Catholic Classroom: Receiving the Eucharist Under Both Species
Question: Do we need to receive Holy Communion under both species?
The Eucharist is the foundation of our Catholic faith and the “source and summit” of Christian life. (CCC 1324). When Jesus told his apostles to eat his body and drink his blood at the Last Supper, he instituted this sacrament that we now partake in every time we go to Mass and receive Holy Communion.
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the celebrating priest consecrates gifts of both bread and wine. Through the Holy Spirit, these human gifts become the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. While the priest must always consume both species of the Eucharist, the lay faithful may receive Holy Communion under just one of the forms.
The true body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ is present in both species of the Eucharist. So when we receive the Body of Christ under the form of bread, we also receive his Blood, and vice versa. Consequently, it is only necessary for congregants to receive one form.
Throughout the early years of the Church, all the faithful—laypeople and clergy alike—received both species of the Eucharist at every Mass. However, during the late 11th century, receiving under the form of bread alone became popular practice for laypeople, and by 1415 this practice was officially decreed at the Council of Constance. It was not until the Second Vatican Council that the Church once again restored reception of Holy Communion under both kinds.
Receiving under both species is not mandated by Mother Church, but rather, is left to the bishop’s discretion. Oftentimes only the Body of Christ is distributed due to certain logistical factors such as a lack of extraordinary ministers.
According to the Vatican document titled Doctrinal Formation and Communion Under Both Kinds, the purpose of receiving Communion under both species “is not that the faithful receive more grace than when they receive it under one kind alone, but that the faithful are enabled to appreciate vividly the value of the sign.”
So whether you receive communion under one or both species, you still receive the fullness of Christ. Each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we partake in the most profound mystery of our faith and experience a taste of the divine life.