Thanksgiving after Holy Communion.
Gratitude is a noble sentiment of the human heart. Every one is pleased and touched by gratitude for favors received. Ingratitude pains, shocks us, and prevents future liberality. Our Blessed Lord Himself complains of the ungrateful. When He cured the ten lepers, only one returned to thank Him. The Redeemer said: "Were not ten made clean? and where are the nine? Is there no one found to return and give glory to God but this stranger?" Luke xvii. 18. Again, our Lord complained to Messed Margaret Mary Alacoque. "Behold," He said, "this Heart which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to the exhausting and consuming Itself, to testify Its love; and yet in return I receive from the greater number but coldness, ingratitude," etc. As all good gifts proceed from God, we ought to thank Him for them; but how thank, Him when He gives us Himself? In Holy Communion we receive the gifts and the Giver! How precious, how holy the time after receiving Jesus Christ! St. Mary Magdelene de Pazzi used to say: "The time after Holy Communion is the most precious in our lives; it is the best time for negotiating with God and for inflaming our souls with His divine love." St. Teresa says: "Remain with Jesus Christ, profit by the favorable time of Communion to draw abundantly the treasures of His graces." The time is precious: Jesus is in the soul. _ "He that eateth My Body and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me and I in him." When Jesus said to Zaccheus, "This day I must abide in thy house," Zaccheus received with joy his divine Guest, and Jesus rewarded his zeal by saying: "This day is salvation come to this house." Luke, xix. 9. With holy joy and fervor ought we too receive our divine Guest bringing salvation to our souls. "Say to my soul, I am thy salvation." Ps. In a word, next to the supreme moment of death, the moments after holy Communion are the most important of our whole lives, because we then possess Jesus, our God, we bear in our bosoms the Lord of angels and archangels, we become His living tabernacles.
Immediate Thanksgiving. First Act after Communicating.
In the last section we left the soul at the altar rails, burning with divine love. Jesus her God is gently laid on the tongue, and received into the breast. That instant she bows down profoundly in love and adoration. She shuts her eyes and ears to the outer world, to all creatures, and absorbed in God, she loves, she adores, she thanks, she praises her divine Lord, and gives Him her whole being without reserve. After saying again and again, I love You, Jesus, my God, I wish to love You as You desire, I offer You the love of all holy souls on earth, of all the saints and blessed spirits in heaven, and of Mary Thy Mother, to supply my defects; the soul may cry out with the inspired Prophet, "O ye angels of the Lord, bless the Lord, praise and exhalt Him, above all forever." "O ye servants of the Lord, bless the Lord. O ye spirits and souls of the Lord, O ye heavens and all ye powers of the Lord, bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all forever." Daniel, iii. "Let us glorify His name together" Ps., xxxiii. 4. Union of the soul with Jesus in love and adoration is the first act after receiving holy Communion.
Second Act. Sorrow for Sin.
The soul possessing Jesus, and absorbed in the love of God, sees more clearly her past sins. She sees her black ingratitude to so good a God. She knows He will forgive and pardon. Often she repeats in the bitterness of her sorrow, "My good Jesus, I am sorry for all my past sins, because they displease and offend Thy infinite goodness." "The sins of my youth and my ignorance remember not, O Lord." "From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of others spare thy servant." Ps. "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner. Lord, I have sinned against heaven and against Thee." - Luke, xv. 18. With tears streaming from the eyes, with deep sorrow in the heart, with the firm resolve to sin no more, the prayer for pardon is whispered to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart dilates in mercy; from it the blood of redemption again flows on the soul. Jesus speaks, and the soul hears His sweet voice saying: "Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace, and sin no more."
Third Act Petition.
The third part of thanksgiving after Holy Communion is perhaps the most important. Our Blessed Redeemer has said: "Ask, and it shall be given to you; for every one that asketh receiveth." Luke, xi. 9. And again: "If you shall ask anything in My name, that will I do. You shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you." John, xv. 7. Now, the time beyond all times for asking everything is after Holy Communion. St. Teresa says, that at that time Jesus remains in the soul as on a throne of grace, saying to her: "What wilt thou that I should do to thee?" Jesus will refuse us nothing. Let us ask of Him grace to sin no more, to correct our past faults, to avoid every, occasion of sin, whether place or person, grace to keep His commandments, grace to love Him, and the grace of graces final perseverance. "I have found Him whom my soul loves; I hold Him fast; I will not let Him go." Cant., iii. 4. Yes; "I will not let Thee go till Thou hast blessed me." Gen., xxii. 26. Let no one then ever say: I am weak. Jesus is the Physician "that cures all sorts of diseases." He is the strength of the weak. Let no one say: I fear when I feel the sting of the flesh. Holy Communion is "the wine springing forth virgins." Jesus is the chastity of the soul and body. Let nobody say: My heart is cold, devoid of charity. Jesus is charity; Jesus is fire from heaven. "God is charity." John, iv. 8. "My God is a consuming fire." Deut., iv. 54. "I came to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled." Luke, xii. 49. Lastly, let no one say: I am weary of the struggle so constant, unceasing. Look up; heaven is the prize; God is the reward, "I am thy reward exceeding great." Gen., xv. 1. "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes; and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more; for the former things have passed away." Apoc., xxi. 4. Heaven is the prize. "He that eateth this Bread shall live forever, and I will raise him up on the last day." John, vi. 55.
