In Holy Communion, we are alone with God. Blissful solitude, where the soul can rise above the world, and with mute wonder, with breathless adoration, bask in the eloquently solemn silence of the Divine Presence!
In this solitude, where the voice of God is most articulate, we can support and sustain our conscious weakness with the strength of the personal revelation of the sacramental God. Our doubt and fear will vanish before Him who alone can satisfy the insuppressible longings of the soul.
With inconceivable generosity, Christ can grant all we ask and more, for the incapacity of man cannot limit the bounty of God. In adapting Himself, however, to our limitations, He veils His eternal glory with the appearances of bread and wine, so as not to overpower us.
The period of thanksgiving should be for us, hushed in the bosom of the hidden Christ, one of rapt recollectedness, of wondering contemplation that marvels at the infinite perfections of Him whom we have received, of faith that renders these perfections visible, and of speechless amazement at the greatness of the gift. Our every faculty should be under the absolute control of the awe-inspiring Presence, the ears of our soul attentive to the voice of God, the eyes of our soul enamored of divine fascination, feasting upon our best Benefactor.
Nor will our contemplation be confined to the time of thanksgiving, as if we were beholding but a fleeting shadow of earth. The vision of the reality of the Divine Presence will perdure, with our whole being under the dominion of the indwelling God, who penetrates into the deepest depths of our souls and, with divine love, swallows up our poor, finite life in His infinite, eternal life. We will not look at Christ fitfully, but will be captivated by the beauty of the vision through habitually beholding it.
The darkness of our fallen nature will flee before the light within us, and, in the brilliant brightness of its divine radiance, not only will flaws of character, even the most trivial, be disclosed, but our entire being will be morally transformed by the eucharistic God.
The light and power of the vision will, if the soul concentrates on it, produce this one marvelous effect of Holy Communion. In this sacrament, Christ plainly shows His goodness to the soul, so that it may rise under its compelling influence to a life of permanent union with Him, and be conformed to His image.
To gratify this dominant yearning of the Sacred Heart, the soul must divest itself of over-solicitude, divorce itself decisively and completely from attachment to the outward world, and direct its thoughts to Christ alone.
Largeness of desire should characterize our thanksgiving. In the gift of Himself, Christ includes all other gifts. Convinced of this truth, we can be bold with God. We can presume on His kindness and try to exhaust His generosity. We should banish all distrust of the Infinite Lover.
Nor must we have any misgiving, now that we possess Christ, about our ability to advance rapidly in virtue, for with God all things are possible, and to become a saint is the reason for our creation. Our expanding energies are not to be contracted by the thought, suggested by the Father of Lies, of old vicious habits; the copious flow of grace is not to be retarded by the sorrowful recollection of its former sins. The fear of sinning again, and therefore of severer judgment, must be supplanted by the yearning to advance in virtue because of greater grace received. Into this mystery of undying love, gloom born of sinful experience should not enter.
On the contrary, our soul should be joyously courageous and calmly confident, rising, as it embraces God in the fullness of fervent faith, up to the happiness of Heaven, even though we had before Holy Communion been desolate with fear and wasted with sorrow. Christ will surely answer such faith, because this largeness of desire imitates His own boundless beneficence.
A ready, spontaneous, practical correspondence with grace, the effect of lively faith, will accompany largeness of desire. Possessing God, the soul will grow in the consciousness of an increasing capacity for divine light, and will slowly acquire, within the scope of its limited powers, the knowledge of the full greatness of God’s love. Mental growth is measured by the prolonged contemplation of a particular study or a definite object. The increased mastery of a science depends upon the yearning for its acquisition.
The more the mind progresses in truth, the more enlarged and developed becomes its capability for receiving more truth.
As the horizon of knowledge widens, the mind’s power to grasp increases, and the desire for more knowledge keeps pace with the mind’s greater power of intelligence.
The same truth is seen in the spiritual order. The more we desire to know God, the clearer will be our vision of Him. As the vision enlarges, so do the capability and desire of the soul, and they will continue to grow through their mutually responsive action upon one another.
How truly unique is the eucharistic revelation to us, despite the impenetrable veil that shrouds our sight! In the Blessed Sacrament, Christ dims the brilliance of the eternal glory of His manifestation by hiding His presence. And yet what an alluring paradise is the lingering radiance of this communication to the pure soul! God’s goodness in all its unblemished beauty is not concealed from the creature. This is all the soul needs to be convinced with peculiar force and cogency that one Holy Communion can make us a saint.
For this gift that rifles the treasures of omnipotent power, an acknowledgment of our utter unworthiness, actuated by sincere humility, is our best act of thanksgiving especially when we contemplate the vision of the infinite perfections of Christ that is mercifully vouchsafed to us. Like the sacramental God who, because He is eternal, cannot change, the revelation of His light in the soul is constant. Constancy, therefore, in the service of God will develop the soul for the greater diffusion of this light. The world’s enticing pleasures must not obscure the vision, or dim the light, by chilling the ardor of our desire ever to follow it by growing conformity to Him whom it manifests.
If we walk in the reflected glory of the sanctity of Christ within us, He, our eucharistic Lover, will illumine us so that we may instinctively detect the treachery of the angels of darkness, and He will “direct our feet into the way of peace,” until He lifts the veil and we enter into that eternity of bliss that is incapable of exhausting the beauty of the vision.
This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. John A. Kane’s Transforming Your Life Through the Eucharist. It is available from your favorite Catholic bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.
You can also read Fr. Kane’s further reflection on the Eucharist in the article, “Why We Pray Before the Blessed Sacrament.”