After Communion, Is It Better to Sit, Kneel, or Stand?

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A priest sets the record straight.

I have a question. Can the members of the congregation, sit once we they received Communion at Mass, or should they wait until the ciboria are stored in the tabernacle? Thank you!

To receive Communion is to establish a commun-union with Jesus Christ, and this involves a moment of intense fervor because it solidifies our personal relationship with him.

It is difficult to build this relationship without dedicating the time that an interpersonal relationship requires.  When we receive Communion, Christ unites us so intimately and profoundly to himself… !

Regarding the posture of the faithful after Communion, there are directions in the General Introduction to the Roman Missal (GIRM) which are adapted according to the decision of regional episcopal conferences to reflect the character and reasonable traditions of their people in accordance with Church law.

According to the GIRM, Communion can be received kneeling or standing (first making a profound reverence – see GIRM, 160), and the faithful remain standing while the Communion hymn is sung.

And the “singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful” (See GIRM, 86).  When is the Communion rite over? It ends when the last member of the congregation receives communion; it does not end for each member of the congregation when he or she has received communion individually.

It is understood that during this period of time from when a given member of the faithful receives communion until the last person does so, each person should join the Communion hymn by singing, and not pray privately while seated or kneeling.
For this reason, the faithful normally remain standing until the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, if necessary, after which we kneel or we sit to adore Christ in silence.

This is, in fact, what the priest does when he sits for a few moments after distributing Communion and purifying the sacred vessels. And it would be advisable that the brief moment of silence were not interrupted by music or by anything else.

“[A]s circumstances allow, [the faithful] may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed” (GIRM, 43). We should note that the text says that the faithful will be seated only “after Communion,” not during the very moment while Communion is being distributed.

This is the norm that, in principle, should be faithfully observed inasmuch as possible; it is the ideal.  In any case, whichever posture the faithful feel prayerfully inspired to adopt after Communion will be respected. That is to say that, despite the norm, after Communion each person may use the posture that is most comfortable for prayer or for joining in the communion hymn, according to his or her age (for senior citizens, for example), health, and a wide range of circumstances, including ignorance of the norm or of local customs. Therefore, no one should “suffer” because of what other people might think. That is what Saint Augustine said: “In essentials, unity; in what is optional, liberty; and in all things, charity.”  Priests and the rest of the faithful should respect the freedom of each person in this matter without judging their motives.

We have to remember that our posture should favor the thanksgiving, adoration and recollection that should follow Holy Communion, having received Communion with faith, fervor, and a pure conscience. There is a beautiful tradition of remaining in the church for a few moments after Mass for a brief moment of personal prayer.

Sadly, following the prayer after Communion, it’s common to see the faithful do one of two inappropriate things: begin to leave the church even before the final blessing, or to begin to leave the church right after the final blessing as fast as if someone had shouted that a bomb were about to go off in the church.  These attitudes are detrimental to the closing hymn (which is part of the Mass), to the dignity of the Mass itself or to that of the church, and to the fruits of Holy Communion.

This article originally appeared in Aleteia’s Spanish edition. Translated byMatthew Green.

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