The following quotes on the benefits and importance of Holy Communion are taken from St. Alphonsus De Liguori’s books, The Holy Eucharist and The True Spouse of Jesus Christ.
Of all the sacraments the adorable sacrament of the altar is the most excellent.A The other sacraments contain the gifts of God, but the Holy Eucharist contains God himself.A Hence St. Thomas says that the other sacraments have been instituted by Jesus Christ to prepare men either to receive or to administer the Blessed Eucharist, which according to the Holy Doctor, is the consummation of the spiritual life; because from this sacrament is derived all the perfection of the soul. A For all perfection consists in a union with God: and of all the means of uniting the soul to Him there is none better than holy Communion by which, as Jesus Christ Himself has said, the soul becomes as it were one thing with Him.A He that eateth my flesh abideth in me and I in him’.The principle effect of this sacrament is to preserve in the soul the life of grace.A Hence, it is called bread; for as earthly bread supports corporal life, so this heavenly bread preserves the life of the soul which consists in the grace of God.
Holy Communion, the Council of Trent tells us, delivers us from daily faults, and preserves us from mortal ones.A St. Bernard asserts that Communion represses the movements of anger and incontinence, which are the two passions that most frequently and most violently assail us.A St. Thomas says that Communion defeats the suggestions of the devil. A And finally, St. John Chrysostom says, that Communion pours into our souls a great inclination to virtue, and a promptitude to practice it: and at the same time imparts to us a great peace, by which the path of perfection is made very sweet and easy to us.A Besides, there is no sacrament so capable of kindling the divine love in souls as the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ bestows on us his whole self, in order to unite us all to Himself by means of holy love.A Wherefore the Venerable Father John of Avila said: Whoever deters souls from frequent Communion does the work of the devil.A Yes; for the devil has a great horror of this sacrament, from which souls derive immense strength to advance in divine love.
But, O God, how many insults must Jesus Christ have suffered from infidels, from heretics, and from sinners in this sacrament, in order to remain with us.A Some have trampled on the sacred Host, others have thrown it into the mire.A He foresaw all these injuries; but still He resolved to remain with us on the altar, that we might not be deprived of his amiable presence.
Jesus teaches us, that as earthly bread preserves the life of the body, so the heavenly bread of Holy Communion preserves the life of the soul: He that eateth Me, the same shall live by Me.A He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in Me and I in him’. A Such are the gracious promises which Jesus makes to him who receives Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
St. Denis says, that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is far more powerful for the sanctification of souls than all other spiritual means of grace; and St. Vincent Ferrer, said that one Communion does more for the soul than a week’s fasting on bread and water.A Innocent III says that Jesus Christ delivered us from the power of sin by his Passion but that by the Eucharist he delivers us from the power of sinning.A St Theresa said: There is no better help to perfection than frequent Communion.
‘Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will eagles also be gathered together’.A The saints generally understand by this body that of Jesus Christ; and by the eagles, souls who, being detached from creatures, rise above the things of the earth, and fly towards heaven, after which they always sigh in thought and affection, and where they constantly dwell.A These eagles also find the paradise on earth wherever they find Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament; so much so, indeed, that they seem never to tire hovering around him. A If eagles, says St. Jerome, on scenting a dead body go from afar to see it, how much more should we run and fly to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as to the most delicious food of our hearts!A Hence saints in this valley of tears have always run to this foundation of paradise.
They feel great tenderness and devotion who go to Jerusalem and visit the cave where the Incarnate Word was born, the hall where he was scourged, the hill of Calvary on which he died, and the sepulcher where he was buried; but how much greater our tenderness should be when we visit an altar on which Jesus remains in the Most Holy Sacrament!
