God's Word: Eucharist
For, from the rising of the sun even to its setting, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place, a clean oblation is being sacrificed and offered to my name. For my name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)
Now while they were eating the meal, Jesus took bread, and he blessed and broke and gave it to his disciples, and he said: “Take and eat. This is my body.” And taking the chalice, he gave thanks. And he gave it to them, saying: “Drink from this, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for many as a remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert, and they died. This is the bread which descends from heaven, so that if anyone will eat from it, he may not die. I am the living bread, who descended from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread, he shall live in eternity. And the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Therefore, the Jews debated among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And so, Jesus said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father has sent me and I live because of the Father, so also whoever eats me, the same shall live because of me. This is the bread that descends from heaven. It is not like the manna that your fathers ate, for they died. Whoever eats this bread shall live forever.” (John 6:48-59)
Now they were persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles, and in the communion of the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers. (Acts 2:42)
Then, on the first Sabbath, when we had assembled together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to set out the next day. But he prolonged his sermon into the middle of the night. (Acts 20:7)
The cup of benediction that we bless, is it not a communion in the Blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not a participation in the Body of the Lord? Through the one bread, we, though many, are one body: all of us who are partakers of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
And so, whoever eats this bread, or drinks from the cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be liable of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and, in this way, let him eat from that bread, and drink from that cup. For whoever eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks a sentence against himself, not discerning it to be the body of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)
"Take this and eat it, all of you": communion
The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."217
To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."218 Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.
Before so great a sacrament, the faithful can only echo humbly and with ardent faith the words of the Centurion: "Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea" ("Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.").219 And in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the faithful pray in the same spirit:
O Son of God, bring me into communion today with your mystical supper. I shall not tell your enemies the secret, nor kiss you with Judas' kiss. But like the good thief I cry, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church.220 Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.
It is in keeping with the very meaning of the Eucharist that the faithful, if they have the required dispositions,221 receive communion when they participate in the Mass.222 As the Second Vatican Council says: "That more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's Body from the same sacrifice, is warmly recommended."223
The Church obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days and, prepared by the sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season.224 But the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily.
Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But "the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly."225 This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.
217. Jn 6:53.
218. 1 Cor 11:27-29.
219. Roman Missal, response to the invitation to communion; cf. Mt 8:8.
220. Cf. CIC, can. 919.
221. Cf. CIC, can. 916.
222. Cf. CIC, can. 917; The faithful may receive the Holy Eucharist only a second time on the same day [CF. Pontificia Commissio Codici luris Canonici Authentice Intrepretando, Responsa ad proposita dubia, 1:AAS 76 (1984) 746].
223. SC 55.
224. OE 15; CIC, can. 920.
225. GIRM 240.