The Priest’s communion

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  On the topic of “the priest’s communion” it seems odd to me that the priest would receive communion first. What host/leader eats before the rest of the guests? Is this custom in the rubrics?    Is there any tradition of the celebrant receiving last? Related to this what is the reasoning for having a priest’s chalice or small paten with one lager host? These customs (along with ringing a bell for the priest’s communion) much come from an attitude that see the Mass as the priest’s rather than as an action of the entire assembly. What are the rubrics?   Would there be any support for the priest receiving last?


A:  The Vatican’s 2004 instruction Redemptionis sacramentum gives a curt response to your question in paragraph 97:

“A Priest must communicate at the altar at the moment laid down by the Missal each time he celebrates Holy Mass, and the concelebrants must communicate before they proceed with the distribution of Holy Communion. The Priest celebrant or a concelebrant is never to wait until the people’s Communion is concluded before receiving Communion himself.” It footnotes the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 55 and GIRM 158-160, 243-244, 246.

I see your point about the host not eating before guests, but the priest isn’t exactly the host. That would be Christ. The priest is required to receive communion from the bread and wine consecrated at that mass, so the rubrics are taking precaution that this happens – for everyone’s benefit.

The priest is not required to have his own chalice or small paten. Many priests do, but the rubrics are imprecise on this question.