A practical guide to receiving Holy Communion.
Have you ever wondered how you can experience God’s love and blessings more fully? As parents and adults in faith we are called to set an example for our children and others so they may learn the proper behaviour in church and learn to give proper reverence to the Lord. Sometimes when we are so used to doing something it becomes ritualistic and we show less enthusiasm in our actions. Here are a few suggestions on how we can experience our communion more profoundly:
While in communion line take consciousness that you are about to meet Jesus in the most powerful way. In receiving communion you are receiving the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, His full presence. An ancient prayer that comes to us from Thomas the Apostle is to say right before communion: “My Lord and My God.” The way we receive communion is important as well. It is suggested that we do a slight bow before coming up to the priest. After the priest says “The Body of Christ,” we say “Amen.” This does two things, first it is a statement that you believe that the Eucharist is the true body of Christ, for “Amen” means “so be it, or I believe.” Secondly it is a way for you to let the priest know that you are Catholic and that you have the right to receive.
Once in front of the priest, the traditional way to receive Holy Communion is on the tongue. If this is your usual way to receive, make sure you stick your tongue out just enough to receive well the host from the priest. Priest do not enjoy sticking their fingers in peoples mouth, and want to avoid as far as possible dropping the host on the floor. Receiving on the tongue can be very reverential, but it can be difficult and unhygienic as well. If you have a cold it is preferable to receive in the hand. (Please don't bite the priests finger.)
Receiving Holy Communion in the hand can be just as reverential as on the tongue. It all depends on how we approach this sacred moment. If we do not leave our things in our pews and our hands are filled with things we brought to church, such as our coats, purses, bags, books, etc... even when carrying up small children it is preferable to receive on the tongue. There is a danger that the host may be dropped or crushed while trying to manoeuver everything we brought with us to put the host in ones mouth.
The best and most reverent way to receive Holy Communion in the hand is to make sure both hands are free. We never “take” communion, we always “receive” communion, for this is Christ’s body “given” for you. One never takes what is given but receives what is given. To receive well then, one hand should be presented to the priest or Eucharistic minister palm face up, and the other hand underneath it, palm also face up. As you present your hands thus you are called to see your hands as a throne or altar for God who is to be placed there. Allow the priest to deposit the Eucharist in the hand. With your free hand from underneath take the host that was given to you and gently put it in your mouth. This shows great reverence and love for the Eucharist one is receiving. Presenting one hand and then throwing the host in your mouth with the same hand does not show proper etiquette, nor does trying to snatch the host out of the priest’s hand. Most priest find this rude.
Understanding what we are doing of course helps us to know how we should behave and allows us to get the most out of what we are called to experience at mass. Realizing that God is fully present as we come to hear his word and celebrate his sacrifice of the mass we can open our hearts and lives to the loving relationship God wants to have with us. Just as in every relationship we are called to learn how to treat each other with proper social etiquette, we too are called to learn how put ourselves in God’s presence and how to receive our Lord with dignity, love and devotion.
Yours in Christ
Fr. Stephen Otvos
Posted on Wednesday January 13 2010
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