The 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) emphasizes this requirement for receiving Holy Communion when it states: “A person who is conscious of a grave sin is not to … receive the body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible” (CIC 916).
The U.S. bishops, in the document they adopted in November 2021 titled, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” elaborate on this important point.
“To receive the Body and Blood of Christ while in a state of mortal sin represents a contradiction,” the document states. “The person who, by his or her own action, has broken communion with Christ and his Church but receives the Blessed Sacrament, acts incoherently, both claiming and rejecting communion at the same time. It is thus a counter sign, a lie — it expresses a communion that in fact has been broken.”
The bishops' document goes on to say that the sacrament of penance "provides us with the opportunity to recover the gift of sanctifying grace and to be restored to full communion with God and the Church. All the sacrament requires of us as penitents is that we have contrition for our sins, resolve not to sin again, confess our sins, receive sacramental absolution, and do the assigned penance.”
The second requirement for receiving Holy Communion is to observe the Eucharistic fast.
Canon law states, “One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion” (CIC 919).
Elderly people, those who are ill, and their caretakers are excused from the Eucharistic fast (CIC 191 §3). Priests and deacons may not dispense one obligated by the Eucharistic fast unless the bishop has expressly granted such power to them (CIC 89).
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