Resuming the Distribution of Communion Under Both Species
By Bishop James R. Golka
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the chalice, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. — 1 Cor 11:26
The gift of the Eucharist and the celebration of the sacrificial banquet always include the offering of bread and wine. It has always been essential to the celebration of the Sacrament that the priest offering the Mass receives both the Sacred Body and Precious Blood. The practice of the early Church was to offer the laity communion under both kinds as well. This practice eventually fell out of use for numerous reasons by the 12th century (“Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds,” 17-18).
Although the Eastern Churches continued to widely offer communion under both kinds (mainly through dipping the Host into the Precious Blood in what is called “intinction”), this practice disappeared in the West. This acquired the force of law by the Council of Trent, especially considering preceding heresies which asserted that the reception of both species was required by Christ, as if receiving only under one kind the sacrament was somehow incomplete or contrary to the Divine Institution (Cf. the Utraquist heresy). Against this, the Church reaffirmed the doctrine of “concomitance.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite” (CCC, No. 1390).
Over time and with changed circumstances the Church revisited the great value of offering Communion under both kinds to the faithful. The catechism continues, “But ‘the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly’” (CCC, No. 1390). The Church reintroduced this possibility in “Sacrosanctum Concilium” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 55). In the United States, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops gave permission to distribute the Eucharist under both kinds during weekday Masses in 1970, and this was extended to Sundays in 1978. With the revisions of the third edition of the Roman Missal, communion under both kinds continues to be encouraged:
“Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Kingdom of the Father.” The General Instruction further states that “at the same time the faithful should be instructed to participate more readily in this sacred rite, by which the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is made more fully evident” (GIRM, 281; Norms, 20).
The extension of the faculty for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds does not represent a change in the Church’s immemorial beliefs concerning the Holy Eucharist. Rather, today the Church finds it salutary to restore a practice, when appropriate, that for various reasons was not opportune when the Council of Trent was convened in 1545. But with the passing of time, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the reform of the Second Vatican Council has resulted in the restoration of a practice by which the faithful are again able to experience “a fuller sign of the Eucharistic banquet” (Norms, 21).
The health crisis of COVID-19 gave rise to legitimate concerns about distributing under both species during the pandemic. Dioceses and parishes worldwide stopped offering communion under both kinds. As health concerns have abated and after having received a number of inquiries and requests, now is an opportune time to allow pastors to reimplement this practice in their parishes.
During the time between the Solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1, and the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, all pastors in the Diocese of Colorado Springs may choose to re-introduce the distribution of communion under both kinds. Pastors also have the ability to decide whether distribution of the Precious Blood is appropriate for their parish at this time. According to their own pastoral discretion, if they have the requisite vessels, approved sacramental wine, and sufficient numbers of mandated Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, (EMHC), pastors may reintroduce this for their parishioners. Pastors who elect to do this are asked to use this opportunity to review the proper protocols and procedures with clergy, sacristans, and EMHC in their parishes and to catechize their parishioners on the history and theology of this practice. The Norms for Distribution include specific areas of catechesis for the faithful: “a. the ecclesial nature of the Eucharist as the common possession of the whole Church; b. the Eucharist as the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice, his death and resurrection, and as the sacred banquet; c. The real presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements, whole and entire — in each element of consecrated bread and wine (the doctrine of concomitance); d. the kinds of reverence due at all times to the sacrament, whether within the eucharistic Liturgy or outside the celebration; and e. the role that ordinary and, if necessary, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are assigned in the eucharistic assembly” (Norms, 25).
May God deepen our love and reverence for the greatest gift of the Eucharist!
When resuming communion under both kinds, here are a few considerations to observe:
• There are circumstances when Communion under both kinds is undesirable. For example:
a. When it is difficult to gauge the amount of wine for the Eucharist and there is a danger that “more than a reasonable quantity of the Blood of Christ remain to be consumed at the end of the celebration” (“Redemptionis Sacramentum” (Sacrament of Redemption), 102).
b. When such a large quantity is required, it becomes difficult to procure enough wine that is suitable for sacramental purposes (RS, 102).
c. When a large portion of the people continue to prefer to receive only under one species and the sign of unity would be negated by the disparity (RS, 102).
d. Where there are so many communicants that excessively large numbers of EMHC are required and the role of the Ordinary Ministers is obscured, or there is an insufficient number of worthy sacred vessels (Norms, 24; RS, 102).
e. Whenever Mass is celebrated outside of a church building (gymnasium, nursing home, campground, etc.).
• The chalice is not to be taken out of the area immediately by the sanctuary to those in the pews. Carrying the chalice throughout the nave/church is an unnecessary risk for spillage.
• Pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is never to be done. The wine must always be poured into chalices before consecration (RS, 106).
• “The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling” (GIRM, 160; RS, 91). It is strongly recommended that communicants receiving from the chalice stand and not kneel in order to reduce the chance of spilling.
• Always observe the purification of an area where either of the Sacred Species may have dropped or have been spilled. The area should be covered with a purificator and guarded from someone walking on it until it may be properly purified with water and dried with another purificator (Norms, 29).
• The chalice may never “be picked up by the [EMHC or] communicant for self-communication (except in the case of concelebrating bishops or priests), nor may the chalice be passed from one communicant to another. There shall always be a minister of the chalice,” whether an ordinary or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion (Norms, 44).
• If intinction is offered, it is to be done only by the priest and a metal paten should be used to catch any possible drops of the Precious Blood that may spill. The faithful may not self-intinct. (GIRM, 287; Norms, 49-50)