Jesus is fully God and fully man, possessing both a Divine Nature and a human nature. He is the Lord of Lords, the promised Messiah (or Christ), the Way, the Truth and the Life, Love Incarnate, Beauty Enfleshed, the Eternal Word, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
This one and only Jesus is truly and really present in the Eucharist, and as Catholics we receive Him under the appearance of bread and wine every week, or perhaps even every day.
The Eucharist and the Catholic
When someone has a healthy diet we expect that their physical health will improve. Yet often, despite subsisting on the spiritual diet of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, there can be outwardly practicing Catholics who are so wretched that if we were to glance at Santa’s naughty list we might find them listed before even Stalin himself! Without God’s grace such a Catholic could indeed be us – and that is a humbling truth; and even with God’s grace, aren’t we keenly aware of our sinfulness and capacity for nastiness despite frequenting Holy Communion? We shouldn’t spend our lives pondering on such miserable thoughts in regards to our ineptness, but it’s good to keep such thoughts on the mantel piece of our mind – as a series of trophies which we have won for our ability to do naught but fail when left to our own devices. A little reminder that can serve to keep us grounded, our ego’s whipped, and that harshness towards our neighbours at bay.
So yes, we’re imperfect. Ah, but Jesus is perfect. So if we receive Jesus in the Eucharist this will make us perfect, right?
The Eucharist as an Efficacious Sacrament
Before we answer this question we must understand what a sacrament is, and how they work in sanctifying us. We’ll be reading the following in light of the Sacrament of the Eucharist:
From the Catechism we read:
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. (CCC 1131).
|The Seven Sacraments|
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace. What does that mean? That means that the seven sacraments of the Church confer both the unique grace particular to that sacrament, and the universal grace bestowed by all of the sacraments – a share in the life of Christ, no matter what, ipso facto, so long as the sacrament is carried out as it is supposed to be and with the right intention. In the case of the Eucharist, Jesus is always made present on the altar so long as the words of consecration are said as they are supposed to be said, and if the celebrant bears the intention of doing as the Church intends – which is consecrating the bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood. This is no time to go into such a topic, nor to consider ifs and buts, for all that practically concerns us is this: that no matter what, when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving Jesus Himself, and therefore, whether we’re Hitler or Mother Teresa we would be receiving Jesus and a lavishing of infinite graces. Since if we’re receiving the Eucharist, we are receiving the graces of the Eucharist, which are the graces of Jesus. Concerning this truth St. Paul exclaims: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ [thus in the Eucharist] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3).
The Proper Dispositions
Yet then we come to consider the final sentence of the quote from the Catechism, the catch as it were: They [the sacraments] bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. So no matter what if we receive the sacrament of the Eucharist we are receiving the infinite graces which are housed within the Person of Christ – graces which can immediately turn a sinner into a saint, and vice into virtue, for nothing is beyond the Divine Power. Yet this does not mean that these infinite graces will come to be realised, actualised, and will bear fruit within us – for such graces only bear fruit in those who receive the Eucharist with the required dispositions. What are these required dispositions that make the graces of the Eucharist bloom forth as fruits of virtues? Firstly, to be in a state of grace, which requires us to be without mortal sin, and to allow God to cleanse us of it if we are in such a state through the sacrament of Confession (the Sacrament of Mercy). The list of required dispositions then begins, but we’ll only mention the main ones:
1) Faith in the Real Presence, believing that Jesus is truly in the Eucharist, and that by receiving the Eucharist we are receiving Him into our heart.
2) Trust in Jesus’ Mercy, that His Holiness can swallow up our sinfulness, lack of virtue and our shame, whence we pray during the Liturgy: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”
3) Humility: coming before Jesus in a spirit of repentance, walking our way down the aisle with the awareness that we are not worthy to receive so great a guest into our sinful souls, but all the while remaining confident that He wants to enter into us. After all, in the Eucharist Jesus has been waiting for over two thousand years to enter into our hearts! Whence we read: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20).