When we have asked and obtained everything for ourselves, let us think of and pray for others. Let us pray for the universal Church, that God may exalt and extend her over the worldwide. A prayer for our own dear Irish Church, that every child of St. Patrick at home and abroad may be confirmed in the pure faith of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for those sleeping, nay, dead in the grave of mortal sin. May a ray from heaven give them life to live unto God. Let us pray that heretics and schismatics may return to the bosom of the Church, to console the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us pray God to inspire our holy father the Pope with wisdom, sanctity, and fortitude, to resist the enemies of God, and to steer the bark of Peter safely to the haven of salvation. Let us pray, Jesus, for the glory of His immaculate spouse the Church, to shower down abundant graces, eminent sanctity, the perfect spirit of their state, on bishops, priests, and religious all over the entire world. A parting prayer for those in the occasion of sin, that they may not offend Jesus; for those in their last agony, that they may depart in the peace of Jesus; for those departed in peace, but still in pain, that they may soon possess God in the bliss of paradise. Here what a field of intercessory prayer opens and expands before the soul of the pious communicant! What riches to acquire, what treasures to heap up, what glory to God, what consolation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus!
Jesus is in the heart! How many other holy thoughts, pious desires, heavenly inspirations, will not the Lord himself infuse into the soul! How sweet the conversation of the soul with Jesus! "Her conversation has no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness." Wis., viii. 16. How delicious to the soul the taste of this Heavenly Food! "The Bread shall be the deliciousness of kings." Gen., xlix. 20. How rapturous the enjoyments, how supremely happy the moments of the soul "inebriated with delights," communing with, absorbed in Jesus! Well may she exclaim with the spouse in the canticles, "My beloved to me and I to Him. I have found Him whom my soul loves: I hold Him fast, and will not let Him go." Cant. iii. 4. May Jesus inspire us all to thank Him as He deserves, and as we ought, after Holy Communion.
How much time ought the devout communicant to spend in thanksgiving? St. Liguori replies, at least a quarter of an hour. The time of thanksgiving will depend upon the fervor of each person. The saints have spent hours in meditation and prayer after Holy Communion. Every day we see holy souls who spend half an hour or more in thanksgiving. They find the time too short, and in their fervor complain when the duties of their state in life tear them away from the altar. But in no case ought any one leave the altar without spending a quarter of an hour in fervent thanksgiving. If the communicant becomes distracted, the acts of thanksgiving found in every prayer book may be read with profit.
The pious communicant will always make a fervent thanksgiving: but how sad, if not sinful, is the thanksgiving, as well as the preparation, of some cold and careless Christians! They go to confession through custom or routine. The eve of Holy Communion they read no pious books: they pray but little, and think not of the sanctity of the Body and Blood of the Lord which they are to receive in the morning. The morning comes; they rise late, mutter a few hurried, thoughtless prayers, and proceed to the chapel. The dress is either careless and slovenly, or indecent and gaudy, as if they were going to a theatre to attract, and not to a church to pray. On the way they talk to everybody about everything except about God: no recollection, no aspirations. They arrive just in time not to be late for Mass, but not in time to pray. They are weary of a long Mass or sermon: they have no relish for the Word of God. They receive the Body and Blood of Jesus; they retire to their places, but their vacant looks betray a distracted mind. They look about, appearing not to know what to do, nor to appreciate what God has done for them. Their lips may stir in prayer, but their hearts and minds are far from God. Mass is over, the blessing is given, they appear in a hurry to be first out of church: they carry Jesus in their hearts into the street or road. At once they begin to talk of everything profane, but not one word, not one affection or thought about God or the Blessed Eucharist they received. Dear Jesus! has not this too often happened! What an irreverence, what an outrage, what an insult to Thy Sacred Heart!
No wonder, then, that some of these careless communicants, if they were proud before, continue proud; if before they were drunkards, they got drunk again; if before they were impure, may fall again into the sin of impurity; if before they were quarrelsome, they will fight again; if before they led disedifying lives, they afterwards fail to give edification. Like the Israelites in the desert, they sin with the manna of heaven in their mouths. They have reason to fear that the anger of God will overtake them. They abuse the grace of God, they treat with irreverence, we will not say positive insult, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. May heaven avert such miseries, and save all Christians from cold, tepid, and still more, from bad, sacrilegious communions!
