We should receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist with the faith and love of a child. Children receiving Holy Communion ought to think of themselves approaching to take the Child Jesus from the arms of our Blessed Mother. With how much love and adoration, with what joy we should receive Jesus into our arms, if the Blessed Virgin should appear before us to give Him to us! Yet Holy Communion is really better than that, we not only receive Jesus into our arms, but into our very hearts.
To receive Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, and to keep the Eucharistic fast.
The first disposition is required for the soul; the second is for the body.
What we should do to comply with the required disposition for the soul:
We must be in a state of grace.
1. One who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but does not receive His graces, and commits a grave sin of sacrilege.
The first bad communion was made by Judas. He had promised to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Yet he went to the Last Supper, and received Holy Communion from the hands of Our Lord.
2. One is not required to go to confession before each communion, but only when he is conscious of grievous sin.
If he only doubts whether he committed mortal sin or not, he may still go to Holy Communion after an act of contrition.
3. If without a person's fault he forgets in confession to accuse himself of a mortal sin, it is forgiven with his other sins, and he may go to Holy Communion.
He must, however, mention the sin he forgot when he goes again to confession.
4. One who commits a mortal sin after confession and, not realizing it, goes to Holy Communion, does not make a bad communion.
One makes a bad communion only when one is certain and conscious of being in mortal sin, and still deliberately receives Holy Communion.
5. Venial sins do not and should not prevent our going to Holy Communion.
However, to receive more abundantly the graces of Holy Communion, we should strive to be most fervent, and free ourselves from deliberate venial sin.
6. Before receiving Holy Communion, we should try to have an ardent desire to be united with Christ, and arouse sentiments of faith, hope, love, and contrition.
Let us try to bring to our Eucharistic Lord some gift, however small. Let us avoid places of amusement shortly before we receive Him in Holy Communion, as a little sacrifice. Let us pray devoutly and continuously, to show Him the joy in our hearts at His coming.
What we should do to comply with the required disposition for the body:
We must keep the Eucharistic fast.
The drinking of water does not break the Eucharistic fast.
We may drink any kind of water in the ordinary sense of the word, even if there be a question of certain mineral waters to which gas has been added to create effervescence (carbonated water) or natural water that has been purified by addition of chemicals, like chlorine, fluoride, etc. Water, however, to which sugar has been added, breaks the fast.
We may drink water any time we wish, even a few moments before entering the church to prepare for Holy Communion.
Common water, as we have explained above, does not break the Eucharistic fast: we may take any amount of it and at any time. If an altar boy while serving Mass should happen to go to the sacristy after the consecration of the Mass and should drink water, he could still receive Holy Communion a few minutes later.
The time for keeping he Eucharistic fast before receiving Holy Communion, whether in the morning, afternoon, or night, is limited to three hours from solid food and alcoholic liquids, and one hour from non-alcoholic liquids. [Note, in the new rubrics it has been reduced to only a one-hour fast from everything, yet most seeking to honor Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament observe the three-hour fast for solid foods. Many Traditional Roman Catholics still observe the midnight fast in effect during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.]
Solid food is any kind of nutritive substance that does not flow, even if there is no need for mastication-like jelly, ice cream, etc.
Liquid food includes all types of beverages that are drunk in liquid form.
Alcoholic liquids are all those beverages containing any amount of alcohol, such as hard drinks, liqueurs, whisky, wine, beer, etc.
Non-alcoholic liquids may include: coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, broth, milk, milk shake, soft drinks such a coca cola and similar liquids. With these something solid may eve be mixed, like wheat meal, ground toast, or a beaten egg, provided the liquid form remains.
We must abstain from solid food and alcoholic liquids for at least three hours before Holy Communion, and from liquid food for at least one hour before Holy Communion.
The hours are to be measured, for the faithful, from the moment the last bite or drink is taken, to the moment of reception of Communion; for priests, to the beginning of Mass.
For example, if we are going to receive Communion at a Mass that begins at five o'clock in the morning or in the afternoon, we must cease eating solid food at 2:15 and drinking liquid food at 4:15, because Communion is distributed about fifteen minutes after Mass has begun.
Even when we receive Holy Communion at midnight, as on Christmas or Easter Vigil, we must keep the Eucharistic fast, abstaining three hours from solid food and alcoholic drinks, and one hour from liquid food.
The sick may take non-alcoholic liquids and medicine before Holy Communion, without any limit of time, whether this medicine be in solid or liquid form.
This rule applies to all those who are sick, no matter what the ailment may be, whether habitual, as stomach ulcers, or sudden, as a headache. It applies even though they are able to go to church to receive Holy Communion, like those suffering from asthma. Expectant mothers are in this category.
By medicine is meant any true and proper medical preparation, regardless of its composition. Therefore, even though the medicine may contain alcohol, as long as it remains medicine according to the common acceptance of the word, it may be taken by the sick without any restriction as to time, that is, even a few moments before receiving Holy Communion.
Those receiving the Holy Viaticum are not bound by the Eucharistic fast.
Devout and recollected, we should think of the Lord Whom we are receiving, and make fervent acts of virtue.
In approaching the Communion rail one should have his hands joined, and not walk too hurriedly, nor rush ahead of others, nor insert himself between two persons already kneeling close to each other at the rail.
It is very irreverent for women and girls to go to Holy Communion with sleeveless dresses, low necks, and no stockings. The paint of their lipstick may possibly touch the Sacred Host. Modesty is of the utmost importance.
When the priest approaches, one should raise his head and open his mouth, with the tongue slightly extended over the lower lip.
After Communion, he should withdraw to give room for others, and return to his place with joined hands and downcast eyes.
One should swallow the host as soon as he can. Jesus stays with us only as the appearances of bread remain.
If the host sticks to the mouth, we must on no account remove it with the finger, but moisten it with saliva, and remove it with the tongue, then swallow it.
[Note: Today it seems anything goes with recipients taking it in their hands, chewing it, what not. This has all contributed to a lesser reverence and belief in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Consider that you are a guest in the inner court of a king. Would you not dress accordingly for an earthly king? Would you not pay the utmost attention and observe the proper protocol and dignity? Why then when they are a special guests in the inner court of the King of kings do so many today treat the reception of the God of Hosts with such insignificance, such casual manner in both dress, appearance, attitude and decorum? That is a good question which was never an issue prior to the reforms of Vatican II. Food for thought in receiving the Food of Life.]
Next Issue: Graces from the Holy Eucharist
For previous installments, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Archives