EFFECTS OF A WORTHY
COMMUNION UNDER ONE FORM.
I SHALL in this chapter offer a few reflections on the effects of a worthy Communion, and answer the doctrinal question: "Why do the laity, and even the clergy, when not offering the Sacrifice, receive this Sacrament under the form of bread only, and not under the form of bread and wine?"
If I attempt to point out some of the admirable and consoling effects of the worthy Communion, far be it from me to imagine that mortals can convey any adequate ideas of so mysterious a subject. The Catechism directs our attention to five of the principal effects of Communion.
I. Communion unites us intimately with Jesus Christ, who becomes really our spiritual nourishment. This intimate union is, in reality, the most glorious effect of this Sacrament. The happiness of heaven consists in a most admirable union of the blessed with God. By it they possess Him, they see Him "face to face," they enjoy Him! The worthy communicant is most mysteriously united to God, to Jesus Christ, the second adorable Person of the triune God; he possesses God, he enjoys God. The great difference between the sacramental union and the union of the beatific vision is, that in the latter God is seen "face to face," perfectly, whilst in the former He is seen only imperfectly, with the eye of faith and through the veil which eternal Wisdom has seen fit to interpose between us and the Divine realities of the holy Sacrament. Notwithstanding this difference, the more we reflect on the admirable union effected by the holy Communion between the Christian soul and her God, the more do we perceive in it of a marvelous approach to that ineffable union which exists in the abodes of bliss. Our Divine Redeemer Himself has lovingly condescended to point out to us some of the features of this blessed union which, as it were, converts this land of exile and vale of tears into a real heaven. He tells us that He is the living Bread which came down from heaven; that if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever. Then He tells what that bread is: "And the bread that I wil1 give is my flesh, for the life of the world." "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him." Are not our food and drink most intimately united to us? Physiologists have expatiated on this question, and their explanations of the manner and extent of the conversion of our nourishment into the constituents of the human body, satisfy us that a marvelous union takes place. Now, in the spiritual and supernatural order, the body and blood of Jesusthe true bread from heaven, that bread which is His fleshwill also prove a nourishment, the nourishment of the soul. And so intimately will this Divine nourishment become united to the soul, that Jesus, the very God. of truth, did not hesitate to say: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him."
Angels, Christian reader, favored by the omnipotent God with a vision of what transpires on the occasion of the holy Communion, are lost in amazement at the nature of the union effected between God and man in the Eucharistic Sacrament. With all that intensity of fervor which characterizes angelic worship, they praise and thank Him who sitteth at the right hand of the Eternal Father for this matchless institution of Divine love. But oh! it is sad indeed to behold Christian man, for whom alone the Redeemer's greatest love established this mysterious means of almost heavenly union with God, so indifferent, so negligent, so cold. This indifference points to want of lively faith. This neglect establishes beyond question an alarming factthat the fires of Divine love are well nigh extinguished.
Recipients of this noblest of all Divine institutions, awake from your spiritual lethargy to a sense of duty and to a sense of danger! Resolve, by the aid of grace, henceforth to bring to the reception of the holy Eucharist, to the Communion, that perfection of dispositions which is indispensable for union with God. Then, and not till then, need you expect to realize the blessings implied in the intimate and mysterious union which is the first and most consoling effect of the holy Communion. Then, and not till then will you appreciate the important teaching of the ascetical writers that one Communion ought to make you saints. Then, and not till then, will you begin to taste those sweet, celestial delights which fervent communicants have experienced.
II. The holy Communion increases in us the spiritual life of grace. Notice the word increases. As has been already stated, the first prerequisite for a good Communion is the state of grace. The soul then is supposed to be in possession of graceits spiritual life. The holy Communion increases this life of grace. The soul endowed with the life of grace is pleasing in the eye even of the thrice holy God. It is lovely and beautiful and radiant beyond any thing that human imagination can fancy. Its loveliness, beauty, and radiancy are thus transcendent simply because they are participations of the infinite loveliness, beauty, and radiancy of God Himself. If the soul in the first stages of this spiritual life of grace possesses the qualities here predicated of it, who can form any adequate idea of the additional degrees of these qualities communicated by the sacramental union of the incarnate Son of God, with that holy soul?
