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June 16, 2010
Reminders on how to receive holy Communion
By Roxanne King
The solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (also called Corpus Christi, Latin for “the body of Christ”) commemorates the institution of the Eucharist. In honor of the feast, which was observed June 6, Deacon Charles Parker, director of the Denver Archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy spoke with the Denver Catholic Register about the proper reception of holy Communion.
Register: Why did you want to remind people about how to receive holy Communion at Mass?
Deacon Parker: We all can become somewhat lax at times or routine, so it’s good to reflect on our liturgical practice. And Corpus Christi lends itself for reflection upon how we receive the body and blood of Christ at Mass.
Register: What is the first thing you would like to remind people about?
Deacon Parker: That there is still a one-hour fast (of food and drink) before the reception of holy Communion. Canon law says the fast is an hour before the reception of holy Communion, it doesn’t say an hour before Mass. Water and medications don’t count. So for those who are elderly or infirm and who need medication or who have health issues such as diabetes and need food for blood-sugar level reasons, it doesn’t apply. But for the vast majority, the one-hour fast is required.
Register: What about chewing gum?
Deacon Parker: I still receive concern regularly from parishes about how to get people to stop coming to Mass chewing gum. That’s inappropriate regarding the fast and not appropriate within the house of God.
Register: What would you like to say about how to receive the Eucharist?
Deacon Parker: The way we receive holy Communion tells much about what we believe we are doing. It is the communicant’s preference whether to receive on the tongue or in the hand. When we receive holy Communion in the hand, the Fathers of the Church say we should present our hands like a throne to receive a king. Generally, we place one hand underneath the other to receive the Eucharist and we use the bottom hand to pick it up from our top hand and place it in our mouth. In addition, both the precious body and the precious blood require a bow of reverence prior to the reception. That’s the act of reverence the bishops of the United States have dictated for the reception of holy Communion—not a genuflection not receiving kneeling, but a bow.
Register: What else would you like to say about how to receive holy Communion?
Deacon Parker: As people approach the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of holy Communion, one ought to be clear about how they want to receive—hands out as a throne if they want to receive in the hand; if receiving on the tongue, hands folded in prayer, mouth open. If receiving in the hand, one should immediately place it in one’s mouth and consume it entirely. It’s never taken back to the pew or partially consumed.
Register: What is the proper response when receiving holy Communion?
Deacon Parker: When the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of holy Communion say, “The body of Christ” or “The blood of Christ,” our response should be a resounding “Amen.” Not “Yes I am,” not “Thanks be to God,” but “Amen,” which is an affirmation of what we’re receiving.
Register: What about ordained and extraordinary ministers of Eucharist giving blessings to those who cannot receive holy Communion?
Deacon Parker: Those who aren’t able to receive the precious body and the precious blood but who choose to come forward in the Communion line with hands folded over their chest may receive a spiritual invitation from the priest , deacon or extraordinary minister of the Eucharist such as, “Receive the Lord Jesus in your heart.” To a child, it’s important to make eye contact and say something age appropriate, like “Jesus loves you.” A child or adult who cannot receive but who comes forward should never be not acknowledged—they must be acknowledged with an age appropriate spiritual invitation. However, the lay minister, priest or deacon should not be giving blessings—no Sign of the Cross over them or touching their foreheads. We forget that we all get blessed at the conclusion of the liturgy, that’s the place for “the blessing.”
Register: Is there anything you’d like to say about proper Mass attire?
Deacon Parker: People need to be cognizant of what they wear to Mass. How we dress says a lot about what we believe we’re participating in. The Mass, the theater and Rockies games are distinct events and you wouldn’t wear the same attire to all three events. Certainly during the hot days of summer people dress with the weather in mind, but modesty ought to be our guiding principle.
Register: How many times a day can a person receive the Eucharist?
Deacon Parker: You may receive holy Communion at two Masses on any given day. That’s a canon law.