Holy Communion is the Bread of Life, the Medicine of Immortality, the eternal pledge of God’s Infinite Love. The whole visible creation is as nothing at all compared to Jesus’ Real Presence among us in His Eucharist, which is truly and substantially His Body and His Blood, united to His Soul and His Divinity.
Holy Communion is the Fruit of the Tree of Life which is the Cross of Christ. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Heaven comes to Earth, the gates of Paradise are open to us, and the Sacrifice of Calvary is offered on our Altars. And the most precious Fruit of that adorable Sacrifice is the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. By devoutly eating of the Fruit of this Tree, we inherit eternal Life.
Holy Communion devoutly received has three principal effects (1) the infusion of grace and corresponding increase in merit, (2) the remission of venial sins and a preservation from future mortal sin, and (3) the restoration of a deeper abiding union between Christ and our souls, that prepares us for everlasting union with Christ.
The First Effect of Holy Communion:
Increased Merit and Sanctifying Grace
For My flesh is meat indeed: and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him (Jn 6:55).
Our Lord promised us that we who are given the heavenly privilege to eat of His flesh or drink of His blood grow in Grace into an abiding, lasting union with Him.
In Fr. Michael Mueller’s must-read work, Blessed Eucharist: Our Greatest Treasure, Father explains the priceless value of the slightest degree of sanctifying Grace. If only we knew and appreciated the Treasure first Sacrificed to God, and then offered to us as the living Victim on our Altars! All the wealth of all the world is as a little dust before the Lamb of God in One Holy Communion!
The Holy Eucharist, then, differs from the other Sacraments in this, that while the other Sacraments bestow upon us one or another of the fruits of Christ’s merits, this gives us the grace and merits of our Saviour in their source. The soul, therefore, receives an immense increase of Sanctifying Grace at each Communion. Dear Christian, let us reflect upon this for a moment… St. Thomas tells us that the lowest degree of Sanctifying Grace is worth more than all the riches of the world. Think, then, of all the riches of this world! The mines of gold, of precious stones, the forests of costly wood, and all the hidden stores of wealth, for the least of which treasures the children of this world are willing to toil and struggle and sin for a whole lifetime. Again, consider that the lowest grace which a humble Catholic Christian receives at the rails of the sanctuary at dawn of day, before the great world is astir, outweighs all those riches.
But why do I draw my comparison from the things of this world?
St. Teresa, after her death, appeared to one of her sisters in religion and told her that all the Saints in Heaven, without exception, would be willing to come back to this world and to remain here till the End of Time, suffering all the miseries to which our mortal state is subject, only to gain one more degree of Sanctifying Grace and the eternal glory corresponding to it.(!)
The Divine Liturgy of St. James prays:
Let all mortal flesh be silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and meditate nothing earthly within itself:—For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God, comes forward to be sacrificed, and to be given for food to the faithful; and the bands of angels go before Him with every power and dominion, the many-eyed cherubim, and the six-winged seraphim, covering their faces, and crying aloud the hymn, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Let the example of the Angels inspire in us greater zeal and more rapt devotion when we assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar before receiving Holy Communion
The Second Effect of Holy Communion:
The Remission of Venial Sins and Preservation
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever (Jn 6:58-59).
Our Lord seems to connect regularly eating of His Flesh with overcoming sin, obtaining its remission and finally departing in the state of Grace. This is because, as the Council of Trent teaches us, as cited in a decree of Pope St. Pius X encouraging frequent Communion,
The desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church that all the faithful should daily approach the sacred banquet is directed chiefly to this end, that the faithful, being united to God by means of the Sacrament, may thence derive strength to resist their sensual passions, to cleanse themselves from the stains of daily faults, and to avoid these graver sins to which human frailty is liable… Hence the Holy Council calls the Eucharist ‘the antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sin.’
Holy Communion is that Daily and Super-Substantial Bread [see Mt. 6:11, compared to Lk. 11:3 – panem nostrum supersubstantialem in the Vulgate] which Mother Church desires us to strive to live in such a way so as to receive daily. The Catechism of the Council of Trent cites St. Augustine in this regard, ‘St. Augustine, however, lays down a most certain norm: Live in such a manner as to be able to receive every day.’ …The words of St. Augustine, ‘Thou sinnest daily, receive daily,’ express not his opinion only, but that of all the Fathers who have written on the subject, as anyone may easily discover who will carefully read them. That there was a time when the faithful approached Holy Communion every day we learn from the Acts of the Apostles. All who then professed the faith of Christ burned with such true and sincere charity that, devoting themselves to prayer and other works of piety, they were found prepared to communicate daily.
And in the same Catechism, the remission of venial sins is mentioned as one of the proper effects of the Eucharist,
It cannot be doubted that by the Eucharist are remitted and pardoned lighter sins, commonly called venial. Whatever the soul has lost through the fire of passion, by falling into some slight offence, all this the Eucharist, cancelling those lesser faults, repairs, in the same way (not to depart from the illustration already adduced) as natural food gradually restores and repairs the daily waste caused by the force of the vital heat within us. Justly, therefore, has St. Ambrose said of this heavenly Sacrament: ‘That daily bread is taken as a remedy for daily infirmity. But these things are to be understood of those sins for which no actual affection is retained.’ It is of the utmost importance that they who purpose and resolve to love and be devoted to Jesus Christ in His Sacrament of Infinite Love aim, at least by degrees, to give up all attachment to sinful living.
The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist therefore, received devoutly, infuses graces, remits venial sins, and gives strength to overcome future mortal sins.
The Third Effect of Holy Communion:
Deeper Union with Christ
Our Lord goes so far as to threaten us that eating of His Flesh is necessary for salvation, and that therefore they who neglect this have no good hope of eternal Life.
Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day (Jn. 6:54-55).
On the contrary, he who regularly – and reverently (i.e. kneeling and on the tongue) – receives the Body of Jesus Christ is virtually assured of obtaining final perseverance, complete sanctification and full Theosis, and thus, everlasting Life.
St. Alphonsus tells us,
The Communion is called the bread of heaven; because as the body cannot live without earthly food, so the soul cannot live without this celestial bread. Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you (John, vi, 54). But on the other hand, to those who frequently eat this bread, is promised eternal life. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever (John, vi, 52). Hence the Council of Trent calls the Communion a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins (Sess. 13, cap. 2).
There is no safer, surer, sweeter and shorter path to Heaven than frequent Communion! Only, we must take the utmost care, to confess our sins regularly, and immediately upon being conscious of mortal sin; to approach the Heavenly Altar with the utmost reverence, with holy fear and trembling, and infinite gratitude.
Let us remember to spend some time, at least half an hour after Mass, in thanksgiving. All of eternity is not enough to thank the God Who has loved us so much, that being a Prisoner of His Infinite Goodness, He wishes to remain with us forever, in the Most Blessed Sacrament of His Eucharist. The word Eucharist literally means Thanksgiving. Let us give thanks for It!
Nishant Xavier lives in Chennai, India. He has an MBA in Financial Management and works in investment banking in Credit Suisse. He earlier worked at Bank of New York in its Chennai office. He makes time to preach the Gospel. His Passion is to preach to 100 Crore Souls before he dies. He is the Author of the upcoming Book: The Great Commission of Lord Jesus Christ: Distributing 150 Crore Bibles in India by 2033. For any important concern, send him a mail at [email protected] or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and YouTube.