ASK FATHER: “take” Communion instead of “receive”? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

From a reader…


In light of your recent question about “First Eucharist ” I was wondering about something else heard frequently. When referring to reception of the Blessed Sacrament some people say they are going to “take” Communion. When I first ran in to this I thought it was little kid misspeak, as the children would tell me how they are going to “take First Communion,” but then I noticed more and more people using the phrase. I was taught we “receive” Communion (kneeling, on the tongue) out of respect for Our Lord and Creator who is giving Himself to us in the most Blessed Sacrament. ”Take” seems like wildly inappropriate terminology conjuring up images of buffet Communion etc.

I’m guessing the origin of “take” is Matthew 26:26 “take and eat,” which seems like a misunderstanding of the passages and another attempt to undermine the Real Presence. Is my worry in this misplaced?

Yes, this is a problem.

No, I don’t think that most people who say “take” are up to something nefarious.

Most Catholics these days have dreadful language skills and can barely make distinctions anymore.  Furthermore, they have been poorly catechized and their catechesis may have included all manner of sloppy though and language.

Our Catholic language, common parlance, has been massively eroded over the decades.

The erosion has been caused by a plethora of forces, including declining quality of basic education in both secular and Catholic schools, the melting of the brain by constant exposure to what is artificial, etc.

This is across the board.

We are in serious trouble.

Libs have pretty much won, by taking over education (as Gramsci advocated).  Schools now churn out waves of – well- dummies, who haven’t been taught how to learn, how to think, how to speak, how to write.  They are the perfect golems for the libs overarching projects to tear down the pillars and bonds of society and remake something different, some lib utopia.   For example, is what was called “civics” taught any more?  Nope.  Hence, the young “skulls full of mush” get out of school and become the hapless prey of those who know and control the processes by which things get down.  And for their social and political thoughts… no, that’s too precise… notions, they line up like lemming on the pre-defined paths trodden in sit-coms and comedic rants.  Off to the cliffs they dash… dragging the rest of us along.

Am I wrong?

Back to “take”.

In my previous post, I wrote about how the meanings of words can drift and change over time.  Words acquire new meanings while loosing others.  It is a pretty much inexorable process in living, vernacular languages.  It is interesting to note that immigrant communities, separated from their motherland, will often preserve older accents and what come to be archaic usages when compared to how the language is shifting back in the motherland.  I have in mind, for example, some pockets of German speakers in Minnesota or Russians and Ukrainians in Canada.  The French speakers of Quebec have an accent that hearkens to France of the 18th c.  Creoles like Gullah are found all over.  But I digress.

Let’s think about “take”.   Look it up in a dictionary and you will find some 127 possible applications, including common idioms.  However, an archaic use of “take”, still perhaps used in some circles, is “eat”.  “Will you take something?” is “Will you eat something?”    Also, in British and American usage, “take” can mean “to receive”.

When we look at Matthew 26:26 (and Synoptics and Corinthians) we find that the verbs are “take” and “eat”.  In Greek, that “take” is from lambano: which in Biblical usage also has quite a few possible meanings, which include, as you might guess, “to receive”.  In some sense it means, “make something one’s own”.

That’s the fancy stuff.

However, in modern common parlance, “take” means something more like, “reach out and grasp something”, if you – ehem – take my meaning.  See how “receive… grasp… understand” can all fit into that “take”?  “Get it”?

Hearing certain language and seeing certain gestures go… ehem… hand in hand.

Gestures mean something too.  If for decades people have heard “take take take” and seen their fellows stick their hands out in a taking manner (even though they are receiving) their understanding of what is being “taken” is going to shift.  Who knows what most Catholics “grasp” of the Eucharist?

I’m not sanguine.  Most Catholics today are, I think, unwitting immanentists.  If pressed, they would admit of the transcendent dimension of worship – if it were explained to them.  But they would never think of it on their own.  That’s what our “worship” and preaching and teaching has produced, in tandem with the prevailing pressures of the world, the flesh and the Devil.

Going on…

Gestures and words have meanings that change because they are signs of something.  That is going to apply to the Blessed Sacrament as well: the words we use and the gestures we apply in regard to the Eucharist will affect what people believe.   Lex orandi – Lex Credendi.  The way we pray and the liturgical gestures we make have a reciprocal relationship with what we believe.

If we believe a certain thing about the Eucharist, we will pray and treat It in a certain way.  If our prayers change, our handling of the Eucharist will modify.  Vice versa.

Of course libs want to change our terms and our gestures!

We should insist on clear terms and clear gestures.

We should insist on “receive” and “reception” of Communion.

We should promote the recovery of reception of Holy Communion directly on the tongue while kneeling.

We should move to ad orientem worship.

We need more Latin, which has more precision that can be explained.

