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How do you communion?

Michele Frankeni  |  11 November 2018

For us Catholics, the Eucharist belongs to us all. The sacrament is special, but we don’t have to be special to receive it.

Holy Communion is an essential part of my Mass-going. Sundays you’ll find me in line with my hands cradled to receive the sacrament. While I’m old enough to remember kneeling at the altar rails and taking the Eucharist on the tongue I don’t remember any great joy or sadness when the rules were changed.

Now, of course, I wouldn’t want to change back. (There was a scary moment in a Fijian church when it seemed communion in the hand was not the ‘done thing’. It really was a relief to finally notice a few parishioners with their hands outstretched.)


Recently, at a mid-week Mass at a large church, I watched my fellow congregants take communion. An assortment of worshippers made their way up the aisle – business people in suits, mothers with young children in tow, elderly with canes or walkers, people wearing dresses (male and female), while others wore activewear or clothing that celebrated their ethnicity. This particular Eucharist was truly inclusive in its diversity. The majority stood in line, but one young woman knelt gracefully to receive the bread and the wine, and I thought of the hymn ‘Come as you are’.

It doesn’t matter how we come to the Eucharist, just that we come.

Pope Francis, in his Angelus address in August 2018, made this clear when he said that the Eucharist is where Christians find ‘that which spiritually feeds us and quenches our thirst today and for eternity’.


‘Every time that we participate in the Holy Mass, we hasten heaven on earth in a certain sense because from the eucharistic food – the body and blood of Christ – we learn what eternal life is.’

Earlier this year (2018) Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s most senior liturgy official, denounced communion in the hand as a ‘diabolical attack’ on reverence for the Eucharist. Cardinal Sarah’s remarks were considered by many commentators as divisive, but also ignorant of the Church’s history. They pointed to the instructions of St Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century to adult baptismal candidates to place their hands in a throne shape when going to Communion, with the right hand over the left. Communicants, St Cyril said, were encouraged to take the consecrated bread reverently into their hands.


In what was interpreted as a rejoinder to Cardinal Sarah’s remarks, Pope Francis in a catechesis on the Mass, said: ‘The Church strongly desires that the faithful also receive the Body of the Lord with consecrated hosts in the same Mass; and the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is expressed with greater fullness if Holy Communion is made in the two forms, even though Catholic doctrine teaches that one whole Christ is received in one form.’

He continued, ‘According to the ecclesial practice the faithful approach the Eucharist normally in a processional form and, standing with devotion or kneeling, as established by the Episcopal Conference, receive the sacrament in the mouth or, where permitted in the hand, as preferred. After Communion to keep the gift received in our hearts, we are helped by silence, silent prayer.’


So it doesn’t matter how we come to Communion, whether it be standing or kneeling, whether we receive the Sacrament on the tongue or in the hand, what does matter is that we come and participate with each other in the banquet of the Lord.



Topic tags: prayerliturgyandthesacraments, thecatholictradition, church-thepopleofgod

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