Here is the second round of of questions related to the Eucharist. If you didn’t catch the previous ones, go to my previous blog entry.
Question: “Is it okay to just receive the Eucharist in the host or chalice?”
Answer: Yes. The Church has always believed that at Mass, the bread and wine become the very presence of Christ’s Body and Blood. Furthermore, they don’t change afterwards, but remain so. That is why we have a Tabernacle where we place the remaining hosts and carefully make sure the contents of all chalices are consumed before Mass concludes. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Christ’s true presences "endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist" (no. 1377). “Species?” What is that you might ask? The term for the two appearances of the Eucharist are each called, “species.” At Mass, we bring forward bread and wine. These two are consecrated by the priest and are then considered the “species” of the Eucharist. It is good and permitted to receive both species at Mass, though sometimes it is best not healthy to receive both species depending on one’s situation. If you are sick, I ask that you receive the host only and in the hand. Reception on the tongue, while noble and reverent, also introduces the high probability of communicating a virus from toungue-to-hand-to-toungue. In addition, I would recommend not receiving from the chalice. This is simply in view of prudential judgement and the reduction of scandal for those who are concerned about their health especially during the cold season. Have you ever noticed that all our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion sanitize their hands before coming forward for their ministry during the Rite of Communion? Yes, we are all trying to be good about the reality of communicable diseases and the health of our parishioners, most especially the elderly.
Question: “Is Christ’s body only present in the host and his blood only in the chalice?”
Answer: No. We believe that Christ’s true presence, his Body and Blood, are present in both species. That means a person can receive either species and know that they have received the fullness of the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ. Sometimes a person is alcoholic and will not receive from the chalice, but instead receive only the host. Sometimes a person suffers from Celiac’s disease (is allergic to the gluten in wheat) and will not receive the host, but instead receive from the chalice. This has always been our belief, but it was more formally define in the Council of Trent and reiterated in our current catechism (Council of Trent, Session XIII, Canon III as quoted last week, Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1377). Another way of viewing this is that Christ’s essence or glorified humanity cannot be divided, but is always one, though found in varied presences. For example, Christ’s humanity and divinity are two natures, but indivisible in what the Church has described as a “hypostatic union.” That term can be reflected another time. Be assured, though, that Christ’s body, blood, soul, and dignity are found in each of the species of the Eucharist.
Again, I hope this helps. Next week’s question: “If the priest is alcoholic or has Celiac’s disease, how can he offer the Mass?” Do you think you could answer this one? Return next week and find out.
Fr. William Holtzinger