BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
According to the teaching of theologians, the effects of holy communion are many and diverse; for our purpose, however, it will be sufficient to consider three of these.
The first effect consists in the increase of sanctifying grace. This is a greater capability for knowing and loving God, for doing and suffering great things for Him. Nothing can prevent or frustrate this effect except mortal sin, for, in order to receive this increase of sanctifying grace, the only preparation that is necessary is to be in a state of grace. The measure of grace conferred does indeed depend upon the disposition of the recipient; yet every one who is free from mortal sin receives a certain degree of augmentation, independently of any special preparation or amount of fervour at the time of communion. Even tepid souls, whose spiritual life is at a low ebb, nay, even those who allow their thoughts to wander at the moment of their communion, or who are guilty of venial sin, do not thereby forfeit this effect.
Sanctifying grace is increased, to some extent at least, by every communion, provided there is nothing else to render it unworthy; and there is no good work which serves to enhance it as much as holy communion. If we think how immeasurably precious a single degree of grace is, it appears as if it followed as a natural consequence that holy communion could not be received often enough; yet this is not so. In this regard the profit accruing to the soul must not alone be thought of, respect to the Sacrament must not be forgotten; the reverence we owe to it demands that those only should communicate frequently who experience within themselves the full extent of its operation. 1
The second effect consists in the spiritual joy and delight caused by holy communion; in a supernatural strength afforded to the soul and a closer union with Our Lord. A complete analogy does in fact exist between material food and its effect on the body, and holy communion and its action upon the soul. Just as partaking of ordinary food is pleasant, and fortifies and strengthens the body, so holy communion produces a like effect within the soul.
It causes us no pleasure to be in the company of a person whom we do not like, but to hold intimate intercourse with a friend who is really dear is most agreeable; it is one of the greatest and purest pleasures earth can afford. This it is which constitutes the joy and sweetness experienced in holy communion, the presence of Our Lord, whom our soul loveth, close inter course with the dearest friend of our heart. This intercourse is effected by means of acts of faith and charity, by meditation on the attributes and perfections of Christ. It is precisely on account of this effect that the adorable Sacrament is likened to manna, and declared preferable to it; this is why it is spoken of as the Bread of heaven, containing in itself all sweetness, and why the Church applies to it these words of Scripture: "His bread shall be fat and he shall yield dainties to kings." (Gen. xlix. 20.) Forth from Our Lord's Heart flow abundant streams of grace into the soul of the communicant, particularly during His sacramental presence there, graces which incite him to and assist him in making acts of lively faith and fervent charity, in holding familiar converse with his celestial Guest. This intercourse creates within the soul more and more abhorrence of sin, distaste and aversion for the world and the pleasures of the world; it inspires her with fervour and delight in the service of God, with relish for whatever is heavenly and supernatural, in short, with the spirit and sentiments of Christ. The worthy communicant can say with St. Paul: "I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me." This effect is the unfailing result, no less certain than the increase of sanctifying grace, of holy communion, especially while the sacred species remain unconsumed, provided no hindrance is offered on the part of the communicant.
This effect may be impeded and prevented, as is unhappily too often the case, by want of devotion, carelessness, and distraction in making one's thanksgiving immediately after receiving communion. He who through inattention and distraction fails to cooperate with the grace of God, who does not obey the inspiration to awaken acts of faith, of charity, of oblation, who does not apply himself to entertain the divine Guest whom he has received, cannot expect to experience in himself this effect of communion. Persons, too, who are worldly and earthly-minded, who cherish inordinate inclinations and attachments to creatures, who tolerate venial sin, making no serious effort to expel from their hearts these obstacles to grace, will feel little or nothing of this effect of holy communion; the distractions and vanities of the world, in which they take delight, the attachment to the things of time and sense which they indulge, form a sufficient hindrance to it.
1 It may be remarked in passing that this is the right rule to be applied in admitting the faithful to holy communion; he whose life is such as to offer, at least in general, no obstacle to its action, may be allowed to approach the Lord's table frequently, or even daily.