As we continue in this first year of the National Eucharistic Revival, a question that recently arose is “Can a person receive the Holy Eucharist more than once per day?” This is a very good question! Succinctly, a person may ordinarily receive Holy Communion up to twice per day, provided the second reception is within the context of Mass. We find the full answer in the Code of Canon Law, no. 917:
A person who has received the Most Holy Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only during the celebration of the Eucharist in which the person participates. [emphasis added]
In reading Canon 917, it is possible to receive twice in the same day by attending two Masses or within the context of a communion service first and a Mass second. However, receiving communion within Mass first and then receiving within the context of a communion service is not permitted. Why? In ordinary circumstances, reception of Holy Communion is never separated from the sacrifice of the Mass because the celebration of the Holy Mass “the true center of the whole Christian life both for the universal Church and for the local congregations of that Church. … [The Eucharist] is the summit of both the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and the worship which men offer to Christ and which through him they offer to the Father in the Spirit. (Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, no. 6) During Mass, we offer ourselves to God and Christ offers himself to us. This offering is intrinsically connected to the reception of Holy Communion. Furthermore, the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist form the complete act of worship. For a “complete” offering of oneself during the Mass, we should be present and actively participating for the entirety of the liturgy. Therefore, if we have already attended Mass making an offering of self (which is the highest form of prayer and worship possible), attending a communion service and receiving a second time makes no sense as the offering has already been made.
Another reason the Church has made these provisions regarding the reception of Holy Communion is so we do not turn the Eucharist into a commodity or to begin treating Him with irreverence as a means to try and receive as much grace as possible. There are plenty of stories throughout the history of the Church of people popping into multiple different Masses right around communion time, receiving the Eucharist, and then leaving right away. By not being present for the full Mass and making an offering of oneself, these multiple receptions of Holy Communion really do not impart the grace these persons are probably desiring! So in her wisdom, the Church desires us to have a balanced spiritual life: we are to receive the Eucharist at least once per year during the Easter season and no more than twice per day.
There is one exception to Canon 917 in terms of the manner and number of times it is possible to receive. Canon 922 §2 stipulates, “Even if they have received Communion in the same day, those who are in danger of death are strongly urged to receive again.” Since the Eucharist is viewed as “food for the journey” as one passes through death to life, he or she is encouraged to receive again insofar as possible within the context of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick which includes Reconciliation and reception of Holy Communion. As an example: maybe a person has attended a daily Mass and a wedding Mass and received Communion at both. On the way home they are in a serious car accident and in danger of death. In this instance, they could receive the Eucharist a third time that same day due to Canon 922 §2.
As we approach our Lord, may we always seek to unite ourselves more to him with every reception of his Body and Blood!