The Effects of Receiving Holy Communion
Taken from “Catholic Miscellany” published in 1895
All the Sacraments confer grace, but of all, Holy Communion is the most excellent. The other Sacraments contain the gifts of God; Holy Communion is God Himself. The precious effects which the Blessed Sacrament produces in the souls of those who worthily receive it are manifold.
First Effect: Holy Communion Sometimes Remits Even Mortal Sins.
For instance, if the communicant be unconsciously in mortal sin, and attrite only, that is, having only attrition for his sin, Holy Communion infuses into the soul divine charity and restores the soul to God’s friendship. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “He who communicates when infected with mortal sin without being aware of it, receives pardon; because if he had not been sufficiently contrite at the moment of absolution, by approaching the holy altar with respect and devotion, he will receive in the Blessed Eucharist the grace of charity, which will perfect his contrition, and remit his mortal sin.”
Second Effect: Holy Communion Remits Venial Sins.
The Council of Trent says, “The Blessed Eucharist is the antidote that delivers us from venial faults.’’ – Sess. XIII.2. The Catechism of the same Council adds, “It is beyond all doubt, that the Eucharist remits and entirely effaces the trifling faults called venial. And it restores to the soul be effacing them, all that she had lost by the heat of concupiscence in committing them.’’ The very best among us sins very often. “The just man falls seven times,’’ says the Sacred Scripture. And again, “In many things we all offend.’’- James III.2. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’’ – 1 John I.6. Holy Communion is the sovereign remedy against all, it blots out and effaces those daily faults, and preserves the soul in youth and beauty. “This,” says St. Ambrose, “is the daily bread which is eaten for the curing of our daily infirmities.
“Each time,” adds the Saint, “that the Blood of Jesus Christ is spilled, it flows for the remission of sins; and since I am incessantly sinning, I ought incessantly have recourse to this remedy.’’
Venial sins cool the fervor of charity, Holy Communion warms and increases divine charity in the soul. As corporal food restores to the body what it loses by natural heat and the exhaustion of the day, so the bread of angels gives back to the soul what it loses by daily faults and the heat of concupiscence. May we be worthy to receive daily this living and life preserving food.
Third Effect: Holy Communion Removes The Temporal Punishment Due To Sin.
The water of baptism sends the soul straight to heaven—remits all the temporal as well as the eternal punishment due to sin. Baptism of blood or martyrdom united with charity entitles the soul to the immediate possession of paradise. Perfect contrition and perfect charity results sometimes a part, sometimes the whole, of the temporal punishment due to sin. Now, Holy Communion—fervent Communion—infuses into the soul perfect contrition and charity, which cancel temporal punishment, and hence, free the soul, partly or altogether, form the pains of purgatory. We know not the amount of punishment in the other life our sins deserve. Our sins! So many and so manifold, sins in the very twilight of reason, sins in youth, sins in manhood, sins in old age, sins in thought, sins against our neighbor, sins against ourselves. How many sins every day, every month, every year?
Fourth Effect: Holy Communion Preserves The Soul From Mortal Sin.
“The Blessed Eucharist,” says the Council of Trent (Sess. xiv. c. 2), “is an antidote by which we are preserved from mortal sin.’’ As material food preserves the body from death, so Holy Communion is the life of the soul. “Your fathers,’’ says our blessed Redeemer, “did eat manna and are dead, if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.’’
“The bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world.’’ As the pure fountain refreshes the body by quenching the burning of thirst, so Holy Communion the fountain of living waters, cools and extinguishes the ardor of our passions. “If any of you” says St. Bernard, “does not experience such frequent or such violent motions of anger, of envy, or of lust, let him give thanks to the body of the Lord, which produces life in his soul.’’ (Sermon in Caena). “There is no means,” adds St. Gregory the Great, “more certain or more prompt to restrain the passions, to root out bad habits, to inflame us with the love of God, than frequent Communion.’’
“He who has a wound,” remarks St. Ambrose, “seeks a remedy; our wound is sin, our remedy the heavenly and adorable Eucharist.’’ Holy Communion is that life-preserving tree planted in the garden of Paradise; Holy Communion is the fountain of living waters glowing in the same lovely garden; they who eat of the fruit of that tree (the Body of the Lord), and who drink of the waters of that fountain (the Blood of the Lord), will be preserved from the death of the soul — mortal sin. May the Body and Blood of Jesus preserve our souls to life everlasting.
Fifth Effect: Holy Communion Produces An Increase Of Sanctifying Grace, Insures Heaven To Us, And Inspires Courage And Strength To Fulfill All Duties.
