PREPARATION FOR HOLY COMMUNION
St. Francis de Sales says, that our Saviour can never be seen more amiable and more tender, in all that He has done for us, than in Holy Communion, in which He, so to say, annihilates Himself and becomes Food, that He may unite Himself to the hearts and bodies of His faithful. Therefore, the learned Gerson used also to say, that there was no means more efficacious than the Holy Communion whereby to enkindle devotion and the holy love of God in our souls.
And, indeed, if we speak of doing something agreeable to God, what can a soul do more agreeable to Him than to receive Communion? St. Denis teaches us that love always tends towards perfect union; but how can a soul be more perfectly united with Jesus than in the manner of which He speaks Himself, saying: He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him (Jo. vi. 57). St. Augustine says, that if every day you receive this Sacrament, Jesus will be always with you, and you will always advance in divine love.
Again, if there is question of healing our spiritual infirmities, what more certain remedy can we have than the Holy Communion, which is called by the sacred Council of Trent “a remedy whereby we may be freed from daily faults, and be preserved from mortal sins.”
Whence does it come, asks Cardinal Bona, that in so many souls we see so little fruit from frequent Communion, and that they constantly relapse into the same faults? He replies: “The fault is not in the Food, but in the disposition of him who receives It.” Can a man, says Solomon, hide a fire in his bosom, and his garments not burn? (Prov. vi. 27). God is a consuming fire. He comes Himself in the Holy Communion to enkindle this divine fire; how is it, then, says William of Paris, that we see so diabolical a miracle as that souls should remain cold in divine love in the midst of such flames?
All comes from the want of proper dispositions, and especially from the want of preparation. Fire immediately inflames dry but not green wood; for this latter is not fit to burn. The Saints derived great benefit from their Communions, because they prepared themselves with very great care. St. Aloysius Gonzaga devoted three days to his preparation for Holy Communion, and three days he spent in thanksgiving to his Lord.
To prepare well for Holy Communion a soul should be disposed on two main points: it should be detached from creatures, and have a great desire to advance in divine love.
- In the first place, then, a soul should detach itself from all things, and drive everything from its heart which is not God. He that is washed, saith Jesus, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly (Jo. xiii. 10). Which signifies, as St. Bernard explains it; that in order to receive this Sacrament with great fruit,we should not only be cleansed from mortal sins, but our feet also should be washed, that is, we should be free from all earthly affections; for, being in contact with the earth, they excite a sort of repugnance in, God, and soiling the soul, prevent the effects of Holy Communion.
St. Gertrude asked our Lord what preparations He required of her for the Holy Communion; and He replied: “I only ask that thou shouldst come empty of thyself, to receive Me.”
- In the second place it is necessary, in the Holy Communion, to have a great desire to receive Jesus Christ and His holy love. In this sacred Banquet, says Gerson, only those who are famishing receive their fill; and the most Blessed Virgin Mary had already said the same thing: He hath filled the hungry with good things -(Luke i. 53). As Jesus, writes the Blessed Father Avila, came into this world only after He had been much and long desired, so does He only enter a soul that desires Him; for it is not becoming that such Food should be given to him who has a loathing for It. Our Lord one day said to St. Matilda: “No bee flies with such impetuosity to flowers, to suck their honey, as I fly to souls in the Holy Communion, driven by the violence of my love. Since, then, Jesus Christ has so great a desire to come into our souls, it is right that we also should have a great desire to receive Him and His divine love in the Holy Communion. St. Francis de Sales teaches us that the principal object a soul should have in, view in communicating should be, to advance in the love of God; since He, who for love alone gives Himself to us, should he received for love.