In the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine, the work of human hands, become the Body and Blood of Christ. But the change doesn’t end there: by sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, we become what we receive! St. Augustine, the fifth-century bishop of Hippo in North Africa said, in a homily preached to the newly baptized at Easter: “Because He (the Lord) suffered for us, He left us in this Sacrament his Body and Blood, which He made even as He made us, also.
For we have become his Body, and through his mercy we are what we receive.”As extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion we must become what we give. We must become and live as the Body of Christ that we give to our brothers and sisters. In us, as in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, God starts with the human and brings out the ‘beyond-the-human.’
- We have a unique and special function to perform at each Eucharistic liturgy. When exercising this ministry, a person should not perform other roles such as proclaiming the word, music ministry, etc.
- Everything we do must be done with reverence – our dress, our movements, our posture and our words.
- The communion into which Jesus invites us is a personal communion, a communion of persons. It is our ministry to make the moment of communion as personal as possible.
- A primary qualification for ministers of communion, then, is that they be by nature interested in, caring about, at ease with other people – without regard for status in the community or for distinctions of class, sex, age or race. All who gather at the table of the Lord do so as sisters and brothers in the Lord, and must be welcomed there as such.
- An important principle for ministers of communion is do not rush. Allow this moment its full ritual beauty.
- This is not a ministry for efficiency experts, nor for those who are unable to look another in the eye with comfort or to touch another person with ease. Nothing is more important in this ministry then the ability to focus your attention on the person to whom you are ministering.
- The communion rite is not practical. It’s a mystery, it’s profound, it’s beyond our understanding. We must act as if we believe this!
Preparation Before Mass
- Be attentive to the schedule; find a substitute when you are not able to fulfill your duties.
- If you are not scheduled on a particular Sunday and you are present and “ready” let the mass coordinator know when you arrive.
- When you are scheduled, arrive early (15 minutes); let the mass coordinator know you’re present and help with any set-up that may be necessary.
- Learn the names, locations and uses of the various sacred vessels and linens used in the celebration of the Eucharist.
- A minister or the mass coordinator will “check” the tabernacle for numbers and then leave the key in place.
- Place an appropriate number of hosts in the ciborium (enough for the participants at this celebration). Pour wine into the decanter and take both to the church entrance.
- Ministers should approach the altar following/during the “sign of peace” and take their place behind the presider.
- The sign of peace is over when the Lamb of God/breaking of bread begins.
- Communion ministers will bring the extra ciboria and cups to the altar from the credence table.
- The ministers will receive communion following the priest/deacon and then the priest will give you either a plate or a cup and you will proceed to your “station.” (There is no hierarchy in terms of the Body and Blood of Christ. Christ is fully present in both.)
- “The Body of Christ” is a statement of faith and requires a response: “Amen” (so be it, I believe). This is an active encounter between the living Christ in me and in another person. This encounter requires one to be “present” to the other.
- The practice of “intinction” (dipping) is not encouraged in the Archdiocese of Halifax. The Body and Blood of Christ must be given and taken – “take and eat, take and drink.”
- The chalice is most effectively cleansed between communicants by wiping inside and out, turning slightly after wiping.
- If you run out of the hosts before your line is finished you may go to the ciborium on the altar and replenish your plate. You may also begin to break the hosts in two.
- If your cup is emptied of the precious blood take it to the credence table and purify it before taking your seat.
- When all have been served ministers should take the cups to the credence table and purify. Plates will go to the altar to be emptied of any particles before going to the credence table. A person will be appointed to return the ciborium to the tabernacle.
- Communion ministers return to their seats.
- When there is a large amount of the precious blood remaining it is best to wait until mass is over before consuming. In this case, cover the chalice with a cloth. All traces should be removed after mass before moving the vessels to the sacristy for cleaning.
- When mass is over all vessels and linens are taken to the sacristy for washing and disposal in the laundry.
If, then, you want to understand the body of Christ, remember what the Apostle says: ‘You are the body of Christ and members thereof’ (1 Cor. 12:27). If, then, you are the body of Christ and his members, it is your mystery which is set forth on the Lord’s table; it is your own mystery that you receive . . .You say ‘Amen’ to what you are, and in saying ‘Amen’ you subscribe to it. For you hear the words ‘The body of Christ,’ and you answer ‘Amen.’ Be members of the body of Christ, then, so that your ‘Amen’ might be authentic (St. Augustine).