Consider first, those words of the parable of this days gospel, 'A certain man made a great supper and invited many, Luke xiv. 16, and reflect how our Lord has indeed prepared a great banquet for us in the institution of the blessed sacrament, and has invited us all to it. O sacred banquet, says the church, in the anthem used during this octave, 'in which Christ is received, the memory of his passion is kept up, the soul is filled with grace, and a pledge is given us of the glory to come! A happy banquet, in which we feed upon the bread of heaven, and drink at the very source of the fountain of life! To this heavenly banquet the Son of God invites all the faithful in the most loving manner. Come to me, says he, all you that labour, and are burthened, and I will refresh you,' St. Matt. xi. 28. Ah! Christians, we all labour and lie under many and very heavy burthens from the sins and miseries to which we are exposed during our mortal pilgrimage; and in this heavenly banquet we come to Christ to be refreshed, nourished, and strengthened by him. O sweet invitation! O happy call to the source of grace here, and of endless glory hereafter.
Consider 2ndly, how much our Lord is offended by all such as refuse to correspond to his loving invitation, and to come to his banquet. He has prepared this banquet out of pure love, that we may feast with him and he with us. He desires, out of pure love, to impart himself and all his goods to us; and therefore justly resents his love being slighted by us, and our preferring the farm, the oxen, the wife, in a word, the world and the things of the world, before him and his banquet. Christians, if you have any love for Christ, surely you must be desirous of going to him, and entertaining yourselves with him in this great banquet of love. Love tends to union, and here it is that you are to be in so perfect a manner united to him as to abide in him and live by him. If you have any love for yourselves and for your own souls, you must gladly go to this banquet, in which you will find all your good, and all that can make you truly happy both here and hereafter.
Consider 3rdly, that in staying away from Christ in the blessed sacrament, we do not only neglect his invitation and slight his love, but also break through his ordinance and violate his commandment. The very institution of these heavenly mysteries to be the support of our spiritual life for the time of our mortality, implies a commandment for us to approach to them, and to make use of them. We should be guilty of self-murder if we suffered the body to perish, by refusing to take that food which God has appointed for its sustenance, and are we not equally guilty of murdering our souls if we suffer them to starve for want of the food and sustenance which our Lord has allotted them in this life-giving banquet? Truth itself assures us, St. John vi. 54, that without this heavenly food we have no life in us;' as then we are most strictly bound to maintain the life of our souls, we are most strictly bound to use this food of life; and it is no less certain death to stay away from this blessed sacrament, than it is to come to it unworthily.
Conclude, my soul, to correspond henceforward with the loving invitation of thy dear Redeemer, by a frequent and worthy communion. Remember that the blessed sacrament is named our daily bread in that prayer which out: Lord himself has taught us. O! how happy should we be if we lived in such purity and holiness as to be worthy to be daily admitted, like the primitive Christians, to this bread of heaven! O let us do our best so to live, so to be have in every respect, that we may at least very often approach to this heavenly table, and there feast ourselves with Jesus Christ!
Consider first, that in all the sacraments the worthy receiver is made partaker of divine grace, which is conveyed into the soul through those heavenly channels; but the sacrament of the Eucharist has this advantage above all the rest, that it imparts to the soul the very source itself from which all graces flow, by giving us Jesus Christ himself; the author of all graces, his own body, his blood, his soul and divinity; and therefore it is the most excellent of all the sacraments, and the most plentiful in its fruits. Among those fruits that which is most peculiar to this divine sacrament is, that it has the like qualities and properties with regard to the soul as our corporal food has with regard to the body, according to that of our Saviour, John vi., 'the bread that I shall give, is my flesh for the life of the world;' and again, 'my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed;' inasmuch as this bread supports our spiritual life by the abundance of graces which it furnishes for the food and nourishment of our souls; it repairs the daily decays we are liable to from our natural infirmity and corruption, and adds new strength and vigour to carry us on happily in our journey towards heaven. This is that 'bread that strengthens the heart of man, Ps. ciii. 15; that gives us force against all temptations; that weakens our passions and concupiscences; that enables us to grow daily in virtue, and to run forward in the way of all the divine commandments, till we arrive at the mountain of God, that is, at the very top of the perfection of a Christian life.
