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Out of the question

23 January 2012

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.


Your answers

Is it permissible for a lay person to partake of holy communion in both the morning and the evening?

Clergy are still asked this question by communicants who were taught to observe a strict pre-eucharistic fast from the previous midnight. This rigid discipline inhibited communicants from receiving the sacrament later than in the early morning. The relaxation of the rule of fasting completely altered the situation, but old habits die hard.

There has never been a rule to forbid lay people from partaking of the sacrament more than once a day. It has been suggested that the custom may have developed to avoid a superstitious view of the sacrament by ultra-pious souls who sought to communicate several times throughout the day, where there were multiple celebrations.

As a norm, the traditional custom helps to ensure a devout and well-prepared approach to the altar; but it need not be rigorously followed. When, for instance, a regular communicant is invited to join another congregation for a special evening celebration, such as a confirmation or patronal festival, it would be inappropriate not to communicate at what could be a second eucharist on that day.

To receive communion is to share fully in the sacramental fellowship of a given eucharistic community, and to identify with the special “intention” with which the additional eucharist is being offered. Whether a person receives the Blessed Sacrament once or twice, the important thing is that it shall always be with awesome reverence.
(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire

Yes: 1 Corinthians simply states, “Do this as often as you drink it.” There is no canonical authority for refusing communion to a confirmed person unless he or she is “excom­municated by name or a cause of scandal to the faithful”. Because of this, in 1737, John Wesley was charged with defamation of char­acter for denying communion to a person.

Even the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church permits reception more than once, so long as the communicant has participated in the service.
Colin Setchfield
Chingford, London

Your questions

Were “seminarian collars” ever in use in the C of E, and, if so, what were the rules for their use? J. S.

Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 13-17 Long Lane, London EC1A 9PN.


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