Communion twice in one day

by
10 January 2007

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Your answers

I attended the morning service in my own church, where I received communion, and later attended an evening sung eucharist where the congregation was invited to receive the sacrament. I was uncertain as to what to do. Please advise.

A rule of not receiving holy communion more than once in one day is generally accepted, though it is not easy to find a source of specific prohibition. It was probably developed to prevent people with a superstitious view of the sacrament from communicating several times throughout the day at a time when, in towns, there would be continual celebrations across many churches.

It is a good discipline, but there are times when it need not be rigorously followed — as when going to a special evening service like an induction or accompanying friends to their own church. At a later service in one’s own parish after receiving earlier, it is best to abstain.

It is a question that can cause unnecessary scruples: worry about possible sins of omission or commission in cases where there is no moral issue. In Roman Catholic canon law, priests are forbidden to celebrate mass more than once in a day, an action known as “bination”, unless dispensed for special occasions or pastoral needs.

In practice today, many Roman or Anglican priests in parish work are likely to find it necessary to celebrate more than once on a Sunday.
(The Revd Professor) Raymond Chapman, London SW13

My advice would be most certainly never to approach holy communion casually on the spur of the moment, but always with some disciplined preparation. Otherwise, by all means do not hesitate to “draw near with faith” at a second eucharist. To receive holy communion is to share fully in the sacramental fellowship of a given eucharistic assembly, and to identify with the special “intention” with which the additional eucharist is being offered.

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Whether the communicant receives the sacrament once, or twice, let the golden rule be that it shall always be with awesome reverence and perhaps never unmindful of the wise words of Michael Ramsey, who in one of his Durham Essays and Addresses wrote: “The awe in the individual’s approach to Holy Communion which characterised both the Tractarians and Evangelicals of old stands in contrast to the ease with which our congregations come tripping to the altar week by week.”

Those memorable words have not lost their relevance with the passage of time.(Canon) Terry Palmer, Magor, Monmouthshire

Some years ago, a group of nuns put a similar question to the Archbishop of York, then Donald Coggan. His answer was to the effect that it is traditional that a Christian receives communion only once in one day. But at holy communion we are not only in communion with God, but also with the Body of Christ among whom we are worshipping.

For a nun to receive communion together with her sisters, and then when attending a church where the nun was a member of staff, it was right to receive twice in one day.

He also quoted St Paul when the apostle was questioned about eating meat that had been offered to idols. “Do all to the glory of God. Give no offence to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just try to please . . . not seeking [your] own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10.31-33). If the second congregation expects a visitor to receive, do not cause offence.

Ecclesiastical time begins a day at about 6 p.m. If, therefore, the second communion service comes after 6 p.m., it is theoretically the next day.

The Church of England expects confirmed members to be able to make up their own mind on such issues. There is no definitive rule. Different situations require different appropriate action.
(Miss) Audrey Aveyard, Ludlow, Shropshire

[The opinion attributed above to the late Lord Coggan should not be taken to imply that there is an obligation to receive at any celebration simply because others are doing so, or that others will rightly be watching to see whether you do so or not. Editor]

Your questions

The Church of England is asking for an assessment of current levels of energy consumption in church buildings in every parish, with a view to reducing this by 60 per cent by 2050. Clearly we should all want to reduce costs and play our part in saving the planet, but if faced with the option of increased use of the building (with more energy consumed) or the same or lower use, which should we choose? M. R.

I understood that all benefices must hold services on a Sunday. Was it right of some churches to cancel their morning services for the 4th Sunday of Advent simply because it was also Christmas Eve? J. P.

Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 33 Upper Street, London N1 0PN.

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