The Sacrament of the Eucharist / Holy Communion
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the third and final Sacrament of Initiation. Catholics are asked to receive Communion at least once a year, at Easter. However the church urges her children to receive Communion frequently. It is called a sacrament of initiation because receiving it, it brings us into the fullness of our life in Christ.
There is an intimate connection of the Sacrament of Holy Communion to the mystical body of Christ, the church, and to life in Christ and in the church. Because of this, one wishing to receive Communion is to believe that the church is indeed Christ’s mystical body, his beloved bride, and is to be in a state of grace – that is, free of any grave or mortal sin – prior to receiving. Otherwise, as St. Paul warns in his first letter to the Corinthians, one “eats and drinks a judgment on himself” (11:29).
Receiving Holy Communion worthily brings grace that affects an individual both spiritually and physically. Spiritually, their souls become more united to Christ and to the church, both through the graces they receive, the change in their relationships with the church, and through the change in their actions that these graces effect.
One who has been away from the church and the practice of the Catholic faith for any length of time should visit with a priest and be sacramentally reconciled with the church and Christ before receiving Communion again. Should one be unable to receive holy Communion physically, he/she can pray an act of spiritual communion, whereby he/she expresses the desire to be united with Christ and for Christ to take up his dwelling place in his/her soul. Although not sacramental, this devout way of communion can be a great source of grace that strengthens the individual until he/she is able to receive Communion once again.