The Reinstitution of Holy Communion Under Both Species
The Archbishop of Brisbane, has advised that the provision of Communion under both species (the Body and Blood of Christ) is able to be reintroduced safely in this post-COVID world. It may be worth a quick revisit of what the Church teaches about Communion in both forms. Scripture refers to Communion in both forms.
The earliest reference appears in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (11:23-29). Verses 23-26 and 29, clearly specify receiving both species while verse 27, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup,” (emphasis added) seems to reflect the Church doctrine of concomitance – namely, that full Eucharistic grace may be received under the form of one species alone. In John 6, the Lord’s words about the Eucharist alternate between speaking of one species and speaking of both, while the three Gospel accounts of the institution of the Eucharist refer to both species (see Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:17-19).
By the time of the Council of Trent (16th/17th centuries), Communion under one kind (the Body) was the common practice. The three basic provisions of Trent’s teaching are that Communion under one kind is the “law”; that in receiving under one kind the faithful fully receive Christ; and that the Church has authority to determine how best the sacraments may be administered. The reasons for restricting Communion under both kinds to the clergy are summarised in the Catholic Encyclopaedia (1912 edition) as follows: “The danger of spilling the Precious Blood and of other forms of irreverence; the inconvenience and delay in administering the chalice to large numbers; the difficulty of reservation for Communion outside of Mass; the not unreasonable objection on hygienic and other grounds”.
In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 55), the Second Vatican Council spoke to the question of Communion under both kinds. It began by saying, “The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent [remain] intact.” Communion under one kind is still the “law.” Yet Communion under both kinds “may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to cleric and religious but also the laity.”
In the ordinary form of the Mass, the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds is an option whose usage had, pre COVID, become a daily occurrence in many countries, but by no means everywhere.
The instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, promulgated in 2004, explains the context of this practice: “So that the fullness of the sign may be made more clearly evident to the faithful in the course of the Eucharistic banquet, lay members of Christ’s faithful, too, are admitted to Communion under both kinds, in the cases set forth in the liturgical books, preceded and continually accompanied by proper catechesis regarding the dogmatic principles on this matter laid down by the Ecumenical Council of Trent” (100).
This laudable intention frequently meets the catechetical stumbling block mentioned. Undoubtedly, Holy Communion under both species illustrates Christ’s intention that we eat his Body and drink his Blood.
The purpose, then, of receiving Holy Communion under both kinds, is not that the faithful receive more grace than when they receive it under one kind alone, but that the faithful are enabled to appreciate vividly the value of the sign. In short, we are in full communion with God in the reception of the Body of Christ alone. If you have any concerns about receiving the Blood of Christ, please understand and know that it is not required. Many people however take great solace in the reception of Communion under both kinds and for this reason, we are very happy to be able to offer this again. Our Communion Ministers have all been retrained in the safe sharing of the Cup. Please receive the Blood of Christ from next weekend onward if you feel comfortable doing so.
Peace and blessings,
God bless and have a wonderful week!
PS. This piece was written by Jacinta Elks from the Parish’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT), and is a wonderful example of the many lay people in our parish using their skills and gifts in service of our Mission. Thank you Jacinta!