On Holy Communion, During the Time after Pentecost
If, in the early stages of the Liturgical Year, in Advent, at Christmas, and during the periods of Septuagesima and Lent, when there was question of nothing beyond a preparation for the divine Mysteries which wrought our salvation,—if, in the name of holy Church, we then invited the Faithful to have recourse to the Sacrament of our Lord’s Body, as being the heavenly nourishment that would support them in the glorious career on which they had entered: now, that the work is done, that they have risen again with their Redeemer, that they have followed him, by their desires and their hopes, even to the very summit of heaven; now, that the Holy Ghost has come down upon this earth, that he might complete within them the work of their union with God;—surely, nothing could profit them more, than that they nourish themselves, and even more frequently than before, with the Bread of Life, which came from heaven, that he might give Life to the World.
From our first entrance into the new season, which we are now passing through, holy Church has, by the great Feast of Corpus Christi, brought us face to face with the august Mystery, which is both the Sacrifice whereby God receives the honor due to him, and the Sacrament containing within himself the nourishment of our souls. We have now a clearer understanding of the unspeakable gift, which our Savior vouchsafed to bestow upon us, the night before his Passion. We now see more plainly the nature and greatness of the homage which earth gives to its Creator, by the ceaseless offering of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We now know, so much better than formerly, what that deifying relation is, which is made to exist between God and the soul, by means of the participation of the Sacred Host. The Holy Ghost has shed his light upon all these truths; he has opened out of us the very depths of the mystery shown to us from the outset, the mystery, that is, of the Emmanuel, or God with us. Now that we are so fully initiated into the whole of God’s work, we the better understand that great text of the Gospel, which says: The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us. We grasp the meaning more completely; we can give it a more literal, and equally faithful, translation, and say: the Word was made Flesh, and took up his dwelling within us.
All this has increased in the Christian the desire of assisting at the Holy Sacrifice. He says to himself, as did the Patriarch of old: “Truly, the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not; my faith was sound, but I did not perceive, as I do now, the immensity of what our Lord did at his Last Supper.” In the same way, having now a clearer knowledge of the union, which is brought about, even in this present world, between God and the soul that is nourished with the living Bread, whereby that soul is transformed into its Creator,—having this clearer knowledge, the Christian longs more ardently than ever for the enjoyment of that Lord, who, even during this mortal life, gives us, by means of the Eucharistic Bread, not only a foretaste, but the very reality, of that which awaits us in heaven. We may truly assert, that the keeping up of that state, which we have already described in the Third Chapter, and which is the state both of the Church herself and of the faithful soul, during this period of the Liturgical Year, is the joint work of the Holy Ghost, who abides within us, and of the Eucharistic gift, in which the Son of God ceases not to act for the preservation, increase, and development of the divine life, which he came to bring us, and of which he thus speaks: I am come, that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.
We will here, as in the preceding Volumes, give Acts which may serve as preparation for holy Communion during this Season of the Year. There are souls that feel the want of some such assistance as this; and, for the same reason, we will add a form of Thanksgiving for after Communion.
