« PreviousContinue »
add, that in the holy communion all the graces of a Christian, all the mysteries of the religion are summed up as in a divine compendium; and whatsoever moral or mysterious is done without, is, by a worthy communicant, done more excellently in this divine sacrament. For here we continue the confession of our faith, which we made in baptism; here we perform in our own persons what then was undertaken for us by another; here that is made explicit, which was but implicit before; what then was in the root, is now come to a full ear; what was at first done in mystery alone, is now done in mystery and moral actions, and virtuous excellencies together; here we do not only hear the words of Christ, but we obey them; we believe with the heart, and here we confess with the mouth, and we act with the hand, and incline the head, and bow the knee, and give our heart in sacrifice; here we come to Christ, and Christ comes to us; here we represent the death of Christ as he would have us represent it, and remember him, as he commanded us to remember him; here we give him thanks, and here we give him ourselves; here we defy all the works of darkness; and hither we come to be invested with a robe of light, by being joined to the Sun of Righteousness,' to live in his eyes, and to walk by his brightness, and to be refreshed with his warmth, and directed by his Spirit, and united to his glories. So that if we can receive Christ's body, and drink his blood out of the sacrament, much more can we do it in the sacrament. For this is the chief of all the Christian mysteries, and the union of all Christian blessings, and the investiture of all Christian rights, and the exhibition of the charter of all Christian promises, and the exercise of all Christian duties. Here is the exercise of our faith, and acts of obedience, and the confirmation of our hope, and the increase of our charity. So that although God be gracious in every dispensation, yet he is bountiful in this: although we serve God in every virtue, yet, in the worthy reception of this divine sacrament, there must be a conjugation of virtues, and, therefore, we serve him more: we drink deep of his loving-kindness in every effusion of it, but in this we are inebriated: he always fills our cup, but here it runs over.
The Effects of these Considerations are these.
1. That by faith' in our dispositions and preparations
to the holy communion, is not understood only the act' of faith, but the body' of faith, not only believing the articles, but the dedication of our persons; not only a yielding up of our understanding, but the engaging of our services; nor the hallowing of one faculty, but the sanctification of the whole man. That faith, which is necessary to the worthy receiving this divine sacrament, is all that which is necessary to the susception of baptism, and all that which is produced by hearing the word of God, and all that which is exercised in every single grace; and all that by which we live the life of grace, and all that which works by charity, and makes a new creature, and justifies a sinner, and is a keeping of the commandments of God.
If the manducation of Christ's flesh and drinking his blood be spiritual, and done by faith, and is effected by the Spirit, and that this faith signifies an entire dedition of ourselves to Christ, and sanctification of the whole man to the service of Christ,-then it follows, that the wicked do not communicate with Christ, they eat not his flesh, and they drink not his blood: they eat and drink indeed; but it is gravel in their teeth, and death in their belly; they eat and drink damnation to themselves. For unless a man be a member of Christ, unless Christ dwells in him by a living faith, he does not eat the bread that came down from heaven". "They lick the rock," saith St. Cyprian, "but drink not the waters of its emanation:"-" They receive the skin of the sacrament, and the bran of the flesh :" saith St. Bernard. But it is in this divine nutriment, as it is in some fruits; the skin is bitterness, and the inward juice is salutary and pleasant; the outward symbols never bring life, but they can bring death; and they of whom it can be said (according to the expression of St. Austin "), "they eat no spiritual meat, but they eat the sign of Christ," must also remember what old Simeon said of his prophecy of Christ, "He is a sign, set for the fall of many;" but his flesh and blood, spiritually eaten, is resurrection from the dead.
Panis qui de cœlo descendit, non nisi ab eo accipitur, qui Dominum habet et Christi membrum est.- S. Hilar. de Trinit, lib. viii.
Non manducant spiritualiter, sed premunt dentibus signum corporis et
Meditations and Devotions relative to this Preparatory Grace; to be used in the Days of Preparation, or at any Time of Spiritual Communion.
St. Bernard's Meditation and Prayer.
