Preparing your Heart
Communion has several dimensions within our Catholic family.
Communion of belief—we share the same faith in that we believe all that Jesus said and taught as handed on by the Church.
Communion with the successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles—we are in a visible communion with the pope and the bishops.
Communion of Charity—we share a fellowship rooted in love for one another and a sharing of life and resources for the good of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
Sacramental Communion—the “sacred mysteries” which Christ left us, the sacraments, bring about communion with God and all who belong to him through baptism. While all the sacraments affect a deepening of communion, the Holy Eucharist renews the covenantal relationship with God brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ. It is also the way we enter into the self-offering of the Son to the Father. In essence, we first offer our body and blood, soul and humanity with Christ in worship through praise and thanksgiving at Mass before we receive his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion. In this sense, the Mass is true divine worship because it is first and foremost the action of Christ with us his members.
It is at Mass, after we are fed by the Word of God, that we are also fed by the “Bread come down from heaven” the Holy Eucharist, in Holy Communion. The Eucharist is, drawing on the Scriptures and the constant faith of the Church, the Real Presence of Christ. This means that Christ is truly and substantially present in the sacrament and that when we receive Holy Communion we receive him, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is a gift unlike and unsurpassed by any other!
To receive Holy Communion sacramentally at Mass, there must be communion in the other dimensions mentioned above. One must also not be aware of any unrepentant grave (mortal) sin. If one were to approach Holy Communion without believing, or while living a life in contradiction to the gospel, it would not make sense. This is why it is important to approach the sacrament of reconciliation prior to reception of Holy Communion if one has been away from their faith or is aware of serious sins that one is turning away from in repentance.
Even when we are not aware of grave sin, the Mass invites all—for we are all sinners—to examine our consciences at the Penitential Rite near the beginning of Mass and make an act of repentance. We renew our awareness of our unworthiness again just before we receive Holy Communion as well, when we say together, quoting the centurion in the Scriptures: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
The Mass, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. We are obligated to participate in it because, God is due our worship in justice. We owe God thanks and praise for our very existence. We were created by God as an expression of divine love. God is also due our praise and thanks because of our redemption. Christ came to suffer and die and rise, so that death and hell would not have the last word over the destiny of the human race. Again, God is love and he “so loved the world that he gave his only Son so everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
So, we prepare our hearts for such a guest as Christ, by first ordering our lives as best we can around his teaching and commandments.
We prayerfully prepare to give our best to God prior to Mass by recalling all of God’s gifts and blessings, even the crosses we are allowed to receive as members of Christ, for it is here too that we have a certain communion.
We bring our needs and the needs of others before God’s merciful gaze.
We recollect our minds so that we will listen to God’s word, the prayers of the liturgy and so we can fully and consciously participate.
We also prepare our bodies by the “Eucharistic fast,” whereby we abstain from food or drink (except for water and medicine) for one full hour prior to receiving Holy Communion. This is another offering to God and prepares us to welcome the divine guest into the temple of our bodies.
In doing this, we prepare our hearts to meet his Sacred Heart as we worship the Father “through him, with him and in him” in the Holy Spirit.
USCCB: Order of the Mass
Catholic Answers: Who can receive Holy Communion?
The Light is ON: Guide to Confession
Examinations of Conscience
Examination of Conscience-Teen/Young Adult
Beginning Catholic: Examination of Conscience based on 10 Commandments & Church Precepts
Amazing Catechists: Examination of Conscience for Kids
USCCB: List of Examinations of Conscience
EWTN: Examination of Conscience based on Faith, Hope & Charity