On Giving Communion
Have you been to a film lately? Do you remember the entrance procedure? You hand over your money, pick up a ticket and give it to the person at the door. All rather impersonal.
Is there ever a danger that we place the Eucharistic Bread in the hand of the communicant in a similar impersonal way?
Remember what we are doing in this action of giving Communion: It is a sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus that is happening through our ministry. People enter into a profound communion with Jesus Christ, and with all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, especially with those who are likewise present and communicating in the gathered community. In this communion we enter a sacred mystery which has practical consequences: we are to live as brothers and sisters of the Lord.
What effect might our faith convictions have on the way we minister to people as we offer Communion? Some suggestions:
Look directly into the eyes of the communicant.
People may look everywhere else but at you, or may keep their eyes closed. Some may be uncomfortable with this level of contact, so some catechesis is probably necessary.
On some occasion during the year it could be appropriate to work into the introduction at the beginning of the Liturgy some instruction about the proper way to receive Communion. To avoid the danger of appearing to be talking down to the adults this instruction could be explicitly addressed to the children in the community. This is an old trick: The instruction is addressed to the children but all the adults will intently eavesdrop and also get the message themselves. Some of those same adults might have been indignant if the instruction had been given directly to them!
Smile! Or at least look happy.
A full-toothed grin is not necessary, but something other than indifference is clearly required. Be prepared to delight in the smile that is returned. That gesture can become infectious until the whole assembly looks alive in the Lord and happy to be part of this marvellous event.
Carefully show the Eucharistic Bread
This is not only showing the communicant what he or she is about to receive, it is a gesture inviting reverence, respect and faith. This can be another instance of a minister setting the tone of a Liturgy.
Say clearly The Body of Christ.
Your words now match your actions. By your verbal profession of faith, you are inviting the communicant to profess the faith of the universal church community. It is probably not a good idea to say the persons name when you offer the Eucharist. You wont be sure of the name of every person who will come to you, and you may even draw a temporary blank trying to remember someones name you ordinarily do know. Mentioning some names and not others can divide the community the exact opposite of what this rite is about.
The Body of Christ is a proclamation of faith which calls for an answering faith proclamation: Amen. Giver and receiver share the same faith, are in the one, same Body of Christ. We are forming the Jesus Christ Community or Communion. We commit ourselves to living what we offer and receive.
Wait for the communicant to say Amen.
You have made your profession of faith, now the communicant professes her or his faith. This simple Amen speaks volumes about their life in the Lord. Just at the Great Amen following the eucharistic prayer says so be it to the great prayer of praise and thanksgiving, the Amen here says so be it to all that Communion signifies.
Gracefully hand over the Eucharistic Bread
This should be an unhurried gesture done with the reverence it deserves. Dont drop the Eucharistic Bread into the hand as if you need to keep your own hands sterile. Touch the communicants hand as you let the Bread rest there. This is another gesture of unity.
The giving of Communion is done in an unrushed and reverent way. A hurried rushing is irreverent. The other extreme of an ultra pious slowness can also distract from the respect due to the Sacrament.
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