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By St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811–1868) Catholic Exchange, November 7, 2018
It is certain that the Eucharist gives to the soul that worthily receives it an experience of happiness, of delights found nowhere but in that Sacrament.
Why does God so greatly desire to communicate His sweetness to us? Because there is only one thing that can attach us to Him, and that is His goodness.
There is sympathy of feeling only between equals. The powerful meet envy on every side. Kings have no friends unless they stoop to seek them. As for us, we tremble before the power of God, and even His sanctity does not bespeak our affection; it is for His goodness that we love Him. We know that He wishes to save us, that He descends even to our lowliness. The mysteries of our Lord’s life that make us love Him most are those in which He shows us the most tender and lavish goodness. Only God’s goodness can make us love Him steadfastly.
When do we see our Lord most lovingly adored in His earthly life? The Wise Men adored Him as He lay in the manger because He was so lovable there. The man born blind was so touched by the love Jesus had shown Him that he wanted to follow Him. When Magdalene heard that her sins were forgiven her, a fire was kindled in her heart that would never be extinguished; our Lord had shown her such goodness!
Yes, truly, we are captivated only by goodness. Therefore, the Church, which understands divine things so well, says in one of her prayers, “O God, whose nature is goodness.” But are not all the other attributes of God equally of His essence? He is perfect in all, and all are equal, doubtless; but here below, for us humans, the nature of God is goodness.
This being so, it follows that we must love our Lord most in the greatest manifestation of His goodness. And is not His goodness most strikingly manifested in the Holy Eucharist, in Communion? Says the Council of Trent, “In this Sacrament, God has poured forth bountifully the riches of His love.” It is the very culmination of His love. God can give us no greater gift than Himself. By means of Communion, we receive Jesus Christ as God and as Man, together with the merits of His mortal life and all its states, with the Redemption and all its fruits, even the pledge of future glory. We receive the greatest sum of happiness God can give on earth.
And we feel this happiness. It is necessary that we should enjoy it. Without the sweetness of union with God, it is very difficult, generally speaking, to remain in the state of grace.
The sacrament of Penance restores the life of grace in us, heals us. But it is a violent remedy, a victory dearly bought, which leaves us weary with battle. And although this sacrament restores life to the soul, it will be insufficient to maintain that life for long; if we go no further, we shall be no more than convalescents.
What do we need in order to regain the fullness of life and strength? What but Communion, that balm, that sweet and healing warmth, the milk of our Lord, as the prophet says? After Holy Penance, the Eucharist makes our peace complete. We need to hear that word of encouragement from the lips of our Savior Himself: “Go in peace, and sin no more” — that word which, escaping from His Heart, falls like a heavenly dew upon our own bruised and ulcered heart.
Communion gives us perseverance to the end. Nothing is so discouraging as a long road ahead of us, and it is the common feeling of beginners to say, “I can never hold out so long!” If you wish final perseverance, receive our Lord!
One who rarely receives Communion may keep himself in a state of grace for Heaven; but how far away Heaven is, and what faith he must have to keep his eyes fixed constantly on so distant a hope! The life of faith is, then, but one continual sacrifice, a battle waged without truce or refreshment and with no effective, supporting force. One who rarely receives Communion is like a traveler far from his native land; the long road consumes his strength and brings him to the point of despair.
Also, if one receives Communion only infrequently, it is difficult to keep in the state of grace for any length of time. Although one may do so, the soul will no longer possess its pristine beauty and purity; the dust of the highway will have clung to it and dimmed its splendor. So experience teaches.
But if we often receive Communion, oh, how much easier it is to preserve grace in its first purity! We no longer have to guard it carefully for a far-distant goal, but simply for tomorrow, for today. We know it is the garb of honor that admits us to the Feast. Therefore, we avoid sin out of love, so that we may not be deprived of Holy Communion. Thus, Communion becomes a sure defense against sin and enables us to overcome it easily to the end of our life. I am speaking of willful sin.
How could the soul that communicates every day and to which Communion means so much yield to temptation? It knows that sin would deprive it of what it so greatly desires. The thought of its next Communion rises before the soul, strengthens it, encourages it, and prevents it from falling.
I confess that the state of grace is incomprehensible to me unless it is supported by Communion.
Besides, that is the intention of the Church which, through the Council of Trent, encourages us to receive Communion daily. The Eucharist, received infrequently, would be but an extraordinary nutriment. Where, then, is our regular food, the daily bread we need to give us strength? What is to nourish within us the love of God, which forms the life and merit of the Christian virtues? Only Communion.
Communion makes the state of grace desirable and assures its permanence, because Jesus Christ becomes its direct and immediate end. Communion gives us constancy in virtue and ease in its practice by nourishing the love of God in us; it makes virtue sweet and inviting by giving it a living and active object.
Let us prepare for Paradise by Communion. There the blessed receive our Lord perpetually, living by His knowledge and His love. Let us receive Him well here below so that we may be ready to do the same in Heaven. Communion, received frequently and with the requisite dispositions, is the surest pledge of eternal salvation.
St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811–1868) was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grenoble in 1834. Five years later, he joined the Marian Congragation, for which he taught and preached. He was appointed Provincial of the Oblates of Mary in 1845. He founded two religious orders to promote devotion to the Eucharist. He died in 1858.