18. Reception of Holy Communion at Mass
Most of us understand the Church’s teaching regarding preparation for sharing in Holy Communion
We remember that we are to fast from solid food for one hour prior to
receiving Holy Eucharist to ready ourselves to be fed. We also
understand that we must be in union with Christ and his Church to
receive Holy Eucharist. This means that we must be baptized into the
Catholic Church and not be in a state of serious sin. Those conscious of
serious sin should seek the sacrament of Reconciliation to prepare
worthily for Holy Communion.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, in his pastoral letter Guide to the Assembly
puts it well: “Before coming forward we say, ‘Lord, I am not worthy.’
We are never worthy of this table, for it is God’s grace and gift. Yet
we do come forward. This is food for the journey that we began at
baptism. We may eat of it when we are tired, when we are discouraged,
even when we have failed. But not when we have forgotten the church,
forgotten the way we began at the font; not when we have abandoned our
struggle against evil and remain unrepentant for having done so. Let us
examine our lives honestly each time before approaching the Eucharist.
Worthy, none of us ever is, but properly prepared each one must be.
Christ, present in the Eucharist and in us, calls us to be a holy
communion, to grow in love and holiness for one another’s sake.”
When we come forward to share the Holy Eucharist, we come in procession,
as the Body of Christ. We come as a pilgrim Church, the body of those
who believe in Christ, on their way to the heavenly Jerusalem. In fact,
each time we move forward together to receive the Body and Blood of the
Lord, we join the countless number of all the baptized who have gone
before us, our loved ones, saints throughout the ages, pilgrims and
The singing of the Communion song supports us in our unity in Christ.
For some, however, the singing of this song is perceived as an intrusion
on their own prayer. In fact, however, this song is prayer, the
corporate thanksgiving prayer of the members of the Body of Christ
united with one another in the Lord. Over and over again the prayers of
the liturgy and the norms of the GIRM emphasize this fundamental
theology of the unity of the baptized, stressing that when we come
together to participate in the Eucharistic celebration we come, not as
individuals, but as united members of Christ’s body.
It may be difficult for some of us to embrace this emphasis on Mass as
the action of a community rather than an individual act of my own faith
and piety, but it is important that we make every effort to do so. This
may be part of the self-sacrifice to which some of us are called. At
liturgy we sacrifice our individual preferences for the good of the
whole community which is the Church.