I confess: after I receive Communion, I sometimes watch the other people going up to receive. You might think I’m being irreverent, but I think there’s a special grace that comes from watching the Communion line.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that people process up to Communion in a variety of ways. Most people walk up slowly and reverently. Some look painfully self-conscious as they process in line (like teenage boys). Some people march. Some shuffle. Some walk nonchalantly. Some hold their hands as they were probably taught to do when they made their First Communion. Others clasp their hands loosely in front of them. Most people receive one person at a time, but a few married couples stand side-by-side when they receive. That always touches me.
Some people are carrying or herding small children. Or dragging them. That reminds me of a story one of my former students told me years ago. She always walked up to Communion with her little girl, Melannie, (yes, she’s my namesake) age about 3. After doing this routine many times, little Melannie became impatient one day. Right after her mother had received, Melannie yelled loud enough for the whole congregation to hear, “I want some Body of Christ too!”
There’s a very tall man I often see at Mass. He has a little boy who comes up to about his knees. I always enjoy watching this man going up to Communion gently holding his little boy’s hand. He’s always so mindful of the little boy, so tender towards him. When I see the two of them, it’s easier for me to believe in God the Father’s tender love for me.
Some people use canes in the Communion line. A few use walkers. Still others are pushed up in their wheelchairs to receive. And there are always several people in the front pews who have Communion brought to them by a Eucharistic minister. Before the final blessing at Mass, a few individuals go up to the sanctuary to receive hosts to take to those who are unable to come to Mass. This reminds me not only to pray for the ill of our parish, but also that this Heavenly Banquet extends far beyond the walls of our church.
When I’m watching the communion line, I think thoughts like this. “Here we are, the people of God….What a diverse group we are….What a motley crew …Each of us with our own trials and sorrows….our own joys and successes…. our weaknesses, our strengths, our worries. Individuals, yet we process in line together to receive Holy Communion…the Bread that makes us one.”
There’s some controversy about who should and who should not receive Communion. I’m no Canon lawyer, but I agree with those who say: Communion is not a reward for good behavior. It is nourishment to help us live our life of faith. When we stand in line to receive Communion, we are not proclaiming: “Look how good I am!” We are humbly saying, “Look how needy I am! I need this precious Bread of Life to give me strength on my journey.”
How should we process up to receive Communion? It matters little if we walk or shuffle, if we use a cane, or if we carry a child. What matters most is that we come with our whole heart to receive this incredible gift that Jesus gave us the night before he died. If we realized the true worth of this sacred sacrament, I have a hunch, we would all be skipping to Communion!
How do you go to Communion?
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