4) Reverence and Adoration. To be reverent involves outwardly being attentive during Mass and graceful in the manner we receive our Lord in Holy Communion. Yet above all it involves a disposition of the heart that submits and surrenders to Jesus, not merely as a servant to his Master, but as a newlywed bride to her Groom, and as a leaf that yields itself to the gushing of the wind so as to be raised aloft into the sky.
Anyone can receive on the tongue. Anyone can kneel. These outward postures are good, yet such postures are empty and meaningless if we don’t receive on the tongue of our soul, and kneel with our hearts when we receive our Good Lord. In a Corpus Christi homily Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI speaks on this disposition of reverence and adoration: “If I am truly to communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to listen to him and look at him lovingly. True love and true friendship are always nourished by the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter may be lived profoundly and personally rather than superficially. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, sacramental communion itself may become a superficial gesture on our part.” How important it is then, to commune with our Lord before Mass in preparation, and after Mass in thanksgiving – with words yes, but above all with a silent intent of adoration by which we silently bask in the reality that Jesus is Almighty God.
5) With intent: that is, we must come to Mass with a handful of petitions, and should have various intentions for the Holy Communion we are about to receive. We should always hold some sort of intention that this Communion would transform us and would allow God’s Will to be done in our lives. We should also bear intentions to receive our Holy Communion on behalf of those in purgatory, on behalf of relatives (living and deceased), friends, those in need, and those who are spiritually impoverished – indeed this is the greatest thing we can do for anyone. We should also bear the intent of wanting to be consumed by the Divine Love which we are receiving, and to consume this same very Love within ourselves. There is no limit to the intentions we can have, and so long as our greatest intention is to love Jesus and to conform ourselves and surrender to Him, and we bear intentions for other people and not just for ourselves (since there is nothing that is more personal, and that is more communal than the Eucharist), then we will not make Him sad by exploiting Him like some vending machine to ‘get what we want’, but instead we will be pleasing Him with our shopping list of intentions –for He is God, and a generous God at that who wants to give! If somehow we forget to offer certain intentions before or during Communion, or forget to give thanks after Communion or can’t for whatever reason, we can do so afterwards whenever we remember, since it’s never too late to make good of the present moment.
6) Finally, and most importantly, love. We must receive our Lord with a heart filled and brimming with desirous love to be brought into a deeper union with our Maker. We must pant for the Love of God which is the Eucharist, yearning that this Divine Love may grow within us, and would in turn lead us to love our neighbours in a saintly way. This is why Holy Communion is called – communion, since it’s a common, communal and mutual union with Jesus Christ.
Any one of us can pour water on a fruit tree. But if such a tree doesn’t absorb the water, well…no fruits will be borne, nor will such a tree even be able to sustain its life. I could also flog a dead horse, and say “giddy up!”, but this doesn’t mean I’m going to win an Olympic gold medal in equestrian. Likewise, we may receive the Eucharist, but if we do not receive the Eucharist with the proper dispositions, such as we mentioned above, then in a sense we are receiving the Eucharist in vain. Worse than that, it’s as though we were to invite this Divine Guest into the house of our souls, only to ignore Him, forget about Him… and perhaps even drive Him out through indifference, or to torture Him by our grave sins!
Making the Best of our Holy Communions
How many Masses have we attended as Catholics by just going through the motions and without bearing the proper dispositions in receiving the Eucharist? How many Catholics die and go to purgatory only wishing that they could be back on earth and redo the Communion’s they received like zombies? Such souls would know what they’ve missed out on, since our Lord said to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: “Every Holy Communion you receive increases your capacity to commune with the Father in eternity” – which means that every Holy Communion well received will expand our soul and increase its capacity for delights in heaven. We should take a page out of St. Gemma Galgani’s book, and ready ourselves for Holy Communion like she did. For she used to rouse herself before every Holy Communion by treating it as though it were to be her last time, and as though she were to die afterwards.