St. Theresa said, that in this world it is impossible for all subjects to speak to the king. As for the poor, the most they can hope for is, to speak with him by means of some third person.A But to speak with Thee, O King of Heaven, there is no need of third persons; for every one that wishes can find Thee in the Most Holy Sacrament, and can speak to Thee at his pleasure and without restraint. A For this reason, said the same saint, Jesus Christ has concealed his majesty in the Sacrament, under the appearance of bread, in order to give us more confidence, and to take away from us all fear of approaching him.
And together with his body he gives us also his soul and divinity; so that, as St. Chrysostom says, Our Lord, in giving himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament, gives us all that he has, and nothing more remains for him to give us: He gave all to thee, and left nothing for himself.A wonderful prodigy of divine love, that God, who is the Lord of all, makes himself entirely ours!
Jesus, knowing that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.A Jesus, knowing that the hour of his death was come, desired to leave us, before he died, the greatest pledge of his affection that he could give us; and this was the gift of the Most Holy Sacrament: He loved them to the end; which St. Chrysostom explains, He loved them with extreme love.A He loved men with the greatest love with which he could love them, by giving them his whole self.A But at what time did Jesus institute this great Sacrament, in which he has left us himself? A On the night preceding his death: The same night in which He was betrayed (writes the Apostle), He took bread; and giving thanks, broke and said,’ Take ye and eat; this is My Body’. At the very time that men were preparing to put him to death, he gave them this last proof of his love.A The marks of affection which we receive from our friends at the time of their death remain more deeply impressed on our hearts; for this reason did Jesus bestow on us this gift of the Blessed Sacrament just before his death.A With reason, then, did St. Thomas call this gift a sacrament and pledge of love, and St. Bernard, the love of loves; because in this Sacrament Jesus Christ united and accomplished all the other acts of love which he had shown us.
St. Dionysius the Areopagite says that the principle effect of love is to tend to union.A For this very purpose did Jesus institute the Holy Communion, that he might unite himself entirely to our souls.A He had given himself to us our example, and our victim; it only remained for him to give himself to us to be our food, that He might become one with us; as food becomes one with the person who eats it. A So that Jesus Christ was not satisfied with uniting himself to our human nature; but he would, by this Sacrament, find a way of uniting himself also to each one of us, so as to make himself wholly one with him who receives him.A Hence St. Francis de Sales writes: In no other action can our Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he, as it were, annihilates himself, and reduces himself to food, that he may penetrate our souls, and unite himself to the hearts of the faithful.’A Because Jesus loved us ardently, he desired to unite himself to us in the Holy Eucharist, in order that we might become the same thing with him; thus writes St. Chrysostom: He mingled himself with us, that we might be one; for this belongs to those who love greatly. And Jesus himself said this: He that eateth My flesh abideth in Me, and I in him’.A He, therefore, that communicates, abides in Jesus, and Jesus abides in him; and this union is not of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. As two wax tapers, when melted, says St. Cyril of Alexandria, unite themselves into one, so he that communicates becomes one with Jesus Christ.A Let us, therefore, imagine, when we communicate, that Jesus Christ says to us that which he said one day to his beloved daughter, the beautiful union between me and thee; come then, love me, and let us remain constantly united in love, and never more be separated.
‘With desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you’. A By which words He would express to us in this Sacrament of love.A With desire have I desired: these words, said St. Laurence Justinian, were words which came from the Heart of Jesus, which was burning with infinite love: This is the voice of the most ardent charity.’ A Now the same flame which burnt then in the Heart of Jesus burns there at present; and he gives the same invitation to all of us to-day to receive him as he did then to his disciples.A Take ye and eat; this is My Body’.A And to allure us to receive him with affection, he promises Paradise to us: He that eateth My flesh hath everlasting life’.A And if we refuse to receive him, he threatens us with death: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, you shall not have life in you’.