We need more traditional devotional prayers of yore, which are rich in meaningful vocabulary and concepts.

All our gestures and words during Holy Mass have their transformative meanings.  The whole package is our heritage and patrimony, which includes the story – like the family history – of who we are as Catholics, our Catholic identity.

We must reclaim and renew are Catholic identity.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. maternalView says:

    Yes we need to reclaim and renew our Catholic identity!

    As I tell my friends the Catholic Church is a rich source of traditions and rituals that I need! Because left to my own devices I will forget about God and just go off and do my own thing! I need those things to keep my heart and mind on God!

  2. jaykay says:

    I had always associated “taking Communion” with Anglican usage. Catholics in my experience always said “receive”. I looked at the original 1549 BCP, which says, just before the Communion:

    “You that do truly and earnestly repent you of your synnes to almightie God, and be in love and charitie with your neighbors, and entende to lede a newe life, folowyng the commaundementes of God, and walkyng from hencefurth in his holy wayes: drawe nere and take this holy Sacrament to your comforte…”.

    But it also refers to “recyving” in other places. Still, it was almost Catholic (vestments are permitted), more so than the 1552 version. I haven’t checked that. Perhaps the Anglican usage of Communion in the hand lead to the concept of “take”?

    Anyway, “take” is not general English- speaking Catholic usage, although I’ve heard also people referring to Mass as a “service” in recent years. Whatever about the technicality, it’s just not our Catholic usage – at least, on this side of the Big Puddle.

  3. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    I have taught my children to say “communicate,” or, though they will also but less frequently say, “make communion.” Now I’m off to take some exercise.

  4. tamranthor says:

    Communion rail, FTW. I was under the impression that the faithful are permitted to receive kneeling and on the tongue, but there aren’t many places that have reasonable accommodations for that particular action. For those of us whoa re older and have trouble rising, even a portable kneeler would do the trick.

  5. Choirgirl says:

    “Take Communion” is one of those changes in Catholic language that really bugs me. Having first heard it through the mainstream media during coverage of Catholic events such as Midnight Mass, conclaves, and Papal visits, I got the idea that it was used by Protestants/non-Catholics, whereas the correct Catholic phrase is “receive Communion.” There’s a hierarchy in play here, as well as a sense of humility; God *gives* to us, we do not take from Him. We receive Jesus’ gift of Himself in the Eucharist through the Priest, both in the confection of the Blessed Sacrament, and in Its distribution.

  6. Egad_Trad_Dad says:

    This comes with impeccable timing. I am just finishing a retreat with my colleagues and our retreat master has insisted that we self-communicate. I am the only one who held back, and it’s been weighing on my conscience. Truly, facile attempts at inclusivity only beget exclusion.

  7. vetusta ecclesia says:

    In our parish there are number of EMHC who refer to that activity as “serving”. I find this odd. Perhaps the meal idea of the Mass is paramount in their minds.

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  9. Nan says:

    In Byzantine church, receive is the only available option, as communion is leavened bread immersed in wine, dispensed into open mouth via spoon. We receive from Father or one of two seemingly random Jesuits, who aren’t nearly as random as I initially thought, one being Melkite, the other Ruthenian.

  10. nine man morris says:

    “Libs have pretty much won, by taking over education (as Gramsci advocated). Schools now churn out waves of – well- dummies, who haven’t been taught how to learn, how to think, how to speak, how to write. They are the perfect golems for the libs overarching projects to tear down the pillars and bonds of society and remake something different”

    Nailed it

  11. msc says:

    Google Ngram viewer offers an interesting (as usual) result. “Receive communion” is strongly favoured in the nineteenth century, but in 1919 “take communion” becomes as common and then tends to lead.

  12. Back when I was growing up in New York Archdiocese in the 1950s and 1960s, the usage I remember was virtually always “take Communion” or “go to Communion.” I think I first heard “receive Communion” when I moved to California in the mid-1970s. That was also when I started to hear “celebrate Mass” more often than “say Mass.” I wouldn’t over-interpret what this kind of language change means.

  13. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    I think it is a shorting of the the word partake. Meaning to share with.

  14. Alice says:

    I’m not sure if my mother was a “Eucharistic minister” before I was born or if she just did the training. In any case, she was adamant that we “receive” Communion and that was why she was taught to pull the chalice back if people tried self-intinction. In traditional circles, I usually hear “go to Communion” or “make a good Communion” and I usually heard “receive Communion” in my parish until recently. Now I’m hearing “take Communion” a lot more. I only noticed the change after the new translation was implemented, so maybe people just started listening to the Eucharistic Prayer more closely. It sounds Protestant to me, but it might not be. At least I haven’t heard “commune” or “communicate” in Catholic circles yet.

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