Act of Faith
|Now that I am about to unite myself to thee in the mystery of thy love, I must first profess that I believe it to be truly thyself, O my God, thy body, thy soul, thy divinity, that thou art going to give me. The first duty thou askest of me, now that thou art coming to me, is the act of my Faith in this deep mystery; I make it; and my understanding is happy at thus bowing itself down before thy sovereign word. Thou, O Jesus, art the Truth; and when presenting to thy disciples the bread changed in to thy Body, thou saidst to them: This is my Body! I believe thy word; I adore the living Bread, come down from heaven to give life to the world. The grace of the Holy Ghost, whom thou hast sent me, enables me to relish this marvel of thy all-powerful love. This love of thine was not satisfied with uniting thee to the human nature, which thou assumedst in Mary’s womb; it would, moreover, prepare for each one of us, by means of the heavenly food of thy sacred flesh, a real and mysterious union with thee, which none but thou could have planned, none but thou could have achieved. For its accomplishment, thou first demandedst, as thou hadst all right to do, that we should have an unlimited confidence in the truth of thy word. When thou wast upon the Cross, thy divinity was veiled from view; in the sacred Host, thy very humanity is hid from our eyes; but, I believe, O my God, both thy divinity and humanity present under the cloud which shrouds them from all mortal sight. I have been taught by thine Apostle, O light inaccessible, that it is by faith alone that we can approach thee, while we are in this present life. I believe, then, O Lord! but help thou mine unbelief.|
|Act of Humility|
|Taught, as I have been, by thy words, O my God, I know, and with a certainty which my reason and my senses could never have given me, that, in a few moments, I shall be in closest union with thine infinite Majesty. Thou hast said it: He that eateth my Flesh, abideth in me, and I in him! My whole being thrills at these words. I, a sinner, all marked with the sores of my iniquities, and still fighting with passions but half subdued, I am to abide in thee! And thou, that art infinite Being and infinite Holiness, thou art coming to abide in me, in me who am but nothingness and sin! At such a tiding as this, what else can I, than cry out, with the Centurion of thy Gospel: Lord! I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof! And yet, I hear thee saying, also, these other words: Unless ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, ye shall not have life in you. This life I would have, O Jesus! And didst thou not come, didst thou not work all thy mysteries, in order that we might have life, and more and more of that life? I have no desire to shun it. What, then, can I do, but take shelter in the depths of humility, think of mine own vileness, be mindful of the fuel of sin that exists within me, and acknowledge the infinite distance there is between myself and thee, O my Redeemer and my Judge? I know that then thou wilt have pity on my misery, and wilt say but one word, and my soul shall be healed. Say, I beseech thee, that word, which is to comfort my heart. Till thou sayst it, I dare not raise up mine eyes towards thine altar; I can but tremble at the approach of that moment, when a poor creature, like myself, is to be united with its Creator, from whose eyes nought is hid, and who judges even our justices.|
|Act of Contrition|
|Ever since that day whereon thy Spirit, O Lord, came down upon us, in order that he might the more deeply imprint upon our souls the divine mysteries thou wroughtest, from thy merciful Incarnation to thy glorious Ascension, thou vouchsafest to invite me more frequently to thy table. And I have learned, too, since that same coming, better than I knew before, how it behooves me to prepare myself, with all possible diligence, for each of thy visits. I have been renewing my faith, by accepting, with increased ardor, the truth of thy presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. As I see thy dread Majesty advancing towards me, I have professed, and with sincere humility, my utter nothingness, for I have acknowledged my extreme unworthiness;—but all this does not put me at rest. There is something beyond all this:—it is, that I am a sinner; I have offended Thee; I have rebelled against thee; I have turned thy very benefits into occasions of outrage against thee; to say it in all its enormity, I have caused thy death upon the Cross! The Holy Ghost, having vouchsafed to give me light, has taught me the malice of sin; he has given me to understand, more fully than formerly, how detestable have been my audacity and ingratitude. I have had revealed to me, by the grand Mysteries of the first portion of the Year, how much I cost thee on that Day, whereon Justice and Mercy united in the Sacrifice which saved mankind. The more thou hast heaped thy favors on me, O Lord, the more keenly do I feel the injury of my sins; and I beseech thee to bestow on me the signal grace, the grace which will ensure every other,—of keeping up within me the spirit of compunction and penance. I offer to thee, O my God, at this hour when thou art about to give thyself to me, I offer to thee the expression of my sorrow; and from my deepest soul, I say to thee those words of the Publican: Have mercy on me, O God, for I am a Sinner!|
