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sermon: "Thou comest to the altar, the Lord Jesus calls thee; he sees thee to be clean from all sin, because thy sins are washed away; therefore, he judges thee worthy of the celestial sacraments, and, therefore, he invites thee to the heavenly banquet: let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. But some desire to be admitted to penance, that presently they may receive the communion: these men do not so much desire themselves to be absolved, as that the priest be bound; for they do not put off their own evil conscience. But' I would, that the guilty man should hope for pardon; let him require it with tears, seek it with sighs, beg to obtain it by the weepings of all the people; and if he be denied the communion again and again, let him consider that his prayer was not sufficiently earnest; let him weep more and pray more."-To which I shall add some like words of St. Austin": "Therefore, my dearest brethren, let every one consider his conscience; and when he finds himself wounded with any crime, first let him take care with prayers, and fastings, and alms, to cleanse his conscience, and so let him receive the eucharist. For he that, knowing his guilt, shall humbly remove himself from the altar, for the amendment of his life, shall not fear to be wholly excommunicate from that eternal and celestial banquet."—" For this divine sacrament is not to be eaten with confidence and boldness, but with fear and all manner of purity," saith St. Chrysostom; "for impudence in these approaches will certainly slay the souls". For this is the body, whither none but eagles are to gather; because they ought to be sublime and elevated souls, such which have nothing of earthliness in them, that do not sit and prey upon the ground, that are not immerged in the love of creatures; but such whose flight is towards heaven, whose spirit does behold the sun of righteousness with a penetrating contemplation and piercing eyes: for this is the table of eagles, and not of: owls;"-and, therefore, this saint complains of some, "who did approach to the eucharist, as it were, by chance, or rather by custom and constraint of laws, rather than by argument and choice.
1 De Pœnit. lib. i. c. 16.
De Pœnit. lib. ii. c. 9.
Serm. 252. de Tempore.
n Homil. 24. in 1 Cor. Παρακαλῶ, μὴ κατασφάξωμεν ἑαυτοὺς διὰ τῆς ἀναι σχυντίας· ἀλλὰ μετὰ φρίκης καὶ καθαρότητος ἁπάσης, αὐτῷ προσίωμεν,
In whatsoever estate their souls are, they will partake of these mysteries, because it is Lent, or because it is the feast of the Epiphany: but certain it is, that it is not the time which puts us into a capacity of doing this action. For it is not Lent nor the Epiphany which makes us worthy to approach to the Son of God; but the sincerity and purity of the soul: with this come at any time; but without this, never." In fine, it is the general doctrine of the holy fathers, and the public practice of the primitive church, that no impenitent person should come to these divine mysteries; and they that are truly penitent, should practise deep humility, and undergo many humiliations, and live in a state of repentance, till by little and little they have recovered the holiness they had lost, and must for a long time live upon the word of God, before they approach to the holy table to be nourished by his body. For so should every prodigal child cry unto his Lord, "Drive me not, O Lord, out of thy doors, lest the enemy, espying a wanderer and a vagabond, take me for a slave. I do not yet desire to approach to thy holy table, thy mystical and terrible table; for I have not confidence with my impure eyes to behold the Holy of holies. Only suffer me to enter into thy church amongst the catechumens, that, by beholding what is there celebrated, I may, by little and little, enter again into the participation of them; to the end that the divine waters of thy word, running upon me, may purify my ears from the impressions which have been made upon them by ungodly songs, and from the filthiness they have left behind; and seeing how the righteous people partake, by a holy violence, of thy precious jewels, I may conceive a burning desire to have hands worthy to receive the same excellencies." I end this collection of the ancient doctrine of the church with recitation of the words of Gennadius", "I persuade and exhort Christians to receive the communion every Lord's day; but so, that if their mind be free from all affection of sinning: for he who still hath will or desires of sin, he is burdened and not purified, by receiving the eucharist. And, therefore, although he be bitten [or grieved] with sin, let him, for the
ο ̓Αλλὰ ψυχῆς εἰλικρίνεια καὶ καθαρότης· μετὰ ταύτης, αἰεὶ πρόσιθι· χωρὶς ταύτης, fundéwors.—Homil. 3. in cap. 1. Epist. Ephes.
P Homil. de Prodigo.
1 De Dogmat. Ecclesi c. 53.
future, renounce all will to sin,-and before he communicate, let him satisfy with prayers and tears; and being confident of the mercy of our Lord, who uses to pardon sins upon a pious confession, let him come to the eucharist without doubting. But this I say of him, who is not pressed with capital and deadly sins; for such a person, if he will not receive the eucharist to judgment and condemnation, let him make amends by public penance, and being reconciled by the bishop or priest, let him communicate. I doubt not also but such grievous sins may be extinguished by private satisfactions; but this must be done by changing the course of his life, by a professed study of religion, by a daily and perpetual mourning or contrition, that, through the mercy of God, he may do things contrary to these, whereof he does repent; and then, humbly and suppliant, let him, every Lord's day, communicate to the end of his life."
