QUAERITUR: Formula for distribution of Communion in Ordinary Form

From a priest:

Do you know when exactly the formula for giving Communion to the faithful was changed?

In the Ordinary Form the minister says “Corpus Christi… The Body of Christ” and the communicant responds “Amen”.

In the Extraordinary Form the minister says something closer to what the priest says before his own Communion “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.” The minister says “Amen”, not the communicant.

My understanding is that Paul VI in 1964 said said that the formula should be shortened. Inter oecumenici 48, i.  There was a follow up decree Quo actuosius, beginning:

“In order that the people may more actively and beneficially take part in the sacrifice of the Mass and profess their faith in the eucharistic mystery in the very act of receiving communion, numerous requests have been submitted to Pope Paul VI for a more appropriate formulary for the distribution of communion.” (BTW… I don’t think the claimed motive worked.)

Corpus Christi”  is what was said in the Ambrosian Rite (Paul VI had been Archbishop of Milan, of course.) and the shorter form is attested to both Sts. Ambrose and Augustine. The shortened form was therefore picked up for the Novus Ordo.

Ambrose (probably) wrote in his work to the newly baptized (therefore Augustine would have something like this from Ambrose own lips) De sacramentis 4.25:

“So you say not indifferently ‘Amen’, already confessing in spirit that you receive the body of Christ. Therefore, when you ask, the priest says to you: ‘the body of Christ’, and you say: ‘Amen’, that is, ‘truly’. What the tongue confesses let the affection hold. That you may know, moreover: ‘This is a sacrament, whose figure went on before’.”

Augustine said in s. 272, preached perhaps in 408 on Pentecost, to the infantes (newly baptized) about the fact that we see one thing (bread) but we receive another (Christ).

“What you hear, you see, is ‘The Body of Christ,’ and you answer, ‘Amen’. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that ‘Amen’ true.”

In any event, despite the Patristic pedigree, in this time of weak Catholic identity, we should by means of the “gravitational pull” exerted by the Extraordinary Form, return in the Novus Ordo to the older form of distribution, perhaps beginning on weekdays.  Right now, that would be contra legem.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. “Quo actuosius”

    In order that the people may more actively and beneficially take part in the sacrifice of the Mass and profess their faith in the eucharistic mystery in the very act of receiving communion…

    I think that could have been achieved by changing the formula for distribution and reception of Communion from:

    P. Corpus Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam tuam in vitam aetérnam. Amen.


    P. Hoc Corpus Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam tuam in vitam aetérnam.
    C. Amen.

    The priest would be saying, in effect, “May this, the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, preserve your soul unto life everlasting” to which the communicant would respond “Amen”. It would still be a blessing, yet it would incorporate a profession of faith from the communicants: no longer is “some” Body of our Lord Jesus Christ (which is not identified with the Host being received) preserving their soul, but this which is the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. pelerin says:

    Am I wrong in wishing the old formula could return as a valid option?

  3. APX says:

    @Fr. Z

    we should by means of the “gravitational pull” exerted by the Extraordinary Form, return in the Novus Ordo to the older form of distribution, perhaps beginning on weekdays.

    But Father! But Father! The older form seems to be a mini benediction. I thought only priests can do that. Wouldn’t that mean we’d have to get rid of EMHC’s?

  4. guatadopt says:

    For what it’s worth…before I receive communion, I say (silently in my head) “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam meam in vitam aeternam”. Have been doing that since I was a teenager in the mid 1990’s.

  5. Legisperitus says:

    There just isn’t enough time to prepare the tongue properly for reception of Holy Communion when you are using it to say “Amen.”

  6. APX says:


    There just isn’t enough time to prepare the tongue properly for reception of Holy Communion when you are using it to say “Amen.”

    I struggled with for quite some time. What made it worse was once the priest I received from caught on that this was my method of reception, he’d stuff the host into my mouth as I was saying “Amen”. I solved this by kneeling. It forced him to slow down what he was doing (this was at a parish with literally 15-17 EMHC’s every Sunday, and communion reception seemed to have a goal of get everyone through in 5 minutes or less.)

    As ridiculous as this sounds, you might have to practice getting the rhythm down to the point where it’s an ingrained habit. Now it’s as easy as driving a standard with zero roll back after being stopped on a steep hill.

  7. Peggy R says:

    I am going to have to find a way to discuss graciously with our pastor a problem that has occurred a few times recently when our child in his first year after 1st Communion was faced with a lay EMHC. The lay people are not trained to be considerate of those who wish to receive on the tongue. My child does not have the capacity to stand up for himself in the face of these adults, willful lay people who persist in trying to put it in his hands. He eventually opens his hands from the folded prayer posture. He feels bad. He knows that it is not how we receive Jesus in our family. We do generally try to avoid lay EMHCs. Sometimes things happen beyond our control.

