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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

QuizMonastic Devotion: receiving Communion


Whereas most laymen and women received Communion up to three times a year, the Cistercian lay-brothers received Communion about seven times a year.

Although Mass was celebrated daily, the Cistercian monks (other than the priest for the week [the hebdomadary]) only received the consecrated elements (the Host and the wine) on Sundays and feast days. This was, however, more frequent than other monks, such as the Black monks of Cluny, who received Communion monthly.

Communion followed the celebration of Mass. After exchanging the Kiss of Peace, the monks proceeded to the right of the altar where they were given the Host. They then walked behind the altar to the left side where they received the chalice containing the Blood of Christ, which was taken through a silver or gold-plated reed. From the mid-thirteenth century the chalice was reserved to those officiating at the altar and communicants only received the Host.(6)

At the close of the ceremony the altar cloths were removed. These were generally made of linen, but from 1256 the use of silk hangings was permitted.(7) Part of the consecrated bread and wine, known as the reserved sacrament, was kept in the church after the celebration of Communion. This was often suspended above the altar, the holiest part of the church (and also a safe place from vermin), or on a column in the presbytery. The reserved sacrament was primarily intended for distribution to sick members of the community.