Last week in RCIA we were discussing the Eucharist. A variety of topics were addressed but I was also interested in seeing that in the ‘leader’s notes’ they listed a few canon laws that might also be discussed. Being a canon lawyer of course I couldn’t pass up that opportunity so I thought I would even continue it here. The canons mentioned were Can. 916, Can. 919, and Can 920.
Can. 916 “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present …” This is important because it reminds us to be conscious of grave sin that may be in our lives, that is keeping us from God. Hopefully it helps to recognize the necessity for sacramental confession for such sin so that we can be open to that relationship with God, to let it grow, and to receive Christ in the Eucharist. Hopefully it helps to realize we cannot be united to Christ and His Church through the Eucharist if we have the serious division from grave sin still between us.
Can. 919 §1 “One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.” For most of us, on a Sunday especially, this isn’t much of a concern. The one hour is not to the beginning of Mass but rather to when you receive Communion, so from the time you leave home, if you get to church before Mass starts, you just about have an hour already (depending on where you live and how long I preach). But we also need to consider why do we do this? What type of preparation do we give ourselves to receive this sacrament? If you are “of advanced age” or sick §3 covers that, but otherwise why can’t we give at least this hour? If we don’t remember our parents or others will tell us of when the rule was stricter and didn’t have the exception for water, and it wasn’t one hour but three hours, or from the previous day. What recognition do we give this incredible gift Christ gives us?
Can. 920 §1 “All the faithful, after they have been initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, are bound by the obligation of receiving Communion at least once a year.” This sounds kind of strange when we know that we are obliged to attend Mass every Sunday, why even bother with this law? We need to recognize that people did not always receive the Eucharist as frequently and freely as we do. As I mentioned the longer fasts that were in place, the greater awareness or concern with sin (they had longer lines at confessionals on Saturday), the greater respect and reverence of the Eucharist that kept many more distant from the sacrament considering they were not worthy over our need for Christ in the sacrament.
I am not bringing these up to discourage anyone from receiving the Eucharist, but rather to consider how we may better prepare for and more fully receive the Eucharist.