Friday, 17 December 2010

A reflection for Advent - receiving Holy Communion

My eldest brother, God rest his soul, used to tell me that he suffered intense attacks of terror on his way up to the communion rails to receive the Eucharist. Why? Because he was in apprehension of receiving physically, the body and blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, maker, redeemer and creator of all; the Supreme Spirit - God of Heaven and Earth. Put like that it is understandable that "terror" of a spiritual kind should be felt as we approach. We are in awe, we are in love but, if we are honest, we also fear the goodness, power and greatness of God. It is as if we are approaching the Beatific Vision except that the Vision is locked away from us for the time being and, in its place we have the wonder of the Host.

The Holy Father wishes communicants to kneel and receive on the tongue
Some of you will know that I occasionally serve on the altar and this is a precious privilege; but when I serve at a private Mass in Father's chapel, it takes on a more acute significance. There is no congregation and, suddenly, the intimacy of the moment is heightened. When I see the priest's host and "my" host lying side by side on the altar, I am overwhelmed by emotion - a mix again, of fear but also a number of other emotions which are really too personal to go into but, above all else is the sense that God is coming to me! Not only that, but He is within inches of me; I could reach out and touch Him, but, of course, I don't. He is there for me as an individual, and that is a very special and wondrous thing. That 'fear,' for want of a better word, heightens until the moment of receiving the host.

Sadly, at the time of the Christmas Feast when some 'Catholics' return to go to their once a year Mass, many are not in a suitable state of grace and should NOT receive - I can still hear the Dominican Nuns of Burnt Oak telling us boys that the worst sin of all was to receive Our Lord unworthily!

So here is a reminder of the conditions for receiving Holy Communion:

1. Must be in a state of grace, that is, NOT in mortal sin. If you are in a state of mortal
   sin, go to confession first.

2. Should be free from venial sin, make a good act of contrition (Confiteor) before

3. Fast from food and drink for at least one hour beforehand (or, try to fast for 3 hours
    if you are able, it is a small penance but a good one to observe).

4. Follow the Mass in your missal, or, meditate and pray if you do not have one.

5. Kneel and open your mouth widely, holding out your tomgue.

6. After reception bow your head and wait until the person on the left of you has
    received before making your way back to the pew.

7. Keep your hands clasped or in the 'Amen' position at all times.

8. Make a good act of thanksgiving - say the 'prayer before the crucifix' and gain an

Now, please do not shout at me for advocating reception on the tongue and kneeling. I know that people say you can be devout when standing and in receiving in the hand and, so you can. can be more devout when kneeling. It is also the customary practice at the Extraordinary Form of Mass so, if you attend one of those, you really must comply - it goes with the territory!
Not satisfied? OK, let's say you have been honoured with a knighthood or are going to be endowed as a Dame - do you decide to flout the protocols and stand in front of your Queen. Of course you don't - you feel very honoured and fortunate to be there and you do not wish to offend anyone on this auspicious occasion, least of all your, you kneel - and receive in accordance with the established practice.

And if you feel I am being over prescriptive then I am sorry but I do not think you can be informal in any way with regard to Holy Communion; I find people who wander aimlessly up with their hands in their pockets or flopping about by their sides intensely distracting and the sight must be offensive to Almighty God.
In fact, my brother was right, if we do feel terror it will help us to hold what we are about to take part in as something very, very special.


  1. The Brigittine sisters ALL receive on the hand & standing & are EMs for the Precious Blood..

  2. I never, ever, took communion on my hand. About kneeling, I would like to properly kneel but, as it's not possible here, I kneel just before - that makes a lot of strange looks go towards me and my girls. They do the same and the little one who is 6 and can't have communion yet, goes on my side and kneels too at the same time I do.

  3. About what Jackie said: here we have three convents near by. Most of the nuns have communion on their hand - and quite some of them don't wear the habit.

  4. Thank you, Richard, for this interesting post. I think your late brother had received a rather wonderful grace. From what I have read, many of the saints seem to have grown in a kind of fear, and also in sorrow for even the smallest of sins, the closer they grew to God. They must have been most aware of these emotions when approaching the Blessed Eucharist.

  5. The Brigittine sisters ALL receive on the hand & standing & are EMs for the Precious Blood..

    Yes Jackie - as you keep repeating ad nauseam. One group of nuns does not change the fact that since the introduction of communion in the hand, the reverence to the Eucharist has drastically decreased, while sacrileges against the Blessed Sacrament have increased.

  6. Jackie - if Christ was present in the form of man on the sanctuary, would you prefer to receive the Eucharist from Him or from a nun?
    I am sure the former would be your choice.
    My point is that the priest is our 'other Christ' and it seems pointless to receive from an EM when "Christ" is there for our benefit.