As one who grew up in the discipline of the Church that required me to abstain from food and drink from midnight until the actual reception of Holy Communion, the current law requiring only one hour of abstaining from food and drink for one hour before the reception of Holy Communion has always seemed to me to be absurd for the reasons the distinguished canon lawyer, Edward N. Peters, sets forth in his long article advocating a change in the law. I for one hope that his proposal is acted on by the Holy See. In the meantime I have decided to impose the three-hour fast on myself. – Abyssum
[The following is the conclusion of the article by Peters. I have added the italicized words in brackets for clarity – Abyssum]
What seems wrong about the current discipline of the eucharistic fast [ abstaining from food and drink for one hour before receiving Holy Communion] is this: it is much too short to serve as a “fast” by any sensible definition.
This in turn provokes a number of pastoral disadvantages.
The brevity of the fast to the point of being negligible does not help the faithful call to mind the approaching mysteries before actually departing for Mass; it makes the conduct of the liturgy itself a distracting factor in completing the fast [the length of the homily affects the one hour period]; and it deprives those with troubled consciences of an unobtrusive way to avoid approaching the Body and Blood of the Lord in a state that risks profanation (1 Cor 11:27).
I propose the following reform: simply restate the eucharistic fast so that all food and drink should be avoided for the three hours prior to the beginning of Mass. This longer period of fast protects all of the undoubted advantages of the current discipline, it resolves all of the disadvantages outlined above, and it provides, in the more common setting of Mass, the additional advantage of helping the faithful to appreciate better the importance of the liturgy of the Word as something intimately connected to the eucharistic liturgy.
A three-hour fast is not burdensome for healthy people. Refraining from food and drink for a notable period of time before Mass reminds one that a privileged encounter with Christ, in both Word and Sacrament, is soon approaching and that it deserves one’s conscious attention.
Edward N. Peters, J.C.D., J.D., is Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, and author of numerous articles and books, including Incrementa in progressu 1983 Codicis iuris canonici: A Legislative History of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (2005) and Excommunication and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions (2006).