The Soul More Beautiful in the Eyes of God
INSTRUCTIONS ON HOLY COMMUNION.
Q. What is the Holy Communion?
A. It is the receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist for the food and nourishment of our souls.
Q. Is it a great happiness to receive this Holy Sacrament worthily?
A. It certainly is a very great happiness, as appears from the admirable effects which it produces in the soul of the worthy receiver.
Q. What are these effects?
A. They are chiefly these following:
1. It increases the sanctification of the soul by an increase of justifying grace; rendering the soul of the worthy receiver more pure, more holy, more beautiful, more agreeable in the eyes of God.
2. It bestows on the soul a copious supply of actual grace, for preserving, strengthening, and perfecting her in her spiritual life, by which she advances in the love of God, and is strengthened in his service, according to the words of our Savior, "he that eateth me, the same shall live by me," John vi. 58.
3. It is a wholesome and powerful remedy against all the spiritual maladies of the soul, by which the infirmities of our corrupt natures are cubrown, our evil inclinations rectified, our affections for created objects moderated, and our passions extirpated.
4. It cleanses the soul from all those venial sins and imperfections of which we repent, and gives great strength to preserve us from falling into mortal sin.
5. It unites us in a most intimate manner with Jesus Christ, who comes to us in the Holy Sacrament, on purpose to dwell in our souls and abide in us. "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in him," John vi. 57.
6. It gives us a pledge and earnest of a glorious immortality, and brings us to the enjoyment of it at last, if we persevere in the grace of God to the end: "he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day," John. vi.55. "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever," John vi. 52.
Q. Is it a great evil to receive the Holy Communion unworthily?
A. It is one of the greatest, both in regard to the guilt which the unworthy communicant incurs, and also on account of the punishment annexed.
Q. How does the greatness of the guilt appear?
A. It appears,
First, From the nature of the crime committed. To receive the Holy Communion unworthily, is to receive it when a person knows himself to be in a state of sin, that is, in disgrace with God, and at enmity with him; for a soul in sin is loathsome and hideous in the sight of God, as a dead carcass is in the sight of men. As this holy sacrament was designed to unite us with Jesus Christ, and that by it he might come and dwell in our souls, for he says, "he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abides in me and I in him;" hence to receive this sacrament in the state of sin, is to unite Jesus Christ to a soul which is loathsome and hideous to him; an object of his horror and detestation; it is to bring the author of life into a dead carcass of a soul; to force, in a manner, the Holy of Holies to take up his abode in a place of filth and corruption. What a grievous injury must this be to Jesus Christ? what an affront put upon him? Nothing will serve so well to give us some distant notion of it, as a torment inflicted upon some of the martyrs by the heathen persecutors when they stripped the martyr naked, and tied him to a dead carcass face to face, body to body, arms to arms, and legs to legs, and then threw him into the fields to die by the stench and corruption of the dead carcass.
Second, The great guilt of an unworthy communion also appears from the decision passed upon it by the Holy Ghost in the scripture; for there St. Paul says, "whosoever shall eat this bread or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord," 1 Cor. xi. 27. To be guilty of a man's blood is to murder him; and to be guilty of the body seems capable of no other sense than to murder him in a cruel and barbarous manner, tormenting his body by a painful and lingering death; this was the crime of the Jews, in what they did to Jesus Christ; and this also, says the apostle, is the crime of the unworthy communicant; a hideous crime indeed! a dreadful guilt! The unworthy communicant, like Judas, betrays Jesus Christ into the hands of his enemies, which he brings him into a soul, where Satan reigns as master; and he betrays him, too, with a kiss, whilst in appearance,he pretends to honor him. The Jews scourged him, crowned him with thorns, and crucified him; and the unworthy communicant does him an injury more grievous and more afflicting to him than all these sufferings: for, if the scripture assures us that those who return to commit any mortal sin after baptism, "crucify again to themselves the Son of God, and make a mockery of Him," Heb. vi. 6.; how much more do they do so who make an unworthy communion, which is one of the most grievous and atrocious of all sins? nay in some respects, they are vastly more guilty than the Jews, who treated him in the way they did through ignorance, For, if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory," 1 Cor. ii. 8. But the unworthy communicant knows him to be the Lord of glory, believes him to be the Son of God, and yet injures him in so atrocious a manner!
