On Holy Communion during Holy Week

As we prepare to celebrate the salvific events in the history of our salvation, it perhaps is opportune to revisit Dom Gueranger’s excellent reflection on receiving Holy Communion during this particularly significant season. The Provost

By Dom Prosper Gueranger OSB

The holy Mass is the true sacrifice, of which the sacrifices of the old Law were but figures. This sacrifice was expected by mankind for four thousand years. It was during the present season that it was first offered up. It is now mysteriously renewed, each day, upon our Christian altars.

No greater glory can be given to God than the celebration of this sacrifice, wherein God Himself is the Victim; at the same time, nothing can be more advantageous to man than to partake of this divine Victim, to become himself this Victim, by incorporating it with himself by holy Communion, whereby is realized that wonderful promise of our Redeemer: He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him [St. John vi. 57].

Now, it is by the immolation of our Redeemer on the cross that the Flesh of this Lamb of God has become truly our food, and His Blood truly our drink [Ibid. 56]. By the mysteries of His Incarnation and birth, we had Him as our Brother; His Passion and death have made Him both our Saviour and our Food. Thus was realized that figurative sacrifice which God prescribed to His people through Moses, and in which the victim, after being immolated, was to be eaten by the priest who offered it, and by the person in whose name it was offered.

St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, speaks thus: ‘As often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until He come.’ [1 Cor, xi. 26]. Therefore, there is a close relation between holy Communion and our Saviour’s Passion; and it is on this account that we are going to celebrate, during this present season, the institution of the holy Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Lamb, our Redeemer. The two anniversaries come close to each other. If Jesus has desired with so ardent a desire to eat this last Pasch with His disciples [St. Luke xxii. 15], it is because He had something infinitely grander to give them than He had given them the two preceding years: then He gave them to eat of the flesh of the figurative lamb; but now, in this the last Pasch, He is going to give them a pledge of pardon and immortality, by making them partake of the very substance of the true Lamb, whose Blood imparts remission of sin, and opens the gate of heaven. He immolates Himself on the table of the last Supper before men immolate Him on Calvary; and this wondrous anticipation of His sacrifice, in which He gives such a rich proof of His love and His power, is founded on the real sacrifice of the morrow, which is to cost Him every drop of His Blood.

In approaching, therefore, the holy Table, during this season of the Passion, the faithful must be absorbed in the remembrance of the Lamb that was sacrificed for us; they must keep this great truth uppermost in their hearts: that the divine Food which nourishes their souls was prepared on Calvary; and that, although this Lamb is now living and impassible, yet it was by His death on the cross that He became our Food. The sinner, reconciled to his offended God, must receive the Body of Jesus with sentiments of hearty contrition, and reproach himself, in all the bitterness of his soul, for having shed that precious Blood by his multiplied sins. The just man must make his Communion, and humble himself with the thought that he, too, has had too great a share in causing suffering to the innocent Lamb; and that if he now have reason to believe himself to be in the state of grace, he owes it to the Blood of the Victim who is about to be given to him for the increase of his spiritual life.

We will here give, as in our other volumes, acts which may serve as a preparation for holy Communion during these two weeks. 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.

BEFORE COMMUNION

ACT OF FAITH

The signal grace which thou, O my God, hast granted to me, that I should know the wounds of my soul, has revealed to me the greatness of my misery. I have been taught how deep was the darkness that covered me, and how much I needed thy divine light. But, whilst the torch of faith has thus shown me the abyss of my own poor nature, it has also taught me how wonderful are the works, which thy love of thy ungrateful creature has made thee undertake, in order that thou mightest raise him up and save him. It is for me thou didst assume my human nature, and wast born at Bethlehem; it is for me that thou fastest forty days in the desert; it is for me that thou art soon to shed thy Blood on the cross. Thou commandest me to believe these miracles of thy love. I do believe them, O my God, humbly and gratefully. I also believe, and with an equally lively faith, that in a few moments thou art to give thyself to me in this ineffable mystery of holy Communion. Thou sayest to me: ‘This is my Body, this is my Blood’; thy word is enough; in spite of my unworthiness seeming to forbid the possibility of such Communion, I believe, I consent, I bow me down before thine infinite truth. Oh! can there be Communion between the God of all holiness and a sinner such as I? And yet thou assurest me that thou art verily coming to me! I tremble, O eternal Truth, but I believe. I confess that thy love of me is infinite, and that having resolved to give thyself to thy poor and sinful creature, thou wilt suffer no obstacle to stand in thy way!

