Wednesday, 28 September 2016

THE GIFT DIVINE pt 4 By The Rev. Francis J. Connell, C.SS.R. S.T.D.


When promising the Holy Eucharist our divine Saviour said: “Amen, amen I say to you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you” (John vi. 54). From these words it is evident, that there is a grave obligation incumbent on all the members of Christs Church to receive Holy Communion. However, it is not the same type of obligation as that which binds all men to receive Baptism, or that which binds those who have sinned grievously after Baptism to receive Penance. These obligations are concerned with a means necessary to salvation, whereas the obligation to receive the Holy Eucharist denotes only a precept to be fulfilled. However, it is a divine precept, since it was imposed by the Son of God. Our Lord did not specify how frequently we must receive His body and blood, but left the determination of this matter to His Church. In the earlier centuries the faithful were commanded to approach the holy table at least three times a year —at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost; but in 1215 the Fourth Council of the Lateran decreed that those who have reached the age of discretion must receive Holy Communion at least once a year, and that at Easter. This legislation still prevails.* Moreover, Catholics old enough for Holy Communion are obliged to receive the Holy Eucharist as viaticum (literally “food for a journey”) when they are in danger of death. The Lateran Council mentioned above decreed that the obligation to receive Holy Communion should begin with “the years of discretion,” and until comparatively recent times this phrase was generally interpreted as signifying the age of ten or twelve years. However, in 1910 a decree of the Roman Congregation of the Sacraments, approved by Pope Pius X, prescribed that the age of discretion is to be understood as synonymous with the age of the beginning of reason, which usually occurs about the seventh year. And so, in recent times little ones of tender years have been admitted to the holy table. Of course, children only seven years old cannot be expected to have an adequate understanding of the Holy Eucharist             * ‘The Easter season, during which this precept can be fulfilled, by the general law of the Church lasts from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday, two weeks. For good reasons a bishop may extend this period in his diocese from the fourth Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday, eleven weeks. In the United States, by special dispensation, the Easter season lasts from the first Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday, fourteen weeks.
Holy Communion also produces a social effect, in that it unites all Catholics into one great family, irrespective of national and educational and economic distinctions. It is true, Baptism fundamentally constitutes the bond between the members of the Church, but the Holy Eucharist fosters this unity so effectively that it is sometimes called “the sacrament of unity.” For, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, Europeans and Africans and Americans gather at the same banquet table to partake of the same food, the body and the blood of Christ, the Saviour of all mankind. And greater aid toward the promotion of peace and friendliness among men is provided by this common participation in the Holy Eucharist than by man-made pacts and International laws. The effects of Holy Communion are proportionate to the fervor of the recipients. Hence, it is most important that we prepare devoutly and attentively for each Holy Communion. It is sometimes stated that a single Holy Communion can make the recipient a saint; and the statement is no exaggeration, for as far as the power of the Blessed Sacrament is concerned, there is no limit to the graces it can bestow. The only limitations are those set by the dispositions of mind and heart found in the communicants. Besides a devout preparation, we should also make a fervent thanksgiving, for our Lord is truly present within our breast for about fifteen minutes after the actual reception of Holy Communion, and this amount of time at least should be employed in acts of ardent love and of petition for the graces we need. We have been speaking of the benefits conferred on men by the Holy Eucharist as a sacrament. As a sacrifice the Holy Eucharist is intended primarily to adore and to thank God and to atone to Him for sin. However, it also obtains actual graces for those who share in its efficacy and obtains for them the remission of some of the debt of temporal punishment. The most practical way of benefiting by both the sacrificial and the sacramental power of the Holy Eucharist is to assist attentively at Mass and to receive Holy Communion devoutly. The most common name of the great sacrament we have been studying—the Holy Eucharist—indicates the sentiment that should predominate in our heart when we think of this supreme gift of our Blessed Saviour. For the word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.” This name is given to the sacrament of Christs body and blood because at its institution He gave thanks to His Father (Matthew xxvi. 27). It is a most appropriate title because through the eucharistic sacrifice we can best thank the Almighty for His favors to us, and also because this name reminds us that we should ever be grateful to our Lord for giving us Himself in this sacrament. And the most suitable way to show our gratitude is to make the Holy Eucharist the very center of our lives, proving by our devout assistance at Mass, our frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament and our fervent reception of Holy Communion that we are profoundly thankful to the Son of God for this most precious gift of His love.

Imprimi Potest: WILLIAM T. McCARTY, C.SS.R., Provincial Superior. Brooklyn, N. Y., November 9, 1939. Nihil Obstat: ARTHUR J. SCANLAN, S.T.D., Censor Librorum. lmprimatur: FRANCIS J. SPELLMAN,  Archbishop of New York. New York, December 14, 1939