-Christians cannot receive Communion. However, in emergency situations, they
can be received into the Church via
baptism, even if no priest is present, and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion
may bring them Communion as Viaticum.
How to receive Communion
Communion may be received either in the hand or on the tongue. Around
the year A.D. 390, Cyril of Jerusalem indicated that the early Church practiced Communion in the hand when he instructed his
audience: "Approaching, therefore, come not with thy wrists extended, or thy fingers open; but make thy left hand as if a
throne for thy right, which is on the eve of receiving the King. And having hallowed thy palm, receive the body of Christ,
saying after it, ‘Amen.’ Then after thou hast with carefulness hallowed thine eyes by the touch of the holy body,
partake thereof; giving heed lest thou lose any of it; for what thou losest is a loss to thee as it were from one of thine
own members. For tell me, if anyone gave thee gold dust, wouldst thou not with all precaution keep it fast, being on thy guard
against losing any of it, and suffering loss?" (Catechetical Lectures 23:22).
The Congregation of the Sacraments
and Divine Worship permitted the U.S. Bishops’ Conference to authorize reception of Communion in the hand on July 25,
1977, provided the local bishop implements the practice in his diocese. Once implemented, the option to receive Communion
either in the hand or on the tongue always remains with the communicant. No priest, deacon, acolyte, or extraordinary minister
of Holy Communion may refuse a communicant Communion on the tongue. Likewise, once the local bishop has introduced Communion
in the hand, none may refuse a communicant Communion in the hand (except when Communion is being given by intinction, in which
case it must be given on the tongue).
Finally, after you have received Communion, it is appropriate to stay after
Mass and thank Jesus for coming to you in the Holy Eucharist. The Church mandates that: "The faithful are to be recommended
not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence,
with a hymn, psalm or other song of praise, or also after the celebration, if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable
time" (Inaestimabile Donum 17).
After receiving Jesus into one’s own body and being drawn more closely
into his, how could one do any less?
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of
doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego,
August 10, 2004
How my faith shapes the way I live my life...
ALL THESE LINKS BELOW COMES FROM THE GREAT ~SCOTT HAHN~PhD
Dr.Scott Hahn Bible Studies on audio/video cassettes are made available
by St.Joseph's Communications (http://www.saintjoe.com)
This year, as announced by Pope John Paul II, is the Year of the Eucharist
. This Year of the
Eucharist is an extraordinary opportunity for the church to explore for an entire year the meaning behind the Holy Eucharist,
the source and summit of our faith.
Recent studies have shown
that, even among Catholics, there exists a great degree of confusion over what the Eucharist is and to what degree it is important.
The Second Vatican Council—and
indeed all of the popes of the 20th century—have worked tirelessly to clear up the confusion by providing
teachings to help Catholics and non-Catholic Christians to not only understand the Eucharist better, but to derive much greater
benefit from it.
In honor of Pope John Paul
II's Year of the Eucharist, the Crossroads Initiative has assembled many written resources to make available to you in our This includes Church documents on the Eucharist, eucharistic teaching of the Fathers and Doctors
of the Church, plus some contemporary articles on the Mass.
But in light of John Paul
II’s proclamation and Pope Benedict XVI's confirmation of a year of the Eucharist lasting October 2005, I thought it
appropriate to create some new audio-visual resources that would make the life-changing teaching
of Scripture and Tradition accessible to Catholics and non-Catholics, to adults and teens, to the theologically literate and
beginners alike. Hence the four-part, faith formation series called the Feast of Faith whose components are listed below. There are four talks that make up this special Year of the Eucharist series, available as videos
or audios, which, along with the accompanying study guide, seek to address four questions that have been put to me again and
again over the years:
- What does the Catholic Church mean when it calls the Mass a “sacrifice”?
- What does the Catholic Church believe about the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist?
- How can busy, active people get more out of their experience of Mass despite internal distractions, mediocre
music, and deficient preaching?
- Does Eucharistic adoration have any place in the post-Vatican II church?
In addition to our own resources, we've also decided to make available the book of my friend and colleague,
Dr. Scott Hahn, entitled the Lamb's Supper, which brings out the fascinating connections of the
Mass of the Roman Rite with the last book of the Bible, Revelation. And then, of course, there is the wonderful resources
of Fr. Benedict Groeschel on Eucharistic Adoration.
The Eucharist is truly a feast! Yet many
Catholics in the Western world look spiritually anemic. My prayer is that these Year of the Eucharist resources will
help move, during this special year, the weekly experience of the Eucharist more and more in the direction of becoming a life-changing
encounter with the Risen Lord. I am convinced that more effective assimilation of the rich nourishment provided in each
and every Mass is the key to a more vital, energetic and effective Christianity
AND ALL OTHER THINGS WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU
IN AN AGE
OF UNCERTAINTY, people seek a firm foundation, something solid. For example, we all know people with financial or job problems,
or quite possibly we've experienced them ourselves. What does our Savior have to say about such matters? "Therefore I tell
you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear...Your heavenly Father
knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom [of God], and His righteousness, and all other things will be given
to you as well." (Mt. 6:25,32-33).
Some may think this conflicts with Jesus' saying: "the
poor you will always have with you..." (Mt. 26:11), but does it? As we learn more about His Kingdom
and Ways, we will find out.
God's Word tells us that "...man is unstable in all his ways." because we can be "of two
minds" (Jas. 1:8). Sometimes we secretly or openly question what God has revealed to man. For instance,
Scripture says we are "blessed" by "children" who "are a gift from the Lord...a reward." (Ps. 128:4; 127:3-5;
cf. 115:14; 144:12; Prov. 17:6). But today, people with economic problems, time pressures or other concerns, think
that 'God didn't have this age' or 'us specifically' in mind when it comes to having more children. Man's reasoning may be:
isn't there global over-population as it is? Certainly, the popular media would lead us to think so, as do many politicians,
bureaucrats and 'think tank' officials. Yet God says: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."
(Prov. 3:5). We can trust God! Let's consider some facts, to shed more light on these Biblical
"Blessed are You, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given
and human hands have made. By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the Divinity of Christ, Who humbled
Himself to share in our humanity. Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become for us our spiritual drink. "