Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye shall not have life in you. (St. John, c. vi., v. 54.)
And he sent … to say to those who were invited, that they should come; for now all things were ready. And they began all at once to make excuse. (St. Luke, c. xiv., vv. 17-18.) And if I send them away fasting … they will faint in the way. (St. Mark, c. viii., v. 3.)
1. Frequent communion is the most efficacious of all means to unite us to God. “He that eateth my flesh,” said our divine Saviour, “abideth in Me and I in him.”
2. St. Bernard calls the Holy Eucharist the love of loves. Hence you should desire to receive it frequently in order to be filled with this divine love.
3. St. Francis de Sales says there are two classes of persons who should often receive holy communion; the perfect, to unite themselves more closely to the Source of all perfection, and the imperfect to labor to attain perfection; the strong that they may not become weak, the weak that they may become strong; the sick that they may be cured, and those in health that they may be preserved from sickness.
You tell me that your imperfections, your weakness, your littleness make you unworthy to receive communion frequently; and I assure you it is precisely because of these that you ought to receive it frequently in order that He who possesses all things may give you whatever is wanting to you. *
The following words on this subject will not perhaps be considered by others as giving much additional value to the authority of the saintly Bishop of Geneva.
They do so, however, in ours, because they are from the lips of a holy religious whose memory will always be dear to us——from a man whose last moments were the occasion of the greatest edification it has ever pleased God to accord us.
The Rev. Father Margottet, a Jesuit, died at Nice, April 1st, 1835, shortly after his return from Portugal where he had suffered a most cruel captivity with the courage that faith alone can inspire.
During the last months of his life he took great pleasure in conversing with a certain young man who visited him regularly to be instructed and edified by his pious discourse. One day this young man confided to him the confusion he felt in availing himself of his director’s permission to receive holy Communion several times a week.
This was due especially to the thought that St. Aloysius, whilst a novice of the Society of Jesus, went to Communion on Sundays only.
“Come, come, my dear sir,” laughingly replied the good Father, “continue your frequent Communions—you need them much more than St. Aloysius did.”
It is indeed an error to consider holy Communion a reward of virtue, and, in a measure, a gauge of perfection, whereas it is above all a means to attain perfection, and the one pre-existing virtue required in order to employ this means is the desire to profit by it.
Our divine Lord did not say: Venite ad me qui perfecti estis—Come to Me all ye who are perfect: He said: Venite ad me qui laboratis et onerati estis —Come to me all ye who labor and are burdened.
The spirit of the Church has at all times been the same in regard to this important subject. Fénelon says in his letter on frequent Communion that St. Chrysostom admits of no medium between the state of those who are in mortal sin and that of the faithful who are in a state of grace and communicate every day.
In vain certain Christians, believing themselves purified and just, do no penance as sinners and nevertheless abstain from Communion, because, they say, they are not perfect enough to receive it.
This intermediate state is not only most dangerous for one who willfully remains in it, but is also injurious to the Blessed Sacrament.
Far from doing honor to the Holy Eucharist by depriving ourselves of it, we offend our divine Lord when we decline to partake of the Banquet to which He invites us.
In a word, according to this early Father of the Church, we ought either to communicate with those who are in a state of grace, or to do penance that we may be united to them as soon as possible.
We will quote the Saint’s own words: “Many of the faithful are weak and languishing, many among them sleep.
And how, you say, does this happen since we receive the Blessed Sacrament but once a year?
For you imagine that merit consists not so much in purity of conscience as in the length of time intervening between your Communions.
You consider no higher mark of respect and honor can be paid to this Sacrament than not to approach the Holy Table often….
Temerity does not consist in approaching the Altar frequently, but in approaching it unworthily were this but once in an entire life time….
Why then regulate the number of Communions by the law of time, instead of by purity of conscience, which should alone indicate how many times to receive?
This divine Mystery is nothing more at Easter than at all other seasons during which it is celebrated continually.
It is ever the same, that is to say, ever the same gift of the Holy Ghost.
Easter continues throughout the year.
You who are initiated will understand perfectly what I say.
Be it Saturday, or Sunday, or the feasts of the martyrs, it is always the same Victim, the same Sacrifice.”
“It was not the will of our divine Lord that His Sacrifice should be restricted by the observance of time.”
Other Fathers of the Church speak in the same way of Holy Communion: “If it is daily bread,” says Saint Ambrose, “why do you partake of it but once a year?…
Receive it every day in order that every day you may benefit by it.
Live in such a manner that you may deserve to receive it every day, for he who does not deserve to receive it every day will not deserve to receive it at the end of the year….
Do you not know that every time the Holy Sacrifice is offered, the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord are renewed to the atonement of sin?
And yet you will not partake daily of this Bread of Life!
When one has received a wound does he not seek a remedy?
Sin which holds us captive is our wound: our remedy is in this ever adorable Sacrament.” In order that it may be plainly proved that the faithful of the present day have no reason to act differently in this respect from those of the primitive Church, let us see how this ancient discipline has been confirmed in later times by the Council of Trent:
“Christians should believe in this Sacrament and reverence it with such a firm faith, with so much fervor and piety, that they may often receive this Super-substantial Bread; that it may be, in truth, the life of their soul and the perpetual health of their spirit, and that the strength they derive therefrom may enable them to pass from the temptations of this earthly pilgrimage to the repose of their heavenly fatherland….
The Council would have the faithful receive Communion each time they assist at Mass, not only spiritually, but sacramentally, that they may derive more abundant fruit from the Holy Sacrifice.”*