Keeping all these things in our hearts….
By Sister M. Regina
We prepare for every important meeting and for every important event. When an important person come to visit us, we prepare our home by cleaning it, by putting it in order and by attending to the way we are dressed. When we have an important meeting at work, we prepare what we will say, how we will respond. In Holy Communion, the King of kings, our very God, comes into our very bodies. This is the important event! Last week, I wrote about the remote preparation we make for receiving Holy Communion, namely, that of being in the state of sanctifying grace.
Every preparation is both internal and external. Internally, we prepare for Holy Communion by our attentive praying during the Holy Mass, and even by thinking of Holy Communion and longing for Him before we come to Holy Mass. One way we can increase our desire for Jesus in Holy Communion is, first of all, by asking Him to increase our longing for Him, and also by making spiritual communions during the day. In “spiritual communion” we ask Jesus to come to us spiritually when we are unable to receive Him sacramentally. Saint Alphonus Liguori’s prayer for spiritual communion is one of the best known:
My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.
We prepare for Holy Communion physically by keeping the one hour fast. Fasting for one hour is not difficult and that is all the more reason we should keep the fast. In a certain sense, we are making room, even physically, for Jesus. The fast also helps us to be attentive: we have to begin thinking about Holy Communion at least an hour before we receive Him insofar as we remember not to eat or drink anything except water.
All Catholics who are properly disposed may present themselves for Holy Communion at Holy Mass. If we have not kept the fast, we ought not to present ourselves for Holy Communion. We do not need to receive Holy Communion, and we should feel absolutely free to choose not to receive when that seems best, even if we are properly disposed. If we do not receive Holy Communion, we may simply remain at our place or else approach the priest with our arms crossed over our chest, as a sign that we are not receiving.
At Saint Mary’s, we are blessed to use the communion rail at which we kneel (when we are able) to receive Holy Communion. Standing is a sign of our dignity (only human persons stand upright) and it is also a sign of asserting ourselves. We say things like: “Stand up for yourself,” “Stand up for your rights.” If we wish to show the force behind our words, we tend to stand up to speak. When we kneel, on the other hand, we make ourselves smaller than we are. We make ourselves small before our God as a sign of our adoration. That is the reason we genuflect and kneel; that is the reason we kneel to receive Holy Communion.
We may receive Holy Communion either on our tongue or in our hand. Receiving the Sacred Host on our tongue is a beautiful practice. We make ourselves almost like little children, permitting ourselves to be fed by the priest. Bishop Athanasius Schneider points out that the following Psalm verse could be applied to Holy Communion: “as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is as a weaned child” (Ps. 131:2). Bishop Schneider comments:
Let us receive our Eucharistic Lord with love, with purity of heart, and with a gesture of adoration, kneeling down. Let us receive our Eucharistic Lord with a gesture of humility and making ourselves small, opening our mouth to receive the Holy of Holiest, the King of the universe, in the little Sacred Host (Corpus Christi, p. 18).
Receiving Holy Communion is wholly different from taking natural food and, for that reason, the external way we receive Holy Communion should emphasize the difference. We may take regular food standing and with our hand, but we receive the Sacred Host kneeling and being “fed” by the priest.
Once we have received the inestimable gift of Holy Communion, let us remain with Him spiritually, too. It can be so tempting to look around in church and at other people after we have received Holy Communion. The time after we have received is the most precious time to pray because Jesus is present physically in our very bodies. Let us guard jealously the time after Holy Communion in order to remain with Him and to speak with Him from our hearts.