The good thing is we have today, and can change the way we receive Holy Communion today and for every tomorrow. Of course, there’s nothing that we can really do, but the little of what we can do is to ask Jesus to give us the dispositions He wants us to have in receiving Him in Holy Communion and to teach us how to make the best of our Holy Communions while we can. It’s really that simple. “Ask and you shall receive” (Mt 7:7).
Our Dispositions Will Always be Imperfect
Yet often things aren’t so black and white, for perhaps we possess to some degree the dispositions required so that the Eucharist can bear fruit within our lives. In fact, the truth of the matter is that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be able to have a perfect faith, a perfect trust, a perfect humility, a perfect reverence or act of Adoration, a perfect intent, or a perfect love. So it seems as if we’re condemned to receive our Lord with good but imperfect dispositions that allow the Holy Communions we receive to imperfectly bear fruit within our lives. For after all, an imperfect disposition can result in nothing more than imperfectly blossomed fruits. Not that there’s anything imperfect about the graces we receive in the Eucharist, but if our dispositions are imperfect we can only imperfectly absorb such perfect grace.
The Secret: Making Mary’s Perfect Dispositions our Own
|Mary, Mother of the Eucharist|
It’s a good thing our Catholic faith has a solution for every spiritual dilemma. For there is a guaranteed way (a Marian secret) to receive our Lord in the Eucharist with the PERFECT DISPOSITIONS, and its ridiculously simple. The secret is this: all we need to do is to turn to Mary and take all that is Hers, and make it our own. Why is this a secret? Because despite God wanting everyone to know about it, it’s hardly known!
Mary is full of grace (Lk 1:28) and possesses every virtue in perfection. Now this blessed woman is not a stranger to us, but She is our Mother and we are her children. All that Mary is and has is therefore ours, we must only be confident enough and have the faith to use such treasures God has placed within this Sacred Treasury who is our Mother. We must therefore swap and exchange our imperfect dispositions with Mary’s Perfect Dispositions. Hiding our imperfect dispositions as droplets into the seas of Mary’s Perfect Dispositions.
1) So then if we want a perfect faith, we must take hold of that Perfect Faith which Mary once had, burying our own imperfect faith within it, so that when we approach the Lord in Holy Communion we – or rather Mary in us, and us in, with and through Mary – will be receiving Him with a Perfect Faith.
2) No matter how hard we try we’ll never be able to trust in the same way that Mary did. It’s a good thing that we can claim that very trust which Mary had whilst on earth, and use it as our own. Perhaps we don’t have enough trust that God can bring back a loved one to the faith. Or perhaps we don’t think He can make a saint out of us, or that His Mercy is bigger than our sinfulness. All we do need is enough trust to take Mary’s own Perfect Trust as our own. Even if we think we trust in God, still, if we want to be perfect we must use Mary’s Perfect Trust which surpasses any kind of trust that we ourselves can muster up. Thus as we approach the altar to receive our Lord, we can say: “Jesus I trust in You with the very Trust of Your dear Mother.”
3) If anyone thinks that they are humble that is the surest sign of pride! True humility consists in realising that no matter how allegedly ‘humble’ we are or try to be, we cannot ever really attain a perfect humility. This is why we must clothe ourselves in the very Humility of Mary, so that as we receive the Lord we can say in our hearts: “I am not humble Lord, but Mary is, and it is Mary who receives You today within me.”
4) As hard as we try we’ll never be perfectly reverent, and we’ll never be able to adore Jesus perfectly. But that’s okay, because we can claim in faith the perfect reverence of Mary and can approach the Lord with it. We can also make our own the adorations of Mary which She made and still makes in heaven, offering them to Jesus as our very own. A simple way of doing this might be to simply say within our minds when the Host is lifted up by the priest during the Mass: “Jesus I adore Thee with the Heart of Mary.”
5) What about intentions? Well, as St. Louis de Montfort says, to truly devote ourselves to Mary we must desire and intend what Mary desires and what She intends. So that when we receive the Eucharist, we may hold whatever intentions we like, but we must let Mary be the Queen over these intentions, and we must bear the intention of receiving the Eucharist for Mary’s very own intentions. Her intentions which include the emptying of purgatory, making reparation to Her Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart of Her Son, the attaining of our salvation and sanctity, the spiritual wellbeing of every soul, the protection of our loved ones, and every other conceivable good thing in accord with the Will of God.