THE chalice which thou, O sweetest Saviour Jesus, didst drink, hath made thee infinitely amiable; it was the work of my redemption. Certainly nothing does more pleasingly invite, or more profitably require, or more vehemently affect me, than this love: for by how much lower thou didst for me descend in the declinations of humility, by so much art thou dearer to me in the exaltations of thy charity and thy glory. Learn, O my soul, how thou oughtest to love Christ, who hath given us his flesh for meat, his blood for drink, the water of his side for our lavatory, and his own life for the price of our redemption. He is stark and dead cold, who is not set on fire by the burning and shining flames of such a charity.
Blessed Saviour Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Fountain of life and salvation; by thee let us have access to thy heavenly Father, that, by thee, he may accept us, who, by thee, is revealed to us. Let thy innocence and purity procure pardon for our uncleanness and disobedience; let thy humility extinguish our pride and vanity; thy meekness extinguish our anger; and thy charity cover the multitude of our sins.
O blessed Advocate and Mediator, intercede for us with thy Father and ours, with thy God and ours: and grant that, by the grace which thou hast found, by the prerogative which thou hast deserved, by the mercy which thou hast purchased for us, that as thou wert partaker of our sufferings and infirmities, so we, by thy death and resurrection, and by thy infinite gracious intercession, may be made partakers of thy holiness and thy glory.
Let the brightness of thy divine grace for ever shine upon thy servants, that we, being purified from all error and infidelity, from weak fancies, and curious inquiries, may perceive and adore the wisdom and the love of God, in the truth and mysteriousness of this divine sacrament. And be pleased to lighten in our spirits such a burning love, and such a shining devotion, that we may truly receive thee, and be united unto thee; that we may feed on thee the celestial manna, and may, with an eye of faith, see thee under the cloud, and in the veil; and, at last, may see thee in the brightest effusions of thy glory. Amen.
A Confession of Faith in Order to the Mysteries of the Holy Sacrament, taken out of the Liturgy of St. Clement; to be used in the Days of Preparation and Communion.
HOLY, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Blessed art thou, O God; and blessed is thy name for ever and ever. Amen.
For thou art holy; and in all things, thou art sanctified and most exalted; and sittest on high above all, for ever and
Holy is thine only begotten Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ; who, in all things, did minister to thee his God and Father, both in the creation of the world, and in the excellent providence and conservation of it. He suffered not mankind to perish; but gave to him the law of nature, and a law written in tables of stone, and reproved them by his prophets, and sent his angel to be their guards. And when men had violated the natural law, and broken that which was written, -when they had forgotten the divine judgment manifested in the deluge upon the old world, in fire from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah, in many plagues upon the Egyptians, in the slaughters of the Philistines,-and when the wrath of God did hang over all the world for their iniquity,-according to thy will, he who made man, resolved to become a man; he who is the Lawgiver, would be subject to laws; he
that is the High Priest, would be made a sacrifice; and the great Shepherd of our souls, would be a lamb, and be slain for us. Thee, his God and Father, he appeased, and reconciled unto the world, and freed all men from the instant anger. He was born of a virgin, born in flesh; he is God, and the Word, and the beloved Son, the first-born of every creature, according to the prophecies which went before him, of the seed of Abraham and David, and of the tribe of Judah.
He who is the Maker of all that are born, was conceived in the womb of a virgin; and he that is void of all flesh, was incarnate and made flesh: he was born in time, who was begotten from eternity: he conversed piously with men, and instructed them with his holy laws and doctrine: he cured every disease and every infirmity: he did signs and wonders among the people: he slept, and ate, and drank, who feeds all the living with food, and fills them with his blessing: he declared thy name to them, who knew it not: he enlightened our ignorances: he enkindled godliness, and fulfilled thy will, and finished all that which thou gavest him to do.
All this when he had done, he was taken by the hands of wicked men, by the treachery of false priests and an ungodly people, he suffered many things of them, and, by thy permission, suffered many things of reproach. He was delivered to Pilate the president, who judged him that is the Judge of the quick and dead, and condemned him who is the Saviour of all others. He who is impassible, was crucified; and he died, who is of an immortal nature; and they buried him, by whom others are made alive; that, by his death and passion, he might free them for whom he came, and might dissolve the bands of the devil, and deliver men from all his crafty malices.
But then he rose again from the dead; he conversed with his disciples forty days together; and then was received up into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of God his Father.
We, therefore, being mindful of these things, which he did and suffered for us, give thanks to thee, Almighty God, -not as much as we should, but as much as we can; and here fulfil his ordinance and believe all that he said; and know and confess that he hath given us his body to be the