Consider 2ndly, that this heavenly sacrament not only feeds, nourishes, and strengthens the soul, in order to the maintaining in us the life of grace here, and the bringing us to the life of glory hereafter; but also tends in a particular manner to unite us by a union of love with our sovereign good, and to transform us into Christ himself. 'He that eateth my flesh, saith our Lord, John vi. 57 'and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent one, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. The corporal food which we take, by the means of our natural heat and digestion, is changed into our corporal substance; but this spiritual food is not changed into us, but by its heavenly heat changes us into itself. 'Christ is the food of them that are grown up, saith St. Augustine, 'grow thou up, and thou shalt feed on him; yet thou shalt not change him into thyself, but thou shalt be changed into him. 'Our God is a consuming fire, says the apostle, Heb. xii. 29. Fire has a power of transforming all things into itself; by communicating its nature and properties to all such things as it lays hold on; how much more shall this bright flame, which communicates itself to us by the sacred mysteries set our souls on fire with divine love, and change us into our beloved.
Consider 3rdly, that the best disposition for this happy transformation and blessed union of love is to approach to this divine sacrament with an entire resignation of ourselves and of our whole being into the hands of him whom we are going to receive. 'As I willingly offered myself to God my Father for thy sins, saith the Beloved, (1. iv. c. 8, of the Following of Christ,) 'with my hands stretched out upon the cross, and my body naked, so that nothing remained in me which was not turned into a sacrifice, to appease the divine wrath; even so must thou willingly offer thyself daily to me in the Mass (and Communion) together with all thy powers and affections, as heartily as thou art able, for a pure and holy oblation. What do I require more of thee than that thou endeavour to resign thyself entirely to me? Whatsoever thou givest besides thyself, I shall not regard, for I seek not thy gift, but thyself. As it would not suffice thee if thou hast all things but me, so neither can it please me whatever thou givest, as long as thou offerest not thyself. Offer thyself to me, and give thy whole self for God, and thy offering will be accepted. Behold, I offer my whole self to the Father for thee, and have given my whole body and blood for thy food that I might be all thine, and thou mightest be always mine but if thou wilt stand upon thyself, and wilt not offer thyself freely to my will, thy offering is not perfect, nor will there be an entire union between us. My sentence stands firm - "except a man give up all, he cannot be my disciple. If therefore, thou desirest to be my disciple, give thyself up to me with all thy affections.
Conclude to give all for all, if thou hopest to relish the fruits of this heavenly sacrament, that is, to give thy whole self without reserve to him that gives his whole self to thee. Let this oblation of thyself to God, ever go before, accompany, and follow thy Communion; there can be no better devotion.
Consider first, these words of St. Paul, 1 Cor. xi. 28, 'Let a man prove himself, that is, let him try and examine himself; by looking well into the state of his conscience, and setting all right in his interior, and so eat of that bread, &c., lest otherwise approaching to it unworthily, he makes himself guilty of the body and of the blood of our Lord, v. 27, 'and receive his own judgment and condemnation, not discerning the body of the Lord, v. 29; so that the first and most essential disposition to a worthy Communion is purity of conscience, at least from all mortal sin. Whosoever presumes to approach to purity itself in these sacred mysteries, must be clean and pure - Sancta sanctis, holy things of them that are holy. 'God will be sanctified in them that approach to him, Levit. x. 3, and will execute justice and judgment on them that defile and profane his sanctuary by entering in thither and receiving the Holy of Holies with a soul polluted by wilful sin. Good God, keep me from being ever so miserable!
Consider 2ndly, how great is the guilt of a Communion made without this disposition of purity of conscience. Tis a most grievous sacrilege, by profaning the most holy of all the sacraments. Tis a most heinous injury and affront offered to our Lord himself in person, by bringing him into a polluted habitation. A soul under the guilt of mortal sin is possessed by devils; the unworthy communicant therefore introduces the Lord of glory into a den of unclean spirits. He imitates the treason of Judas, by betraying him, as much as lies in him, to his enemies. He lays violent hands on our Lord, like the Jews; and, like them, is guilty of the body and blood of Christ. We should have a feeling of horror for the wretch who by wilful murder, had been guilty of innocent blood, though it were but of the meanest person living; what then ought we to think of ourselves if by an unworthy Communion, we should be guilty of the blood of the Son of God himself? Would not such a crime as this cry to heaven for vengeance? Would it not very much darken the understanding, and harden the heart? Would it not put the soul even in the broad road of final impenitence? It would be, according to the apostle, receiving judgment, that is, damnation to ourselves. Ah, what penance, what floods of tears, would be required to expiate so great a guilt!
