I'd like to begin this column with a personal note to you all.
The Holy Eucharist is the very heart of our holy and ancient Faith. Christianity makes absolutely no sense without this most precious of the divinely instituted sacraments. Indeed, it is beyond the imagination of this writer, who is a convert from agnosticism, what attraction exists in non-Catholic Christianity for those who don't accept the fullness of Christ's teaching on the Holy Eucharist. It is the singular truth of the Most Holy Eucharist that has made this convert (and countless others) fall helplessly, hopelessly, passionately in love with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My most sincere prayer is that the Holy Spirit will reach into the depths of your heart with these and other previously stated Eucharistic truths and that you will respond with a lifelong embrace of the One who gives you perfect love through this most adorable sacrament. — Joe
Holy Communion is nourishment for our souls through the reception of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist (see John 6:53). Christ mandated that we receive Him in the Eucharist for the life of our soul.
There are numerous fruits of Holy Communion. The chief fruit, of course, is an intimate, interior union with Christ. Just as matrimony is the sacrament that weds a man and woman for life, the Eucharist is the sacrament that weds us to Christ.
I can only speak as a man, obviously, but I suspect what I'm about to write applies equally to women. If you've ever been in love, you've probably felt an attachment so strong that you've wanted to become physically one with the person you love; to crawl inside the other person, as it were. Jesus understands this emotion. After all, He not only created us and our human nature, He took on that same human nature for Himself. That being true, in His human nature, He feels the same emotions we feel, but He can fulfill that particular emotional desire for physical oneness perfectly and sinlessly.
When a married man and woman are in love, they express that love in a conjugal way. God made us that way. He did this so that we can fulfill the need to become one with the person we love, within the bonds of holy matrimony. The need isn't perfectly fulfilled, but it is met, nonetheless. The fruit of that union is often a child — a child given to the couple to nurture for God's greater glory and as a living expression of the love they have for one another.
Holy Communion is very similar. The marital act imperfectly meets the need of two married people in love trying to become one. Communion allows Christ and us to meet that same need, but to do so perfectly. He completely abides in us, and we, in varying degrees, abide in Him. The fruit of this union is always the growth of our soul for God's greater glory. Holy Communion, furthermore, produces a filial unity between Christ and all the members of His Mystical Body.
Holy Communion produces other spiritual fruits as well. It produces an increase of sanctifying grace and increases the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. It also remits venial sin. Holy Communion weakens our concupiscence, the propensity to sin that comes from our fallen human nature. Holy Communion adds strength to the force of our will, preserves us from falling into mortal sin and helps us to joyfully accept the duties and sacrifices that our Catholic life demands.
Jesus pledged to us, in John 6:54, that the only way we can be assured of the resurrection of life and heavenly bliss is through the worthy reception of Holy Communion. Communion of the Most Holy Eucharist is the single greatest love affair in the history of man, and that love affair is between God and us.
Two conditions are necessary to receive Holy Communion worthily: to be in a state of grace and to have the right intention. Being in a state of grace means being in a state of friendship with God, that is being free of all mortal sin. Anyone who knowingly receives Jesus in Communion in a state of mortal sin — drunkenness, contraception, adultery, etc. — commits the additional mortal sin of sacrilege, thus condemning his own soul. To rectify this, the communicant must make a good confession of all mortal sins since the last good confession, including the sin of sacrilege.
If a person forgets to confess a mortal sin and remembers after receiving Communion, the communicant shouldn't feel guilty, as there has been no sin of sacrilege. The communicant, however, has a serious obligation to go to confession as soon as possible.
Having the right intention means receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion to show God we love Him. We must avoid other intentions, such as fear of what others may think if we don't go to Communion or to make ourselves appear devout. By the mere fact that we are all sinners, none of us are truly worthy to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus, nevertheless, deems us all sufficiently worthy if we are free of mortal sin. We should, thus, receive Him with only the intention of showing God our love for Him.
We should also be free, as far as possible, of fully deliberate venial sins, and make acts of faith, hope, charity, sorrow for our sins and an act of desire to receive Him called Spiritual Communion.
Out of reverence, the Church requires a fast of one hour before receiving Holy Communion. We may not eat or drink anything, except water and prescription medication. The elderly, those with serious illnesses and those who care for them are exempt from this Eucharistic fast.
After receiving the Eucharist, we should always make an act of thanksgiving. This means we should adore Christ present within us, thank Him for coming into us, express our love for Him as well as the desire to do His will, and ask for His blessings. Because the graces we receive from the Blessed Sacrament are in direct proportion to the dispositions we maintain, the greatest spiritual benefits are derived from a good preparation and thanksgiving.
The Church commands that we must receive Holy Communion at least once a year, during Easter time. This spans from the first Sunday of Lent until Trinity Sunday. This is called our Easter duty. Since this period is over three months long, however, I frankly can't think of a reason to fail to fulfill the Easter Duty — unless you're in a coma or stranded on an island somewhere. Failure to fulfill our Easter duty is a mortal sin.
Next week, we will begin to look at how we show respect for the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.