Protocols for Receiving Holy Communion
Every important occasion carries with it clear expectations about how things are to be done and how people are to conduct themselves on those occasions (Think about what would be expected if you were meeting the Pope or the President or even just consider all the etiquette books that have been published about weddings!). The same is especially true for what we Catholics consider to be one of the most important occasions of all: receiving our Lord in Holy Communion. There are things to be said and done in certain prescribed ways for the sake of good order and reverence and to express our unity as we receive the Sacrament of Unity.
SIGN OF REVERENCE
Each communicant is to make a sign of reverence before receiving the Eucharist. In the United States, that gesture is to be a bow. For the sake of keeping the communion line flowing smoothly, you should make your bow just as the person in front of you is receiving.
FOR ALL COMMUNICANTS
As you are about to receive the Host or the Precious Blood, the Minister of Communion will say “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ.” The correct response is simply “Amen.” The word “Amen” is prescribed because it expresses many layers of theological meaning contained in this brief ritual dialogue. No other response should be used (for example: “I believe” or “My Lord and my God”). It is particularly inappropriate to respond with “Thank You” or some other form of secular or seasonal greeting (“Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter”).
RECEIVING THE HOST IN THE HAND
The proper way to receive the Host in the hand is to place one hand flat on top of the other so that the open palm is facing upward. Saint John Chrysostom described this beautiful gesture as making of your hands a throne for the King of Kings.
In order to indicate clearly that you intend to receive in your hands, you should have your hands in this position already when you approach the Minister of Communion and not wait until after the dialogue “The Body of Christ” / “Amen.” It is not appropriate to receive the Host by taking it with two fingers (as if “plucking” or “pinching”) from the Minister of Communion
Once the Minister of Communion has placed the Host onto your palm, step to the side and consume it immediately by taking it with the fingers of the lower hand and placing the Host in your mouth. It is not appropriate to take the Host with your mouth directly from your open palm.