NOTE: This year the feast of Corpus Christi falls on June 16th. The considerations in this article are meant to help us render greater honor to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and serve for the greater sanctification of one’s soul.
See the Son of God
“See the Son of God who, for your sakes, shows His wounds to the Heavenly Father; see the Son of God who, for your sakes, was thus lifted on the cross; see the Son of God who will come to judge the living and the dead” – Berthold of Regensburg
Frequent Holy Communions Are Historically Recent
While frequent – even daily Holy Communions – may be commendable for some, the changes to the frequency of reception of Holy Communion under Pope St. Pius X in the early 1900s and the watering down of the Eucharistic Fast – in addition to changes to the Church’s Liturgy before the doctrinal crisis following Vatican II which led to Communion in the Hand – has undoubtedly led to many sacrilegious Communions.
Very few people are taught the dispositions necessary for frequent Communions even though those were enumerated by Pope St. Pius X in his decree of December 20, 1905, which promoted frequent and even daily reception of the Blessed Sacrament. His decree makes a distinction between the dispositions which are necessary for the fruitful reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and those that are more perfect and desirable in those who yearn to profit more profoundly from receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion. There are two necessary conditions:
- We must not be in mortal sin. A person must be certain that he has confessed – and had contrition for – all mortal sins to a priest before he can worthily approach Holy Communion. If in doubt, he may not approach Holy Communion, because he would be placing himself in danger of committing a sacrilege. And since we cannot know for certain if we have made a perfect Act of Contrition, we must refrain from receiving Our Lord after committing a mortal sin until we receive Sacramental absolution. This was made manifestly clear in Canon 856 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law.
- We must have a “right and pious intention.” Saint Pius X lists several intentions which are not right and pious. They include approaching the altar to receive “through habit, or vanity, or human reasonings.” Thus, receiving Holy Communion just because everyone else is receiving or because we do so only to appear holy to others is not with the right intention. On the contrary, St. Pius X summarizes a right and pious intention as one that seeks “to satisfy the pleasure of God, to be joined with Him more closely in charity and to oppose one’s infirmities and defects with that divine remedy.”
Resist and Eliminate All Deliberate Venial Sin
Beyond these necessary conditions, St. Pius X set forth, especially for those who sought to receive Holy Communion very regularly – even daily – more perfect dispositions to strive for when he wrote: “It is especially expedient that those who practice frequent and daily Communion be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and any affection thereto.” As theologians have commented subsequently, there is a difference between venial sins that are fully deliberate and those venial sins that are not fully deliberate, and which we frequently call imperfections.
Hence, before this time the Church was cautious in permitting someone to receive Our Lord often. In fact, at times it became so uncommon for people to receive that the Church in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council instituted the precept obliging the faithful to receive Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter Season. Here, we see that moderation is important – we should not neglect the Sacrament, but we should not receive sacrilegiously in the state of mortal sin or simply out of habit. Something that is worth learning – and at times practicing – is what used to be known as Ocular Communions.
The Practice of Ocular Communion
There is no doubt that the Holy Eucharist which we receive in Holy Communion – and which is offered up in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – is the very real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ Who reigns now in Heaven and Who died on the Cross nearly 2,000 years ago. It is the same Body. Thus, to see the Sacred Host lifted up at Mass, we can truly say that we see God. The Church used to frequently teach the faithful to say to themselves “My Lord and My God” during the Elevation – and enriched that prayer with an indulgence – since we truly could say that to God Himself before our eyes.
Rather than assuming that we must receive Our Lord physically at Mass, we should at times be more inclined to lift up our eyes and behold the Lord and to make spiritual acts of Communion. There are four requirements for an efficacious spiritual act of Communion.
Restoring this practice – rather than receiving Our Lord out of habit, which is against one of the necessary dispositions for a worthy Communion – is worthwhile.
Reparation for Sacrilegious Communions
Our Lord taught us through His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary in 1675 the clear need for reparation to His Most Sacred Heart. And one chief insult directed against the Heart of our Savior is the sacrilegious reception of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Communion.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent states:
“As of all the sacred mysteries bequeathed to us by our Lord and Savior as most infallible instruments of divine grace, there is none comparable to the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; so, for no crime is there a heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use by the faithful of that which contains the author and source of holiness.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria explains further the gravity when he says:
“They who make a sacrilegious Communion receive Satan and Jesus Christ into their heart. Satan, that they may let him rule, and Jesus Christ that they may offer Him in sacrifice to Satan.”
Eucharistic reparation is absolutely essential for our times. And one of the chief reasons behind this is the countless number of sacrilegious Communions made every day in our world.
With the rapid changes to the Church’s Liturgy in the 1900s, we have forgotten the pious practice of Spiritual Communion; and shockingly, many Catholics are not taught that Our Lord is truly present in the Holy Eucharist: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. To our forefathers in the Faith, this would have been unfathomable.
Remember that there are many merits received from Spiritual Communions. We should make a Spiritual Communion each morning that we cannot attend Holy Mass and, if we feel rushed before or after Mass, if would be better for us to make a Spiritual Communion and “commune” with God by gazing – and meditating – on the Sacred Host. It is a pious practice to make several (frequent!) spiritual communions throughout the day – and one can even do this on the days when one receives sacramental communion.
For those who seek to receive Our Lord in the Sacrament, examine yourself using the criteria set forth by St. Pius X and ensure that when you do receive Our Lord you do so  in the state of grace and  with a “right and pious” intention  while striving to be free from all deliberate venial sins.
At times it is better for us to return to the practice of our forefathers and know that we can gain merits from attending Holy Mass and seeing God on the Altar without physically receiving Him. In such instances, an “Ocular Communion” and a prayer of Spiritual Communion may be advantageous for our spiritual lives. (This is certainly a matter which you can discuss with your confessor.)
Above all, never receive Our Lord’s real and true Body and Blood out of habit or while in the state of mortal sin. Let us pray for an end to all sacrilegious Communions using the prayer taught to the three children of Fatima by the Angel in 1916:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly, and I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the same Son Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the sacrileges, outrages and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.”