Q+A: Can you answer why the whole congregation goes up to Communion, without Confession? In the years gone by we all had to go to confession first.

A. Throughout the history of the Church there have been times when almost no one received Communion during Mass. Today, almost everyone receives. The Church does encourage frequent Communion because in the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus gives his entire Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us for our salvation and to unite us to Himself.

The frequency of receiving Communion is based largely on our understanding of sin. In the past, it was taught that everyone should go to Confession before receiving Communion to ensure that their souls are clean and pure before receiving Christ in the Eucharist. The Church, however, teaches that this is necessary if we have mortal sin, not merely venial sin. The Eucharist itself has the power to forgive and cleanse us of venial sin.

Mortal sin (serious sin) cuts us off from God whereas venial (less serious) sin merely damages or obscures that relationship.

“A serious sin cuts a person off from God. One requirement for such a sin is that it be opposed to an important value, for instance, directed against life, against marriage, or God (for example, murder, blasphemy, adultery, and so on) and that it be committed with full knowledge and full consent. Venial sins are opposed to secondary values or are committed without full knowledge of their seriousness or without full consent of the will. Such sins disrupt the relationship with God but do not sever it.” (YouCat #316)

If we have committed mortal/serious sin then we must go to Confession before we receive Communion. To receive Communion in a state of mortal sin is extremely serious because how can we unite ourselves to the God we have already cut ourselves off from without a repentant heart? Even in our human relationships we know that repentance and forgiveness is necessary for healing.

Therefore, although we are only required to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession when we have committed mortal sin, it is recommended that we partake of this wonderful sacrament more frequently as it reminds us of our need of God’s mercy and grace throughout our lives.

Fr. Andrew

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