When Jesus comes to the soul in Holy Communion, he brings to it every grace, and especially the grace of holy perseverance.A This is the principle effect of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to nourish the soul that receives it with this food of life, and to give it great strength to advance unto perfection, and to resist those enemies who desire our death.A Hence Jesus calls himself in this Sacrament heavenly bread: I am the living Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever’.A Even as earthly bread sustains the life of the body, so this heavenly bread sustains the life of the soul, by making it persevere in the grace of God.A Therefore the Council of Trent teaches that Holy Communion is that remedy which delivers us from daily faults and preserves us from mortal sins.A Innocent III writes that Jesus Christ by his Passion delivers us from sins committed, and by the Holy Eucharist from sins which we might commit.
Jesus said to St. Mechtilde: When thou art going to communicate, desire all the love that any soul ever had for me, and I will receive it according to thy desire, as if it were thine own.
St. Bernardine of Sienna said that Jesus Christ burning with love for us, and not being content with being prepared to give his life for us, was constrained by the excess of his love to work a greater work before he died; and this was to give his own body for our food.
He even gives us a formal precept: Take ye, and eat; this is My body’.A And more than this; that we may go and receive him, he entices us with the promise of paradise.A He that eateth My flesh hath everlasting life.A He that eateth this bread shall live forever.’A And still more, he threatens us with hell, and exclusion from paradise, if we refuse to communicate. A Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you shall not have life in you.'
We must, then, be persuaded that a soul can neither do, nor think of doing, anything which gives greater pleasure to Jesus Christ than to communicate frequently, with dispositions suitable to the great guest whom she has to receive in her heart. I have said suitable, not indeed worthy dispositions; for if worthy were necessary, who could ever communicate?
There are certain cowardly souls, who, on being exhorted to communicate more frequently, reply: But I am not worthy.A But, do you not know, that the more you refrain from Communion, the more unworthy you become of it?A Because, deprived of Holy Communion, you will have less strength, and will commit many faults.
St. Thomas says that though to abstain from Communion through humility and fear is pleasing to God, still the love and confidence that induce a soul to receive him are more acceptable in his sight love and hope, to which the Scriptures constantly exhort us, are preferable to fear.
But why do so few souls approach the Divine Banquet frequently Some, unhappily, are prevented by mortal sin which separates them from Him who is the life.’A It is with good reason that they recognize themselves unworthy of Holy Communion, since to communicate in such a state would be a horrible sacrilege.
St. Frances of Rome, as she was going to Communion, the devil said: How can you, who are so full of venial sins, dare receive the Immaculate Lamb.’A Perceiving that the enemy wished to deprive her of Communion, she banished him by spitting in his face.A The Blessed Virgin immediately appeared to her, and, after having praised her conduct, said that our defects, instead of being an obstacle, should be an incentive to Communion; since, in Communion we find the remedy of all our miseries.
Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque when she was praying before the blessed sacrament.A Jesus showed her his heart surrounded by thorns with a cross on the top and in a thorne of flames; and then he said to her: Behold the heart that has loved men so tenderly, has reserved nothing, but has consumed itself in order to show its love for them.A But in return I receive nothing but ingratitude and contempt from the greater number of men in this sacrament.A But what grieves me most is, that some of these hearts are hearts consecrated to me.
Father John Nider, of the Order of St. Dominic, relates, that in a certain city a poor man of great virtue desired to communicate often; but because the practice of frequent Communion did not exist. he contented himself with spiritual Communions.A Hence, he would first go to confession, and make his meditation; he would then hear Mass, and prepare for Communion, and would open his mouth as if he were receiving Jesus Christ.A The author relates, that in opening his mouth the poor man used to feel the particle laid on his tongue, and his soul filled with sweetness. A One morning he put his finger into his mouth to find out whether the consecrated particle were really placed on his tongue; the sacred host adhered to his finger; he placed it again in his mouth, and received it. A Thus the Lord rewarded the desire of this good servant.
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I thank thee, O holy faith; for thou teachest and assurest me that in the divine Sacrament of the Altar, in that heavenly bread, bread does not exist; but that my Lord Jesus Christ is all there, and that he is there for love of me.