This advice of Gennadius declares the sentiment of the church, that none must communicate till they have worthily repented, and, in the way of piety and contrition, made amends for their faults as well as they may; and have put themselves into a state of virtue contrary to their state of sin; that is, have made progression in the reformation of their lives; that they are really changed and become new men, not in purpose only, but actually, and in the commencement of holy habits. And, therefore, it is remarkable, that he advises, that these persons who do not stand in the place of public penitents, should, upon the commission of grievous faults, enter into religion; he means into solitude, and retirement, and renunciation of the world; that, by attending wholly to the severities and purities of a religious life, they may, by such strictnesses and constant piety, be fitted for the communion. Now, whatever ends, besides this, the divine Providence might have, yet it is not to be neglected, that when the ancient discipline of the church, of public penances and satisfactions, was gone into desuetude, the spirit of religion entered more fully into the world, and many religious orders and houses were instituted, that at least there, the world might practise that severity in private, which the change of affairs in the face of the church had' taken from the public ministries; penance went from the churches into deserts and into monasteries; but when these
were corrupted, and the manners of men were worse cor rupted, it is hard to say whither it is gone now. It may be yet done in private, and under the hand of a spiritual guide; or by the spirit of penance in the heart of a good man, and by the conduct of a wise counsellor: but besides that the manners of men are corrupted, the doctrines also are made so easy, and the communion given to sects and opinions, or indifferently to all; that it is very rare to see them, who have sinned grievously, repent worthily, who, therefore, can never be worthy communicants: for no impenitents, can partake of Christ, who, as St. Jerome calls him, "is the Prince of penance, and the head of them, who, by repentance, come unto salvation." But this was his advice to them that commit grievous sins, such which lay the conscience waste, and whose every single action destroys our being in the state of grace.
But as for them, whose sins are but those of daily incursion, and of infirmity, or imperfection, such which a great diligence, and a perpetual watchfulness, might have prevented, but an ordinary care would not; these must be protested against; they must not join with our consent; our will must be against them; and they must be confessed and deplored, and prayed against before we communicate". This is the sense of the church of God.
Having established this great general measure of preparation, it will not be very difficult to answer that great question often disputed amongst spiritual persons, viz.
Whether is it better to communicate seldom or frequently ?
To this I answer, that it is without peradventure very much better to receive it every day, than every week; and
r Princeps pœnitentiæ et caput eorum, qui salvantur per pœnitentiam, Christus est.-S. Hierom. in Isa. c. S.
• Non saturantur ergo, nisi famelici; qui, a vitiis perfecte jejunantes, divina sacramenta percipiunt in plenitudine virtutis. Et quia, sine peccato, electi etiam viri esse non possunt, quid restat, nisi ut à peccatis, quibus eos humana fragilitas maculare non desinit, evacuari quotidie conentur ? Nam qui quotidie non exhaurit quod delinquit, etsi minima sint peccata qua congerit, paulatim anima repletur; atque ci auferunt fructum interna saturitatis. Gregor. lib. ii. in Reg. cap. 1.
better every week than every month:"Christiani, omni die, carnes agni comedunt," said Origen; Christians, every day, eat of the flesh of the sacrificed Lamb." And St. Basil expressly affirms', that "to communicate every day, and to partake of the body and blood of Christ, is excellent and very profitable; Christ himself having manifestly said it,
He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, hath life eternal" For if the sacrament does no benefit to souls, and produces no blessings, then a man can institute a sacrament; for he may appoint any thing that shall be good for nothing. But if it be an instrument in the hand of God to procure blessings to us, and spiritual emolument; if it be a means of union with Christ; who would not willingly live with him, and converse with him for ever? It is good to be with Christ: and St. Jerome said, "I would to God, that we could always receive with a pure conscience, and without self-condemnation." It is without dispute, that it is better to be with Christ, in all the ways of being with him, than to be away from him one hour". This, therefore, ought to be no part of the question.
But because there is more required to the receiving Christ, than eating the symbols, and a man may eat to his condemnation, and increase his sins, and swell his sad accounts, and be guilty of Christ's body and blood, if he does not take heed; therefore, first, men must be prepared, and be in the state of holiness, or else they may not receive at all; and they that are so, may receive it frequently, the oftener the better. So Jerome and St. Austiny tell, that even till their days, the custom of receiving every day remained in the churches of Rome and Spain; and all the ancient fathers exhort to a frequent communion; but just as physicians exhort men to eat the best and heartiest meats; not the sickly and the infant, but the strong man and the healthful. And this we find thus determined by St. Chrysostom z; "There are some living in deserts, who receive