This might seem a bit hard for some of us, for we might be thinking: “What if Mary’s intentions are different to mine” or “If I offer this Communion for Mary’s intentions then my own intentions won’t be met.” There couldn’t be a less spiritual way of thinking, because Mary’s intentions are so big and so many, that they include our intentions, exceed our intentions, and encompass all good intentions, and even surpass all the good will and good intentions of every creature combined. For Mary’s intentions are the wellspring of God’s very own intentions – which is ultimately one – His Holy Will, which wills not only all good things, but Goodness Itself. Even if certain intentions of ours are not answered by God, or are contrary to Mary’s intentions, such intentions are not what is best for us or for others, and this we can be certain of, because there are two sayings, equally true: “God knows best”, and “mum is always right.” Now Mary will be very pleased with the soul who has offered its Communions for Her own intentions to be brought to fulfilment, and only Jesus can know the extent of the blessings He will lavish on such a soul whom so pleases His Mother.
6) Finally, the most important thing that we can do in order to receive our Lord in the Eucharist with the perfect dispositions is to love Jesus with Mary’s very own love. We must simply take Mary’s Immaculate Heart and receive Jesus in, with and through this Immaculate Heart. To receive Jesus with Mary’s Heart and to love Him with Her Perfect Love, all we need is the intention to do so and to believe that it is so because we have intended so – it really is that simple. Thus in faith we can say, perhaps after receiving Communion: “Jesus I am imperfect, but I have exchanged my sinful heart with Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and thus I love you with very love same with which Mary loved you on earth, and with which Mary loves you now in heaven.”
‘Had I but Mary’s sinless heart’ vs. ‘I have dear Mary’s sinless heart’
There is a lovely hymn called “Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All”. Yet there’s a verse within this hymn which falls short of the sublime reality to which we are called and which is easily possible. I’ve nothing against the writer since it’s only recently that such a Marian understanding has blossomed in the Church. The verse reads as follows:
Had I but Mary’s sinless heart,
To love Thee with, my dearest King,
O with what bursts of fervent praise
Thy goodness Jesus, would I sing!
In light of a true devotion to Mary, this verse reflects a good but IMPERFECT attitude which is akin to sitting in a corner and twiddling our thumbs in a resignation to mediocrity. Contrarily, a perfect attitude could be had by which instead of bemoaning our lack of love and how we would praise Jesus like Mary if we could, we actually take action and lavish Jesus with Mary’s own Love and Mary’s own Praises by making Her Heart our own, and hiding our imperfect heart within Her Immaculate One. This is the very kind of action which Jesus and Mary want us to take! Thus an alternative translation is offered bellow. A translation which embodies this perfect way of Marian devotion through which we are able to love Jesus with Mary’s very own love:
I have dear Mary’s sinless heart,
To love Thee with, my dearest King,
So with fierce bursts of fervent praise
Thy goodness Jesus, do I sing!
|Immaculate Heart of Mary|
This Method Gives the Same Delight to Jesus that He found in Mary
Who can fathom the delight our Lord Jesus will take within us if we carry out this method of making Mary’s perfect dispositions our own? For if we do this, and we have nothing to lose, but everything to gain by doing so, our Lord will experience the same delight when He enters into our souls in Holy Communion as He did when He descended from heaven and took on flesh in the womb of Mary. He will receive the same joy He had when He entered Mary’s Heart in Holy Communion. He will receive the same love, thanksgiving, praise, and glory as He did from Mary throughout Her lifetime. For when we make Mary’s perfect dispositions our own – Her Faith, Trust, Humility, Reverence, Adorations, Intentions, and Love etc. – although it is still us who is receiving our Lord in Holy Communion, we are doing so in, with, and through Mary, so that in truth it is Mary who is receiving Jesus within us.
