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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Communion Rite – Communion
Eucharistic Prayer I describes the reception of Communion as filling us “with every grace and blessing,” and the Catechism teaches that because of this Communion is an anticipation of heavenly glory (n. 1402). It goes on to remind us that receiving Communion, “increases the communicant’s union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins” (n. 1416).
It’s very name describes its importance in the life of a believer. Through receiving Communion we strengthen our communion with God, with the saints, with our fellow Catholics, and with our fellow Christians, even when we do not share full communion with us due to the wounds and divisions in Christian unity.
When we fall out of communion, due to mortal sin, we strive to regain it as soon as possible. Even as our earthly life draws to an end we receive Communion to prepare us for the definitive journey to eternal life, the crowning moment, God-willing, of a lifetime receiving it, since the day of our first reception of Holy Communion, to help us in our journey to our true home.
“May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”
Holy Communion begins with the bishop or priest celebrating Mass, which is why music for the distribution of Communion begins as the celebrant receives it, but doesn’t end with him. In a concelebrated Mass all the bishops and priests concelebrating receive the Body of Our Lord in Holy Communion simultaneously whenever possible, and then quietly line up or await the chalice (or chalices) containing his Precious Blood.
It is a great privilege, and also a great responsibility. It is necessity that requires the celebrant to give Communion to himself. The Body and Blood of Christ are something received, and the celebrant consecrates and receives them for himself and for everyone participating. In this way the Church grows and consolidates: through Holy Communion her communion grows and deepens, continuing a sacramental communion that began on the night of the Last Supper with the Apostles. As St. John Paul II reminded us in his encyclical letter , Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “The Apostles, by accepting in the Upper Room Jesus invitation: ‘Take, eat’, ‘Drink of it, all of you’ (Matthew 26:26–27), entered for the first time into sacramental communion with him. From that time forward, until the end of the age, the Church is built up through sacramental communion with the Son of God who was sacrificed for our sake: ‘Do this in remembrance of me … Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’ (1 Corinthians 11:24–25; cf. Luke 22:19)” (n. 21).
The Apostles, their successors, and every sacred minister, even before ordination, had a moment where they received the Eucharist in Holy Communion through the mediation and ministry of another. Now the celebrant receives it for his own spiritual growth as well as that of his flock.
“May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”
As the celebrant partakes of the chalice he is completing the sacrifice of the Mass. Even in cases when the celebrant becomes incapacitated before this moment, another priest fulfills this duty, because without receiving the Body and the Blood the sacrifice is incomplete, and so is the Mass. After receiving the Precious Blood in Holy Communion the celebrant is now ready to give the Body and Blood of Christ to others.
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