  8. Papabile says:

    @ Peggy R

    The same thing happened to my 8 year old daughter at my home Parish in Connecticut. (We live in the Arlington Diocese and had been visiting.) The Host was shoved into her hand. She literally had no idea how to receive that way. She was so upset she cried the rest of Mass.

    I went straight to the Pastor, told him I wasn’t complaining, but asked him to remind his EMHC’s that receiving on the tongue was a valid option. At the next Mass I went to, I observed that only my family and a very few others received on the tongue.

    It’s amazing the differences between dioceses.

  9. leonugent2005 says:

    It’s a good idea but I’m not sure my bishop would go for it, you never know though

  10. 1987 says:

    I fully agree with You, Fr. Z. My real conversion began when I accidentally came to an EF Mass (I didn;t know what it is) and I heard priest saying “Amen” while giving Communion to me. It was so powerful a message: in spite of what I think, what I believe, what I wish to believe, this IS the body of the Lord. With this impression began my road to the Faith, so this topic is very important to me. I think, if some larger group of priests and bishops asked for an indult to distribute Communion in such a way (and maybe also to kneel before the Eucharist right after pronouncing the words of consecration), Rome should grant it. Consider this.

  11. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    When I’m distributing communion at Latin Mass in the usus recentior, I add the rest of the traditional formulary under my breath as a prayer for the communicant: “Corpus Christi (custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.)” I prefer saying the black and doing the red, but I figure I can also pray for people any time.

  12. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    When I’m distributing communion at a Latin Mass in the usus recentior, I add the rest of the traditional formulary under my breath as a prayer for the communicant: “Corpus Christi (custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.)” I prefer saying the black and doing the red, but I figure I can also pray for people any time.

  13. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Optime Pater,
    “Corpus Christi” was not used in the Ambrosian Rite generally, but only in the Duomo of Milan, at the chapter Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. [We can always depend on you to know this sort of thing, Gregory.] In the days of Bl. Cardinal Schuster (Archbishop from 1929-54), these Masses were routinely packed with thousands of people, and the distribution of Holy Communion would often take a very long time. The Cardinal requested permission to use the shortened formula as attested in the passage of St. Ambrose you cite above, on the grounds that it represented an earlier custom of the diocese; and on those grounds permission was granted, but not for general use throughout the whole Rite. [Interesting. As usual!]

  14. leonugent2005 says:

    Maybe Bl. Cardinal Schuster was striving for a hermanutic of continuity. In a certain sense that is what Vatican 2 intended, to repair some of the breaks in continuity with the more ancient church. How we started singing to the mountains and singing to the sea I have no idea. It seems that if your hermanutic of continuity only extends back 500 years then 450 years from now it will be a herasey to get rid of hand holding during the Our Father

  15. heway says:

    I have heard a communicnt respond with ‘I believe’, rather than ‘Amen’. [I hear this occasionally too and I have a visceral reaction against and strong temptation not to give the person Communion. It has a dreadfully non-Catholic, even Lutheran sound to it, as if the act of believing by the communicant makes the Host the Body of Christ. I really hate this practice, albeit rare. If any of you readers do it, knock it off.]

  16. leonugent2005 says:

    From Inter oecumenici Instruction on implementing liturgical norms
    Consilium (of Sacred Congregation of Rites) – September 26, 1964….

    20. Regulation of the liturgy belongs to the authority of the Church; no one, therefore, is to act on individual initiative in this matter, thereby, as might well happen, doing harm to the liturgy and to its reform under competent authority.
    This would be one hindrance to unilaterally changing the formula for distributing Holy Communion, but no one pays any attention to these documents anyway!

  17. Peggy R says:


    Thank you! We used to live in Arlington (StM Old Town)–our marriage and kids’ baptisms. We’re near family in the midwest now. How I miss StM! It formed me well for being here now and raising our children.

  18. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I’d be happy if we could get communicants to say “Amen”. As an instituted acolyte, I’ve had all sorts of replies to “The Body of Christ”, including “I believe”, “Yes” and the blank stare.

    I learned early on that some communicant wish to receive on the tongue, and have always been sure to accommodate them. I have also taken pains to instruct new EMHCs that they should be prepared to administer the Host in whatever way the communicant desires (hand or tongue).

    Since reading this blog, I have also done my best to extinguish the practice of giving blessings during Communion.

