Eucharist vs Communion: What is distinction?

What is the distinction between calling the most holy sacrifice of the altar “The Eucharist” or “Most Holy Communion”? What is the distinction between the different labels? Happy parsing.

Holy Communion is the act by which we receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

The action by which we as individuals receive the Holy Eucharist is an act of eating. We swallow the appearances of bread and wine under which Jesus is present. This is the action which we call Holy Communion.

From the Catechism:


1322 The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.

1323 "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’"135

1331 Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.151 We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia; sancta)152 - the first meaning of the phrase “communion of saints” in the Apostles’ Creed - the bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine of immortality,153 viaticum. . .

Eucharist is the noun, communion is the verb.

Note that only a priest or bishop is a Minister of the Eucharist; that is only they can consecrate it. Deacons, Instituted Acolytes, etc are Ministers of Communion; that is they can distribute it. [Designated lay persons who act in the absence of sufficient Ministers of Communion are Extraordinary Ministers of Communion].

Eucharist is our Lord’s presence through

  • the holy mass, which is His bloodless sacrifice, and our celebration of this sacrifice
  • in the tabernacle under the species of bread
  • sometimes exposed for adoration

The Holy communion is receiving Christ’s body and blood during the Holy Mass or outside of the Mass. Until Vatican II (at least since the Tridentinum) only the Communion of the priests was integral part of the Holy Mass, today the communion of the faithful is integrated into the Mass.

Historically in the first millennium Christ’s presence in His mystical Body the Church was more important than the Eucharist, the special adoration of the Holy Species started in the second millennium. The recent trend is the unity of the dual presence, but the theology of it still needs some development.

Good answer. Simple. Clear. Precise. Thanks.

Actually, ‘communion’ is a noun as well. ‘Communicate’ is the verb form.

The term “Eucharist” is a Greek word that means “thanksgiving.” By using it we give thanks for Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross and remember how He “gave thanks” at the Passover meal before His death.

The word “communion” is derived from Latin words that mean “coming together” or “togetherness.” When we use this word, we acknowledge the oneness of the Body of Christ, and evoke the Communion of Saints, a tenet of our creed which means that all people in the Church, whether in Heaven or on Earth, are united in prayer and intercession to the Lord.

Therefore, does a seven-year-old make his first Holy Communion or his First Holy Eucharist? And what is the distinction?

Since “The Eucharist” can apply to the Mass as well, as in “The Eucharistic Celebration,” then “communion” is a more precise term. But “receiving the Eucharist” is no less correct.

Presumably, a child has been attending the Mass since baptism and has assisted at Eucharistic celebrations all his life. So “First Holy Communion” is more accurate for the event.

So can one receive the Eucharist without receiving sacramental communion? What about spiritual communion?

Good replies. Good replies. I am interested in definitions, distinctions, precision and clarity. When I use a phrase or term I want use it accurately and consistently.

Do you agree that the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Risen Lord? And do you agree the Holy Communion is the act of receiving the Holy Eucharist?

However, in the generic sense, the sense in which people usually engage in casual conversation, both terms mean the noun and the verb.

According to the English Baltimore Catechism, Holy Eucharist is given as one of the seven sacraments. So I would think First Holy Communion would complete the initiation process per the current Catechism. But then what are subsequent receptions of communion?

CCC says there are many names for the sacrament:


1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:

Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein141 and eulogein142 recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim - especially during a meal - God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.

1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.143

The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread,144 above all at the Last Supper.145 It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,146 and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies;147 by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.148

The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.149

1330 The memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, “sacrifice of praise,” spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used,150 since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.

The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church’s whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments. The Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.

1331 Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.151 We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia; sancta)152 - the first meaning of the phrase “communion of saints” in the Apostles’ Creed - the bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine of immortality,153 viaticum. . . .

1332 Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.

[quote="ProVobis]So can one receive the Eucharist without receiving sacramental communion?

I don’t think so - I think even in the case of viaticum, the Eucharist is received as an act of communion with the whole Church, despite the fact that the recipient is unable to be present at mass.

I’m not aware that Eucharist is ever a verb, and “communion” per se is only a noun. As for the verb forms, a new question: what is the difference between “commune” and “communicate”?

The Eucharist is one of the sacraments of initiation, but since it’s repeatable it’s not limited to that initiation. First Holy Communion gets capitalized because it’s an event with a formal title, not because of anything sacramentally special about it compared with the second Holy Communion, etc.

Maybe we should refrain from using either.

commune (v.)
c.1300, “have dealings with,” from O.Fr. comuner “to make common, share” (10c., Mod.Fr. communier), from comun (see common). Meaning “to talk intimately” is late 14c. Related: Communed; communing.

1520s, “to impart” (information, etc.), from L. communicat-, pp. stem of communicare (see communication). Meaning “to share, transmit” (diseases, etc.) is from 1530s. Related: Communicated; communicating.

late 14c., from O.Fr. comunion “community, communion” (12c.), from L. communionem (nom. communio) “fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing,” used in L.L. ecclesiastical language for “participation in the sacrament,” from communis (see common). Used by Augustine, in belief that the word was derived from com- “with, together” + unus "oneness, union."

When previously consecrated hosts are brought to the home-bound, or used in a Communion Service, the recipients may be regarded as being in union with those at the mass where the hosts were consecrated,and through them to the whole Church. For that reason it is desirable, though not essential, that the minister who distributes the hosts have attended the mass at which they were consecrated.

He receives the Eucharist by his act of First Holy Communion; if already confirmed, completing his initiation into the faith.


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