Holy Communion as a sacrament, by virtue inherent in it, containing God Himself, infuses into the soul an increase of sanctifying grace, of divine charity, of the love of God. This is, in a word, the great and principal effect of this Holy Sacrament. Holy Communion insures heaven to us, it gives us a right and pledge to the enjoyment of paradise. We have for this no less and authority than our blessed Redeemer Himself Who says, “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.’’ And again “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’’ Writing on this subject, St. Bernard exclaims, “Rejoice you spouses, be in transports of joy … You possess the pledge, you hold the earnestness of the spouse to whom you will be happily united in the celestial country.’’ Ours then is heaven with all its glory, paradise with all its joy, God Himself with all His beauty, if we but make worthy Communions. May heaven grant it.
Holy Communion inspires courage and strength for all sacrifices, courage to suffer, nay, to die for Christ. The Bread of Life gives strength to bear with patience and even with joy, poverty, sufferings, humiliations, the most painful trials, the most cruel torments, and even martyrdom itself, for the love of God. “Nothing,” says St. Jerome, “strengthens the soul so much as this bread of life;“ and St. Chrysostom says, “Let us retire from this sacred table like lions full of ardor and terrible to the devils.’’ What gives strength to the poor of Christ in their poverty, trials and privations of all kinds? Ask them, and they will tell you it is the table of the Lord. What gives strength to the tender maiden in the cloister to break the strongest ties that bind the human heart to this world, strength to lead in human flesh an angel’s life, courage, whether on the battle field or in the fever hospital, to live and die for the suffering members of her Spouse? Ask her: she replies, “The bread of the elect and wine springing forth virgins.” What gives courage to the missioner to bid adieu forever to home and country to win souls to Jesus? What fills his soul with joy in the burning sands of Africa, or the wild wastes of Siberia? Ask him: he replies, “The body and blood of Jesus in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
“Even if I walk in the shadows of death, I shall fear not, because Thou art with me.” What gives power to the priest of Jesus Christ to preserve himself unsullied amid the sins and abominations of a wicked world? The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. What gave courage to the confessor to rejoice in his chains, and to the martyr to meet death in its most fierce shapes with serene intrepidity? The bread of angels. Fortified, nourished, animated by the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion, the dark dungeon, the rack, the gibbet, the amphitheater, the red-hot gridiron, the blazing pile, for them had no terror. This heavenly manna took from the tiger his fierceness, cooled the heat of the furnace, blunted the edge of the sword. O unspeakable effects of Holy Communion!
Besides these general effects, how many others known only o the devout communicant? How many to God alone? “Give me a lover,” says St. Augustine, “and he will understand what I mean.” In communing with her Lord, with Jesus in her heart, the holy soul finds tears of sorrow for past sins, confidence for the future, burning love for God, courage to bear up with trials and adversities, fortitude to live, yes, and if necessary, to die for Christ, and the peace and joy of a good conscience, which is a “Perpetual feast” —a paradise on earth. O the sweet, inexpressible effects of Holy Communion! May we all experience them in our souls.
Will not these holy effects induce us to frequent Communion, namely — 1. Remission of mortal sin; 2. Remission of venial sins; 3. Remission of the temporal punishment due to sin; 4. Preservation from mortal sin; 5. Increase of sanctifying grace; 6. A pledge, a right to heaven; 7. Courage to make any sacrifice for Christ; 8. Countless secret effects known only to the pious communicant and to God—will not all these induce us to frequent fervent Communion?
We shall conclude with a passage from a letter of St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, to Pope Cornelius, to show that in the early ages Christians prepared for martyrdom by receiving Holy Communion. “Let those communicate,’’ says St. Cyprian to the Pope, “who are in the state of grace, so that those whom we invite to exhort to martyrdom may not be naked and without weapons in the combat, but armed against the assault by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; and since the Eucharist is the shield of those who partake of it, let us provide with the succor of this celestial food those whom we wish to defend against the attacks of the devil.’’
My soul! What infinite love of Jesus in Holy Communion, love manifested by its institution, by sweet invitations, by extraordinary promises and effects! Holy Communion is thine the Body and Blood of Jesus are thine, God and heaven are thine. Express thy gratitude in the following resolution:
My loving Jesus in Holy Communion! I resolve all the days of my life to appreciate and esteem as the greatest gift of Heaven, Thy Body and Blood, and daily to thank Thee for this bread of angels.
Dearest Lord, keep for me by Thy grace, this, my resolution.