  19. mvhcpa says:

    Although I prefer the EF (although I usually assist at the OF at my local parish–the EF is an hour-and-a-half away), and I would have no problem with the EF formula being used in the OF, I would like to present a contrasting point of view. How would changing the formula, especially if it were said in Latin, with no response required from the communicant, serve to INCREASE faith in the Eucharistic presence of our Lord, or even in Catholic identity as a whole? Even though I cannot say that the present formula increases Eucharistic awareness (the statistics sure point to the opposite), as a near-cradle NO attender I was always struck, starting from my First Holy Communion class and continuing today, with the stark, unflinching, and unambiguous presentation of the “source and summit” of our faith–the Real, Eucharistic Presence of Jesus–with the words of the priest in easy-to-understand English, “The Body of Christ,” to which I had to respond, like the saints noted above, with a real AMEN that certified my belief. One must believe in one’s heart and confess with one’s tongue.

    Michael Val
    (who thinks that the current OF formula would be just fine IF we went back to KNEELING AND ON THE TONGUE in the OF)

  20. Centristian says:

    Use the longer form or the shorter, with the communicant responding “Amen” or not, but make it uniform for both forms. I can’t tell you how many times I have neglected to say “Amen” when receiving Communion in the Ordinary Form only to accidentally say “Amen” when receiving in the Extraordinary Form. I find myself attending Mass in both forms lately and, frankly, I find this annoying. One way or the other. Please.

  21. I celebrate Mass in both the ordinary and extraordinary (Dominican Rite) forms. Rather than lobbying or fussing about changing either form, something needs to be done about the way people receive. People need to learn to receive properly: if in the hand, in the left and picked up with the right; if in the ordinary form, say “Amen” when the priest presents the host; when in the extraordinary form don’t say “Amen.”

    I have actually preached on this, and people come up and don’t know how to present their hands or how to say Amen (or not to). And that at the same Mass where I preached that sermon. [Amen, brother. I’ve been there and done that.]

    Frankly, I am at a loss. Obviously people don’t listen to sermons or they think they know better than the Church does to how to receive. And don’t say “force everyone to receive like they did before Vatican II” — that just isn’t going to happen in my lifetime or yours. [Or maybe they don’t believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist? I mean, they have an idea, but do they get it? I wonder sometimes when I see the way people approach Communion. I don’t think that they should crawl, however, appropriate that might seem at times. But, …. Also, we are people of our age, and our age is less and less formal, less and less interested in distinctions or decorum. Quidquid recipitur, to adapt a familiar phrase.]

  22. Inigo says:

    I’m not quite shure, that this “Body of Christ” “Amen” thing really fosters faith in the real presence.
    Just yesterday at bible class the exact topic came up (what to say when receiving, how to receive), and an older woman said, that she always thought that the little hosts that the communicants are getting are consecrated right there on spot because the communicant says “Amen” to the priest. It later turned out, that many people think the same, that the hosts which are stored in the tabernacle are just simple pieces of bread, and that the communicant effects the change in it’s substance just before communion in saying “Amen” to the priest. Why? Because what the priest says sounds so familiar to the consecration at mass “This is my body”. There even was a secrestian who was fired because he was reguralry refilling the ciboria in the tabernacle with unconsecrated hosts. That’s actually a huge reason as it turned out, why people don’t genuflect at the tabernacle and why they don’t show any respect towards the Body of Christ outside of mass. They didn’t hear the words, nobody asked them if they believe, so what’s the big deal?

  23. Joan M says:

    “There just isn’t enough time to prepare the tongue properly for reception of Holy Communion when you are using it to say “Amen.””

    If they do it right, there most certainly is. Unfortunately, some – priests and EMHCs, do not. The person giving Holy Communion is supposed to raise the Host over the ciborium and say “The Body of Christ”. Only after that should he/she move the Host towards your mouth, giving you abundant time to say “Amen”.

    Many pick up the Host and immediately start moving it towards hands or mouth while saying “The Body of Christ”, making it hard to respond. There is one EMHC, who is a friend of mine, that I avoid because she does this. If I end up in her line I actually have to move my head back in order to respond!

    People need to be properly trained, and regularly re-trained, how to give Communion.

  24. Father K says:

    Legisperitus, then receive Communion in the hand!. Like Fr Thompson I celebrate both the OF and EF, and I must say using the longer formula at Masses where there are hundreds of communicants, it becomes just tedious and mechanical. I know from priests who celebrated Mass prior to 1964 it was a very common practice for priests to slur over the formula while giving Communion to as many as five or six communicants while saying the formula once. [Abusus non tollit usum.] To hold the Host before the communicant and proclaim, ‘the body of Christ,’ to which the communicant gives an act of faith ‘Amen’ is far more meaningful. I have a feeling that Deacon Nathan, after giving Communion thousands of times will soon abandon that pietistic practice.