Consider 3rdly, that a soul which approaches to the Holy of Holies in the sacred mysteries, ought not to content herself with only aiming at being pure from mortal sin, and for that end preparing herself by contrition and confession; but ought also, as much as possible, to purify herself from all affections to venial sins, and all habits of any such sins, which, when fully deliberated, do a deal of mischief to the soul, and in particular hinder her very much from being sensible of the heavenly sweetness and excellent fruits of this divine sacrament. Ah! Christians, could we but see those spots, those stains, those filthy scabs; that scurf; that leprosy, which these habits of lies, of excuse, of anger, and impatience, of vanity, of curiosity, of indulging our sensuality in eating, drinking, &c., bring upon the soul; we should be sensible, how unfit they make us for the embraces of this our heavenly spouse, 'Beautiful above the sons of men, Psalm xliv. 3.
Conclude ever to look to the state of thy conscience, and to purify it from all known and deliberate sins, whenever thou art preparing thy soul for Jesus Christ. Let thy intentions also be pure, by having no other view in thy Communion but his glory and thy salvation, and thy affections pure from all inordinate love of creatures, and thou shalt not fail to be a welcome guest.
Consider first, that the soul which desires to prepare a fit lodging for Jesus Christ, whom she is to receive in the blessed sacrament, must not only drive out Satan from her, and rid her inward house of the dirt and filth of sin; but must also procure the proper ornaments and furniture of virtue and devotion to deck out herself and her lodging, that it may be agreeable to the great king that comes to visit her. 'The work is great, said David, 1 Paralip. xxix. 1, 'For a house is preparing not for man but for God; yea rather, in our case, for him that is both God and man. The groundwork of this preparation must be a lively faith and a serious consideration of the work we are about; who it is that we are to receive, how great and glorious, how pure and holy, &c. And also who we are that are going to receive him - how wretched and unworthy! This consideration must be accompanied or followed by earnest prayer; to beg of his infinite majesty, that since he knows our great poverty and inability to prepare him a fit lodging, he himself would prepare one for himself; by sending beforehand those graces and virtues, and that fervour of devotion, which may fit our souls for him.
Consider 2ndly, that the devotion which we ought to bring with us to this blessed sacrament, consists in the first place in a most profound humility and awful reverence for these tremendous mysteries, sanctified by the real presence of Jesus Christ himself; the Lord of glory, and the fountain of all sanctity. O! how ought we to annihilate ourselves in the sight of this great Lord and maker of heaven and earth! How ought we to fear and tremble, in consideration of our manifold treasons against him, and our base unworthiness! With what profound reverence ought we to approach to the Holy of Holies, who lies here concealed under these sacramental veils! But then, lest this fear and reverence shall go so far as to drive us away from this fountain of life, it must be qualified with an humble confidence in the infinite goodness and mercy of him who invites us to come, and who is ever ready to receive with open arms his prodigal children, when they leave the husks of the swine, and return to him with a true sense of their unworthiness. O! blessed be his holy name for evermore!
Consider 3rdly, that as nothing but pure love brings our Lord to us in this divine sacrament, so the devotion he principally expects of us, when we approach to him, is a return of love. Whichever way we consider these sacred mysteries we shall find that all things here call for our love, and indispensably oblige us to consecrate our whole heart with all its affections to this most lovely and most loving Lord. His death and passion, endured for the love of us, which we here commemorate, an incomprehensible mystery of love, which will astonish men and angels to all eternity; the wonders he has wrought in this heavenly sacrament, that he might make himself our food, and unite us to himself; the inestimable treasure he here imparts to us; the pledge he here gives us of our redemption and of our everlasting salvation: all concur to show forth his love for us, and to claim a return of our whole heart. O my soul, can we see so much love on his part and not be inflamed with a desire of loving him with all our power? Can we remain cold when we approach to so great a fire? Remember thou art going to thy sovereign good, to the source of all grace, to the fountain of life; go then with a hunger and thirst, with an ardent desire to this great banquet of love, where thou art to feed upon thy lover himself; and he will not fail to fill thee with all that is good.