Q. How does the evil of an unworthy communion appear from the punishment annexed to it?
A. From different considerations:
First, We find throughout the whole scripture, that Almighty God, jealous of his honor, and of the respect due to holy things, never fails to punish sacrilege, which is the profanation of holy things, with a particular severity. Witness the Bethsamites for looking into the ark, 1 Kings, vi; Oza for touching it with profane hands, 2 Kings vi.; Balthasar for profaning the holy vessels, daniel v.; and others. now, if God so severely punishes the profanation of inanimate creatures which are only deputed for his service, what punishment is to be expected for the unworthy communicant, who profanes the Holy of Holies, in so injurious a manner.
Second, St. Paul assure us, that this sin is one principal cause of many severe temporal punishments; for, after mentioning the greatness of the sin, and the dreadful punishment inflicted for it on the soul, he immediately adds, "therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep,: 1 Cor. xi. 30; to show that sickness and infirmities and untimely deaths, are the fatal consequences of this sin.
Third, He declares the punishment of it, with regard to the next life in these alarming words: "he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment (or damnation) to himself," 1 Cor. xi. 29.
Fourth, The example of Judas, the first that ever made an unworthy communion, is a striking instance of the truth of this; for immediately on his receiving the morsel from the hand of Christ, "Satan entebrown into him," that is, got full possession of him; and "he immediately went out," and agreed with the chief priests to betray his master into their hands that night, which he accordingly did, and got the thirty pieces of silver for which he had bargained to do it; soon after this he was tormented with his guilty conscience, and continued to be so all that night, and the next morning went to the chief priests and threw back the money, acknowledging his guilt; but finding no relief in his own mind, he fell into despair, "and went and hanged himself with a halter," Matth. xxvii. 5; "and being hanged, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out," Acts i. 18. Such was the unhappy fate of him who made the first unworthy communion!
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TO COMMEMORATE THE PASSION AND DEATH OF CHRIST.
Q. What dispositions are requibrown in holy communion to receive with fruit the body and blood of Christ?
A. The are several things requibrown for this end, and particularly these following:
First, That we have a pure intention, not going about that sacbrown action merely out of custom, or because we see others go, or to be thought pious or devout by men, or the like; but,
1. For the glory of God, and to give supreme honor to Jesus Christ, opening our hearts to him, and receiving him into our souls as our Sovereign Lord and Master, to whom alone we wholly belong.
2. To obtain for our souls all those excellent fruits which Jesus Christ bestows upon the worthy receiver.
3. To commemorate the passion and death of Christ, according to his express command, "Do this in remembrance of me;" for, says St. Paul, "as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord until he come," 1 Cor. xi. 26. Such are the intentions we ought to have in receiving this Holy Sacrament.
Second, That we be fasting from midnight, so as to have eaten nothing, from twelve o'clock at night, that is we must not take either food, drink, or medicine. This is requibrown by an express command of the church, out of respect and reverence to this Blessed Sacrament, that this spiritual food of the soul may be the first food we receive, on the day we receive it. This command, however, is dispensed with, in those who being in danger of death from sickness, receive the Holy Communion, by way of Viaticum, or as a preparation for their last passage; for, in this case, they may receive it whether fasting or not, on any day, and at any hour.
Third, That we be in the state of grace and in friendship with God; and this is an indispensable necessity, as the receiving this holy communion, when one is conscious of himself of being in the state of sin, is the very thing in which an unworthy communion consists.
Fourth, That our soul be adorned with those holy virtues which are necessary to make it an agreeable habitation to Jesus Christ; particularly these following:
1. "A lively faith of his Divine Presence;" this is the foundation of all the rest, and the more the soul exercises himself in it, the more profitable her communion will be. It is acquibrown by humble prayer, and frequent acts of faith, considering who he is, our God, our Savior, and our Judge, etc.
