Explanation of the Mass - Liturgy of the Eucharist (Part 7)
Through a series of informational articles, we will try to explain terms, prayers, and actions that happen at Mass and why they happen. You will learn about the prayers the priest prays silently during Mass, as well as the people’s parts. References to GIRM in italics refer to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the book from which rites related to the Mass are codified. We hope this information will help to make your participation in Mass more meaningful and understandable.
GIRM 160. 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 consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.
The priest or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion raises up a host slightly and shows it to the communicant while saying, “The Body of Christ.” The communicant replies, “Amen.”
Remember that you are “receiving” Communion, not “taking” Communion. You should let the Priest or Eucharistic Minister place the host in your hand or on your tongue. Receiving the Eucharist is a gift, so you accept it reverently. St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.” Whether you use your right or left hand on top or bottom is actually a personal preference depending upon whether you are right-handed or left-handed. Just remember that you are receiving the Body of Christ. If you choose to receive the Precious Blood, the Eucharistic Minister will say, “The Blood of Christ,” to which you respond, “Amen.” The minister carefully wipes both sides of the rim of the chalice with a purificator, which is an action of both reverence and hygiene. The minister then turns the chalice slightly after each communicant has received the Precious Blood to have it ready for the next communicant.
According to GIRM, intinction, which is when the host is dipped slightly into the cup, should only be done by a priest and only if there is a Communion plate placed under the mouth of the communicant so that no part of the Precious Body or Blood is dropped. No communicant should ever self-communicate by means of intinction. That is also why you should not reach out and take the host from the minister.
People are not required to receive from the cup. When you receive the host or even a fragment thereof, you are partaking of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. Jesus is fully present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity under either the consecrated bread or the consecrated wine. Both are usually offered to the congregation as a fuller sign of the Eucharistic Lord, but it is not absolutely necessary to receive both.
GIRM 88. When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the whole congregation.
After the distribution of Communion is over, the priest purifies the sacred vessels. He prays quietly, “What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”
This is a time of quiet reflection and prayer by the communicant to give thanks to God for this great gift of communion with Him. Because you have just consumed the Body (and Blood) of Christ, Jesus is present within your body, you are in communion with God - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
GIRM 89. To bring to completion the prayer of the People of God, and also to conclude the whole Communion Rite, the Priest pronounces the Prayer after Communion, in which he prays for the fruits of the mystery just celebrated. The people make the prayer their own by means of the acclamation Amen.
In this prayer, we thank God for the gift of the Eucharist and ask for continued help.