ASK FATHER: Do we receive also the Holy Spirit in Communion?

From a reader…


Father, as the solemnity of the Holy Trinity is close ahead, a friend of mine was wondering: if the Trinity can never be split, do we receive the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist?

I thought not exactly, since it’s the Body of Christ that was given to us on the Cross and I also thought that if saying that either the Father or the Holy Spirit died or suffered is a heresy, then it would be wrong to do such a connection in the Sacrament offered at the Altar of the Cross, the Supper of the Lamb and the Sacrifice of Christ.

When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Christ is pre-eminently and substantially present in the Eucharist.

However, the Holy Trinity is a community of Divine Persons in perfect unity. Every act of each Person also is an act of the other Persons. One acts, all act. The Eucharist is the eternal offering of the Son to the Father renewed beyond the strictures of space and time (now that He has entered the heavenly Temple as High Priest). The Holy Spirit brings about Communion. We can consider what the CCC says:

1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:

– thanksgiving and praise to the Father;
– the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
– the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.

Christ is substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine.  But, because of the unity of the Persons of the Trinity, when we receive the Eucharist, we receive – in somewhat different senses – all three Persons.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JonathanTX says:

    Coincidentally, PrayTellBlog has a recent post by Joseph Martos referring to the Real Presence. In it he says, “Most Catholics who reject the idea of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist think it means that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist. And they are right to do that because it is stupid to think that Christ’s presence is a physical presence.”

    Fr Z, would you please explain what the traditional view is on “physical presence” and what the definition of “physical” is in this view?

  2. Andrew says:

    Council of Trent, session 13, Canon 1: – If any one denies, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but says that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.

    The term “physical” is related to the perception of things by the senses. It is inappropriate in this case. Christ is not visible to human eyes (physically) but he is truly, really and substantially present. (Vere, realiter, substantialiter).

  3. deaconjohn1987 says:

    One of my favorite prayers that I say every time I receive the Eucharist is:
    “O most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee; My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament!”
    This prayer was taught to the three children by the Angel of Fatima. He also taught them this prayer, which he had them kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, that was suspended in the air, and recite three times:
    “O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

  4. Gerard Plourde says:

    Your observation regariny the unity of the Three Persons of the Trinity recalls the refrain of the hymn “God Father Praise and Glory” which states- “O most Holy Trinity, Undivided Unity, Holy God, mighty God, God immortal, be adored.g”

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    A local Council at Toledo in the 8th Century helped to clarify these questions, and its findings eventually became official Trinitarian Theology.

    When considered as One, the three Persons of the Trinity are the same ; but when each or any is considered individually, each Person of the Trinity is to be considered as One of Three and as different to the Others.

    In the Eucharist we receive the Body and the Blood of the Christ in the Person of the Son, and so it is of One of the Persons taken in Himself.

  6. JGavin says:

    In a real sense this would seem to be obvious. One God , three divine Persons. Just as the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity is inseparable after the Resurrection, so it would seem that the Trinity is never inseparable.
    I could be and likely am wrong. It would just stand to reason.

  7. TonyO says:

    The term “physical” is related to the perception of things by the senses. It is inappropriate in this case. Christ is not visible to human eyes (physically) but he is truly, really and substantially present. (Vere, realiter, substantialiter).

    It is not true that “physical” refers primarily to the perception of things by the senses. It refers to the bodily aspect of substances, the material reality that is the substrate of the formal aspect, which two together constitute the nature of the thing. It is, thus, one side of the nature of the thing in itself, not merely its perception by others.

    The physical part of man as a body is, naturally and normally, also that in virtue of which a man can be sensed by the 5 external senses, and thus perceived. But though supernatural means, what is the normal and natural operation does not obtain in this Sacrament: the body is really there, but there sacramentally rather than naturally. Indeed, the whole substance of Christ is there, body and soul, (and there physically), but the body is there without the normal accidents of a body due to supernatural intervention. Being without the accidents (which are accessed by the senses), the senses are unable to observe / report on the presence of the Body of Jesus. But His body is really there. It is there sacramentally rather than naturally, and so (for example) it does not take up the normal space of a human body, nor weight what a human body weighs: the accidents that are typical to bodies are not present here.

    At least, that’s what I recall from what Trent taught. I would like correction if I have made a mistake.

  8. Fr. Aaron Sandbothe says:

    St Ephrem writes beautifully on this in his Hymn on the Faith No.10:

    1. Lord, you have had it written:
    ‘Open your mouth and I will fill it’
    See, Lord, your servant’s mouth and his mind are open to you!
    Fill it, O Lord, with your gift,
    That I may sing your praise according to your will.
    Refrain: Make me worthy to approach your Gift with awe!
    3. Though your nature is one, its expressions are many;
    They find three levels, high, middle, and lowly.
    Make me worthy of the lowly part,
    Of picking up crumbs from the table of your wisdom.
    4. Your highest expression is hidden with your Father,
    Your middle riches are the wonder of the Watchers [i.e. angels]
    A tiny stream from your teaching, Lord,
    For us below makes a flood of interpretations.
    8. In your Bread is hidden a Spirit not to be eaten,
    In your Wine dwells a Fire not to be drunk.
    Spirit in your Bread, Fire in your Wine,
    A wonder set apart, [yet] received by our lips!
    17. See, Fire and Spirit in the womb that bore you!
    See, Fire and Spirit in the river where you were baptized!
    Fire and Spirit in our Baptism;
    In the Bread and the Cup, Fire and Holy Spirit!
    18. Your Bread kills the Devourer [death] who had made us his bread,
    Your Cup destroys death which was swallowing us up.
    We have eaten you, Lord, we have drunk you,
    Not to exhaust you, but to live by you.
    22. See, Lord, my arms are filled with the crumbs from your table;
    There is not room left in my lap.
    As I kneel before you, hold back your Gift;
    Keep it in your storehouse to give us again!

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