The pious communicant may ask with the Royal Psalmist, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the things He hath rendered to me?" - cxv. 12. The best return to the Lord is the remote thanksgiving, which means to correct our faults, to amend our lives, and to acquire all virtues pleasing to Jesus Christ. After fervent prayer the pious communicant reluctantly leaves the altar, returns home from the nuptial banquet, joyous, happy, recollected, the spouse of the Lamb. "Thou art all beautiful, my love, and a stain is not in Thee." The devout soul entertains her Divine Lord on the way home with holy affections and aspirations. That day she wants no society, her conversation is with God. This holy thought constantly recurs to her mind: this morning I have received the Body and Blood of Jesus my God: may Jesus make me grateful. She reads pious books to nourish her still more with holy thoughts and holy affections, she spends more time in prayer, prayer of the heart, prayer full of deep devotion and fervor; she finds time for everything, but above all, time for her duties to God.
How chaste, how modest! Her Lord "feeds among the lilies." A breath may fade and wither the lovely lily, the emblem of virginity. How chaste the eyes that in the morning beheld the Redeemer of the world, how chaste the tongue that in the morning was purpled with the Blood of Jesus Christ, how chaste the heart that in the morning was the living tabernacle of the Son of God! Holy Communion, "the wine springing forth virgins," has filled the world with chaste youths and chaste virgins, who at all times have been the glory of the Church of God and living proofs of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Chaste souls! how they fly every occasion whether of place or person, dangerous to holy purity: an unbecoming word never escapes their lips. How often has the modest blush on the cheek of the chaste youth or virgin hushed to silence the foul tongue of the grayhaired old sinner. Modesty attracts, modesty charms, modesty is the fruit of Holy Communion.
The remote thanksgiving includes a firm resolve to keep God's commandments, to avoid sin, no matter at what cost, never to offend God by drunkenness, by anger and passion, or quarrels, or revenge, or by any other grievous sin whatsoever.
Conformity to the holy will of God in all things is the great fruit of Holy Communion. In the greatest trials, in the darkest midnight of sorrow, when the hand of God is heaviest upon us, the soul finds consolation in this great truththat all things happen and come from the hand of an allwise and allbountiful Providence. Divine Providence, which reckons the very hairs in our head, which decks in all their beauty the lilies of the fields, which feeds the birds of the air, will not forget souls made to God's own image and redeemed by the blood of his Son. All things are decreed or permitted by God. The sacred Scriptures say, "Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God." Eccl., xi. 14. And again, "I am the Lord, I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil." Isa., xlv. 6. Let us, then, in all trials and crosses, in pain and sorrow, in poverty and suffering, in contempt and scorn of the world, in loss of all things, in sickness and death, say with holy Job, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, and as it hath pleased the Lord, so be it done, blessed be the name of the Lord." Job, i. 22. Let us say with our Blessed Savior in his agony, "Not my will, O God, but Thine be done."
We shall mention but one thing more, which is very important, and which ought to be kept before the mind in preparation for, and thanksgiving after, Holy Communion that is, to correct some fault into which we most frequently fall, and to acquire some virtue we need most. Each person knows that there is some sin, some fault into which he most frequently falls, some predominant passion, some imperfection which cools his love for God and hinders his advancement on the road to perfection. That may be pride or vanity, anger or illwill, excess in eating or drinking, loss of precious time in idle, unprofitable occupations, want of sufficient sensitive caution in words or looks, or with respect to places or persons dangerous to holy purity, voluntary distractions in prayer, want of fervent preparation for the holy sacraments. The great thanksgiving then is; to remove from our souls what we know is displeasing to the Almighty, to mortify our wills today in one thing, tomorrow in another, to correct our faults, and to offer up this to God as a thanksgiving. St. Aloysius spent three days in thanksgiving after holy Communion and thus became a saint. If at each Communion we correct some one fault, acquire some new virtue, offer in sacrifice some one little thing that we know cools our fervor in the service of God, in a short time we shall become holy, pleasing to God, fervent, detached from creatures, resigned in all things to the holy will of God, devoted to prayer, united to God, so that we can say with the apostle, "I live indeed, but it is not I who live, but Jesus Christ lives in me." Gal., ii. 20.
My soul! reflect. Holy Communion is Jesus, Godman. Holy Communion has sanctified all the saints. How often during thy life long hast thou too received Jesus! With what fruit? My soul! yet so cold, so far from the perfection of the saints! Ask pardon of Jesus for the past abuse of grace; and that you may not in future abuse grace, keep the following resolution.
My Jesus, hidden God in the Holy Eucharist, I resolve to make, whenever I approach the holy table, the most fervent preparation the eve and morning of Holy Communion, to spend at least a quarter of an hour in devout thanksgiving, and to endeavor to correct at each Communion some fault displeasing to the Almighty, or to acquire some virtue that I may stand in need of. O Sacred Host, fill my soul with grace to keep my resolutions.
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