Let it be impressed upon the mind so deeply as never to be effaced, never forgottenthat the degree of increase of this spiritual life of grace will be proportionate to the degree of perfection of dispositions brought to the reception of the holy Sacrament. Let communicants also bear in mind that the glory of God as well as their own interests, demands that every effort be made to render each holy Communion productive of the greatest possible increase of the spiritual life of grace.
III. The holy Communion moderates the violence of our passions, and weakens concupiscence. What Christian
ignorant of the existence of those passions? Who has not, more or less frequently experienced their violence? At times, it is one of those domestic foes that assails the child of God; at others, it is a multitude that unite and advance, as it were, in solid column, and battle so fiercely and so violently for the ruin of the immortal soul, that by no human means can the Christian combatant triumph? To what means is he to recur? He must fly to God, on the wings of prayer the most fervent. This is the most general means placed by the mercy of God at man's disposal. It is always possible, nay easy, with lips and heart, to invoke the Allpowerful. There is every inducement to do so. The Eternal Father's wellbeloved Son says: "Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you'' (John xvi. 23). Who does not see that if simple, heartfelt, earnest invocation can thus infallibly secure spiritual victory to the Christian soldier, how much more potent he is rendered by the sacramental union with God. Jesus, with divine and human natures, is introduced into the soul. There He is, so to speak, enthroned. Should the passions of the human heart arise in all the violence of a great tempest, and threaten to overwhelm the Christian, will He not rise up and command them to be still? Will His mandate fail to produce a great calm? Ask the fervent and worthily prepared recipient of the holy Communion. He will tell you that Jesus must have addressed some such command to his passions, for after his reception of the Eucharistic Sacrament, a great calm really ensued. The clamoring, noisy voice of passion was entirely hushed. This precious effect of a good Communion ought to satisfy every welldisposed Christian that it is his interest to approach the holy altar frequently. Some may ask, What are we to understand by frequent Communion For the benefit of a class of Catholics unfortunately not a few in numbers, I may say that receiving holy Communion once a year is not what is understood by the word frequent. Neither can the reception of this Sacrament two or three times in the year be regarded as frequent Communion. How often should the faithful approach the holy table? That is to be decided by the confessor for each individual. However, there is no doubt as to the wish of the Church. Her ardent desire is that her children should lead lives so sinless and holy, as to be worthy to partake of the sacred body and blood as often as they assist at Mass.
IV. The holy Communion is a pledge of eternal life and of a glorious resurrection. This effect is promised by Him whose word shall abide even when heaven and earth shall have passed away: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
V. The holy Communion is a memorial of the death of our Lord. When Jesus instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice He intended that the oblation of the Sacrifice and the reception of the Sacrament should serve to remind the people of the mystery of His death. Have you any doubts that such was the Redeemer's intention. Turn to 1 Cor. xi. 26 and you will find that St. Paul removes all doubt: "For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shew the death of the Lord till he come."
Before concluding this chapter, I have to notice the doctrinal question: Why do the laity receive Communion only under the form of bread? An answer is given not because the children of the Church require it. They have too implicit a confidence in her divine authority, as the Teacher commissioned by Jesus Christ to question her legislative power in this or any kindred subject. What I shall here say is to enlighten Protestants, at least the honest inquirers among them, and to show Catholics how utterly false and unjust are the charges made against the Church in regard to Communion under one form.
Once more, I feel that I cannot do better than quote the illustrious Bishop England. He says: "The principal difficulty which our separated brethren make respecting this part of the office is `the withholding of the cup from the laity,' as they call giving holy Communion only under the appearance of bread. They are under the impression that this is, on our part, a palpable violation of the Divine command, and a gross infraction of the Saviour's institution." "There are several facts upon the subject in regard to which we are agreed. During the first eleven centuries it was almost the common practice
of the Church to give Communion under both appearances. Next, it is still the general practice of the Greeks and other Orientals, not only of the sects separated from our Church, but also of the portions in our communion, who, however, lawfully follow a peculiar discipline. Again, decrees have been made by the Popes in the fifth century, directing that
those who refused to receive under the appearance of wine should be altogether denied Communion; and we also admit that by the Divine institution the person who consecrates the Eucharist, that is who celebrates Mass, is bound to receive under both kinds as well as to consecrate them. Upon all these points we make the fullest concessions; but neither of these touches the question upon which we differ, viz., whether it be contrary to the Divine institution, and the nature of the Sacrament, to give Communion in one kind only.
