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Reception of the Precious Blood

4/2/23 | Church Articles | by Fr. Dennis Saran

    As we move toward reinstituting the Precious Blood for weekend Masses, I have been asked to offer some preparation and insights into questions being asked about receiving communion. I wish to be honest and clear about a few things.

    The fullness of communion is received in either form. Over the last three years, the cup has been prohibited because we didn’t know the extent of COVID, neither its mode of transmission nor its virulence. The progression of the pandemic and circumstances that have caused a better understanding of the virus has prompted the archbishop to allow for the reinstitution of the cup, the reception of which was always voluntary. For many, reception in both forms has been seriously missed. Others, despite the transmission of the virus through the reception of the cup being small, will continue to choose full communion from the host alone. WE must respect each choice.

    We will begin to offer the cup with the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday and will continue at all weekend Masses afterward. We do not know how well this will be received, so please be patient and understanding during these first few weeks if we should run out. We will adapt according to the response.

    Can you just dip the host in the cup? This is called ‘intinction’ and is prohibited in the United States. The theology around communion is that it is given to you, not taken by you. It is the ordained who are to offer this communion, with designated Eucharistic Ministers to assist if necessary. Intinction, in its proper form, would involve the priest, deacon, or Eucharist Minister dipping the host into the chalice and then giving both on the tongue. With the advent of the pandemic, this may be re-discussed by the U. S. Bishops in the future, but for now, it is not allowed.

    Can we hand out individual, little cups like Protestants do? The Catholic Church is very particular when it comes to the Eucharist as it was handed down to us. Jesus said, “Take and eat” and “Take and drink,” both coming from the common bread and common cup. The Church, realizing the gift of himself that we have been given, has strived to “do this in Memory of me,” to its exact instructions. That is why we symbolically have a large host that the priest breaks and offers for distribution. It is the same with the offering of the common cup. Now for practical reasons, we don’t all consume from this one large loaf nor do we drink from one giant cup. Many Protestant faiths do not appreciate that the Eucharist is actually THE Body and Blood of Jesus, and so have devised permutations to this “supper.” It has been this way since the beginning of our faith, and although the Church may in the future change the way Jesus’ Precious Blood is distributed, the way it is offered in the near future, will not change.

    How should I receive the cup? You should consume the host and then make a bow to the cup whether you are going to receive it or not. If receiving from the cup, you will hear, “The Blood of Christ.” After which you take the cup in both hands and consume a small amount. After consumption, offer the cup back to the minister. Please be cognizant of the number of persons behind you who wish to receive. The Cup Minister will then wipe the cup and rotate it to allow the next person a cleaner opportunity. If you approach the cup and the purificator (white covering) is over the chalice, this means the cup is empty.

    Recently, we have been offering the cup for most weekday Masses. If you wish to try it, these Masses offer you that opportunity. Just remember, you are receiving full communion with the consumption of the host or the cup. 

    What about receiving the host in the hand or the tongue? I was asked this when I was speaking about the Eucharist to our families preparing their children for communion. The official response from the USCCB (our bishop organization), is that either reception in the hand or on the tongue is appropriate, one isn’t better or more reverent than the other. The following comments are just my opinion, so you will know, “what does my pastor think?” My research found liturgical support for each method. Of recent, because of the concern by many as to a lapsing appreciation by the Catholic laity about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and the view that we are living in a non-Christian, irreverent society, there has been more conversation, especially on Catholic radio programs, in support of reception both on the tongue and kneeling. While I honor persons who receive this way, I do not want anyone who receives in their hand to think they are doing something wrong or less reverent. For my own part, I find it quite moving to see the Eucharist placed in the variety of hands I see. I place the host in crippled hands, calloused hands, delicate hands, and the small hands of children. This is moving to me, that Catholic means everybody, and for me, it is most on display during communion.