  25. Jon says:

    Father K,

    I attend an FSSP parish. The priest has no problem uttering the entire formula succinctly but quickly before each and every communicant. He distributes Communion alone, and sometimes to as many as 300 souls. Objection to “that pietistic practice” is, in my opinion, an abominable red herring.

    That off my chest, I’m guessing you’re a diocesan priest who says both the EF and OF, in which case this as a whole probably appeals to you (scroll down to “Communion of the Faithful”):


    If the rest of the Mass were celebrated per that Ordinary, as a compromise, I could live with that.

  26. wolfeken says:

    One of the many reasons I love the traditional Latin Mass is that the priest gets to use complete sentences.

    I never did understand what the logic was for simply saying “The body of Christ” at the novus ordo. Besides being casual, it is not a complete sentence. After a novus ordo, do people say “Nice day” instead of wishing fellow parishioners to “Have a nice day” ?

    Where’s the verb?

  27. BobP says:

    Did Christ force the Apostles to say anything before they received? [The Church gets to determine how the sacraments are celebrated.]

  28. leonugent2005 says:

    Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P This question comes up and here is what the GIRM says. This practice comes from the eastern church and it seems almost no one understands it.

    41. Holy Communion under the form of bread is offered to the communicant with the words “The Body of Christ.” The communicant may choose whether to receive the Body of Christ in the hand or on the tongue. When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, ((((but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King))))). Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.” (51) [And what does the rest of that Patristic source tells us to do?]

  29. Alice says:

    A word-for-word translation of “Corpus Christi” is “(the) Body of Christ,” as I am sure you know. That this is a sentence fragment and not a complete sentence in English says more about the Latin character of the Mass, even when celebrated in English, than it does about the way people talk at the “Novus Ordo.” I’ve heard plenty of sentence fragments flying around outside the doors of Catholic churches, no matter what form of Mass (or Divine Liturgy) was celebrated.

  30. leonugent2005 says:

    Father, I have heard that there was some sort of hand washing involved in the Patristic source. I’m for the adoption of the whole procedure, and I should look more into it. Right now this is what the church has proposed to me. If tomorrow the church told me to receive on the tongue only that’s what I would do. As it is right now I receive both ways to keep myself from being on one side or the other in this argument. I try to be indifferent.

  31. chiners says:

    In our formation as priests of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham the excellent priest supervising our training noted the the Angilcan Patrimony seemed to comprise (unless receving on the tongue) the ancient practice of St Cyril of receiving in the right hand and transferring directly to the mouth. He had no idea that the practice of receving in the left hand and then picking up the host was a modern aberration due to a (American) Bishop thinking the tradidional practice was ‘icky’.

  32. Father K says:

    Father Z, no, but read the rest of what I said – more succinct, more participatory and less burdensome on everyone concerned. Anyway holy Mother Church has decided this for what is now the OF so we must accept gratefully. BTW I think the 1964 reforms of the Mass, at least, were wise and from what I have read, they were what the Fathers of VII had in mind when they voted on the Constitution on the Liturgy; later developments, it seems, less so, but as Pope Benedict has made crystal clear in Summorum Ponitificum, the OF remains the ordinary and legitimate rite of the Roman Church.

  33. leonugent2005 says:

    chiners what you pointed out is exactly the tradition of St Cyril and this is how I receive in the hand. I have been accused of using the “elevator” method because of it. I usually feel to frustrated to explain what you just described….the ancient practice of St Cyril of receiving in the right hand and transferring directly to the mouth

  34. NoTambourines says:

    Fr. Augustine Thompson:

    People need to learn to receive properly: if in the hand, in the left and picked up with the right.

    When they were preparing us for our First Communion in second grade (early 1987), we were told to reverse that if we were left handed.

    So… no?

    *Left-handed facepalm.*

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  36. Emilio III says:

    There is a very moving low-budget film about Blessed Padre Pro, where the actor playing the title role was a Jesuit seminarian (ordained shortly after filming) who was obviously familiar with the Latin NO Mass and therefore commits a few anachronisms. Including the use of Corpus Christi with the communicant responding Amen.

  37. leonugent2005 says:

    NoTambourines I refer you to #41 in the GIRM, this describes the procedure to receive in the hand.
    it’s actually pretty simple to do

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