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Wednesday Within the Octave of Ascension

Going to holy communion

From book "Spiritual Readings for all days of the year from texts of Saint Alphonsus of Liguori"... Of all the Sacraments the adorable Sacrament of t...

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Spiritual Readings

Saint Alphonsus

Of all the Sacraments the adorable Sacrament of the altar is the most excellent. The other Sacraments contain the gifts of God, but the Holy Eucharist contains God Himself. Hence St. Thomas says that the other Sacraments have been instituted by Jesus Christ to prepare men either to receive or to administer the Blessed Eucharist, which, according to the holy Doctor, is the consummation of the spiritual life; because from this Sacrament is derived all the perfection of the soul. For all perfection consists in a union with God; and of all the means of uniting the soul to Him there is none better than Holy Communion by which, as Jesus Christ Himself has said, the soul becomes as it were one thing with Him, He that eateth my flesh . .. abideth in me and I in him -(Jo. vi. 57). Hence St. John Chrysostom says that Jesus has given His Body to us under the species of bread that we may become one thing with Him. And St.Cyril of Alexander teaches that as two pieces of wax melted together become one, so we, by Holy Communion, are similarly united with Jesus Christ.

Our Saviour instituted this Sacrament under the form of food to show that, as corporal food is changed into our flesh, so this heavenly Bread becomes one thing with us; but with this difference, that earthly food is converted into our substance, while this divine Bread transforms those who eat into Jesus Christ. This is the reason why Rupert makes our Lord say: “Eat, and you shall be by grace what I am by nature.” And this is what our Lord deigned to say one day to St. Augustine: “I will not be changed into you, but you shall be changed into me.” The principal effect of this Sacrament is to preserve in the soul the life of grace. Hence, it is called bread; for as earthly bread supports corporal life, so this heavenly Bread preserves the life of the soul which consists in the grace of God.

The Eucharist is, according to the Council of Trent, the divine medicine that purifies the soul from venial faults, and preserves it from mortal sins. Like a stream of water, this Sacrament extinguishes the ardour of the passions by which we are consumed. Let him in whose soul the flame of some particular passion is kindled approach Holy Communion, and he will find the passion altogether, or at least in a great measure, destroyed. “If any of you,” says St. Bernard, “does not experience so frequent or so violent motions of anger, of envy, or of lust, let him give thanks to the Body of the Lord that produces fruit in his soul.” The angelic Doctor teaches that the Communion gives us strength to overcome all the attacks of the devil. “It repels every assault of the demons.” St. John Chrysostom asserts that when we receive the Holy Eucharist, the devils are put to flight, and the Angels fly to our assistance. Moreover, this Sacrament infuses into the soul great interior peace, a strong inclination to virtue, and a great willingness to practise it, and thus renders it easy to walk in the path of perfection.

Holy Communion, as St. Thomas teaches, infuses divine charity into the heart. Jesus Christ protested that He came into the world for no other purpose than to kindle in our souls the holy fire of divine love. _I come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?-(_Luke xii. 49). The Venerable Father Olimpio, of the Order of Theatines, used to say, that there is no Mystery of Redemption more apt to inflame us with the love of Jesus Christ. than the Sacrament of the altar in which He gives Himself entirely to us, and pours forth all His love. Hence, speaking of the institution of this Sacrament, St. John says: Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them unto the end-(John xiii. i). He loved them to the end, that is, according to the commentators, he loved them to the utmost of His power. Hence the Council of Trent said that in this Sacrament Jesus “poured forth, as it were, all the riches of His divine love towards man.” Holy Communion has been called by St. Thomas “the Sacrament of love”; and by St. Bernard “the love of loves.” St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi used to call the day of Communion “the day of love”; and would say that a soul after Communion might exclaim with Jesus dying on the Cross: It is consummated! For after having given Himself to me, God has nothing more to give me; nor can I desire anything else from Him.

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