Wednesday Ember Day
THE GREAT GIFT OF JESUS IN THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
God is Omnipotent; but after He has given Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament He has no greater gift to give us. O wonderful prodigy of Divine love!
The love of Jesus was not satisfied with His shedding His Blood and laying down His life for us in the midst of ignominies and torments, in order to make known His affection for us; but, moreover, to oblige us the more to love Him, on the night, before His death, He would leave us His whole Self to be our Food in the Holy Eucharist. God is omnipotent, but, having given Himself to us in this Sacrament, He has nothing more to give. The Council of Trent says that Jesus, in giving Himself to us in the Holy Communion, pours out upon us all the riches of His infinite love. He pours out, as it were, the riches of His love towards men.
O my dear Jesus, what more canst Thou do to make us love Thee? Oh! make us sensible of the excess of Thy love in, reducing Thyself to Food in order to be united with us sinners. Thou, then, my Redeemer, hast had so much love for me as not to refuse to give me Thy whole Self frequently in the Holy Communion, and I have many times had the baseness to expel Thee from my soul! But Thou wilt not despise a contrite and humble heart. Thou didst become Man for my sake; Thou didst die for me; and Thou hast given me Thyself to be my Food; and what more remains for Thee to do to gain my love? Oh! that I might die with grief as often as I remember having despised Thy graces! I am sorry with my whole heart for having offended Thee. I love Thee, 0 infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O infinite Love!
How honoured would that vassal esteem himself, says St. Francis of Sales, to whom his prince at table should offer a portion from his own dish, or of his own very flesh! Jesus, in the Holy Communion, gives us for our Food, not a portion, from His own table, nor a part of His sacred Flesh, but His whole Body: Take and eat¬this is my body. And at the same time that He gives us His Body He gives us also with it, His Soul and Divinity; so that, as St. Chrysostom says, our Lord, in giving us Himself in the Holy Eucharist, gives us all that He has, and nothing more remains that He can give to us. O wonderful prodigy of love! God, Who is the Lord of all, makes Himself entirely ours!
I desire nothing but to love Thee, 0 my Jesus, and I fear nothing but to live without loving Thee. My beloved Jesus, do not refuse to come again into my soul. Come, for I would rather die a thousand deaths than drive Thee from me any more; and I will do all in my power to please Thee. Come, and inflame my whole soul with Thy holy love. Grant that I may forget all things else to think only of Thee, and to aspire after Thee alone, my sovereign and only Good. O Mary, my Mother, pray for me, and by thy holy prayers make me grateful for the great love of Jesus towards me.
THE VISIT TO MARY
And now as to the Visit to the Most Blessed Virgin, the opinion of St. Bernard is well known and commonly accepted: namely, that God dispenses no graces otherwise than through the hands of Mary: “God wills that; we should receive nothing that does not pass through Mary’s hands.” Hence Father Suarez declares that it is now the sentiment of the universal Church, that the intercession of Mary is not only useful, but even necessary to obtain graces. And we may remark that the Church gives us strong grounds for this belief, by applying the words of the Sacred Scripture to Mary, and making her say: In me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me all ye that desire me–(Ecclus. xxiv. 25, 26). Let all come to me; for I am the hope of all that; you can desire.
Hence she adds: Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors-(Prov. viii. 34). Blessed is he who is diligent in coming every day to the door of my powerful intercession, for by finding me he will find life and eternal salvation: He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord-(Prov. viii. 35). Hence it is not without reason that the Church wills that we should call Mary our common hope, by saluting her with the words: “Hail, our hope!”
“Let us then,” says St. Bernard (who went so far as to style Mary “the whole ground of his hope”), “seek for graces, and seek them through Mary.” For, as St. Antoninus says, if we ask for graces without her intercession, we shall be only making an effort to fly without wings, and obtain nothing. “He who asks without her as his guide, attempts to fly without wings.” In Father Auriemma’s little book, Affetti Scambievoli, we read of innumerable favours granted by the Mother of God to those who practised this most profitable devotion of often visiting her in her churches or before her image.
Do you also, then, be careful to ever join to your daily visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament a visit to the most holy Virgin Mary in some church, or at least before a devout image of her in your own house. St. Andrew of Crete says, that Mary always bestows great gifts on those who offer her even the least act of homage.
Spiritual Communion during Visit
As it is suggested in the following visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament to make a Spiritual Communion after each, it will be well to explain what a Spiritual Communion is, and the great advantages of making it. A Spiritual Communion, according to St. Thomas, consists in an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, and in lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him.
How pleasing Spiritual Communions are to God, and how many graces He bestows through their means, was manifested by Our Lord Himself to Sister Paula Maresca, the foundress of the Convent of St. Catherine of Sienna, in Naples. It is related in her Life that our Lord showed her two precious vessels, one of gold, another of silver. He then told her that in the gold vessel He preserved her Sacramental Communions, and in the silver her Spiritual Communions. He also told Blessed Jane of the Cross that each time she communicated spiritually she received a grace like in kind to that which she received when she really communicated. But for us it will suffice to know that the holy Council of Trent greatly praises Spiritual Communion, and encourages the faithful to practise it.
Hence devout souls are accustomed often to make use of this holy exercise of Spiritual Communion. Blessed Agatha of the Cross did so two hundred times a day. Father Peter Faber, the first companion of St. Ignatius, used to say that it was of the highest utility to make Spiritual Communions, in order to receive the Sacramental Communion well.
All, therefore, who desire to advance in the love of Jesus Christ are exhorted to make a Spiritual Communion at least once in every visit that they pay to the Most Blessed Sacrament, and once at every Mass that they hear. Better still on these occasions to repeat the Spiritual Communions three times; that is to say, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. TIlis devotion is far more profitable than some suppose, and at the same time nothing can be easier to practise. The above-named Jane of the Cross used to say that a Spiritual Communion can be made without anyone remarking it, without being fasting, without the permission of our director, and that we can make it any time we please; an act of love does all.
THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
XIII.-THE MEANS OF AVOIDING LUKEWARMNESS AND ATTAINING PERFECTION
Alas, my God, how many souls, for want of applying themselves to lead a life of greater recollection and more detachment from earthly things, care not to receive Holy Communion! And this is the true cause of their not wishing to communicate frequently. They are well aware that to wish always to appear, to dress with vanity, to be fond of nice eating and drinking, of bodily comforts, of conversations and amusements, does not harmonise with frequent Communion; they know that more prayer is required, more mortification, as well internal as external, more seclusion; and on this account they are ashamed to approach the altar more frequently. Without doubt, such souls are right to refrain from frequent Communion as long as they find themselves in that unhappy state of lukewarmness; but whoever is called to a more perfect life should lay aside this lukewarmness, if he would not greatly risk his eternal salvation.
It will be found likewise to contribute very much to keep fervour alive in the soul often to make a Spiritual Communion, so much recommended by the Council of Trent, which exhorts all the faithful to practise it. The Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas says, consists in an ardent desire to receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament; and therefore the Saints were careful to make it several times in the day. The method of making it is this: “My Jesus, I believe that Thou art really present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love Thee and I desire Thee; come into my soul. I embrace Thee; and I beseech Thee never to allow me to be separated from Thee again.” Or more briefly, thus: “My Jesus, come to me; I desire Thee; I embrace Thee; let us remain ever united together.” This Spiritual Communion may be practised several times a day: when we make our prayer, when we make our Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and especially when we assist at Mass at the moment of the priest’s Communion. The Dominican Sister, Blessed Angela of the Cross, said: “If my confessor had not taught me the method of communicating spiritually several times a day, I should not have trusted myself to live.”