Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, CA celebrating the EF Mass
Oakland bishop provides detailed instructions on receiving Holy Communion in his diocese
(The following undated “Instructions on Receiving Communion Properly” by Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone have been posed on the website of the diocesan Office of Worship.)
All Catholics, before receiving Communion, are to be free from serious sin and fast from all food and drink (except water and necessary medicine) for one hour before receiving. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1385; Code of Canon Law, canons 916 and 919)
The proper posture for receiving Communion is standing. This is to show the respect that is due the Most Blessed Sacrament (in our culture, standing up shows respect to someone of importance who enters the room); the bow before receiving Communion signifies the humility with which we must approach the Sacrament.
The deeper meaning of this posture, though, is that the position of standing is symbolic of the Resurrection, and so -- as is done in the Eastern Rites of the Church -- we assume this position when we receive the Sacrament of our salvation.
Receiving Communion kneeling, or genuflecting before receiving, while often motivated by the praiseworthy desire to show greater respect to the Most Blessed Sacrament, is not proper according to the liturgical norms.
It can also create practical difficulties, such as people inadvertently tripping over the person in front of them in line. It should also be remembered that the greatest respect we can show is to always ensure that when we receive Communion, we do so worthily.
When receiving Communion on the tongue: Hold your hands in front of you in a gesture of prayer, and when you approach the minister of Communion, bow, and then say “Amen” after the minister says, “The Body of Christ.” After the minister places the Host into your mouth, return to your place in the pew (or approach the Communion station for the Blood of Christ, as the case may be).
When receiving Communion in the hand: When you approach the minister of Communion, hold one hand on top of the other and extend your hands flat, like an altar top. (This follows the counsel of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who instructed the faithful: “make a throne of your hands in which to receive the King [in Holy Communion].” He also urged them to exercise great care for any fragments which might remain in one’s hand.)
Bow, and then say “Amen” after the minister says, “The Body of Christ,” and places the host in your hand. Step to the side, reverently place the Host into your mouth with the other hand, taking the Host from the hand that it rests upon.
Take care to consume any particles which may remain in your hand and return to your place in the pew (or approach the Communion station for the Blood of Christ, as the case may be). Note: if one of your hands is impeded such that you cannot receive Communion in this way, you should receive on the tongue.
When receiving Communion from the cup: Approach the minister of Communion, bow, and then say “Amen” after the minister says, “The Blood of Christ.” Take the cup with your hands and reverently place it to your lips to take a sip of the Blood of Christ. Hand the cup back to the minister, and return to your place in the pew.