On Preparation for Holy Communion As Taught by Our Lord.
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 Preparation for Holy Communion As Taught by Our Lord.
Represent to yourself the scene, no less touching than instructive, which took place in the cenacle immediately before the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus is kneeling upon the ground before the disciples in order to wash their feet. He, the Creator, does this for His creatures, the Lord for His servants, the Master for His disciples. This condescension, this humiliation, this act of self-abasernent on our Lord’s part immediately preceding the first celebration of the Holy Eucharist is unquestionably not without a mystic signification of no slight importance for ourselves.
1st. Observe that by this washing of feet our Lord intended to teach us how great is the purity of heart required of us when we go to Holy Communion, a purity that consists not merely in freedom from the mire of mortal sin, but even from the dust of venial sin and imperfections. Thus St. Bernard writes: “By the washing of feet our Lord desired to make us understand that when we approach the divine Sacrament of the Altar, we ought to be cleansed not from all mortal sin alone, but also from all venial sins, which are signified by the particles of dust which cleave to the feet.” St. Dionysius speaks yet more forcibly when he says: “By this example Christ shows us that He requires us to be cleansed not only from venial sins, but even from the slightest imperfections; he bids us observe that the Priest, before offering the tremendous oblation, only washes the tips of his fingers, not the whole hand, to teach us that we must purify ourselves from every fault and infirmity, however slight, if we would approach the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.” my soul, ponder the words of this saint, but do not become over-timid. You are not an ordinary Christian living in the world. Our Lord in calling you to be a Priest and a Religious has shown you a special preference; He has invited you, so to speak, to sit in the first places at His table. You are permitted to eat this Bread of Heaven more often than other people; it is therefore meet that since you are specially privileged in this respect, you should do your utmost to attain a special purity of soul.
2d. Consider that our Lord washed His disciples feet with the object of teaching us that profound humility ought to be awakened as a preparation for Holy Communion. This pleasing, most attractive virtue is surely the fairest wedding-garment in which we can present ourselves at the heavenly banquet. And forasmuch as it is impossible for us ever to render ourselves really worthy to receive the God of infinite majesty, the most fitting thing that we can do is to approach Him with a keen sense of our unworthiness. How pleasing this is to the Lord may be gathered from the fact that He rewarded by a miracle the humility of the centurion who was the first to utter the words: “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof.” my soul, how cold you are, how dry, how poverty-stricken you often are when you go to the Lord’s table, and you are unable to prevent this; take courage, only be humble, strike upon your breast as the publican did, and say with all contrition: “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” and you will have the right dispositions for receiving our Lord. And in order to awaken these sentiments of humility within your heart, you cannot do better than meditate on the one hand upon the inconceivable sublimity and majesty of God, “at whose beck the pillars of heaven tremble and dread,” and on the other upon your own destitution and low estate, your own sinfulness and God’s holiness; then assuredly you will in the words of the prodigal son exclaim with feelings of profound humility: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee; I am not worthy to be called Thy son; make me as one of Thy hired servants.” Then indeed will the Father clasp in fond affection to His breast the son who thus humbles himself.
3d. Consider that by this washing of feet our Lord teaches us with what fervent love we ought to approach Holy Communion. Endeavor to realize whilst you meditate on this subject what is this charity our Lord displays in washing His disciples feet. He performs this service of love for disciples who will abandon Him before the day is ended, who will even deny Him, nay, He actually washes the feet of the traitor who will betray Him. The charity of Jesus knows no limits; susceptibility and resentment are alike alien to it. Now if whilst meditating thus you perceive what should be your feelings, the dispositions of your heart when you go to Communion, you will form some idea of the guilt of those who partake of this feast of charity, all the while entertaining in their heart aversion, rancor, or even hatred towards one of their Brethren or Sisters. Call to mind before receiving Holy Communion this great charity of our Lord in order that your cold, resentful heart may be melted, kindled in the warmth of the sun of charity, the boundless charity of Jesus. Consider this saying of St. Chrysostom: “What shepherd is there who feeds his flock with his own blood? A shepherd, do I say? There are many mothers so devoid of affection for their offspring that when their children are born, they resign them to the care of nurses. The Saviour would not do this, He nourishes us with His own most precious blood.” Love of God, shall I receive Thee without loving Thee in return? Never, nevermore.
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)
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