Let us now consider some other facts Nothing is more clear from Church history than that in private Communion
the most usual mode at all times was to receive only under the appearance of bread; sometimes, indeed, under the
appearance of wine only; and it was always considered that such Communions
were good and sufficient, and by no means contrary
to Divine institution. It generally occurred when hermits took the holy Eucharist with them to the places of their
retirement; when travelers took it with them to sea or on long journeys into infidel countries; when, during the time of persecution,
the faithful were permitted to take it home, that they might have the opportunity of Communion if they should be deprived
of their clergy, or if they should themselves be in danger. To these and other similar instances we might add the
abstemious, who could not bear the taste or smell of wine, and who were frequently known and admitted amongst the
communicants. All these received only under the appearance of bread. The sick generally received under this form only. Children
received Communion only under the form of wine. Yet, in every age of the Church, these were considered to have fully partaken
the body and blood of Christ; for His is now a living body, from which the blood is inseparable. Christ rising from the dead, dieth now no more (Romans vi. 9), though, by the words of Consecration, the Lamb is upon the altar, as it were, slain (Apoc. v. 6); the body appears as if separated from the blood; still, when the body is made present, the blood accompanies it of necessity; and when the blood is made present, the body necessarily accompanies it also; so that under either kind, Christ whole and entire, a true Sacrament, is received.
Nor did the Saviour give any precept for those who communicated to receive under both kinds. The expression so frequently quoted to make it appear that He didviz.: "Drink ye all of this" (Matt. xxvi. 27)was addressed to those to whom He gave the power of consecrating, because they alone were then with Him; and St. Mark informs us that they all drank of it;" so that the extension of the term used by one Evangelist is precisely defined by the other. It is indeed true that the Saviour did say: "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you shall not have life in you" (John vi. 54). But surely the Saviour did not contradict Himself; and He also said (John vi. 52): "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever." If He says (verse 55), "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life," He also informs us (verse 52), "The bread which I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.'' And though He assures us (verse 57), "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him," yet He promises also (verse 59), "He that eateth this bread shall live forever." The entire difficulty is removed and the passage made consistent, and not contradictory, by the consideration that under either appearance there is really flesh and blood. Hence St. Augustine (Lib. iii. de consens evangel. C. 25) informs us that the Saviour Himself gave Communion under one kind only to the disciples at Emmaus (Luke xxiv. 30, 35), where it is distinctly stated that He vanished after giving them the bread.
St. Paul (1 Cor. xi. 27) states that, "whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." It is true that an effort has been made within the last three centuries to change this and many other texts; but from the beginning, the true reading has been given as it is here. The whole text might be easily spared.
The Church finally decreed, that all the ends of the Divine institution are answered by Communion under one species, and that Communion should be administered only under the one species of bread to the laity (Council of Constance, Sess. xiii., confirmed by the bull "In eminentis" of Martin V). This was in the year 1418. The Counci1 of Trent (Sess. xxi. Can. i.) defines: "If any one saith, that by the precept of God, or by necessity of salvation, all and each of the faithful of Christ ought to receive both species of the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; let him be anathema.'' Can. ii.: "If any one saith, that the holy Catholic Church was not induced by just causes and reasons, to communicate, under the species of bread only, laymen, and also clerics when not consecrating; let him be anathema."
The "just causes and reasons" for which the Church has decided that laymen, and clerics when not consecrating," are to receive Communion under the one species of bread, are chiefly: 1. The danger there always was of the species of wine being spilled, and the holy Sacrament thereby exposed to profanation. 2. The greater liability of that species becoming sour and corrupting. 3. The difficulty which some persons find in using the species of wine. 4. It was also found that in many places the procuring of a sufficiency of wine for the Sacrifice alone, was not always easy. How much greater embarrassment, were the wine needed for the whole congregation. At all events, from the reasons already assigned, it is manifest that the mode of giving Communion has always been considered in the universal Church a matter of discipline, left by Christ to the regulation of the legislative tribunal, provided always, that it secured, that His body and blood should be given; that this discipline is, and has been, various; that the Latin Church, in the exercise of her right, has ruled, that for all except the actually celebrating clergyman, Communion must be under one species, that of bread. Would to God that there were no other difference between us and our Protestant brethren respecting the nature of this most venerable Sacrament.
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