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but once in a year, or, it may be, once in two years: what then? whom shall we account best of? them that receive but once, or that receive but seldom, or that receive frequently? Neither one nor the other; but them that communicate with a sincere conscience, with a pure heart, and an unreprovable life. They that are so, let them always communicate*: and they that are not so, let them not approach so much as once; because they do nothing but draw upon themselves the judgments of God, and make themselves worthy of condemnation." To which if we add the excellent discourse of St. Austin in this question, the consequents of it may suffice to determine the whole inquiry: "Some will say, that the eucharist is not to be received every day. If you ask, why? he tells you, because some days are to be chosen, in which a man may live more purely and continently, that so he may come to so great a sacrament more worthily, because he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself. On the other side, another says, if thou hast received so great a wound, and contracted so violent a disease, that such remedies are to be deferred, every such man ought, by the authority of the bishop, to be removed from the altar and put to penance, and, by the same authority, be reconciled. For this is to receive unworthily, then to receive when a man should be doing penance, and not according to his own pleasure offer himself to, or withdraw himself from, the communion. But if his sins be not so great, as to deserve excommunication, he ought not to separate himself from the daily medicine of the Lord's body. Between these, possibly a man may determine the question better; if he admonishes that men should abide in the peace of Christ. But let every one do what, according to his faith, he piously believes ought to be done. For neither of them dishonours the body and blood of the Lord, if they, in their several ways, contend who shall most honour the most holy sacrament. For Zaccheus and the centurion did not prefer themselves before one another, when the one received Christ into his house, and the other said he was not worthy to receive him under his roof; both of them honouring our blessed
• Οἱ τοιοῦτοι αἰεὶ προσίτασαν.
Saviour by a diverse, and almost a contrary way,-both of them were miserable by sins, and both of them obtained mercy." Now, from the words of these two saints put together, we may collect these resolutions :+
1. The question does no way concern evil men, despe rately or greatly wicked; for they so remaining, or committing such sins, quæ non committit omnis bonæ fidei speique Christianus ";" which exclude men from the kingdom of heaven, and cannot stand with the hopes of a good man, are separate from the Spirit of the Lord, and ought not to touch the body of our Lord.
2. Neither does it concern such imperfect persons, and half Christians, who endeavour to accord the rules of the Gospel with their irregular and ruling passions; who would enter into heaven, and yet keep their affections for earth and earthly interests; who part stakes between God and the world, and resolve to serve two masters; who commit oftentimes deliberate and great sins, and repent, and yet sin again when the temptation comes; for they are yet very far from the kingdom of God, and, therefore, ought not to be admitted to the portion of sons, and the bread of children. 13. It concerns only such, whose life does not dishonour their profession; who pretend to be servants of Christ, and, indeed, are so in great truth; whose faith is strengthened with hope, and their hope animated with charity, who can, not pretend to be more perfect than men, yet really contend to avoid all sin, like the children of God, who have right to be nourished by the body of the Lord, " Corpus Christi quod ipsi sunt," "because they are indeed members of his body, and joined in the same spirit." The question is not between the publican and the Pharisee, but between the converted publican and the proselyte centurion; between two persons, who are both true honourers of Christ, and penitent sinners, and humbled persons, and have no affection for sin remaining: the question then is, which is more to be commended, he that out of love receives Christ, or he who, out of humility and reverence, abstains, because he thinks himself not worthy enough?-To this St. Chrysostom answers :
S. Aug. de Verbis Apost. serm. 29. c. 6. e S. August. de Civit. Dei. lib. xxii. c. 10.
4." They that are such, have a right to receive every day; and because they are rightly disposed, it is certain that a frequent communion is of great advantage to them, and, therefore, they that frequent it not, are like to be losers: for this is the daily bread, the heavenly supersubstantial bread, by which our souls are nourished to life eternal."-" This is the medicine against our daily imper fections and intrudings of lesser crimes, and sudden emigra tions of passions: it is the great consignation of pardon." And St. Ambrose argues well; "If Christ's blood is poured forth for the remission of sins, then I ought, as often as I can, receive it when it is poured forth to me; that, because I sin often, I may perpetually have, my remedy." Which discourse of his, is only to be understood of those imperfections of our life, which perpetually haunt those good men, who are growing in grace, until they come to perfection and consummation in grace.
5. They that, in conscience of their past sins, and apprehension of their repentance, do abstain for fear of irreverence and the sentence of condemnation,-do very well as long as they find that their sin returns often, or tempts strongly, or prevails dangerously. And because our returns to God and the mortifications of sin are divisible, and done by parts and many steps of progression,-they that delay their communion that they may be surer, do very well, provided that they do not stay too long; that is, that their fear do not turn to timorousness, their religion do not change into superstition, their distrust of themselves into a jealousy of God, their apprehension of the greatness of their sin into a secret diffidence of the greatness of the divine mercy. And, therefore, in the first conversions of a sinner, this reverence may be longer allowed to a good man, than afterwards. But it must
d Eucharistia medicina est ægrotis, peregrinantibus diæta, debiles confortat, valentes delectat, languorem sanat, sanitatem firmat; fit homo mausuetior ad correptionem, patientior ad laborem, ardentior ad amorem, sagacior ad cautelam, ad obediendum promptior, ad gratiarum actiones devotion, -S. Bernard.
