How do you receive the Body of Christ? And I don’t just mean in your hand or on your tongue. If you’ve ever paid attention to people as they receive Communion, it seems less than half really understand what they’re doing.
In second grade, one of the things I have never forgotten was how to receive Communion. Hands folded while walking up, left hand on top of the right to receive, say “Amen,” consume the Body of Christ, make the sign of the cross, hands returned to the folded position as you reverently return to the pew. Our folded hands were to be at our waist, not hanging below in a casual manner. If we goofed up, we had to practice again. If we did it right, we had to practice again. It was a very important day and it was a very important thing we were doing. I have never forgotten that lesson.
I’m sure that my experience was not unique. I’m sure that in churches everywhere, second-graders were and are learning what an exciting and important event it is to receive Communion—the Body and Blood of Christ. So, why does it seem that somewhere along the line, we start to forget what it is we’re really doing when we walk up to the front of church? Our folded hands start to slide until they’re just swinging casually at our side as if we were just out for an evening stroll. Our “Amen” keeps getting softer until we may not even say it. How does this happen? Have we forgotten the lesson we learned in second grade, or do we not really believe that it’s Jesus we’re holding in our hand?
The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum has this to say: “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined, with its acts having received the recognition [approval] of the Apostolic See. However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms.”
What does that mean—“give due reverence”?
In Thirty Questions on the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, it says:
“Is it acceptable to genuflect before receiving Communion?
The Roman Missal directs that Bishops are to choose a sign of veneration for the faithful when they receive Holy Communion standing. While the sign of veneration chosen by the Bishops of the United States is a simple bow of head, no person should ever be denied Holy Communion because they have made a different gesture.”
Are we treating the Blessed Sacrament with respect and are we truly prepared to receive it? We need to look inside our hearts and honestly ask ourselves if we are giving “due reverence” when we receive Communion. God already knows the answer, so it’s only ourselves we’d be fooling.
If you’d like a refresher about how to appropriately receive Communion and the Eucharist in general, here are a couple of links from the USCCB’s website:
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