The Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” As the Church has consistently taught, “the other sacraments and indeed all the Church’s ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are ordered toward it.” Catholics believe that the Eucharist is a sacrament, instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. “Do this in memory of me” was the instruction of Jesus to the Church to repeat his actions and words. It is through the ministry of the priest at the Mass that the bread and wine are transformed entirely and substantially into the Body and Blood of Jesus. ”Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever.”
As such the Eucharist is for the Church: (1) the great prayer of thanksgiving and praise to the Father; (2) the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body; and (3) the actual presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit. It is important to remember what the Church teaches about this sacrament, namely that in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jeuss Christ, and therefore the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained.”
Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And the Eucharistic prresence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. This is the reason that the Catholic Church has always offered and still offers the cult of adoration not only during the Mass but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost devotion and care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, promoting Eucharistic adoration for the faithful and reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle with great dignity.
Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote that “the Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and to open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”
We are delighted that so many people come to St. Paul Cathedral to worship with us, and we welcome people of many different faiths as well. But it is important that all of us understand the Church’s guidelines for who can and cannot receive Holy Communion. For Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession, except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another. We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.