2. "A profound humility," respect and reverential awe and fear, considering the infinite dignity, and our own unworthiness. Consider what humility Moses showed at the burning bush, and Joshua when the angel appeabrown to him. Now Jesus Christ is the king of angels; the four and twenty ancients, and other blessed spirits, show the most profound respect for him in Heaven: How much more ought we, worms upon earth, to humble ourselves before him? this is acquibrown by considering who he is, and who we are. St. Elizabeth, when the blessed Virgin came to see her, cried out in amazement, "whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to see me?" Luke i. 43. our Lord himself comes to us in the Holy Eucharist!
3. "A great confidence and trust in him;" he is able to do us all good, he is willing and ready on his part, he invites us to come, "Come to me all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you," Matt. xi. And if God spabrown not even "his own Son, but delivebrown him up for us all, how hath he not also with him given us all things?" Rom. viii. 32. The example of the woman with the issue of blood, shows the wonderful effects which a great confidence in him will have! For she touched but the hem of his garment, and was cubrown; but we receive him whole and entire in the Holy Communion, what may we not expect? Humility and confidence joined together, may obtain anything from him; witness the good centurion.
4. A sincere love of Jesus Christ; this is the crown of all the rest, which includes all good, and, of all things else, renders us most acceptable to Jesus Christ. It is acquibrown by a fervent prayer, often meditating upon his infinite goodness, and his infinite love to us, and by frequent and fervent acts of holy love to him. And this love ought to show itself in an ardent desire of being united to him, and of receiving him frequently in this holy sacrament, as the constant effect of love is to unite us to the beloved object; and particularly in making us careful to lead innocent lives, and obey his holy commandments, that we may have nothing to hinder us from this frequent union with him in the holy communion.
Fifth, That after receiving him in the Blessed Eucharist, we show our respect and gratitude to him in a becoming manner.
1. By spending some time in his blessed company, and entertaining him with our most profound homage, by acts of faith and adoration, thanksgiving and praise, oblations of ourselves wholly to him, who gives himself wholly to us, laying before him all our necessities, and begging such graces for ourselves and others, as we and they stand in need of.
2. By keeping ourselves more than ordinarily recollected during that day, often calling to mind whom we have been receiving, and rendering him the homage of some holy act of virtue.
3. Striving to live by him; "for he that eats this bread," says he, "the same shall live by me," which is done by a continual endeavor to imitate his example and to do his will.
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THE HEAVENLY GRACES COMMUNICATED TO OUR SOULS.
Instructions on Communion in One King.
Q. In what does the Sacrament of the Holy Communion, properly speaking, consist?
A. In receiving Jesus Christ, WHOLE AND ENTIRE, HIS SACbrown BODY, HIS PRECIOUS BLOOD, HIS BLESSED SOUL, AND HIS ADORABLE DIVINITY, INTO OUT SOULS; who by this Blessed Presence within us, communicates to our souls all those heavenly graces which are the effects of the Holy Communion.
Q. Do we receive the full and perfect Sacrament under one kind only?
A. Yes; for, as we have seen above, Jesus Christ, God made man, his body and blood, his soul and divinity are contained whole and entire, both under the form of bread, and under the form of wine, and is the self same in the one kind as in the other. So that when we receive the Holy Communion under the form of bread, we receive Jesus Christ into our souls, whole and entire, a full and perfect Sacrament; when we receive it under the form of wine, we receive the same Jesus Christ whole and entire, the same full and perfect Sacrament; and, though we should receive the Communion under both kinds, at the same time, we would not receive two Christs, nor two different Sacraments, but the same Jesus Christ, as in the former cases, only under two different forms instead of one, and the same Sacrament.
Q. Can this be illustrated by any example?
A. The example of the Holy Ghost coming down upon the Apostles, will clearly explain this; for, when he came down upon them in the form of fiery tongues, they received the plenitude of that Divine Spirit with all his gifts and graces; and, if he had come down upon them in the form of a dove, instead of fiery tongues, it is clear they would have received the self same Holy Ghost as they did under the form of tongues; for whatever outward appearance he had been pleased to take, it could make no difference in what was contained under it. Let us suppose he had come down upon them in the form of both a dove and of fiery tongues at the same time, would they have received more than they did under the form of tongues alone? or would they have received two Holy Ghosts? It is clear they would not; for, though this Divine Spirit had taken ever so many different forms when he came down upon them, they would have been no more replenished with his gift and graces, as it was not the appearance he took but his Divine Presence which replenished them. The application is perfectly obvious to the Holy Communion.
