Most people view communion time at Mass as one of the most intensely personal times of our Catholic worship. It is, after all, when each of us has the opportunity to take into ourselves the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, really present under the appearances of bread and wine. Our Christian faith emphasizes the need for a personal relationship with our Savior, and in holy communion we can share in a moment of intimacy with Him like no other.
This is why, no doubt, there are so many little personal rituals and individuals ways of relating to receiving the Eucharist. As a priest, I distribute communion a great deal, and the many and varied ways in which people approach – and reverence! – communion never ceases to fascinate me.
A slight bow of the head is the gesture which we are all supposed to make before receiving holy communion. People often do more. Many make a more profound bow. For some, a careful sign of the cross before or after receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood is clear indication of the importance of the moment. Others even genuflect or kneel out of respect for the Lord. Of course, just coming forward in the communion procession is an act of devotion. Perhaps the most eloquent testimony I witness are the many tears in the eyes of believers as they encounter their God in this most special sacrament.
Yet an even more personal and important aspect of holy communion is one’s moral life which precedes it. We must be Aproperly disposed” to receive the Eucharist, that is, in a state of grace and not sin, to do so worthily. It was St. Paul himself who observed that when unrepentant sinners receive communion they “eat and drink a condemnation upon themselves” (1 Cor 11:27). Communion thus drives the unworthy farther from God, not brings them closer! So I’ll just echo the Apostle’s teaching: make sure it’s not just the half-hour before your communion that’s reverent and holy!