Eucharist or Holy Communion is the very cornerstone of our faith. In this most holy of the sacraments, we receive the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, into ourselves. Unlike other denominations of the Christian faith, who take communion merely as a symbolic act commemorating Christ's last supper, we believe that through the actions of the priest during the liturgy, the host and the wine are truly changed, transubstantiated, into the actual body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. They cease to be what they were before. That is why we hold such reverence for these objects of our faith.
While we are required to receive the Eucharist at least once a year during Easter season, we are encouraged to receive much more frequently. Weekly or even daily if that is possible.
Communion is considered the third Sacrament of Initiation, after Baptism and Confirmation, because it brings us into a fuller participation in the Church. Adults being initiated into the Catholic faith would receive them in that order. However children "born" into Catholicism traditionally receive First Eucharist around the age of seven. After receiving some specific instruction and the sacrament of Reconciliation first the Church welcomes the young communicant to a greater participation in our faith. On the day of their first Eucharist they are the first to receive it and at the end of Mass they are presented with a certificate and officially welcomed by the community. Please contact the parish office when you are ready to take your child through this great milestone in his or her life. They will provide you with the proper instructions and materials necessary.
In receiving the Eucharist, we receive Christ into ourselves. He lives in us and we in Him. Additionally as we partake of the same spiritual and physical food it unifies us as a community; we become one body – the Church. Not simply unified in our congregation alone but across the world with all others who receive the Eucharist.
Proper disposition is required to receive Holy Communion. One must be free from any serious or mortal sin. One of the many reasons we go through the sacrament of Reconciliation is to absolve us from these sins. You must believe in the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord. This is why we refrain from sharing the Eucharist with non-Catholics. And with the exception of water of medicine, you must abstain from food or drink for at least an hour before receiving the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is to be consumed immediately. It is not to be taken back to the pew or shared with anyone. Only specially designated Eucharistic Ministers to the homebound are allowed to leave with the Eucharist and only for the express purpose of administering to the sick who cannot attend Mass.
While these rules may seem rather formal or strict to the uninitiated they have been established over the two thousand years of the Church's existence. They express our reverence and love for what we consider the holiest of the sacraments and greatest gift that our Lord has given us. It is the physical manifestation of our redemption through Christ's sacrifice of his life and God's love for us.