Catholics believe the Eucharist, or Communion, is both a sacrifice and a meal. We believe in the real presence of Jesus, who died for our sins. As we receive Christ's Body and Blood, we also are nourished spiritually and brought closer to God
Holy Communion is the receiving of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
(a) Just as it is necessary to nourish our bodies with material food, so also it is necessary to nourish our souls with spiritual food. Our Divine Savior so loved us that He gave us Himself in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; He gave us His own body and blood as food for our souls.
(b) It is not necessary that we receive Our Lord's body and blood under the appearances of both bread and wine. Christ is entirely present under the appearances of bread, and also entirely present under the appearances of wine. Therefore, we receive Him whole and entire under the appearances of bread alone or of wine alone.
(c) In some Eastern Churches the faithful receive Holy Communion under the appearances of both bread and wine. In the Western Church the faithful receive Communion most commonly under the appearances of bread, with the Precious Blood generally reserved by law to special feasts or other particular circumstances.
What is necessary to receive Holy Communion worthily?
To receive Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, to have a right intention and to obey the Church's laws on the fast required before Holy Communion out of reverence for the body and blood of Our Divine Lord. However, these are some cases in which Holy Communion may be received without fasting.
(a) Venial sin does not make us unworthy of receiving Holy Communion; but it does prevent us from receiving the more abundant graces and blessings which we would otherwise receive from Holy Communion.
Does he who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receive the body and blood of Christ and His graces?
He who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but he does not receive His graces and commits a grave sin of sacrilege.
(a) To receive Holy Communion unworthily is a serious abuse of the sacred body and blood of the Lord, and therefore a sacrilege.
What should we do to receive more abundantly the graces of Holy Communion?
To receive more abundantly the graces of Holy Communion we should strive to be most fervent and to free ourselves from deliberate venial sin.
What are the current rules for fasting before Holy Communion?
(a) For many centuries the Church commanded a strict fast from midnight before one could receive Holy Communion. However, in the 1950's Pope Pius XII introduced a much more lenient form of fasting before Holy Communion in order to give Catholics an opportunity to receive Holy Communion more frequently.
(b) Pope Pius XII also allowed the celebration of afternoon and evening Masses every day, when the spiritual good of a considerable number of the faithful requires it. It is the right of the bishop of each diocese to decide when such Masses may be offered in his diocese.
(c) Paul VI further reduced the fasting requirement after the Second Vatican Council, requiring only a one hour fast from all food and drink (excluding water). This may be reduced to 15 minutes for those who are sick or for other important reasons. This is the practice currently in force.
When may Holy Communion be received without fasting?
Holy Communion may be received without fasting when one is in danger of death, or when it is necessary to save the Blessed Sacrament from insult or injury.
(a) Ordinarily the danger of death comes from sickness or injury. But it is not necessary that a person be in danger of death from sickness in order to receive Holy Communion without fasting. The danger of death may come from some other cause. A soldier, for example, who is about to go into battle or a person about to be executed may receive Holy Communion without fasting.
How should we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion?
We should prepare ourselves for Holy Communion by thinking of Our Divine Redeemer whom we are about to receive, and by making fervent acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition.
(a) We should be neat, clean, and modest in our appearance, and respectful and reverent in our manner.
(b) Each time we receive Holy Communion we should try to be as devout and fervent as if it were the only Communion of our lives.
What should we do after Holy Communion?
After Holy Communion we should spend some time adoring Our Lord, thanking Him, renewing our promises of love and of obedience to Him, and asking Him for blessings for ourselves and others.
What are the chief effects of a worthy Holy Communion?
The chief effects of a worthy Holy Communion are:
- first, a closer union with Our Lord and a more fervent
love of God and of our neighbor;
- second, an increase of sanctifying grace;
- third, preservation from mortal sin the and remission of venial sin;
- fouth, the lessening of our inclinations to sin and the help to practice good works.
When are we obliged to receive Holy Communion?
We are obliged to receive Holy Communion during Easter time each year and when in danger of death.
Why is it well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily?
It is well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily, because this intimate union with Jesus Christ, the Source of all holiness and the Giver of all graces, is the greatest aid to holy life.
How should we show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist?
We should show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist, by visiting Him often, by reverence in church, by assisting every day at Mass when this is possible, by attending parish devotions, and by being present at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
(a) Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a ceremony in which the sacred host is exposed for a time on the altar, usually in the monstrance. During Benediction the priest blesses the people with the sacred host.
(b) The monstrance, or ostensorium, is a large vessel in which the host is exposed to view through a glass-covered opening in the center.
(c) The long cloak-like vestment worn by the priest at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is called a cope. The humeral veil is placed over the priest's shoulders before he gives the blessing.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
While Catholics in the West today normally make their First Communion before they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the reception of Christ's Body and Blood, was historically the third of the three sacraments of initiation. This sacrament is the source of great graces that sanctify us and help us grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Holy Communion: Our Life in Christ
The Sacrament of Holy Communion is the third of the Sacraments of Initiation. Even though we are required to receive Communion at least once per year (our Easter Duty), and the Church urges us to receive Communion frequently (even daily, if possible), it is called a sacrament of initiation because, like Baptism and Confirmation, it brings us into the fullness of our life in Christ.
In Holy Communion, we are eating the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, without which "you shall not have life in you" (John 6:53).
Preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Communion
Because of the intimate connection of the Sacrament of Holy Communion to our life in Christ, we must be free of any grave or mortal sin before receiving it, as St. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29. Otherwise, as he warns, we receive the sacrament unworthily, and we "eateth and drinketh damnation" to ourselves.
If we are aware of having committed a mortal sin, we must participate in the Sacrament of Confession first. The Church sees the two sacraments as connected, and urges us, when we can, to join frequent Confession with frequent Communion.
Making a Spiritual Communion
If we cannot receive Holy Communion physically, either because we cannot make it to Mass or because we need to go to Confession first, we can pray an Act of Spiritual Communion, in which we express our desire to be united with Christ and ask Him to come into our soul. A spiritual communion is not sacramental, but prayed devoutly, it can be a source of grace that can strengthen us until we can receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion once again.
The Effects of the Sacrament of Holy Communion
Receiving Holy Communion worthily brings us graces that affect us both spiritually and physically. Spiritually, our souls become more united to Christ, both through the graces we receive and through the change in our actions that those graces effect. Frequent Communion increases our love for God and for our neighbor, which expresses itself in action, which makes us more like Christ.
Physically, frequent Communion relieves us of our passions. Priests and other spiritual directors who counsel those who are struggling with passions, especially sexual sins, often urge frequent reception not only of the Sacrament of Confession but of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. By receiving Christ's Body and Blood, our own bodies are sanctified, and we grow in our likeness to Christ. In fact, as Fr. John Hardon points out in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, the Church teaches that "A final effect of Communion is to remove the personal guilt of venial sins, and the temporal [earthly and purgatorial] punishment due to forgiven sins, whether venial or mortal."Information courtesy of About.com Catholicism – The Sacrament of Holy Communion by Scot P. Richert