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At the Last Gospel. O eternal Word, who wast made man that thou mightest make men the children of God, I thank thee for this unspeakable grace. How great is the blessing I enjoy, not only of bearing the name, but of being indeed the child of God. Grant, O my Jesus, that I may preserve this blessed title, by faithfully imitating thy Sacred Heart, and shewing myself always filled with love for thy holy law. If I remain faithful, thou assurest me that I shall be co-heir with thee, and shall enjoy the happiness which thou hast purchased for us with thy precious blood; and this I hope to obtain through thy infinite mercy.
After Mass. How great will be my happiness, O Lord, if, by assisting at this divine sacrifice, I have received all the graces which thou grantest to those who bring thereto a lively faith and a pure heart. Accept, I beseech thee, the reparation which I offer to thy divine majesty for all the sins of which I have been guilty before thy holy altar. I am going to occupy myself with those duties in the world to which thy providence hath called me. Grant that I may have ever before my mind thy patience in adversities, thy obedience to Joseph and Mary, and thy tender charity in bearing with all men. Strengthen me against all temptations; preserve me from all sin; make me firm and immovable in the faith; in fine, transform me into thyself, O Jesus, so that thy Heart and my heart may be united in one, both in time and in eternity. Amen.
Let a man prove (or try) himself, says St. Paul (1 Cor. xi. 28), and so eat of that bread, and drink of that chalice. This proying or trying one's self is the first and most necessary preparation for the holy Communion; and consists in looking diligently into the state of one's soul, in order to discover what indispositions or sins may lie there concealed, and to apply a proper remedy to them, by sincere repentance and confession ; lest otherwise, approaching the Holy of Holies with a soul defiled with the guilt of mortal sin, we become “ guilty of the body and blood of Christ, and receive judgment to ourselves, not discerning the Lord's body” (1 Cor. xi.). For this reason we go to confession before Communion, in order to clear our souls from the filth of sin.
The person that is to receive the blessed sacrament must be also fasting, at least from midnight, by the command of the Church, and by a most ancient and apostolical tradition, ordaining, that in reference to so great a sacrament, nothing should enter into the body of a Christian before the body of Christ. The case of danger of approaching death is excepted, when the blessed sacrament is received by way of viaticum.
Besides this preparation of confession and fasting, the person that proposes to go to Communion must endeavour to attain the best devotion he is able, in order to dispose his soul for worthily receiving so great a guest. To this end he is recommended :
1. To think well on the great work he has in hand ; to consider attentively wbo it is he is going to receive, and how far he is from deserving such a favour; and to implore, with fervour and humility, God's grace and mercy. And this should be the subject of his meditations and prayers for some
days beforehand, and more particularly the night before his Communion, and the morning he receives.
2. To propose to himself a pure intention, viz. the honour of God, and the health of his own soul; and in particular, that by worthily receiving Christ in this heavenly sacrament he may come to a happy union with him, according to that of S. John, vi. 57, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.”
3. To meditate on the sufferings and death of his Redeemer ; this sacrament being instituted to this end, that we should “shew forth the death of Christ until he come” (1 Cor. xi. 26).
4. To prepare himself by acts of virtue, more especially of faith, love, and humility; that so he may approach to his Lord with a firm belief of his real presence in this sacrament, and of that great sacrifice which he heretofore offered upon the cross for our redemption, of which he here makes us partakers ; with an ardent affection of love to him who has loved us so much, and who, out of pure love, gives himself to us; and with a great sentiment of his own unworthiness and sins, joined with a firm confidence in the mercies of his Redeemer.
Here follow one or two forms and methods of preparation for the holy Communion. They should be used as aids to the exercise of our thoughts and the kindling of our affections, and not as substitutes for our own efforts. They poi int out the proper line of thought and subjects for reflection, and if used carefully and meditatively, will be found of great assistance. But no forms, however perfect in themselves, would be good for us without much care and effort on our own parts. More than one form is given, as a variety is useful for different minds, and also for the same mind at different times.
A MEDITATION BEFORE COMMUNION. Consider, Ist, that Jesus Christ our Lord, whom we receive in this blessed sacrament, is called in Scripture “ the Lamb which was slain from the beginning of the world” (Apocalypse xiii. 8), because, from the very beginning of the world, there was no way of coming at God's mercy or grace but by faith in a Redeemer to
come, and by the merits of his future death and passion. Hence Christ crucified was, from the beginning of the world, the great object of the devotion of the patriarchs and prophets: for him they constantly sighed; him they regarded in all their sacrifices; which were indeed so many figures of him, and of his death. All these figures were to have an end when Christ himself, the very Truth, came in person into the world, and offered himself upon the cross, a sacrifice for the sins of the world. But still his death and passion is to be the perpetual object of the devotion of all his children and servants, even to the end of the world ; not now as prefigured in shadows and types, but as commemorated and celebrated in the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament, containing and exhibiting in very truth our great High Priest and Victim, Jesus Christ. For the ancient figures have now passed away, and the truth has succeeded in their place; and that same Fountain of all sanctity, who of old communicated himself to his servants spiritually by faith, now gives himself to us verily and indeed in these heavenly mysteries. For this manner of communicating himself was best becoming the new law; which is a law of love, a law of grace, and a law of truth. O my soul ! admire and adore the riches of the bounty and goodness of thy God and Saviour, who gives thee in this sacrament so great a gift, that heaven itself has nothing greater. Embrace his love, but let it be with a suitable return of love; and see thou prepare thyself worthily to receive so great a visit. Oh, take care to open wide thy heart, that it may be capable of holding those treasures which he brings with him, and which he desires to impart to thee.
Consider, 2dly, the figures by which God was pleased in the Old Testament to foreshew this sacrament; especially these three, the tree of life, the paschal lamb, and the manna from heaven. The tree of life, which God planted in the midst of the earthly paradise, had that excellent property, that if sin had not banished us from that happy abode, by feeding on the fruit of it we should have been maintained in a constant vigour, strength, and health, and have never died. How well
does the blessed eucharist answer this noble figure! in which we feed upon life itself in its very fountain, and by frequently and worthily approaching to it, receive a copious and constant supply of heavenly grace for the maintaining of the vigour, strength, and health of the soul; that so we may never incur the second death, but may pass from life to life; from the life of grace to the life of glory; from life concealed under sacramental veils, to life seen and enjoyed, without shadow or change, for all eternity.
The paschal lamb, which was first offered in sacrifice to God on the evening in which the children of Israel were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, and then was, by God's command, eaten by all the faithful, was also a figure of the blessed eucharist, and of the true Lamb of God, there communicated to us; even that Lamb, which was first offered in sacrifice for our eternal redemption from the bondage of the infernal Pharaoh, and is now received by all the faithful in these heavenly mysteries, for a perpetual commemoration of this our redemption, and a daily application of the fruit of it to our souls. Oh, let us confidently run to this Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world! Let us receive with all affection this Christian passover! Let us embrace this victim of our redemption, this new sacrifice of the new covenant, the covenant of life and of love! Let us sprinkle ourselves with this blood of the New Testament, that so the destroying angel may have no power to hurt us.
Another figure of the blessed eucharist was the manna from heaven, with which the children of Israel were wonderfully fed during their forty years' sojourning in the wilderness, before their coming to the land of promise. This food was in many ways miraculous, but nothing in comparison with that living bread, that bread of life, which is given us in the divine mysteries; which comes down from heaven in order to carry us thither, to the true land of promise, the land of the living; and which nourishes our souls to life eternal. O heavenly manna! O bread of angels! Thou art my true and only support during this my mortal pilgrimage. Oh, let my