Communion Under Both Species

ISSUE: What is the Church’s teaching concerning the reception of Holy Communion under both species, i.e., receiving both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine? What is intinction? What is the Church’s teaching concerning intinction?

RESPONSE: When one receives only the consecrated bread, one truly receives – wholly and entirely – the glorified body and blood, soul and divinity of our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, the Church has given approval to receiving both the consecrated bread and wine because receiving under both species gives a more complete sign of the “new and everlasting covenant” Christ has established with His bride, the Church (General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 281, as cited in Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America (Norms), no. 20).

Intinction, i.e., dipping the Sacred Host in the Precious Blood, is permissible when there is an approved minister of the Precious Blood to administer the sacrament in this manner (Norms, no. 49-50, GIRM, no. 287). However, self-communication by means of intinction is not permitted.

DISCUSSION: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1390) provides as follows:

Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, Communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons, this manner of receiving Communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But “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” [GIRM, no. 281] This is the usual form of receiving Communion in the Eastern rites.

It is the divinely appointed role of the Magisterium—the Pope and the bishops in union with him—to regulate the sacred liturgy. The U.S. bishops, with Vatican approval, have made the option of providing Communion under both species widely available for the express purpose of fostering Eucharistic belief and piety, including belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. The bishops teach that “by reason of the sign value, sharing in both eucharistic species reflects more fully the sacred realities that the Liturgy signifies” (Norms, no. 11). The norms also indicate the desire of the bishops “that more
frequent eucharistic participation from both the sacred host and the chalice of salvation might be made possible for the laity” (Ibid.).

The bishops recognize that Communion under both species is not always possible or desirable. Communion under both species is only allowed when “the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of the profanation of the Sacrament or that the rite would be difficult to carry out on account of the number of participants or for some other reason” (GIRM, no. 283, as cited in Norms, no. 24). In additions, the norms point out that the bishop or pastor may limit the distribution of Communion under both species in order to “avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion” (Norms, no. 24).

The Church teaches that a person who receives under either species has received the entire Christ—body, blood, soul, and divinity. The Church also teaches that the decision to receive under both species belongs to the individual communicant, and not the minister (Norms, no. 46, GIRM, no. 284). However, the practice of receiving under both species is warmly encouraged, and reverence should be shown to the Holy Eucharist under both species.

Practical difficulties may arise in some settings. For example, there may be an inadequate number of trained ministers or the size of the congregation may make the practice awkward or cumbersome. Whether to allow Communion under both species in a particular situation is left to the pastor’s prudential discretion (based on guidelines set out in the norms as well as any further guidelines that his bishop may provide).

Communion by intinction is not customary in the United States, but it is permitted. The U.S. bishops provide the following instructions concerning the practice:

If Communion is carried out by intinction, the hosts should be neither too thin nor too small, but rather a little thicker than usual, so that after being dipped partly into the Blood of Christ they can still easily be distributed to each communicant (GIRM, no. 285).

The communicant, including the extraordinary minister, is never allowed to self-communicate, even by means of intinction. Communion under either form,
bread or wine, must always be given by an ordinary or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion (Norms, no. 50).

The bishops reiterate that lay men and women may serve as extraordinary ministers of Communion (Norms, no. 28). In the case of distribution by intinction, however, both the Norms and the GIRM indicate a priest as the only minister. In addition, the Norms provide that distribution by intinction may be used to limit the number of extraordinary ministers being used (Norms, no. 24).


Holy Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Mysterium Fidei; Pope Paul VI

The Documents of Vatican II

General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM)

The Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist (Dominicae Cenae); Pope John Paul II

On the 25th Anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; Pope John Paul II

Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Eucharisticum Mysterium)

Second Instruction on the Proper Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Third Instruction on the Correct Application of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Inaestimabile Donum)

Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God, Hahn and Suprenant, eds.

Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions, Leon Suprenant and Philip Gray

Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew, Ted Sri

Servants of the Gospel, Leon Suprenant, ed.

Without a Doubt: Bringing Faith to Life, Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin

To order these and other titles, call Emmaus Road toll-free: (800) 398-5470.


• “This Is My Body”: Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist • St. Augustine’s Faith in the Real Presence • Come, Worship the Lord!: Promoting Adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist • Ordinary and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist • Approved Bible Translations for Use at Mass • Children’s Masses: May Lay People Read the Gospel and Give the Homily? • Announcements at Mass • Defending Our Rites: Constructively Dealing with Liturgical Abuse

© 2004 Catholics United for the Faith

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