ACT OF HUMILITY

During the season just past, I have often contemplated, O my Jesus, thy coming from thy high throne into the bosom of Mary, thy uniting thy divine Person to our weak mortal nature, and thy being born in the crib of a poor stable. And when I thought on these humiliations of my God, they taught me not only to love thee tenderly, but to know also my own nothingness, for I saw more clearly what an infinite distance there is between the creature and his Creator; and, seeing these prodigies of thy immense love, I gladly confessed my own vileness. But now, dearest Saviour, I am led to consider something far more humiliating than the lowliness of my nature. That nothingness should be but nothingness, is not a sin. No; it is my sins that appal me. Sin has so long tyrannized over me; its consequences are still upon me; it has given me such dangerous tendencies; and I am so weak in resisting its bidding. When my first parent sinned, he hid himself, lest he should meet thee; and thou biddest me come unto thee, not to sentence me to the punishment I deserve, but to give me, oh! such a mark of love – union with thyself! Can this be? Art thou not the infinitely holy God? I must needs yield, and come, for thou art my sovereign Master; and who is there that dares resist thy will? I come, then, humbling myself, even to my very nothingness, before thee, and beseeching thee to pardon my coming, for I come because thou wilt have it so.

ACT OF CONTRITION

And shall I, O my Jesus, confess thus the grievousness and multitude of my sins, without promising thee to sin no more? Thou wishest this sinner to be reconciled with thee, thou desirest to press him to thy sacred Heart: and could he, whilst thanking thee for this thy wonderful condescension, still love the accursed cause which made him thine enemy? No, my infinitely merciful God, no! I will not, like my first parent, seek to escape thy justice, but, like the prodigal son, I will arise and go to my Father; like Magdalene, I will take courage and enter the banquet-hall; and, though trembling at the sight of my sins, I will comply with thy loving invitation. My heart has no further attachment to sin, which I hate and detest as the enemy of thy honour and of my own happiness. I am resolved to shun it from this time forward, and to spare no pains to free myself from its tyranny. There shall be no more of that easy life which chilled my love, nor of that studied indifference which dulled my conscience, nor of those dangerous habits which led me to stray from my loyalty to thee. Despise not, O God, this my humble and contrite heart.

ACT OF LOVE

Such is thy love for us in this world, O my Jesus, that, as thou thyself sayest, thou art come not to judge, but to save. I should not satisfy thee, in this happy Communion hour, were I to offer thee but this salutary fear, which has led me to thy sacred feet, and this shame-stricken conscience, which makes me tremble in thy holy presence. The visit thou art about to pay me, is a visit of love. The Sacrament, which is going to unite me to thee, is the Sacrament of thy love. Thou, my good Shepherd, hast said, that he loves most, who has been forgiven most. My heart then must dare to love thee; it must love thee with all its warmth; the very recollection of its past disloyalty must make its loving thee doubly needed and doubly fervent. Ah! sweet Lord! See this poor heart of mine; strengthen it, console it, drive away its fears, make it feel that thou art its Jesus! It has come back to thee, because it feared thee; if it love thee, it will never again leave thee.

And thou, O Mary, refuge of sinners, help me to love him, who is thy Son, and our Brother. Holy angels! ye who live eternally on that love, which has never ceased to glow in your mighty spirits, remember, I reverently pray you, that this God created me, as he did you, that I might love him. All ye holy saints of God! I beseech you, by the love wherewith ye are inebriated in heaven, graciously give me a thought, and prepare now my heart to be united with him. Amen.