Mary’s Perfect Dispositions bear Perfect Fruits
It is true that we may not at first notice the fruits of our Holy Communions received in this sublime Marian way. Yet these fruits are there, even if we cannot perceive them, and in time we will grow aware of some of them – perhaps by a simple awareness that our confidence in God and peace of soul is different to how it was before. Still, we will never be able to perceive all of the fruits that this blessed method commended by the greatest saints in this modern time will have borne until we reach heaven – where we will see all of them.
So even if we seem no better than yesterday and the day before, but perhaps even worse, so long as we desire only God’s Will, do what we can in our lives, repent when we fall, constantly surrender our agendas to God, and practice a true devotion to Mary – especially in the way we receive Holy Communion and give thanks afterwards, then we can be sure that so long as we persevere – using Mary’s perseverance as our own – then in God’s time He will deliver us from our sinfulness and will bring us to that perfection for which we long. A perfection we already possess in Christ, in Mary, but which we must allow to grow within us through persevering in the spiritual life, and through letting Mary be the Mother of the Child Jesus who dwells within us. The very Child whom we receive in the Bread of the Altar.
Appendix 1: A Prayer of Intent Before Receiving Holy Communion
The following is a prayer one could recite before Mass, perhaps before one leaves home to attend Mass, or even just before Mass starts. One can make up their own prayer.
Be still and silent and allow the Holy Spirit to prepare your soul.
I come to receive You my Jesus, on behalf of all; giving You Perfect and Eternal Love, Praise, Thanksgiving and Adoration, for it is You Yourself who will communicate; in, with and through me. Receive in my receiving Divine Will, as I receive my Lord in Holy Communion with the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
And although I approach You naked of myself; I come clothed in the Humility of Your swaddling clothes, in the Love of Your wounded flesh, and in the Glory of Your Resurrection. I place before You all the intentions of the Heart of our Mother, and the intentions of all men of good will – past, present and future; whilst asking for every grace and blessing necessary for the salvation and sanctification of all.
Finally, I fuse myself with all the Communions ever received: by the Apostles, by the priests, by poor sinners, by lukewarm souls, by the souls in purgatory, by the saints and by Yourself and the Blessed Virgin Mary; and I redo all these receptions for Your Glory through this my Holy Communion today. Amen.
Appendix 2: Biblical Allegory
On an allegorical level we read in the Book of Revelation and in Ezekiel of the fruits which will be borne within the soul who carries out this ‘secret method’ of using Mary’s perfect dispositions in receiving Holy Communion.
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city” (Rev 22:1-2) – this refers to the waters of grace that we receive from Jesus the Lamb of God in the Eucharist which flows into the city of our souls. Ezekiel continues on the same theme: “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food” (47:12a) – these trees refer to each time we receive Communion in such a manner, since every time we take Mary’s dispositions and make them our own a new spiritual tree is planted in the garden of our hearts – a tree which bears perfect fruits of virtue which serve as food for the Father’s delight, because such a tree absorbs perfectly the Water of Life who is Jesus in the Eucharist. This Water, who is Himself, Christ promises to give to us in Holy Communion: for “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:14). The passage from Ezekiel continues: “Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary” (47:12) – that is, the leaves of these trees (the dispositions of Mary) will remain within us, nor will the fruit borne from our Holy Communions received by means of Mary fail to grow, for these fruits will blossom “every month” – that is, constantly – because in one sense Mary is the Tree(s) of Life within us which absorb perfectly the water of grace we receive in Holy Communion. We all admire a lovely garden paved with fresh grass and which is checkered with all kinds of flowers, trees and plants. The pleasure we receive from such physical gardens is but a shadow of the pleasure our Heavenly Father takes in the soul whose interior garden flourishes with the Perfect Fruits of the Blessed Virgin. We must only allow the tree(s) of our devotion to Mary to grow, so that these fruits may multiply.
 Benedict XVI, Homily on the occasion of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, 7 June, 2012, http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20120607_corpus-domini.html.