HOW TO RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION
Somebody had suggested that it may be timely to write about the proper manner of receiving Holy Communion (the holiest of all Sacraments) and its importance in reminding the people of the correct posture, hand gestures, flow of Communion line, etc.
Easily, we could list down the requisite procedures here and we are done. But rather than list a structured set of rules, it may be better to fully understand and focus on WHO we are receiving; none other than Jesus Himself.
THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY IS OUR MODEL
When Mary was conceived through the union of Her Parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, She was immaculately pure, free from the original sin caused by Adam and Eve. That is how God prepared Mary whom He chose to receive His Son in Her Womb. Mary was made pure from the very beginning and for this special reason we celebrate her Immaculate Conception every December 8th with a Solemnity, the highest form of a feast.
When the time came, Archangel Gabriel declared unto Mary that She will become the Mother of the Son of God and she responded obediently, and humbly accepted the good news. It is the Lord she will receive, nurture and raise. She believed without hesitation. She accepted without reservation. And she prepared herself well for the great honor.
If God planned and took tedious ways to prepare the woman that would carry His Son in her womb, and as Mary had humbly accepted and prepared well to worthily receive the Lord in Her Womb, how else should we receive the Lord in Holy Communion?
We take the dispositions taken by Mama Mary. She believed and humbly accepted. Faith will make us believe beyond reason, beyond logic, beyond our intelligence that it is truly Christ present in the Holy Host we are about to receive. It is the Lord! We accept the invitation to receive Jesus. Each one of us is baptized into the priesthood of Jesus and we exercise that priesthood by receiving Holy Communion. But just like Mary, we have to prepare and must ourselves be clean, body and soul, to appropriately receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
NOT “WHAT” BUT “WHO?”
Do you still remember your First Communion experience? How you were fastidiously prepared by your Religion Teacher or by the Catechist, before you received your very First Communion? Let us recall that it was emphasized on us that we would be receiving Jesus. Perhaps we were too young to understand then that it was not “What” we were receiving but really “WHO” we will be receiving.
Since we have grown accustomed to receiving bread, as something edible, the excitement and the reverence of receiving Holy Communion soon dissipates. The intensity and the reverence of the experience were no longer the same when we receive Holy Communion for the hundredth time. As a Eucharistic Minister I could no longer count the many times I saw dirty hands extended to receive the Body of the Lord or untidy hands of children with scribbles in it. Were the scribbles part of the cheating the kids did on their tests? Were they receiving the Lord on hands that helped them cheat?
Maybe it would help bring back the reverence, if we think not anymore in terms of “what we will receive” but “WHO WE WILL RECEIVE?” We must always remember that we are receiving GOD. When we receive a birthday card or a gift we are happy because we have received something. But when it is the person standing in front of us who brings his gift, the feeling of happiness is more than doubled because the person is right there in front with his presence.
More so with Holy Communion. If we stop thinking about it as an object and start thinking that it is the person of Jesus whom we will receive, then the reverence due Him is much greater. Our Communion Feast experience becomes significant, more powerful and truly awesome! Thus we are expected to be more respectful to the Body of Jesus whom we receive in Holy Communion.
COOPERATE WITH GOD'S GRACE
The preparation our Catechists and Religion teachers did for us to receive our First Holy Communion should still be the same preparation today every time we receive Communion, even if we have already received Communion a thousand times. It is the same person of Jesus. This means, when we went to Confession that time for our First Holy Communion, justice demands that we are expected and should also be cleansed of our sins by availing of the Sacrament of Confession prior to Holy Communion.
Unlike Mary who was pure from the very beginning, we are not. But we were bestowed the Sacraments. We cleanse our soul by making a good Confession before receiving Holy Communion. Though the Sacrament of Reconciliation has become unpopular nowadays, our faith, humility, and love for Christ will bring us to the confessional box. The same faith, humility and love for Christ will also lead us receive Him in Holy Communion.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, our Model did not stop at being prepared by God. She Herself made sure that She was pure and holy by COOPERATING with the GRACE of God. She had the fullness of Grace yet she continued to cooperate with the Grace of God. We too should do the same.
God gives us His grace to protect and keep us away from evil. We should cooperate with God’s Grace by not bringing ourselves into places and occasions of sins. We should cooperate with God’s grace by not entertaining dirty and lustful thoughts; and not to allow dirty and lustful thoughts to entertain us. Remember not just our First Communion was holy, all our subsequent communions MUST ALL BE HOLY too.
PHYSICAL GESTURES AND BODILY DISPOSITION
Aside from presenting ourselves in prim and proper attire at Mass, i.e. NO SHORTS, SPAGHETTI STRAPS, PLUNGING NECKLINES, we also must undergo a Eucharistic Fast an hour just before receiving Holy Communion in order to prepare our body to solely welcome Jesus. It is important to realize that we are to be receiving our Lord and God, Jesus Christ into our very own temple.
As God prepared the body of the Virgin Mary by making sure that she was full of grace and that she was spared from sin, so we, too, should prepare our bodies. When we fast for at least one hour before receiving Holy Communion we create a kind of an EMPTY SPACE for the flesh of Jesus to rest on in our stomach. We should not make Jesus, our God and Lord, wrestle with the hamburgers, banana cue and other ingested food which we just had twenty minutes prior to partaking of Holy Communion. Through this emptying act of Eucharistic Fast, we are creating a special place meant only for Jesus to be enthroned in our body.
The proper gestures of reverence and respect to be observed when receiving Holy Communion are as follows:
(a) falling in line, and
(b) being prayerful while in line,
(c) bowing our head prior to receiving the Lord
(d) sincere acknowledgment by responding "AMEN" to the words "BODY OF CHRIST"
(e) of the proper hand positions when receiving by hand of right hand over left hand (if left handed) or left hand over right (if right handed),
(f) keeping still while sticking out the tongue, when receiving by tongue, and
(g) by saying a personal thanksgiving prayer upon returning to your pew; as this will flow out naturally if we are properly disposed and truly believe in our hearts that it is Jesus whom we receive in Holy Communion.
SHARE JESUS WITH OTHERS WHOM WE HAVE RECEIVED
And just like the Blessed Mary who rejoiced and shared the good news with Her cousin Elizabeth when She received Jesus in Her Womb, we, too, should be cheerful sharers of the good news after receiving the Bread of Life.
After she said “YES” to the Angel Gabriel, how did Mary share the Jesus whom She carried in Her Womb? She went to Elizabeth to serve her and help her. She did it through silent service. She did not tell Elizabeth that She had Jesus in her. Elizabeth just knew through the sincere help Mary did. Elizabeth just knew because of the Spirit that enveloped the Blessed Mother Mary.
When we have the Holy Presence of Jesus inside us, even if we never mention it, Jesus will naturally manifest Himself through the goodness and selfless service we give to others. We need not use words, we need not preach about the Jesus whom we received in Holy Communion, it will just flow from within to show through our hearts that is full of joy.
NOEL M. DAVID