Limits to Receiving the EucharistFR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS
Please cite the Canon Law code that says one can only receive Communion twice a day and all of the stipulations. And what are the consequences to exceeding that law even if your intentions are truly to feel united with Christ and not a numbers game?
Given this reiteration of official Church law, we must appreciate the rationale that serves as its foundation. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the celebration of the Blessed Sacrament is "the true center of the whole Christian life both for the universal Church and for the local congregation of that Church" (Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, #6). The offering of the Mass and the reception of Holy Communion are intrinsically connected. Moreover, the components of the Mass, particularly the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, form a cohesive whole.
Therefore, in ordinary circumstances, an individual is obligated to participate fully in the entire Mass making an offering of oneself to the Lord. The person ought to be present from the very beginning until the very end of the Mass, giving full attention as best one can. Such full participation and attention dispose the individual to receive Holy Communion. Worthy reception of Holy Communion not only enables the individual to enter into communion with the Lord, but also binds that individual in a communion of faith and love with the other members of the Church.
Never, in ordinary circumstances, do we isolate the reception of Holy Communion from the rest of the Mass. The Church grants the permission of receiving Holy Communion twice in one day to meet those situations of a person attending perhaps a wedding Mass and a funeral Mass on the same day, or attending the regular daily Mass and then some special Mass the same day; nevertheless, the stipulation is that the person attends the whole Mass in both instances.
As qualified in Canon 921.2, in those special circumstances when a person is in danger of death, then he may receive Holy Communion as viaticum along with Penance and Anointing of the Sick, even though he may have received twice already that day. Another special circumstance arises when the person is confined in a hospital or homebound: here the person may receive outside the context of Mass, but would not receive more than once a day unless in danger of death.
Two other basic stipulations govern the reception of Holy Communion: First, a person who is conscious of mortal sin must first make a sacramental confession and receive absolution. If no legitimate opportunity exists for first going to confession, then a person may make an act of perfect contrition with the pledge to the Lord to go to Penance as soon as possible before receiving Holy Communion (Code of Canon Law, #916).
Second, a person must fast from food and drink (except water or medicine) for one hour beforehand (Code of Canon Law, #919). However, the period of fast before receiving Holy Communion is reduced to "approximately one quarter of an hour" for those who are sick at home or at a hospital, those elderly confined to home or a nursing home, and those who care for these people and who are unable conveniently to observe the fast (Immensae Caritatis, 1973).
"What are the consequences to exceeding that law even if your intentions are truly to feel united with Christ and not a number game?" Well, if a person receives three times in one day or does not fully participate in the Mass to receive Holy Communion, an alarm probably will not go off in Church and spotlights focus on him, or a trap door to Hell open and swallow him, or the Vatican Swiss guards suddenly appear to arrest him and take him to some subterranean dungeon. However, if a person loves our Lord so much and has such devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, that person ought to want to obey Church law, not thwart the law, if not out of agreement then out of humility. Yes, to willfully and knowingly break Church law is indeed a sin, perhaps here a venial sin, but nevertheless a sin. Moreover, the person who seemingly appears so devoted but thwarts Church law is really no different in attitude than that person who receives Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin and sees no reason for having to go first to confession.
Finally, the reception of the Holy Eucharist, even a particle of the Sacred Host, delivers infinite graces to us. The one who wants to receive "as many Hosts as possible a day" is the one who is really playing the numbers game. We should appreciate the Lord we receive, not the quantity of Hosts we receive.
Quite frankly, the Church in her prudence provides these laws to help us have a balanced spiritual life, avoiding extremes. Just as the Church requires a person to receive Holy Communion at least once a year (the "Easter duty law" ), so does the Church restrict the number of times we can receive in one day. We need to put aside "feelings," seek to understand the rationale behind the laws, and humbly obey.
Saunders, Rev. William. "Limits to Receiving the Eucharist." Arlington Catholic Herald.
This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.
Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald
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