|Act of Love|
|And now, O my Lord, permit me to turn my thoughts upon the happiness of a soul, to whom thou givest thyself in the Sacrament of thy love! As to that familiarity, into which thine ineffable goodness leads some souls, who approach thee without reflecting upon the greatness of thy majesty, oh! I shudder at such impertinence; and yet, I long to be united with thee; and, until thou art come into me, my soul panteth after thee. Thy Mysteries, which I have been celebrating with thy Church, have enkindled within me a fire which nothing can quench,—a fire to which thy divine Spirit delights to be ever adding heat. Thy delight, so thou hast told us, is to be with the children of men; and is it not true, also, that with such of the children of men as know thee, thy love is the very nourishment on which their own hearts live? In order to maintain them in this love which is their life, thou hast made thyself present in the sacred Host; thou givest them to live in thee, just as thou livest in them, as often as they eat of this Living Bread, which hath come down from heaven. This Charity, this Love, which hath been poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, is nourished at thy holy Table, O Lord! and there is it increased; for it is in the divine Sacrament, which thou institutedst the night before thy Passion, that we are united to thee. Love tends to be united with the object it loves; therefore do I, in spite of all the conviction of my unworthiness, long for the blissful moment of thy coming into me. Everything that thou hast done, my Lord, has been done to make me love thee? Thou hast loved me first; who will blame me, that my heart hungers for thee? Thou hadst pity, one day, on the people who had followed thee into the desert. I have compassion, thou saidst, on this multitude; and then, straightway, thou gavest them to eat as much as they would. Ah! Lord, my poor heart and flesh, long after thee; and thou alone canst satisfy the hunger which gnaws me, for thou art the Sovereign Good, thou art true Life; and it was that I might enjoy that Sovereign Good, and live that heavenly Life, that thou createdst me. There was a time, when this heart of mine was dull; darkness was upon me, and I could not see the light; but now that thy Mysteries have enlightened and regenerated me, I sigh after thee with all the earnestness of my soul. Come, then, Lord Jesus! Withhold thyself no longer from my soul, that awaits thy visit!|
Act of Adoration
|Thy presence within me, O Lord, is joy and sweetness to me; and yet, before indulging in the delight it brings, I feel impelled to prostrate my entire being before thy Sovereign Majesty. I must, I will, first adore thee, for thou art the great God of heaven and earth. Thou standest in no need of me, and yet thou comest down to this my nothingness. Where, then, shall I begin, if it be not in humbling myself profoundly before thee, and acknowledging that thou art Lord, the Only Begotten and Consubstantial Son of the Father; that thou art He by whom all things were made, the Eternal, the Infinite, and the supreme Judge of the living and the dead. Thy Seraphim, who see thee in thy unveiled majesty, and drink their fill of everlasting happiness from thy divine essence, those glorious Spirits, as thy Prophet tells us, cover their faces with their wings; they tremble before thee, as the Church tells us; and yet, while trembling in thy presence, their love is as ardent and as tender as though they were nothing but love. I would follow their example, O my God; I would offer thee, at this moment, the creature’s first duty to its Creator,—adoration. Thou art so nigh to me, at this happy moment, that my being feels renovated and almost lost in thine; how then can I be otherwise than overwhelmed by the weight of thy glory? Yes, I do adore thee, O Eternal, Infinite, Immense, All-powerful! before whom all created beings are as though they were not. I confess, before thee, my own nothingness; I acknowledge thine absolute dominion over me, and over everything which thy power and goodness have produced in creation. King of ages! Immortal and Invisible in thine essence! Glory be to thee! Accept this first homage of a soul to which thy love has deigned to unite thee.|
|Act of Thanksgiving|
|There is another homage which I owe thee, O my God!