Receiving Communion: A Corpus Christi Examination of Conscience

There is more to the mystery of the blessed Eucharist than the human mind can grasp. This examination is not meant to be a burden to consciences, but an opportunity to reflect gratefully from time to time on various aspects of the gift of the Eucharist.

While processing to Communion, do I realize that I am journeying toward the “Jerusalem above” to feast with angels and saints, with deceased friends and loved ones, with the entire mystical Body of Christ?

Do I recognize those around me as the Body of Christ, and add my voice, however halting, to the processional song that expresses our “union in spirit” and “joy of heart”?

Do I bow humbly to the Eucharistic Lord, to the servant of the Lord ministering to me, to the altar on which the Lord’s dying and rising is made present?

Does my veneration of the Risen Lord, really present in sacramental sign, open my eyes to the “divine presence” which “we believe is everywhere”?

As I eat the “Bread of Life,” do I realize that my own body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit”?

As I drink the Precious Blood, do I realize that Christ’s love poured out for me in sacrifice calls me to pour out my life for others?

Does this sacred banquet strengthen my yearning for a world in which the poor have enough to eat?

Am I grateful that the Eucharist has the “salutary virtue” to “remit the sins I commit daily”?

Do I let the Eucharistic Lord still my inner voices ready to speak in judgment of others’ piety and prayer?

Am I ready to “go forth in peace, glorifying the Lord by my life”?

by Anthony Ruff, OSB

Allusions: Jerusalem above: Galatians 4:26; union in spirit: GIRM 86; divine presence: Rule of Benedict 19:1; bread of life: Roman canon; temple: 1 Corinthians 6:19; salutary virtue: Council of Trent Session 22; Go forth: Mass dismissal from Benedict XVI.

This post was first published on March 6, 2018.


  1. Fr. Anthony,
    This is great. Would it be possible to publish this in our parish bulletin? Giving you credit of course.

  2. I appreciate Fr Ruff’s work here. That said, it’s not clear to me it would be quite as effective and spiritually useful as intended, because even I can readily see that some of the framing here may be seen more an invitation to argument (by dint of the selective nature of the framing) by people it seems to be aimed at rather than an invitation to an examen. (This would hardly be the first such to partake of the issue, nor would it be the last. When the frame for an examen is the Decalogue, what follows is formed by that frame.)

    A more general source material that might be fruitful to enlarge the frame for this might be, for example, the Mandatum that we tend to set aside in the context of the rite of Holy Communion:

    “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you….
    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)

    And end with “Do you understand what I have done to you?” [An alternative approach is to word this from the perspective of the communicant (that is, “Do I understand what Jesus has done for me?”), but there’s a part of me, fwiw, that strongly prefers responding to God (and not putting my words in God’s mouth, but using God’s words in some honest way), rather than my own question; maybe it’s just how I roll, but the effect is quite different for me, and perhaps some others.]

    1. Well I wrote it very intentionally so as not to be an argument aimed at anyone, and to be as broad-based as possible resting on the consensus of Catholics (OK, except the singing during Communion 🙂 ) and our official documents.

      I thought some “liberals” would find this too “sacred” and “transcendent,” to be honest, though I didn’t mean to criticize liturgical styles less traditional than what I know in the abbey.

      I found it quite moving to write this and apply it first of all to myself. I’m very sorry it was taken otherwise.


      1. Yeah, the singing part (which really depends on what a parish is doing or not doing during the procession in that regard….), but as you are no doubt aware also there are a not inconsiderable number of American Catholic folks who seem to take any reference to the poor without a Scriptural frame necessarily as Luciferian Social Justice Warring, and who would see the absence of some reference of You Know What Text That Was Deliberately Taken Out of The Lectionary as a cherry-picking or whatever omission. I know that writing with prolepsis in mind is [insert negative gerundive verb of choice – there are so many – here], and that’s not quite where I was coming from; rather, suggesting a frame to collect these together might help make it more universal than it might in practice be taken.

        My apologies for saddening you with my comment.

        FWIW, my response to the Lord’s question: Help me to understand the way you want me to understand.

      2. The way others take something such as this up, of course, says as much, if not more, about them, as it does about the text. I find it first class and am not remotely surprised that it proved to be a moving exercise in the writing.

  3. Dear Fr. Ruff,

    I consider myself a liberal, and – though I deliberately read it three times and allowed the words to sink into my heart before responding – I was challenged, not turned off, by your post. As I have aged and experienced the loss of so many relatives and loved ones, my reflections on the communion of the saints’ doctrine do indeed turn my attention to the paschal meal celebrated eternally at the feast in the Jerusalem above as I gather at my weekly celebration in the parish.

    With regard to your last sentence, “Am I ready to “go forth in peace, glorifying the Lord by my life”?” I think it could be stronger and more concrete. I leave the table commissioned to be Christ for the world, to live out my baptismal commitment, to be Christ’s hands and feet as St. Theresa has said (I think it’s she!), to bring God’s compassion to the peripheries and to the poor, as Pope Francis continually urges. Peace!

  4. This might be the best thing I’ve ever seen on this blog. Many, many thanks.

    I’d also like to ask our bulletin editor to reproduce it, with your permission and acknowledging you as author. Ok?

  5. Fr. Anthony, may I have your permission to reproduce this in our parish bulletin acknowledging you as the author?

      1. I think it might work as a homily as well. Sort of like an examination of conscience at a communal reconciliation service. It is very thought-provoking.
        Congrats, Anthony.

  6. Thanks be to God, FR. Ruff!

    I Hope it finds a way to be printed widely, perhaps, the liturgical Press, so that many more faithful can be of beneficiary of this profound Reflection/Prayer.

  7. Sorry I missed this the first time around. Thank you for reposting or re inviting it back into the chain.

    The statements of interrogation as one approaches the Eucharist are profound and we will leave them on a back table in our place of worship because they need to be asked over and over.

    I will be challenged to ask one more question, if you don’t mind, when I kneel after the reception of Communion. That question would come from your questions and I would ask myself “OK, what did I just do?”

  8. A comment on the language used in the Prayers of the Mass for Corpus Christi. It may seem a trivial matter, but I suggest it is important.
    The problem is confusion in the one we address in the prayers. Many years ago I saw in a Primary School classroom a sign for the religion class: “We know God loves us because he made the world and he died on the cross for us.” While the Trinity is mystery, for that very reason it is important not to conflate or confuse Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    The Collect for Corpus Christi goes: “O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your passion … who live and reign with God the Father…” We know what it means, and I in no way deny that Jesus is God; and the translation reflects the Latin accurately.
    It would, however, be pastorally helpful to address Jesus by name, as in the former English translation,: “Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us the eucharist as the memorial of your suffering and death…”
    The 1998 Missal is similar: “Lord Jesus Christ, in this most wonderful sacrament you have left us the memorial of your passion…”
    The Prayer over the Offerings has: “Grant your Church, O Lord, we pray … Through Christ our Lord”, so is addressed to the Father. The 1992 Missal has “Gracious Lord and God … We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
    The Prayer after Communion has: “Grant, O Lord, we pray … by our reception of your precious Body and Blood.” The previous translation addresses Jesus by name: “Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us you body and blood…” The 1992 Missal is also clear in the one being addressed: “Lord Jesus Christ, bring us one day to that eternal union with your Godhead, which is prefigured here on earth by our sharing in your sacred body and blood. You live and reign for ever and ever.”
    In speaking of mystery, it helps not to create confusion by our language. It unnecessarily makes appreciation of the wonderful mystery more difficult. It would be so easy to make our language clear. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

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