This sequence of meditations helps the soul prepare for an extraordinary event.
As Catholics, many of us are frequently tempted to view reception of the Eucharist as an ordinary event in our lives. It is something we “do” every Sunday and the only preparation we are obliged to observe is an hour’s worth of fasting.
Yet, it is much more than a simple action we routinely do each week. St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
Kolbe continues, addressing Jesus in a brief prayer, “You come to me and unite yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment. Your Blood now runs in mine, Your Soul, Incarnate God, compenetrates mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!”
The reception of Holy Communion is an extraordinary event and some in the past took great care to prepare for it. For example, in a Catholic prayer book published in Dublin in 1883, there was detailed a custom of preparing for Holy Communion over a period of three days. This allowed the soul to acknowledge what was going to occur at the next Mass and prepare with love and devotion.
Below is a selection from that prayer book, including brief meditations for each day before receiving the Holy Eucharist.
If our faith were lively, we should be so convinced of this truth, that the prospect of a Communion would fill us with transports of joy: we would long for the happy day which was to unite us to Jesus Christ, and be so completely occupied with the expectation of such a blessing, as to become almost insensible to all other enjoyments. To produce those sentiments in your heart, you need but reflect on a few of the advantages of a good Communion. Consider that this most holy Sacrament increases and preserves grace, which is the life of the soul; it enlightens the mind with the brightest light; inflames the heart with the sacred fire of charity; it points out and makes us love our duties; it strengthens us to fulfill them; it moderates the violence of passion, and it penetrates the soul with such sweet and holy peace, as must be felt to be understood. To say all in one word, a worthy Communion unites us so intimately to God, and procures for us such an abundant infusion of his gifts and graces, as caused a father of the Church to say, that “a single Communion would suffice to make a saint.”
O my good God! if I really felt how delightful it is to be united to thee, how soon would I despise every other pleasure, and sigh after thee alone, for whom alone I was created. Thou knowest that I desire at least to receive thee worthily; deign then to penetrate my soul with respect and love, that I may so fervently prepare for thy heavenly visit, as never to find death in the fountain of life.
Consider, seriously, that after Jesus had been in agony three hours [on the cross]; after he had proved the efficacy of his sacred Blood, by the wonderful conversion of a great criminal, and expressed his ardent thirst for the conversion of all men, he expired … examine your heart at the foot of the cross, and see all that so great an example demands from you … Does not the hard bed of the cross condemn your attachment to your own ease, and your horror of the least inconvenience? Can you reflect on such divine patience, meekness, and charity, without detesting your fretful, uncharitable conduct towards your fellow-creatures, your irritable and untractable temper? The silence of Jesus is a miracle of meekness: have you imitated it when undeservedly or even justly reproved? … Resolve, then, generously to make a friend of Him, who will one day be your judge, and henceforward never to look on a crucifix without thinking of your obligation to imitate the virtues of your crucified Lord.
O my merciful Redeemer! prostrate in spirit at the foot of thy cross, I thank thee for all thou hast done and suffered for my salvation. I beg of thee, by the efficacy of thy precious blood, to soften the obduracy of my heart, and strengthen my will, that I may faithfully do all that thou requires.
Consider why did Jesus Christ resolve to remain on our altars to the end of time, in a state of degradation and obscurity? Because he loves you too much, to leave you an orphan. “Why does he conceal his adorable majesty, his divinity, and even his humanity, in this sacrament?” It is, as St. Bernard says, “that the excess of his love alone may appear, and that the splendour of his glory may not deter you from approaching him with confidence.” Why will this divine victim of love descend from heaven to-morrow, and renew the oblation of himself on our altars? To give you in his precious body and blood the most amazing proof of his tenderness, and to afford you by his actual presence a favourable opportunity of asking and receiving whatever you desire, that your joy may be complete.
O eternal beauty! Too late have I known thee. O infinite goodness! Too late have I loved thee. Ah! my good God! thou didst form my heart, thou alone canst inflame its affections. I beg of thee, by all the love thou hast ever felt for man ; and in particular, by that infinite charity which invites me to approach thy altars, that thou wouldst give me, as the fruit of this meditation, the most lively and ardent charity. I resolve most seriously, to endeavour on my part to obtain that most precious gift, by making henceforward frequent acts of thy love—by performing all my actions through a motive of love—by detesting and avoiding, for thy love, all that displeases thee. Give efficacy. O Lord! to these resolutions, for on thee alone I depend; thou art the God in whom I firmly believe; thou art the foundation of my hope, and the only worthy object of my love.