Why is it that sometimes the lay faithful receive the Holy Communion only under the species of bread and not both bread and wine? Edem, Hohoe
During early times Communion was received under both kinds. But side by side with the regular liturgical usage of Communion, there existed from the earliest times the custom of partaking in certain cases under one kind alone. Examples of receiving communion in one kind alone can be seen as early as 3rd century in the writings of Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Eusebius and others.
*What is the theological basis for only one or the other (body and blood) being necessary?*
The Catholic Church does not say it is necessary to receive Communion in one species alone. It says it is sufficient to receive Communion in one species alone.
There is no Divine precept binding the laity or non-celebrating priests to receive the sacrament under both kinds (Trent, sess. XXI, c. i.)
Christ is really present and is received whole and entire, body and blood, soul and Divinity, under either species alone. As regards the fruits of the sacrament, the communicant who receives under one kind only is not deprived of any grace necessary for salvation (Trent, Sess. XXI, c., iii).
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 states ‘if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, he will be held to account for the Lord’s body and blood.’ Here St. Paul attaches the same guilt “of the body and the blood of the Lord” to the unworthy “eating or drinking”. In its article “The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist” Catholic Encyclopedia points out that based on this verse, The Catholic Church believes that Jesus, in the species of bread alone, is fully present with his entire body, blood, soul and Divinity, just as in the species of wine alone.
Hence as far as the effects are concerned, the graces received are the same.
A major reason why it is not very common to see Catholic faithful partaking in the cup is because of practical purposes. It is quite impossible to provide the cup for hundreds of people in a mass and protect the sacred species from spilling to ground. This is the only reason for which currently faithful are not “required” to receive in both forms.
Theologically speaking, preventing the sacred species from spilling to ground is a big deal because of what the Church believes it to be; that is, *Christ himself*. So spilling the species (desecration) is among the gravest of sins. (Such actions, if done willfully, can be forgiven only by the Pope. This shows the gravity of the matter in the Catholic Church).
Hence it must be avoided whenever possible.
Let me conclude on a light note by saying that, we should not be tempted to equate the Eucharist to “Akple and fetridetsi” or “fufu and light soup”, where we can’t enjoy one without the other. The Eucharistic species are not complementary to each other. Each contains the full Christ in his entirety, just as a little fragment or drop.
The one who receives the Eucharist under both species receives no more grace than the one who receives either of them or a tiny piece or drop of any. However, there are many occasions when both species are given as stipulated in the G.I.R.M. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 283) and as and when it is convenient and possible.
May the Eucharistic Lord bless and keep you always.
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