“Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.'”
Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised Catholic by Baptism and configured to Christ by confirmation participate in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322). “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages…until he should come again” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 47; quoted in CCC, 1323).”
The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
The transformed bread and wine that are the Body and Blood of Christ are not merely symbols, they truly are the Body and Blood of Christ. At the same time, however, it is important to recognize that the Body and Blood of Christ come to us in the Eucharist in a sacramental form. In other words, Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine, not in his own proper form. The presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery that the Church can never fully explain in words.
Guidelines for the Reception of Holy Communion
Because the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ, the Church offers the following guidelines on who should receive the Eucharist and in what ways:
As Catholics, we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. (Code of Canon Law, canon 916). Frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all. Before receiving Communion for the first time, a proper period of preparation should be completed (see below for more on First Communion).
What is the “Eucharistic fast” and how long is it?
The Eucharistic fast is a one hour fast before receiving Holy Communion to observe a period of reflecting and spiritual hunger for Our Lord. Only medicine and water are allowed before hand, but if one needs to eat for serious medical reason this, for pastoral reasons, is allowed.
For Fellow Christians:
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). For those not receiving Holy Communion: All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and unity of the human family (United States Catholic Conference of Bishops November 1996).
How often should I receive the Eucharist?
As frequently as possible! After all, if the Eucharist really is what the Church believes, why wouldn’t a person want to receive Christ daily or at least as often as possible?
What are the effects of receiving the Eucharist?
The Eucharist instills the very life of God into the recipient. In other words, they bring grace to the grace needy.
• Our relationship (union) with Christ is deepened
• The supernatural, divine life, in the recipient is increased, strengthening him/her to live a holy, loving, self-sacrificing Christian life
• The recipient is separated from sin (venial sin is forgiven and the recipient is preserved from mortal sin)
• The recipient is united more firmly to other members of the Church and as such the Church grows in unity
How do I receive First Communion?
First Communion for children is typically celebrated in the second grade year – see our Youth Discipleship pages for more details. For older children or adults seeking First Communion, contact the Director of Catechesis.
Where can I learn more about the Eucharist?
To read more about the Eucharist in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, click here.