On Suitable Preparation for Receiving Holy Communion.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Suitable Preparation for Receiving Holy Communion.
In commencing to-day’s meditation recall to mind as we are taught to do in that most excellent book, the Imitation of Christ, the scrupulous care with which Moses manufactured an ark of incorruptible wood and overlaid it with the purest gold; or endeavor to realize the vast sums Solomon expended, the trouble and pains he took to build a temple for the Lord on Mount Sion; he employed seven years in constructing it and adorned it with a magnificence surpassing anything that had ever been seen before. Then consider what you do to provide an ark not for the tables of the law, but for the Maker of the law and Giver of life; to prepare for Him a dwelling place, not on Mount Sion, but in your own heart. How careful a preparation is needful in your case!
1st. Consider that according to the teaching of the Council of Trent all that is absolutely required for the worthy reception of Holy Communion is to be in a state of grace; that is to say, to be free from any conscious mortal sin. At the same time it is of great moment sedulously to endeavor by a special preparation to render oneself more fit to go to Holy Communion, for the better we are prepared for the reception of the Sacrament of the Altar, the more plentiful are the graces we receive from it. In order to apprehend this truth more fully, listen to what our Lord said in the revelations to St. Catharine of Sienna: “The graces you receive from this sacrament are proportioned to the preparation you make for its reception.” And He added the following illustration: “One man brings a taper that weighs one ounce, another brings one weighing two ounces, a third brings one four ounces in weight. Each of these tapers is lighted, but as a matter of course, the light of the one that weighs only a single ounce is much feebler than that of the two others.”
Would, my soul, that the taper of your desire, of your preparation that is, for Holy Communion were not so small and light, for then how much more ardently would the flame of your fervor and devotion be at such times!
2d. Consider the rules God laid down in the Old Testament concerning the consumption of the paschal lamb; no part of it was to be eaten raw, nor boiled in water, but only roasted at the fire. Here we have from the mouth of the Most High Himself directions as to how we are to partake of the body of the divine Lamb in the Holy Eucharist. It is not to be eaten raw, as those eat it who go up to the table of the Lord without any preparation whatsoever, as if they were going to eat their ordinary food, nor is it merely to be boiled in water; that is to say, the communicant must not content himself with a perfunctory, tepid, brief preparation, but it must be roasted at the fire, i.e., there is to be a previous preparation of a special nature; we must not rest until our hearts glow and are aflame with ardent longing and fervent love. Meditation upon Holy Communion is above all what roasting was for the paschal lamb. “We must,” says St. Bernardine, “receive the body of Christ in a spiritual manner; that is to say, we must place before and bring home to our mind His incarnation, His Passion, all He has done and suffered for us.” And St. Bonaventure counsels the Christian in so many words to meditate upon one of the mysteries of the Passion before receiving Holy Communion, and acknowledges that he made it his constant practice and his soul was thereby inflamed and melted with the love of God. What have you done in this respect hitherto, and what will you do in future?
3d. Consider that divine grace is indispensable for a worthy preparation. Listen to these beautiful words from the Imitation: “Know that thou canst not do enough towards this preparation by the merit of what thou thyself doest, although thou shouldst prepare thyself a whole year together, and think of nothing else.” (B. iv. ch. 12.) Wherefore we must in all humility beseech God to grant us this grace; very possibly the reason why you have been so cold and wanting in devotion at Holy Communion is because you have presumed too much on your own efforts when endeavoring to prepare yourself aright. Pray earnestly; that is the first step towards a worthy preparation. “And if thou hadst not the grace of devotion,” as Thomas a Kempis says, “but rather findest thyself dry, continue instant in prayer, sigh and knock, and give not over until thou receivest some crumb or drop of saving grace.” (Imit. B. iv. ch. 12.) Thus you will at least manifest your ardent desire to make a good preparation, and that desire in itself will be pleasing to God, according to the words of the Prophet, which you may lay to heart for your comfort: “The Lord hath heard the desire of the poor; Thy ear hath heard the preparation of their heart.” (Ps. x. 17.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)