AFTER COMMUNION

ACT OF ADORATION

Thou art here within me, great God of heaven! Thou art, at this moment, residing in a sinner’s heart! I, yea, I, am thy temple, thy throne. thy resting-place! How shall I worthily adore thee, who hast deigned to come down into this abyss of my lowliness and misery? The angels veil their faces in thy presence; thy saints lay their crowns at thy feet; and I, that am but a sinful mortal, how shall I sufficiently honour thee, O infinite Power, infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness? This soul, wherein thou art now dwelling, has presumed so many times to set thee at defiance, and boldly disobey and break thy commands. And thou canst come to me after all this, and bring all thy beauty and greatness with thee! What else can I do, but give thee the homage of a heart, that knows not how to bear the immensity of the honour thou art now lavishing on me? Yes, my own wonderful and loving God, I adore thee; I acknowledge thee to be the sovereign Being, the Creator and preserver of all creatures, and the undisputed Master of everything that belongs to me. I delightedly confess my dependence on thee, and offer thee, with all my heart, my humble service.

ACT OF THANKSGIVING

Thy greatness, O my God, is infinite; but thy goodness to me is incomprehensible. Thy being now present within this breast of mine, is, I know, a proof of that immense power, which shows itself when and where it wills; but it is also a mark of thy love for me. Thou art come to my soul that thou mayst be closely united with her, comfort her, give her a new life, and bring her all good things. Oh! who will teach me how to value this grace, and thank thee for it in a becoming way? But how shall I hope to value it as I ought, when I am not able to understand either the love that brings thee thus within me, or my own need of having thee? And when I think of my inability to make thee a suitable return of thanks, I feel as though I can give thee nothing but my speechless gratitude. Yet thou willest that this my heart, poor as it is, should give thee its thanks; thou takest delight in receiving its worthless homage. Take it, then, my loving Jesus! I give it thee with all possible joy, and beseech thee to reveal unto me the immensity of thy gift, and to enrich me more that I may give thee more.

ACT OF LOVE

But nothing will satisfy thee, O my infinite Treasure, unless I give thee my love. Thou hast ever loved me, and thou art still loving me; I must love thee in return! Thou hast borne with me, thou hast forgiven me, thou art, at this moment, overpowering me with honour and riches; and all this out of love for me! The return thou askest of me, is my love. Gratitude will not content thee, thou wilt have my love! But Jesus, my dear Jesus! – my past life – the long years I have spent in offending thee – rise up before me, and tell me to hide myself from thee! And yet, whither could I go without carrying thee within me, for thou hast taken up thine abode in my inmost soul? No, I will not run from thee! I will summon all the energies of my heart to tell thee that I love thee; that thy love for me has emboldened me; that I belong to thee; that I love thee above all else that I love; and that henceforth all my joy and happiness shall be in pleasing thee, and doing whatsoever thou askest of me.

ACT OF OBLATION

I know, dear Jesus, that what thou askest of me is not the passing sentiment of a heart excited by the thought of thy goodness towards it. Thou hast loved me from eternity; thou lovedst me, even when I was doing nothing for thee; thou hast given me light to know my miseries; thou hast shielded me against thine own angry justice; thou hast mercifully pardoned me a countless number of times; thou art even now embracing me with tenderest love: and all these works of thy almighty hand have been but for one end – to make me give myself to thee, and live, at last, for thee. It is this thou wouldst obtain of me, by granting me this precious earnest of thy love, which I have just received. Thou hast said, speaking of this ineffable gift: ‘As I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.’ [St. John vi. 58]. Henceforth, O Bread which came down from heaven! [Ibid. 51.] thou art the source of my life. Now, more than ever, my life belongs to thee. I give it unto thee. I dedicate unto thee my soul, my body, my faculties, my whole being. Do thou direct and govern me. I resign myself entirely into thy hands. I am blind, but thy light will guide me; I am weak, but thy power will uphold me; I am inconstant. but thy unchangeableness will give me stability. I trust unreservedly in thy mercy, which never abandons them that hope in thee.

O Mary! pray for me, that I lose not the fruit of this visit. Holy angels! watch over this dwelling-place of your Lord, which he has so mercifully chosen: let nothing defile it. O all ye saints of God! pray for the sinner, unto whom he has given this pledge of his divine pardon.

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