Protocols for Receiving Holy Communion
Every important occasion carries with it clear expectations about how things are to be done and how people are to conduct themselves on those occasions (Think about what would be expected if you were meeting the Pope or the President or even just consider all the etiquette books that have been published about weddings!). The same is especially true for what we Catholics consider to be one of the most important occasions of all: receiving our Lord in Holy Communion. There are things to be said and done in certain prescribed ways for the sake of good order and reverence and to express our unity as we receive the Sacrament of Unity.
SIGN OF REVERENCE
Each communicant is to make a sign of reverence before receiving the Host and/or the Precious Blood. In the United States, that gesture is to be a bow. For the sake of keeping the communion line flowing smoothly, you should make your bow just as the person in front of you is receiving.
FOR ALL COMMUNICANTS
As you are about to receive the Host or the Precious Blood, the Minister of Communion will say “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ.” The correct response is simply “Amen.” The word “Amen” is prescribed because it expresses many layers of theological meaning contained in this brief ritual dialogue. No other response should be used (for example: “I believe” or “My Lord and my God”). It is particularly inappropriate to respond with “Thank You” or some other form of secular or seasonal greeting (“Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter”).
RECEIVING THE HOST IN THE HAND
The proper way to receive the Host in the hand is to place one hand flat on top of the other so that the open palm is facing upward. Saint John Chrysostom described this beautiful gesture as making of your hands a throne for the King of Kings.
In order to indicate clearly that you intend to receive in your hands, you should have your hands in this position already when you approach the Minister of Communion and not wait until after the dialogue “The Body of Christ” / “Amen.” It is not appropriate to receive the Host by taking it with two fingers (as if “plucking” or “pinching”) from the Minister of Communion.
Once the Minister of Communion has placed the Host onto your palm, step to the side and consume it immediately by taking it with the fingers of the lower hand and placing the Host in your mouth. It is not appropriate to take the Host with your mouth directly from your open palm.
RECEIVING FROM THE CUP
The procedure is similar to that of receiving the Host: as you approach the Minister of the Cup, bow as a sign of reverence. The Minister will say “The Blood of Christ” and you are to answer “Amen.” Take the cup in your own hands; take a small sip of the Precious Blood and then slowly and carefully return the cup to the Minister. Avoid quick sudden movements with the cup so as not to spill any of the Precious Blood.
RECEIVING BY INTINCTION
There is a serious concern about the increasing number of people who try to receive communion from the cup by “self-intinction,” which means taking their own host and dipping it into the Precious Blood before consuming it. The physical act of Communion is always to be that of “receiving” as a sign of humility in accepting the Gift of the Eucharist; self-intinction implies, by contrast, a “taking” for oneself. Therefore… WRONG!
In the Catholic Church’s protocols for Holy Communion, self-intinction is considered highly improper and is not to be done.
The proper way to receive communion under two kinds without actually drinking from the cup is as follows:
1. Upon approaching the minister of the Precious Blood, the communicant will carefully present his/her Host to the minister.
2. The minister will take the Host and carefully dip the Host just slightly into the Precious Blood.
3. Holding the intincted Host above the cup, the minister will say “The Body and Blood of Christ,” to which the communicant will respond “Amen.”
4. The minister will then place the intincted Host on the TONGUE of the communicant. The communicant may NOT receive the intincted Host by hand.
FOR EVERYONE Our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ is the sign of our unity with Christ and the Church. We express that unity in many ways during the actual reception of Communion. One of the most important ways to express that unity, in addition to the postures, gestures and spoken dialogues described above, is that we join our voices in the Communion Song. Please take your hymnal and join along in the singing while everyone is receiving communion. The proper time for your own silent, private prayer of thanksgiving is AFTER everyone has received communion and the singing has concluded.