—it is gratitude. Thou often invitest me to partake of the divine gift, wherewith thou, before leaving this earth, didst enrich us. But, woe to me, if, because I can easily and often have it, I value so much the less its greatness! Wretched familiarity, which blunts the sentiment of gratitude, and deadens faith, and takes all ardor from love; may thy grace, O Lord, preserve me from its vile influence. For thousands of years, the human race was in expectation of the favor, which thou hast just been bestowing upon me, Abraham, the father of believers; Moses, thy much loved friend; David, the inspired chanter of thy mysteries; none of these received thee: and this Bread of Angels has come down from heaven for me! Oh! unheard of goodness of a God incorporating himself with his creature! Who is there that could measure its length and breadth, or scan its height, or fathom its depth? These expressions of thine Apostle, regarding the mystery just given to me, teach me what is the value of the wondrous gift thou hast bestowed upon mankind. With what humble and lively gratitude, then, should it not be received! Thou hast not been deterred, either by my nothingness, or the coldness of my feelings, or my infidelities; be thou blessed, then, my Lord, for that out of thy desire to give thyself to me, thou hast overstepped every limit, and removed every obstacle. I give thee thanks for this, and for every Communion thou hast hitherto so graciously given me. Deign to enlighten me more and more, as to the magnificence of thy gift; deign to cherish within me the sentiment of love; that thus my longings for thy visit may be increased; and that I may know how to honor, as I ought, thy presence within me, and that I may never dare to approach thee out of custom, or without my conscience assuring me that I am bringing with me the profound respect due to thee.|
|Act of Love|
|Now will I rest me in thee, O my Sovereign Good, that hast come down to me, and entered into me, in order to content the desires of my heart by thy presence. A few moments ago, I was longing after thee; and now that longing has been satisfied. What is there on this earth that I could now desire? The very happiness of heaven, is it not the possessing thee? and thou, my Lord, assurest me, that he, who eats my sacred Flesh, abideth in thee, and thou in him. The union, then, to which love aspires, is now consummated. This happy moment of thy presence within me unites thy sovereign majesty to my lowliness; thou livest in me, and I live in thee. Divine charity has conquered every difficulty; and the life, which now circulates through my being, is not the life of time, but of eternity. I at once profit of it, to assure thee, O Lord, that thou hast my love. Thy presence within me lasts but a short time; in a few moments, there will be but the grace left by the visit thou art now paying me. At present, I can say in all truth: I have found Him, whom my soul loveth. Accept, then, O Lord, the homage of my heart, and all its affections. Make this heart faithful and ardent in the love of thee; for love is the end of the whole Law; and when thou vouchsafest to incorporate thyself with us by means of the Bread of Life, thine aim is to strengthen and increase Charity within us. May this contact with thee, O Lord, destroy that love myself, which, hitherto, has so often stifled, or at least, retarded, the love which is due to thee. Let my heart become more and more purified; may its affections be set free from, and raised above, created objects, and center in the unity of thy love, which includes all, and is enough for all.|
|Act of Oblation|
|When I thus assure thee of my love, O my God, I hear within me a voice telling me, that, henceforth, the rule of my conduct must be—thy good-pleasure. Then only shall I know that my protestations are sincere, when I give up mine own will, to follow thine in all things. Thou wilt not only require me to keep from all sin, but thou wouldst have me resolutely walk in the path of humility,—humility which repels pride, thy chief enemy. Thou commandest me to keep my senses under restraint, lest the weakness of the flesh should get the mastery over my spirit, which is prompt, but fickle. In order to make surer of a soul that is dear to thee, thou often sendest it trials; for thou hast said, that whosoever ambitions to follow thee, must make up his mind to carry the Cross. Thou hast warned thy disciples, that they must be on their guard against the world and its maxims, or that they would perish together with the world. These are the conditions which thou layest on them that would enlist under thy banner, dear Jesus! Renovated as I have been by thy precious visit, I offer myself to thee as one quite resolved to fulfill every duty of thy service. Give me thine aid, O my Lord, and King! Thy sacramental presence, which is soon to quit me, will leave me an increase of thy grace. Increase my faith, and my docility to the teachings of thy holy Church, from whose hands I have just received thee. Give me to use this world, as though I did not use it; give me to live, at once, by desire, in that abode where I hope to enjoy thee, and without shadow or veil, for all eternity.
O Mary, Queen of heaven! watch over me thy humble servant, whom the blessed Son of thy chaste womb has vouchsafed to nourish with his adorable Flesh, and which he received from thee. Present him the oblation I now make him of myself, in return for the unspeakable gift he has just been bestowing upon me.—Holy Angels! bless and protect this poor child of earth, who has been feasting on that very Bread, whereon you feed in heaven.—All ye Saints of God! who, when in this world, did eat of the heavenly Bread of the Christian pilgrim, pray and obtain for me, that It may keep with me to the end of my journey through this life, and may lead me to Him, who ceases not to be the nourishments of his elect, when in glory. Amen.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)