Our occasional Catholic Q & A series gets underway with a question from one Life At 25 reader about what might be the proper way to receive Holy Communion under both kinds (both the Body and the Precious Blood of Christ).
How is one supposed to get the Host consumed before reaching the chalice? Must the Host be completely clear of my mouth before receiving the chalice [cup]?
If any of our liturgical experts want to chime in on this one, I welcome that. Indeed, I am going to forward your question and my answer to Father Randy Stice, our diocesan liturgist, in case I’m wrong. Any corrections will be printed here. The short answer to the question is that it does not appear necessary for the Host to be completely clear of the mouth before receiving the Precious Blood. I’ve searched from Rome to Rutledge for any specific ecclesiastical law or liturgical norms regarding whether the Host must be completely clear of the mouth when the Precious Blood is consumed and I can’t find any. If my query to Those With More Liturgical Knowledge yields a similar result, it might be safe to deduce that Holy Mother Church understands that when we “take and eat” (Mt. 26:26) Our Lord, we might not have completely swallowed when we “take and drink” (Mt. 26:27-28) Our Lord, depending on when we approach the Minister of the chalice in relation to when we received the sacred Host.
The issue of receiving Holy Communion under one kind as well as both kinds (Body and Blood) should perhaps be discussed here. The diocesan bishop ultimately has the say within his area of jurisdiction as to how and whether Communion Under Both Kinds may be distributed in his diocese. The USCCB’s Norms for the Distribution of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds states clearly in (24):
Norms established by the Diocesan Bishop must be observed wherever the Eucharist is celebrated in the diocese, “which are also to be observed in churches of religious and at celebrations with small groups.”
This is a quote from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal 283. GIRM 284 says, in part:
Any of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion under the species of bread alone should be given Communion in this form.
That’s because to receive Holy Communion under either species is fully valid, and someone doesn’t have to have received under both kinds in order to have received perfectly licit and valid Holy Communion. The Church clearly teaches that the “whole and entire” Christ is received under either or both kinds. The Council of Trent said in Session 21, Canon 3:
If anyone denies that Christ, the fountain and author of all graces, is received whole and entire under the one species of bread, because, as some falsely assert, He is not received in accordance with the institution of Christ under both species, let him be anathema (condemned).
We aren’t in the business of condemning on this weblog, but that kind of serious language basically means that the Church says, by golly, that receiving Holy Communion under either kind is receiving Jesus whole and entire in the Eucharist, and no one should tell you any different. Communion under both kinds is a real blessing, and it helps us to participate in the Eucharist in the way that Jesus and the apostles did. GIRM 281 says:
“Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Kingdom of the Father.”
There are good reasons why someone might not receive Holy Communion under both kinds, however. Some people are recovering alcoholics and may have problems receiving the cup for that reason. Other people may be sick and ought not take the cup if they can avoid it. Still others might have an allergy or a sensitivity to gluten and should only receive the Precious Blood. In some places, the financial resources of the parish might not permit having large amounts of wine around, so the priest(s) may choose to ordinarily consecrate only enough for them to consume, which is the minimum that the Church requires. In some Central American countries wine can be a great expense, and I’ve been told that this is common in some places there. One of my former parishes in Ohio was a beautiful old parish church, but it was located in what had become quite an impoverished area over the years. Communion was only given in both kinds there on Holy Thursday and other major Holy Days and feasts.
You’ve said we can submit question for Dioknox Catholic Q & A via the comment box and via e-mail. Can we also contact you with questions via Facebook?
If you are already on my Facebook friends list, or you want to contact me via the Diocese of Knoxville’s independent Facebook group with a private message question, you are more than welcome to do so. I pray that the answers were helpful and a blessing. Remember, God loves you, and so do we.