Do you have to confess before receiving communion? Every week? Or only after having committed a mortal or venial sin?
No text in the Church mandates going to confession every week, but there is no text that prohibits it either. For a long time in some parts of the Church, an error known as Jansenism intimidated the faithful and kept them away from Communion under the pretext that they were not worthy of it. Fervent souls suffered from this severe treatment and asked for the “privilege” to receive communion every Sunday and even during the week—not common at the time but not unheard of either. St. Therese of Lisieux, for example, benefited from this.
Later, Pope Pius X not only allowed but actually encouraged receiving communion frequently. Today, we actually run the risk of treating communion too casually, where it can turn into a simple rote action with little preparation, perhaps even without the necessary conversion. With all this in mind, is it necessary to confess our sins every week?
When we receive communion, do we truly receive God, who receives us?
God put his Body in our hands! We will never be at that level of pure love, of that perfect gift, that is clear. We will never be “worthy” of receiving Christ — there’s a reason we recite the Centurion’s prayer just before communion.
Nevertheless, a minimum of loyalty is asked of us. If it weren’t, we could feign receiving Him while at the same time rejecting Him in our actions, in our thoughts, by omission, or in serious contradiction to the Gospel. Therefore, we are asked to receive sacramental forgiveness as soon as possible after committing a mortal sin, at least before receiving our next communion, as we are likewise encouraged to confess our venial sins. Therefore, the best thing to do is practice the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis.
You might say that “God receives everyone, the Church should not exclude anyone.” In principle, this posture is not wrong. But it cannot be taken without a very important addition: “Am I truly receiving God, who receives me? I am full aware that I am a poor sinner. I am also aware that just one word from Him will cleanse my soul. But, have I decided to follow Christ, or have I decided to keep turning my back on him? In that case, neither God nor the Church is excluding me—I am pronouncing my own exclusion and, even though I receive communion, that communion is sacrilege.” This is the terrible contradiction Judas holds in his heart the night of Holy Thursday. Indeed, it seems he received communion, eating the Eucharistic bread at the beginning of the Last Supper (John 13: 17-30).
We could also say that “When you go to a meal you don’t go to watch the others eat.” But we cannot equate the Mass with a buffet. The Eucharist, before being something to be eaten, is something to live, an occurrence: “We announce your death, we proclaim Your resurrection. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Father Alain Bandelier