August 1, 2023 | Editorials and Columns
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

People process up the aisle to receive Holy Communion during Chrism Mass on April 4, 2023. RACHEL HALL | WKC

Sacrament of Unity

How to properly receive Holy Communion


The Eucharistic celebration is at the heart of our Church and the grace received flows from understanding Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. The marks, or characteristics of the Church are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. These marks flow through and from the Eucharist and, with the Eucharist being central, define for us what it means to be Church. That is why the National Eucharistic Revival has been focused on Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist: it defines who we are as Catholics.

Unity is the first mark and the subject of this article. St. Paul tells us we are individually members of one Body, that is, the Body of Christ. Paul speaks of unity in and through Christ, and it is in the liturgy, particularly the Mass, where unity of belief and unity of worship are publicly expressed.

In the liturgy there are postures, gestures, and dialogues we make together. In unison we stand together, we sit together, we kneel together, and we sing together. The same is true when receiving the Eucharist. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides the manner – which includes posture, gesture, and dialogue – for Catholics in the United States to approach and receive Communion and comprise six general steps:

  1. Posture. The norm established for dioceses in the United States is that Holy Communion is to be received standing; however, those who choose to kneel will not be denied Communion.
  2. Gesture. When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The gesture is repeated before receiving the Precious Blood.
  3. Dialogue. Before receiving Holy Communion, the minster says “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ. The communicant then responds, “Amen.”
  4. The communicant may receive the Holy Eucharist in the hand or on the tongue.

If receiving on the hand, place one hand over the other and hold your hand at an appropriate height so the minister can place the Sacred Host into your hand. Remain still until you have received the Host and consume immediately.

If receiving on the tongue, open your mouth wide enough and extend your tongue for the minister to place the Host onto your tongue. Do not move your head until the Host is placed onto the tongue.

Intinction (dipping Host in chalice) is not permitted.

  1. According to St. Augustine, “the one who sings prays twice.” The Communion song expresses the unity of the Body of Christ and affirms our oneness in belief. So, let’s sing!
  2. After everyone has received Communion, the Church calls for a brief period of sacred silence to offer thanksgiving to God.

Unity of worship expressed in the liturgy culminates in reverent reception of the Eucharist. During Communion we unite ourselves with Him, with our neighbor, and provide witness to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Unity, the Eucharist.

Fr. Brandon Williams, co-coordinator of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Office of Worship, gives Holy Communion to Danny May, director of the diocese’s Office of Marriage and Family Life, during Chrism Mass on April 4, 2023. RILEY GREIF | WKC

Deacon Ken Bennett is the co-coordinator of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Owensboro. Contact him at [email protected].

Originally printed in the August 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
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