Q. Did not Jesus Christ command all to receive in both kinds?
A. Jesus Christ command all to receive his body and blood; because this is what the sacrament of Communion essentially requires, and this is perfectly accomplished by receiving in one kind only; but there is not command to be found in the whole scripture for all to receive it in both kinds.
Q. But does not our Savior say, "Except you eat of the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you?" And does not this expressly command both eating and drinking; and, therefore, receiving in both kinds, otherwise there is no life for us?
A. This, indeed, expressly commands the receiving both his body and blood; but the stress of the command by no means lies upon the manner of receiving it by the separate actions of eating and drinking; and this is manifestly explained by himself a little after, when he says, "He that eateth me, the same also shall live by me," John vi. 58.; and "he that eateth this bread, shall live for ever," verse 59. Where we see that eternal life is promised to the eating alone: which evidently shows, that, by eating only, we perfectly fulfil the command given in the former text, where both eating and drinking are mentioned, and obtain that same life to our souls which is there spoken of; because, by eating alone, we receive both body and blood.
Q. When he gave the chalice to his Apostles, did he not say, "Drink ye all of this?" Matt. xxvi. 27.
A. He did: but who were the all here spoken to? Surely the Apostles who were present with him, and to whom he was speaking; and accordingly St. Mark tells us, that "they all drank of it," Mark xiv. 23. This, indeed, may imply a command to the priests who actually celebrate the Holy Mysteries, to receive at that time under both kinds, but by no means contains a command for all the people, nor even for the priests, who are not actually celebrating, to do so.
Q. Are there any grounds from scripture to authorize the giving Communion in one kind?
A. There are most manifest grounds in scripture for it;
First, Because our Savior himself assures us, as we have just seen, that communion in one kind is a full and perfect sacrament, by which eternal life is procubrown to the soul; "he that eats this brad shall live for ever."
Second, Because it is evident from the scripture, that, under either kind, we receive Jesus Christ whole and entire, both his body and blood, in which the essence of the sacrament consists.
Third, Because St. Paul says, "whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of our Lord," 1 Cor. xi. 27. Where, by saying, "eat or drink," he manifestly shows, that it was the practice in his time to do the one or the other, to receive either by eating or drinking. And the force of this text is so strong in favor of Communion in one kind only, that in all ages of the Church it had been accepted as such and practiced.
Fourth, Because our Savior himself, when he discovebrown himself to the two disciples going to Emmaus, communicated to them in one kind only; for, on receiving that divine bread from his hands, "their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight," Luke xxiv. 31. Now, that this was the Holy Communion which he gave them, is clear from the manner in which he gave it to them, which was the same as at the last supper, "he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave it to them," verse 30. And still more from the effect it produced in them, of opening their eyes, that they knew him, which surely common bread could not do.
Fifth, Because the Apostles themselves followed the same practice, as occasion requibrown, which appears both from the text just now cited from St. Paul, and also of the account given of the first Christians, in the Acts: "And they were persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers," Acts ii. 42.
Q. How does the Church look upon this?
A. She considers the giving communion in one kind only, or in both, merely as a point of discipline, which may be varied according as circumstances may require; and, in consequence of this, she has, on various occasions, sometimes given it in one kind, sometimes in both, as is evident from all monuments of antiquity, even from the earliest ages.
Q. But if one kind alone was sufficient for a full and perfect Sacrament, and if our Savior did not intend that all should receive it in both kinds, why did he institute it in both kinds?
A. Because this Holy Mystery was ordained not only as a Sacrament, but also as a Sacrifice. Now, though one kind alone be sufficient for a true and perfect Sacrament, yet both kinds are requibrown to make it a Sacrifice; for this reason, because the nature of this holy Sacrifice consists in representing the death of Jesus Christ, and offering him up to his Eternal Father under the appearance of death, which could not be done but by both kinds, as we shall now see.
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