19. The Posture and Gesture of Reverence for Holy Communion
Standing for Holy Communion, an ancient
practice in the Eastern and Western Church, was restored in the
liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Just as we stand in reverence and joy
to receive the Word of God proclaimed in the Gospel, so we stand in
reverence and joy to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy
The revised GIRM
permits the bishops of each country to choose the posture appropriate
for the reception of communion. The bishops of the United States have
retained the ancient posture of standing as the posture for receiving
Holy Communion. It is not in accord with the GIRM
to genuflect or kneel. “The norm for the reception of Holy Communion
in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should
not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances
should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper
catechesis on the reasons for this norm” (GIRM
no. 160). In addition, the U.S. bishops have added a simple bow of the
head as an additional sign of reverence before receiving the Sacred
Body and again before receiving the Precious Blood. This bow should not
delay the distribution of Holy Communion.
So as we come forward, the minister of communion says, “The Body of
Christ,” we bow our head, and respond with our strong “Amen.” * We then
process to the sacred cup where we repeat our gesture and response.
While we receive our Lord, whole and entire, whether we eat his body or
drink his blood, “…sharing in both Eucharistic species reflects more
fully the sacred realities that the Liturgy signifies” (U.S. Norms no. 11).
The revised GIRM retains the choice of the
communicant to receive the Body of Christ in the hand or on the tongue.
This is the choice of the communicant, and not of the minister.
When receiving communion in the hand, we place one hand, palm up on top
of the other hand, creating a throne for Christ. We then step to the
side and place the host in our mouth and consume it. It is not lawful
for the communicant to hold the host in one’s hand and wait to consume
it until returning to the pew. It is also not lawful for the communicant
to dip the consecrated host into the Precious Blood him or herself.
When receiving the Precious Blood, after the bow of the head and the
response of “Amen” the communicant takes the cup of the Precious Blood,
drinks from it, and returns it to the minister who wipes the outside
and inside of the rim of the cup with a purificator and turns the cup a
quarter turn to prepare for the next communicant.
Processing, singing, standing, bowing the head, making a throne for
Christ, eating and drinking – these are the postures, gestures and
actions which embody the community’s celebration of Holy Communion.
*This order is the pratice at Holy Trnity. Others may bow prior to the Minister of communion saying, "Body of Christ."