Continuation of the booklet “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” by Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey:
Eucharistic Communion and its supreme end
Take another morsel now of that which is flavored with the Blood of the Lamb! Next, consider Holy Communion, which according to theology and liturgy is the consummation of the work of Jesus, that is, the mystical completion of the Sacrifice: its end and its crown. As we have mentioned above, the Mass is not complete without the Communion of the celebrant; but according to the rules of the liturgy and the nature of Sacrifice, there can be no Communion without a Mass.
What can we say, theologically, is the supreme end of Eucharistic Communion? What should be our strongest wish, our great ideal, when we receive Jesus in the Host?
Without question, the supreme end of Holy Communion is essentially connected with that of the Holy Sacrifice, namely the glorification of the Blessed Trinity! This is evident when we consider the fact that Communion is essentially of the same nature as the sacrifice.
Holy Communion, then, should be received with the same motives which which we offer the Holy Sacrifice, that is, to give glory and praise to the Blessed Trinity. In effect, Holy Communion finishes what the Sacrifice has begun, that is why the supreme end of both is the same: Glory to the Father, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
Therefore, according to this beautiful doctrine, when the celebrant consecrates a large ciborium with five hundred hosts, it means that five hundred happy communicants wish to give the same glory to the Trinity at the altar rail that the celebrant gives at the altar. So, Sacrifice and Sacrament are identically the same hymn of divine praise, the same hymn of glory to God!
Here, we must add that Holy Communion has another purpose, and one which concerns us all personally. According to the formal teaching of Christ, Holy Communion is by divine institution a heavenly food. The Author of Grace Himself is given and Jesus, the Victim, then becomes the food of our souls in Holy Communion.
The Manna of the Altar, the Bread of Angels, is then a masterpiece of our Savior’s love, in which we obtain a food which is the source of life and strength for us mortal wanderers in our exile. We go to Holy Communion to obtain supernatural life and to get it more abundantly. We go to Communion to sanctify ourselves through sacramental union with the Holy of Holies.
Holy Communion is a sacred duty. Our Savior declared, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you shall have no life in you” (Jn. 6:54).
When the priest distributes Holy Communion, he says, “May the Body of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, keep your soul until eternal life.” In truth, a fervent communicant may say with St. Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:21).
To this end, it will be observed that the communicant, who appreciates the scale of spiritual values, will know from that how to increase grace and merit for himself. In other words, whoever makes the intention when receiving Holy Communion, primarily to give glory to the Blessed Trinity, will discover that this good disposition will cause him to be spiritually nourished with a hundredfold increase of graces. It is quite certain that whoever gives first place to the honor due to the Trinity, not only loses nothing, but had his treasures multiplied and made marvelously efficacious.
For example, suppose that a king were to invite two men to a banquet. One of those invited goes principally to enjoy the meat and drink of the royal table, while the other intends first of all to pay honor to his host who has honored him with the invitation, that is, he goes to pay respect to his king and show his loyalty. Such intentions do not prevent him from enjoying the banquet as thoroughly as the first, but his enjoyment has more dignity and is more admirable.
Lovely as it is, like all other comparisons this comparison must fall short. In the case of Holy Communion, the King who issues the invitations and the banquet, are one and the same! Therefore, in receiving Holy Communion, we should seek first of all to give glory to the Blessed Trinity and then seek our own spiritual profit, uniting both ends with our faith and love.
Finally, when a servant of God, pursuing his own personal profit, gives to the Lord the first part of his attention, he is certain to receive the rest with the Kingdom of God and its justice, and to receive it more abundantly. He has found the philosopher’s stone: the secret of turning gold alloy into perfect gold.
In conclusion, Holy Communion is essentially a sacrificial banquet which holds itself to the Sacrifice as a part to the whole. The Sacrifice requires the consummation which is the Holy Communion of the celebrant. Therefore, it is more suitable for the faithful to receive Holy Communion during Mass, although it is not absolutely necessary.
For a long time, the question had been mooted whether or not it was necessary for the faithful to receive Communion during Mass in order that they might participate in the Sacrifice. His Holiness Pope Pius XII ended this discussion in his Encyclical on the Liturgy, Meditor Dei: “There may be a reason,” he says, “and that are not infrequently, why Holy Communion should be distributed before or after Mass… in these circumstances… the people duly take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Still, though the Church with a kind heart of a mother strives to meet the spiritual needs of Her children, they for their part should not readily neglect the directives of the liturgy and, as often as there is no reasonable difficulty, should aim that all their actions at the Altar manifest more clearly the living unity of the Mystical Body.”
To be continued…
~Damsel of the Faith