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222 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

the Mass is also offered for the faithful departed—who have died in

Christ but may not yet be totally purified—so they may enter the glory

of heaven.


“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you

do not have life within you” (Jn 6:53). Jesus Christ shares with us his

Body and Blood under the form of bread and wine. Thus the Mass is a

sacred banquet that culminates in the reception of Holy Communion.

The Church urges us to prepare conscientiously for this moment. We

should be in the state of grace, and if we are conscious of a grave or

serious sin, we must receive the Sacrament of Penance before receiv-

ing Holy Communion. We are also expected to fast from food or drink

for at least one hour prior to the reception of Holy Communion. “Like

every Catholic generation before us, we must be guided by the words

of St. Paul, ‘Whoever therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the

Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and

Blood of the Lord’ (1 Cor 11:27). That means that all must examine

their consciences as to their worthiness to receive the Body and Blood

of our Lord. This examination includes fidelity to the moral teaching

of the Church in personal and public life” (United States Conference of

Catholic Bishops,

Catholics in Political Life

, 2004). The Church gives us

the humble words of a Roman centurion to say as we prepare to receive

Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the

word and I shall be healed” (cf. Mt 8:8).

Although the Church urges us to receive Communion at each Mass,

there is an obligation for everyone to receive Communion at least once

a year some time during the interval between the First Sunday of Lent

and Trinity Sunday. Since Christ is fully present under each form of the

Eucharist (that is, both the consecrated Bread and Wine), it is sufficient

to receive him under the species (form) of bread or wine alone. However,

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).