ε Σπουδάζετε οὖν πυκνότερον συνέρχεσθαι εἰς εὐχαριστίαν Θεοῦ καὶ δόξαν· ὅταν γὰς συνεχῶς ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ γένησθε, καθαιροῦνται αἱ δυνάμεις τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἄπρακτα αὐτοῦ ἐπιστρέφεται πεπυρωμένα βέλη πρὸς ἁμαρτίαν· ἡ γὰρ ἡμετέρα ὁμόνοια καὶ σύμφωνος πίστις αὐτοῦ μέν ἐστιν ὄλεθρος· τῶν δὲ ὑπασπιστῶν αὐτοῦ βάσανος.-S. Ignat. Epist. ad Ephes.
be no longer allowed, than till he hath once communicated. For if he hath once been partaker of the divine mysteries since his repentance, he must no longer forbear; for in this case it is true, that he who is not fit to receive every day, is fit to receive no day? If he thinks that he ought wholly to abstain, let him use his caution and his fear to the advan tages of his repentance, and the heightening of his longings; but if he may safely come once, he may piously come often. He cannot long stand at this distance, if he be the man he is supposed. But for the time of his total abstention, let him be conducted by a spiritual guide, whom he may safely trust. For if he cannot, by the usual methods of repentance, and the known sermons of the Gospel, be reduced to peace, and quiet conscience, let him declare his estate to a spiritual guide; and, if he thinks it fit to absolve him, that is, to declare him to be in the state of grace and pardon,-it is all the warrant which, with the testimony of God's Spirit, bearing witness to our spirit, we can expect in this world. I remember what a religious person said to Petrus Celestinus, who was a great saint, but of a timorous conscience in this particular: "Thou abstainest from the blessed sacramént, because it is a thing so sacred and formidable, that thou canst not think thyself worthy of it. Well, suppose that. But, I pray, who is worthy? is an angel worthy enough? No certainly, if we consider the greatness of the mystery. But consider the goodness of God, and the usual measures of good men, and the commands of Christ inviting us to come, and commanding us, and then, Cum timore. et reverentia frequenter operare;' receive it often with fear and reverence." To which purpose, these two things are fit to. be considered.
1. Supposing this fear and reverence to be good and commendable in his case, who really is fit to communicate, but does not think so;-yet if we compare it with that. grace, which prompts a good man to take it often, we may, quickly perceive which is best. Certainly that act is in its own nature best, which proceeds from the best and the most perfect grace; but to abstain, proceeds from fear; and to
See the second exhortation in the Office of the Communion.-Apud Surium.
come frequently, being worthily disposed, is certainly the product of love and holy hunger, the effect of the good Spirit, who, by his holy fires, makes us to thirst after the waters of salvations. As much then as love is better than fear, so much it is to be preferred, that true penitents, and well grown Christians, should, frequently, address themselves to these sacramental unions with their Lord.
2. The frequent use of this divine sacrament proceeds from more, as well as from more noble virtues. For here is obedience and zeal, worship and love, thanksgiving and ob lation, devotion and joy, holy hunger and holy thirst, an approach to God in the ways of God, union and adherence, confidence in the divine goodness, and not only hope of pardon, but a going to receive it: and the omission of all these excellencies, cannot, in the present case, be recompensed by an act of religious fear: for this can, but by ac→ cident, and upon supposition of something that is amiss, be at all accounted good; and, therefore, ought to give place to that, which supposing all things to be as they ought, is directly good, and an obedience to a divine commandment.
For we may not deceive ourselves: the matter is not so indifferent, as to be excused by every fair pretence. It is unlawful for any man, unprepared by repentance and its fruits, to communicate; but it is necessary, that we should be prepared that we may come. "For plague and death threaten them that do not communicate in this mysterious banquet; as certainly as danger is to them who come unduly, and as it happens."-" For the sacrament of the Lord's body is commanded to all men," saith Tertullian*. And it is very remarkable what St. Austin' said in this affair; "The force of the sacrament is of an unspeakable value; and, therefore, it is sacrilege to despise it. For that is impiously despised, without which, we cannot come to the perfection of piety."-So that although it is not, in all cases, the mere not receiving that is to be blamed, but the despising it, yet when we
S. Bonavent. de profectu Relig. lib. ii. c. 77.
Stultus est timor et reverentia minus prudens illius, qui ad Dominum, se vocantem et invitantem, non accedit, sed procrastinat. — Gerson in Magnificat.
1Ωσπερ τὸ, ὡς ἔτυχε, προσιέναι κίνδυνος, οὕτως τὸ μὴ κοινωνεῖν τῶν μυστικῶν δείπαν inetvæv Kapòs nai Dávaros.— Hom. 24. in 1 Cor. 10.
k Tertul, de Coron, mil. c. 3.
'Lib. xix. c. 11. ad Faustum.