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Regarding reception of both species

Deacon Owen Cummings


Q — We are often told that receiving under both species is not necessary. However, Jesus thought it important for His apostles to do so and He specified that we should eat His body and drink His blood. At Mass, the priest always receives both; shouldn’t it be offered to everyone?

A — A fine question! Before going any further, let me just say this: it is the firm and constant teaching of the church that to receive the Lord under either or both species in Holy Communion is to receive the Lord. That is basic and fundamental, but now down to the details of your question. You can come at the answer basically in two ways — theologically and canonically. Theologically, you have answered the question yourself. Our Blessed Lord’s invitation was to eat and to drink in memory of him. Through that eating and drinking we are invited more fully, or more mystagogically into the reality of the Lord’s Body and, therefore, into the reality of the Trinitarian Communion. Canonically, the church has legislated the reception of Holy Communion under both species. In the “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America” our bishops have offered us guidelines, but, before laying down these norms, the bishops provide us with a brief eucharistic theology/catechesis which is worth reading and pondering carefully.

Here I shall simply reproduce the bishops’ norms with just a few adaptations so that the full position may be more briefly but adequately represented:

“19. In 1963, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council authorized the extension of the faculty for Holy Communion under both kinds in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

20. The Council’s decision to restore Holy Communion under both kinds at the bishop’s discretion took expression in the first edition of the Roman Missal and enjoys an even more generous application in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal.

Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds…

23. The revised Roman Missal, third typical edition, significantly expands those opportunities when Holy Communion may be offered under both kinds. In addition to those instances specified by individual ritual books, the General Instruction states that Communion under both kinds may be permitted as follows:

a. for Priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate

b. for the Deacon and others who perform some duty at Mass

c. members of communities at the Conventual Mass or the “community” Mass, along with seminarians, and all those engaged in a retreat or taking part in a spiritual or pastoral gathering.

24. The General Instruction then indicates that the diocesan bishop may lay down norms for the distribution of Communion under both kinds for his own diocese, which must be observed. . . . The diocesan bishop also has the faculty to allow Communion under both kinds, whenever it seems appropriate to the priest to whom charge of a given community has been entrusted as [its] own pastor, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of the profanation of the Sacrament or that the rite would be difficult to carry out on account of the number of participants or for some other reason.”

I hope this statement will be helpful. In most places most of the time it seems to me that receiving Holy Communion under both species is usually what happens.





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