Conclude to exercise thyself always before communion in acts of faith, reverence, and humility; in acts of hope and confidence in thy Saviour; in acts of divine love, and in ardent desires after him, accompanied with a grateful remembrance of the love he has shown thee in dying for thee, and in here giving himself to thee; and the more thou bringest with thee of this preparation and devotion, which enlarges as it were the vessels of thy heart, the more plentifully wilt thou draw of the waters of divine grace from this fountain of life.
Consider first, that as the soul must prepare herself to go to receive Jesus Christ by proper devotion before Communion, so she must also take care to entertain him in a proper manner after she has received him; and to make good use of that favourable time (most happy to her above all times, if well employed) during which she has him really present with her, both in his divine and human nature; that is, both as God and man. It would be a gross affront after being favoured with a visit from the king of heaven, desiring to feast himself with us, and bringing all his treasures with him to enrich our souls, if we should turn our back immediately upon him, and take no further notice of him. The meanest of our friends would have reason to resent so contemptuous a usage; how much more so great a Lord! See, my soul, if the little care thou hast taken to manage to the best advantage those happy minutes in which thou hast Jesus Christ with thee, by a proper devotion after Communion, be not the true cause why thou hast reaped so little fruit from thy repeated Communions, which otherwise might long since have made thee a saint. O repent and amend.
Consider 2ndly, what this devotion is with which we are to entertain our Lord after receiving him. First, we are to welcome him by faith, hope, and love;- by a lively faith in all his mysteries, but in particular, that we have really with us, in this blessed sacrament, him who is our maker and our redeemer, infinite in majesty, and infinite in mercy, and who brings with him all the treasures of heaven to enrich us - by a firm hope that he will now, by this blood of the covenant, take full possession of our souls, and make them his, both for time and eternity - by an ardent love, aspiring with all our power and affection to an eternal union with our beloved whom we here receive- 'I have found him whom my soul loveth, I will hold him fast, and will never let him go. In the next place, we ought to cast ourselves down at his feet, and to pay him the best homage and adoration we are capable of, bringing all the powers of our soul before him, and obliging them all to bow down to him and worship him. But as all this ought to be accompanied with a lively sense of our unworthiness and sins, we must also take this opportunity of making an humble confession, like Magdalene, of all our treasons, at his feet, craving his mercy for what is past, and the grace of a change of heart and life for the time to come.
Consider 3rdly, that, after these first homages, the soul must, for some time following her Communion, keep close to our Lord, and give space for his grace to penetrate more and more into her interior, and to bring forth there its proper fruit. For this end she must entertain him with praise and thanksgiving; inviting all heaven and earth, all angels and saints, together with the whole creation, to join with her in his praises, and wishing she had the hearts and tongues of all his creatures that she might employ them all in loving and glorifying him, in return for all the wonders of his love and goodness to her. She must also offer herself and all that she has, without reserve, into his hands, that she may be for ever his, and that her whole being may be made as a holocaust or whole burnt-offering, to evaporate to his glory. In fine, she must remember that she is now before the throne of grace, and that the Lord, whom she has with her, carries about with him all the treasures of divine grace, and therefore, she must lay before him all her wants and spiritual necessities, and beg of him, by this opportunity, plentiful supplies of grace both for herself and for the whole church.
Conclude, O my soul, to entertain thy Saviour in this manner, as often as thou shalt receive him in the divine mysteries. Take care also to be more than ordinarily recollected on the whole day following thy Communion, and to keep a great guard upon thyself; lest the enemy - who knows what a treasure thou hast received, and is therefore most busy about thee on this occasion, in hopes of robbing thee of it - should fling some stumbling-block in thy way, to make thee fall into sin, either by passion or concupiscence; that so by this means he may drive Christ away from thee and get possession of thy soul.
N.B. That as often as the Octave of Corpus Christi shall fall before the thirteenth day of the month of June, the meditations that shall then be wanting in this place are to be taken on: of the number of those that are marked for the month of February; which were omitted at that time, to give place to the meditations appointed for Lent.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
Liturgia Latina Index