How Do We Properly Receive Our Lord in Holy Communion?
It is crucial for every Catholic to know that our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially present in the Eucharist. Therefore, it is important for Catholics to know how to properly prepare to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. First, let us begin with a person’s spiritual state. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1385: “To respond to this invitation, we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: ‘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. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the Body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.’” Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.
Also in Paragraph 1457 the Catechism states: “According to the Church’s command, ‘after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation to faithfully confess serious sins at least once a year.’ Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.”
Let us now consider appropriate ways to physically receive our Lord. The U.S. Bishops determined that the faithful should bow before receiving Holy Communion as an act of reverence—preferably at the time the person immediately in front is receiving. The norm in the United States is that Holy Communion is to be received standing. However, if an individual person wishes to receive Communion while kneeling, it is perfectly licit for them to do so, and the priest should not hinder them unless there is good reason. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments states: “Hence, any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.
Furthermore, to the question of whether it is more appropriate to receive on the tongue or in the hand, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments goes on to say, “Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognition of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.”
Receiving in the hand is outside of the norm within the Roman Rite, but is allowed in the United States. Furthermore, the Precious Blood should be received standing only. It is important to note the Host MUST be consumed in the presence of the Minister. The document also states that it is illicit for the faithful to take the Host for themselves from the hands or chalice of the Minister. It is also illicit for spouses to give Communion to each other. Communion should be received individually and not as a couple or group. The Priest and when necessity calls for it, the extraordinary ministers, are the only ones allowed to distribute Holy Communion. For those who wish to receive in the hand, it would be wise to keep the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in mind: “Make your left hand like a throne to support your right hand in order to receive the Celestial King. Treat the consecrated Host with great care, ensuring that pieces do not fall on the ground, just as we would not let pieces of gold fall to the ground.”