Weekly reception of the Eucharist was customary already in apostolic times. In the Didache, the faithful are admonished that, "having come together on the Lord's Day, you are to break bread and give thanks, after you have confessed your sins, so that your sacrifice might be undefiled. But anyone who is estranged from his friend should not join us, until both have become reconciled, lest your sacrifice be polluted." Equally clear is the description of the Sunday morning service given by St. Justin during the middle of the second century: "On the day which is called Sunday, we have a common assembly... The Eucharistic elements are distributed and consumed... "
From the end of the second century there are numerous indications that priests and laity received Holy Communion everyday. Tertullian mentions that Christians daily extend their hands, according to the prevalent custom, to receive the body of Christ. St. Cyprian states that in Africa "we who are in Christ, daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation." From Egypt we have the witness of Clement of Alexandria, and also of Origen, who says that "the Lord hates those who think that only one day is a festival of the Lord. Christians partake of the Lamb every day, that is, they daily receive the flesh of the Word of God." St. Basil in Asia Minor writes that "it is commendable and most beneficial to communicate and partake of the body and blood of Christ every single day."
Regarding the European practice, St. Ambrose wrote of northern Italy that Mass was celebrated every day, at which priest and people received of the "food of saints." Jerome says the same for Spain. The custom in France, at least among the hermits, was "to feed daily on the most pure flesh of the Lamb."
Reprinted with permission from Witness Ministries, a lay apostolate dedicated to renewing appreciation for the Mass as the greatest gift which God has given to His beloved spouse, the Church. Their mission is to show how, in the Eucharistic Liturgy, Jesus renews and transforms us–and the world–in His life and love. Their published titles include:
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