BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE ARCHBISHOP of Westminster has urged Catholics to deepen their reverence for the Blessed Sacrament in a pastoral letter to members of his archdiocese.
In the letter, read during weekend Masses, Archbishop Vincent Nichols called for a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist.
He urged every parish “to refresh its reverence and love for the Blessed Sacrament and its practice of receiving Holy Communion”.
The archbishop said: “We must always present ourselves for Communion with the utmost reverence and aware of the immensity of what is taking place.” He also stressed the importance of preparing for Holy Communion.
“It is important that we also prepare well to receive Holy Communion,” he said. “We observe a Eucharistic fast of at least one hour. We seek forgiveness of our sins, through the penitential prayers of the Mass and through the Sacrament of Penance, especially whenever we are conscious of grave sin.” He appealed to Catholics to “reflect on how you personally present yourself to receive the Lord in Holy Communion. Each way of receiving Holy Communion expresses awe and must be carried out with care.” The archbishop said that each recipient of Holy Communion is at liberty to receive the Host on the hand or on the tongue.
“When receiving Holy Communion in the hand, we make with our hands the form of both a cross and a throne in which to receive our King who sacrificed his life for us,” he said. “With clean, empty hands and with gloves removed, we receive him with utter reverence and consume the Host carefully in the presence of the minister before turning away.
“When we receive Holy Communion on the tongue, we are aware of coming to be fed with the Food of Life, conscious of our utter dependence on the Lord. We know the holiness of the One we receive, beyond our touch.” The archbishop also said that those who receive Holy Communion were free to kneel or stand. He explained that the practice of standing is “now confirmed as the liturgical norm for England and Wales, just recently approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome”.
The Congregation for Divine Worship has also said that when Catholics in England and Wales receive Holy Communion standing “it is recommended that the faithful bow in reverence before receiving the Sacrament”.
The archbishop said: “When we receive Holy Communion standing we show that we are ready to receive the Lord and to walk and act in His name.” He added that when we receive Communion when kneeling “we present ourselves with humility and reverence, submitting our strength to Him, recognising that He is Lord of all”.
“Receiving Holy Communion, we know that Christ, whole and entire, his body and blood, together with his soul and divinity, is truly, really and substantially present,” he said.
Editorial comment: Page 13 Pastoral letter: Page 16