Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the July AD 2006
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question: Why don’t we receive Holy Communion from the Chalice as well as the Host?  How long has this been the practice?

    Answer:  It is necessary for the priest to receive Holy Communion under both forms (“both species” is the technical term), for by the separate Consecration and Communion the sacrificial aspect of the Mass is re-presented.  The “outward sign” of the Sacrament appears to separate the Body and Blood of the sacrificial Victim.  Saint Thomas tells us:

... on the part of the sacrament it is proper for both the body and the blood to be received, since the perfection of the sacrament lies in both, and consequently, since it is the priest's duty both to consecrate and finish the sacrament, he ought on no account to receive Christ's body without the blood.[iv]

    But for those who are not celebrating the Mass, whether they be clergy or laity, it is enough to receive Holy Communion under one form, for in Communion we receive the living Jesus in His entirety—humanity and divinity—in the living Jesus, His human Body and Blood are united to one another and to His divine nature by the hypostatic union.

    But on the part of the recipient the greatest reverence and caution are called for, lest anything happen which is unworthy of so great a mystery. Now this could especially happen in receiving the blood, for, if incautiously handled, it might easily be spilt. And because the multitude of the Christian people increased, in which there are old, young, and children, some of whom have not enough discretion to observe due caution in using this sacrament, on that account it is a prudent custom in some churches for the blood not to be offered to the reception of the people, but to be received by the priest alone.[v]

    Saint Thomas refers to the possible spilling of the Precious Blood.  In modern times we must add the fear of contagion, and the aversion of some of the faithful to the appearances of alcohol.

    The general practice of distributing Communion under both kinds persisted for roughly the first millennium of the Church, disappearing at various times in various places;  perhaps for the laity before the deacon and other clergy.  Though the Chalice was withdrawn in the West no later than the twelfth century, the practice in Eastern Catholic churches remains, to this day, to give Communion under both forms (usually by dipping the Host into the Chalice).

    Nonetheless, the Church has, under various circumstances, distributed Holy Communion under one kind since the earliest times.  Communion taken to the sick, or reserved in the desert cells of hermits, or reserved in a tabernacle for the Presanctified Liturgy of Lent has been under one species for many centuries.  There are also instances of children receiving Communion after Baptism under the single form of consecrated wine.

    Objection to the reception of the Sacrament under one kind has generally come from those “reformers,” like Hus, Luther, and Cranmer, who minimized the Real Presence, and perceived the need for reception under both kinds to secure the symbolic value of the two separate species.  Against such men, the Council of Constance (1414-1418) declared:

    it must be believed most firmly ... that the whole body of Christ and the blood are truly contained under the species of bread as well as under the species of wine.  Therefore to say that [receiving under one kind] is a sacrilege or illicit must be considered erroneous [and those who so insist] must be avoided as heretics and must be severely punished.[vi]

The Council of Trent wrote at length, and issued these succinct canons:

Canon 1: If anyone says that each and every one of the faithful of Christ ought be a precept of God or by necessity for salvation to receive both species of the most holy Sacrament: let him be anathema.

Canon 2:  If anyone says that the holy Catholic Church has not been influenced by just causes and reasons to give Communion under the form of bread only to laymen, and to clerics when not consecrating, or that She has erred in this: let him be anathema.

Canon 3:  If anyone denies that Christ, whole and entire, who is the fountain and author of all graces, is received under the one species of bread, because, as some falsely assert, He is not received according to the institution of Christ Himself under both species: let him be anathema.[vii]


[iv]   Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III Q.80 a.12.

[v]   Saint Thomas, ibid.

[vi]   Council of Constance, Session  xiii, 15 June 1415. (Denzinger 626)

[vii]   Council of Trent, Session xii, 16 July 1562 (Denzinger  929a-936).


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Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
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