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Eucharist (Holy Communion)

In addition to entries on the richness of the Eucharistic mystery in general and on the Real Presence of Christ in particular, it is important to cover the reception of Holy Communion itself, which is our opportunity to enter into the Eucharist most deeply.

It is perhaps best to begin by reflecting on the importance of Communion among Christians from the earliest times. We offer a sample from the fourth-century Father of the Church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

To deal with the many practical questions surrounding reception of Holy Communion in our own day, the U.S. Bishops issued a clear and well-organized statement in 2006. This covers the meaning of Communion, proper preparation for it, worthiness, the need to abstain when conscious of grave sin, and intercommunion among Catholics and non-Catholics.

Finally, there has been considerable controversy in recent years over whether public advocates of abortion and other grave evils should be denied communion. Many have attempted to avoid confrontation on this issue, but shortly before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger addressed this precise question to the American bishops.

If you only have time to look at three things, LOOK AT THESE.

  1. Cyril of Jerusalem on the Body and Blood of Christ
  2. Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper (U.S. Bishops)
  3. Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion

And if you've got more time...

The body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ are equally present under either species, the bread or the wine. However, offering communion under both species, though more cumbersome, presents a richer sign of Christ's presence. Those interested in learning about the conditions under which this is permitted may consult the norms for offering communion under both species in the United States.

Receiving communion while in an irregular marriage presents special problems which were treated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) in 1994: Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful.

Finally, see related information in the entry on the Mass (Sacred Liturgy).

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