The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is a great time to think about the relationship of song to the reception of Holy Communion.
We strive to give those assembled easy and familiar songs, with appropriate texts for the communion procession so that the communal singing is not disrupted as people enter the communion line, and at least the refrain can be sung without a book in hand.
We begin singing as the priest receives the Eucharist, and continue, ideally, until the last person has received. The timing on this varies and is unpredictable but we do our best as musicians to create an unbroken unified procession. The procession, the Communion hymn itself, and everyone’s participation is a communal act, the 2003 General Instruction of the Roman Missal eloquently illustrates the church’s vision.
While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion song is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. (GIRM #86)
It seems to be a common practice that immediately after receiving Communion, many return to their pew in private prayer. The church envisions something very different; the continued singing of the congregation in unity until everyone has received. After the song is completed, there is a period of Sacred Silence when one can then enter in to personal prayer.