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INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMMUNION,
The holy Eucharist is the true Body and Blood o Jesus Christ, true God and true man, under the appear. ances of bread and wine. “ The bread,” says Jesus Christ," that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world” (St. John vi. 52). And at his last supper," he took bread, and blessed, and broke, and gave to his disciples, and said, Take ye, and eat, this is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this ; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins. (St. Matt. xxvi. 26, &c.)
Our blessed Redeemer, having thus instituted this adorable sacrament, ordained his apostles priests of the new law, and gave to them and their lawful successors power and authority to do what he had done, that is, to change bread and wine into his sacred Body and Blood. This change, which is called Transubstantiation, is effected by these divine words of our Redeemer, “ This is my Body, this is my Blood,” which the priest in the Mass, at the consecration, pronounces in the name and person of Jesus Christ. It is God himself who works this wonderful change by the ministry of his priest. When, therefore, the words of consecration are pronounced, we believe that the whole substance of the bread is changed into the Body, and the whole substance of the wine into the Blood, of Jesus Christ. And as Jesus Christ is now immortal, and cannot be divided, he is truly present, whole and entire, both God and man, under the appearance of bread, or under the appearance of wine.
“Let a man prove (or try) himself,” says St. Paul (1 Cor. xi. 28), " and so eat of that bread, and drink of that chalice."" This proving trying one's self is the
first and most necessary preparation for the holy Communion; and consists in looking diligently into the state of one's soul, in order to discover what indispositions or sins may lie there concealed, and to apply a proper remedy to them, by sincere repentance and confession; lest otherwise, approaching the Holy of Holies with a soul defiled with the guilt of mortal sin, we be
“ guilty of the body and blood of Christ, and receive judgment to ourselves, not discerning the Lord's body" (1 Cor. xi.). For this reason we go to confession before Communion, in order to clear our souls from the filth of sin.
The person that is to receive the blessed sacrament must be also fasting, at least from midnight, by the command of the Church, and by a most ancient and apostolical tradition, ordaining, that in reference to so great a sacrament, nothing should enter into the body of a Christian before the body of Christ. The case of danger of approaching death is excepted, when the blessed sacrament is received by way of viaticum.
Besides this preparation of confession and fasting, the person that proposes to go to Communion must endeavour to attain the best devotion he is able, in order to dispose his soul for worthily receiving so great a guest. To this end he is recommended :
1. To think well on the great work he has in hand; to consider attentively who it is he is going to receive, and how far he is from deserving such a favour ; and to implore, with fervour and humility, God's grace and mercy. And this should be the subject of his meditations and prayers for some days beforehand, and more particularly the night before his Communion, and the morning he receives.
2. To propose to himself a pure intention, viz. the honour of God, and the health of his own soul; and in particular, that by worthily receiving Christ in this heavenly sacrament he may come to a happy union with
him, according to that of St. John (vi. 57), “ He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him."
3. To meditate on the sufferings and death of his Redeemer ; this sacrament being instituted to this end, that we should “show forth the death of Christ until he come" (1 Cor. xi. 26).
4. To prepare himself by acts of virtue, more especially of faith, love, and humility that so he may approach to his Lord with a firm belief of his real presence in this sacrament, and of that great sacrifice which he heretofore offered upon the cross for our redemption, of which he here makes us partakers; with an ardent affection of love to him who has loved us so much, and who, out of pure love, gives himself to us; and with a great sentiment of his own unworthiness and sins, joined with a firm confidence in the mercies of his Redeemer.
Here follow one or two forms and methods of preparation for the holy Communion. They should be used as aids to the exercise of our thoughts and the kindling of our affections, and not as substitutes for out own efforts
. They point out the proper line of thought and subjects for reflection, and if used carefully and meditatively, will be found of great assistance. But no forms, however perfect in themselves, would be good for us without much cate and effort on our own parts. More than one form is given, as a variety is useful for different minds, and also for the same mind at different times.
A Meditation before Communion. Consider, 1st, that Jesus Christ our Lord, whom we receive in this blessed sacrament, is called in Scripture “the Lamb which was slain from the beginning of the world" (Apocalypse xiil. 8), because, from the very beginning of the world, there was no way of coming at God's mercy or grace but by faith in a Redeemer to come, and by the merits of his future death and passion.
Hence Christ crucified was, from the beginning of the world, the great object of the devotion of the patriarchs and prophets : for him they constantly sighed ; him they regarded in all their sacrifices ; which were indeed so many figures of him, and of his death. All these figures were to have an end when Christ himself, the very Truth, came in person into the world, and offered himself upon the cross a sacrifice for the sins of the world. But still his death and passion is to be the perpetual object of the devotion of all his children and servants, even to the end of the world ; not now as prefigured in shadows and types, but as commemorated and celebrated in the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament, containing and exbibiting in very truth our great High Priest and Victim, Jesus Christ. For the ancient figures have now passed away, and the truth has succeeded in their place; ana that same Fountain of all sanctity, who of old communicated himself to his servants spiritually by faith, now gives himself to us verily and indeed in these heavenly mysteries. For this manner of communicating himself was best becoming the new law; which is a law of love, a law of grace, and a law of truth. O my soul! admire and adore the riches of the bounty and goodness of thy God and Saviour, who gives thee in this sacrament so great a gift, that heaven itself has nothing greater. Embrace his love, but let it be with a suitable return of love ; and see thou prepare thyself worthily to receive 80 great a visit. O, take care to open wide thy heart, that it may be capable of holding those treasures which he brings with him, and which he desires to impart to thee.
Consider, 2dly, the figures by which God was pleased in the Old Testament to foreshow this sacrament; especially these three, the tree of life, the paschal lamb, and the manna from heaven. The tree of life, which God planted in the midst of the earthly paradise, had that excellent property, that if sin had not banished us from that happy abode, by feeding on the fruit of it we should have been maintained in a constant vigour, strength, and health, and have never died. How well does the blessed eucharist answer this noble figure ! in which we feed upon life itself in its very fountain, and by frequently and worthily approaching to it, receive a copious and constant supply of heavenly grace for the maintaining of the vigour, strength, and health, of the soul; that so we may never incur the second death, but may pass from life to life; from the life of grace to the life of glory; from life concealed under sacramental veils to life seen and enjoyed, without shadow or change, for all eternity.
The paschal lamb, which was first offered in sacrifice to God on the evening in which the children of Israel were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, and then was, by God's command, eaten by all the faithful, was also a figure of the blessed eucharist, and of the true Lamb of God, there communicated to us; even that Lamb, which was first offered in sacrifice for our eternal redemption from the bondage of the infernal Pharao, and is now received by all the faithful in these heavenly mysteries, for a perpetual commemoration of this our redemption, and a daily application of the fruit of it to our souls. 0, let us confidently run to this Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world! Let us receive with all affection this Christian passover! Let us embrace this victim of our redemption, this new sacrifice of the new covenant,—the covenant of life and of love! Let us sprinkle ourselves with this blood of the New Testament, that so the destroying angel may have no power to hurt
Another figure of the blessed eucharist was the manna from heaven, with which the children of Israel were wonderfully fed during their forty years' sojourning in the wilderness, before their coming to the land of promise. This food was in many ways miraculous, but no•