I am sure, dear Reader, that if you would once begin the practice of frequent Communion in order to please Our Lord, you would continue it in order to please yourself. I will now proceed to make good this assertion by showing the great and admirable effects which this Bread of the Strong produces in the soul.
First, it confers an increase of Sanctifying Grace. The life of the soul consists in its being in a state of acceptance or friendship with God, and that which renders it acceptable to God is Sanctifying Grace. This grace, which was merited for us by Our Lord Jesus Christ, is infused into the soul by the Holy Ghost through the Sacraments; but each Sacrament does not confer it in the same manner.
Baptism and Penance bestow it upon those who are entirely out of the grace of God, or in other words, who are spiritually dead; Baptism being the means appointed for those who have never been in the grace of God, and Penance for those who have lost it.
These Sacraments are therefore called Sacraments of the Dead, as being instituted for the benefit of those who are in mortal sin or dead to grace. When these Sacraments are received with the right dispositions, they truly reconcile the sinner with God, so that from being an enemy of God, he becomes His friend and an object of His complacency.
But this acceptance, though true and real, is not in the highest degree; it admits of an increase, as the Holy Scripture says: “Let him that is just be justified still; and let him that is holy be sanctified still;” and therefore God appointed the other Sacraments, the Sacraments of the Living, not only to convey special graces peculiar to each, but to impart an increase of Sanctifying Grace to those who are already in His favor.
A rich man, when he has taken possession of a field which he wishes to convert into a garden, is not content with putting a wall around it and clearing it of the most noxious weeds and setting it in good order, but he continues to cultivate it assiduously, to fill it with the most beautiful plants and to embellish it with new and choice ornaments. Thus Almighty God, in His love and goodness, has multiplied means by which the soul may be enriched with the graces and merits of Jesus Christ and become more and more agreeable and beautiful in His eyes.
Now among all these means, there is none greater or more powerful than the Blessed Eucharist. Each time that we receive our Saviour in Holy Communion, we participate anew in all the merits of His Redemption, of His poverty, His hidden life, His scourging and His crowning with thorns. The Holy Eucharist, then, differs from the other Sacraments in this, that while the other Sacraments bestow upon us one or another of the fruits of Christ’s merits, this gives us the grace and merits of Our Savior in their source.
The soul, therefore, receives an immense increase of Sanctifying Grace at each Communion. Dear Christian, let us reflect upon this for a moment. It is no slight thing for a soul to be beautiful in the sight of God. That must needs be something great and precious which can render us – sinful creatures as we are – truly amiable before God. What must be the value of Sanctifying Grace, which can work such a transformation? What is it and who can declare its price?
St. Thomas tells us that the lowest degree of Sanctifying Grace is worth more than all the riches of the world. Think then, of all the riches of this world! The mines of gold, of precious stones, the forests of costly wood, and all the hidden stores of wealth, for the least of which treasures the children of this world are willing to toil and struggle and sin for a whole lifetime.
Again, consider that the lowest grace which a humble Catholic Christian receives at the rails of the sanctuary at dawn of day, before the great world is astir, outweighs all those riches. But why do I draw my comparison from the things of this world?
St. Teresa, after her death, appeared to one of her sisters in religion and told her that all the Saints in Heaven, without exception, would be willing to come back to this world and to remain here till the End of Time, suffering all the miseries to which our mortal state is subject, only to gain one more degree of Sanctifying Grace and the eternal glory corresponding to it.
Nay, I even assert that all the devils in Hell would consider all the torments of their dark abode, endured for millions upon millions of ages, largely recompensed by the least degree of that grace which they had once rejected. These thoughts give us a grand and sublime idea of the value of grace; but there is another consideration that ought to raise our estimate of it still higher, namely, that God Himself, the Eternal Son of the Father, came down upon earth, was made man, suffered and died the death of the cross in order to purchase it for us. His life is in some way the measure of its value.
Now in Holy Communion, this Sanctifying Grace is poured upon us in floods! The King of Heaven is then present in our souls, scattering profusely His benedictions and making us taste of the powers of the world to come. Oh, if any of us were to see his own soul immediately after Communion, how amazed and confounded would he not be at the sight of it. He would take it for an Angel.
St. Catherine of Siena having been asked by her confessor to describe to him the beauty of a soul in the state of grace – as it had been revealed to her – replied: “The beauty and lustre of such a soul is so great that if you were to behold it, you would be willing to endure all possible pains and sufferings for its sake.” Need we wonder, then, that the Angels loved to keep company with those saints on earth who every day with great devotion received Holy Communion, and that even the faces of those who have been ardent lovers of the Blessed Sacrament have sometimes shone with the glory with which they were filled? Does not Christ say of such a soul: “How beautiful art thou, My beloved! How beautiful art thou.”
What great value should we then not set on this Divine Sacrament? At each Communion, we gain more and more upon what is bad in our hearts: we bring God more and more into them, and we come nearer to that heavenly state in which they shall be altogether “without spot or wrinkle,” holy and without blemish.
Should we not, then, esteem this wonder-working Sacrament more than anything else in this world? Ought we not continually to give thanks to God for so great a blessing and, above all, show our thankfulness by receiving it frequently and devoutly? I leave it to you, O Christian soul, to answer what I have said. I will not dwell longer on this point; reflect and act accordingly. I must pass on to explain some of the other wonderful effects of this precious Sacrament.
The benefit to be derived from Holy Communion which I will notice in the second place consists in this, that we are thereby preserved from mortal sin. In like manner as the body is continually in danger of death by reason of the law of decay which works unceasingly within us, so in like manner the life of the soul is constantly in jeopardy from that fearful proneness to sin which belongs to our fallen nature.
Accordingly, as Almighty God, in His Wisdom, has ordained natural food as the means of repairing the decay of the body and of warding off death, so has He seen fit to give us a spiritual and heavenly food to keep us from falling into mortal sin, which causes the death of the soul. This food is the Holy Eucharist, as the Council of Trent teaches us, saying that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is “the antidote by which we are free from daily faults and preserved from mortal sins.”
And hence St. Francis de Sales compares Holy Communion to the Tree of Life which grew in the midst of the garden of Paradise, saying that “as our first parents by eating of that tree might have avoided the death of the body, so we, by feeing on this Sacrament of Life, may avoid the death of the soul.”
This article is taken from a chapter in The Blessed Eucharist Our Greatest Treasure by Fr. Michael Müller which is available from TAN Books.