“Thou gavest them bread from Heaven, having in it the sweetness of every taste.”Cf. Wisdom 16:20
The manna that God sent down every morning into the camp of the Israelites had all sorts of flavors and virtues; it not only restored failing energies and gave vigor of body, but it was a bread of sweetness. The Holy Eucharist, which it prefigures, possesses likewise every virtue. It is a remedy for our spiritual infirmities, strength for our daily weaknesses, and a source of peace, joy, and happiness.
The Eucharist, according to the Council of Trent, is a divine antidote that delivers us from common faults and preserves us from mortal sin. It is a fire that, in an instant, consumes the chaff of our spiritual imperfections.
Holy Communion is the war that God wages in us against our concupiscence and against the Devil, whom our evil passions constantly invite and who, through his connivance with our unruly appetites, holds some part of us in thrall. Did not Jesus say, “Come to me, all you who labor beneath the burden of slavery of your past sins, and I will refresh and deliver you”?
Holy Penance cleanses us from sin, yet, purified though we be, we are left with the marks of our chains, the tendency to fall again. The enemy, although driven out, still keeps his agents within the walls. So Jesus comes to us to destroy the vestiges of our sins, to counteract our evil tendencies, and to prevent the Devil from re-establishing his power over us.
Holy Communion is more than a remedy; it is a force that gives us powerful assistance in attaining goodness, virtue, and holiness.
Certainly it is not easy to acquire a Christian virtue. It means investing ourselves with a quality of Jesus; it is a divine education, a conformation of our ways to those of Jesus. Now, in Holy Communion, Jesus Himself forms His likeness within us. He becomes our own Teacher. By the inspirations of His love, He awakens the gratitude we owe Him as our Benefactor, the desire to resemble Him, a foretaste of the happiness that lies in imitating Him and drawing our life from His.
How attractive the learning of virtue becomes through Communion! How easy is humility when we have seen the God of glory humble Himself so far as to come to a heart so poor, a mind so ignorant, a body so miserable! How easy is kindness when we are moved by the loving-kindness of Jesus in giving Himself to us in the goodness of His Heart!
How beautiful in our sight is our dear neighbor when we see him seated at the same divine banquet, fed with the same Bread of Life, loved so generously by Jesus Christ!
How sweet do penance, self-mortification, and sacrifice become when we have received the crucified Jesus! And with what urgency we feel the need of embracing the life of Him who saved us, of Him who gave us the Holy Eucharist!
The Christian is formed much more quickly in the Cenacle than in any other school. The fact is, all the graces act at once in Communion; beneath the powerful influence of this divine Sun that is within us, penetrating us with His light and His fire, all the virtues of the Savior are reflected in our being. Communion is, in effect, the divine mold of Jesus in our souls and in our bodies.
Hear the words of Jesus: “He who eateth my Body and drinketh my Blood abideth in me, and Iin him.” So does Jesus live in the communicant, and the communicant in Jesus. It is a joining of two lives, an ineffable union of love, one and the same life in two persons.
Furthermore, Holy Communion is happiness. What is happiness if not the possession of an infinite good, the real and permanent possession of God? Well, such is the divine fruit of Communion.
Communion is also peace. Jesus is the God of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you,” He said to His Apostles after He had given them Communion — not the troubled and stormy peace of the world, but the peace of God, so sweet that it passes all understanding. With one word, Jesus quiets the tempest; with one glance He scatters and lays low our enemies.
Holy Communion, again, is sweetness. It is the true manna that satisfies all our desires, because it possesses all sweetness. It is the celestial fragrance of the fair Lily of the Valley, which enraptures us in God.
The humble and recollected soul feels in its depths a certain joyous tremor caused by the presence of Jesus Christ; it feels itself unfolding beneath the warmth of this Sun of love; it experiences a well-being, an alertness, a sweetness, a force of union, of adhesion to God, that come not from itself. It is aware of Jesus in all its being and looks upon itself as a paradise inhabited by God, where, as in another heavenly court, it may repeat all the praises, thanksgivings, and benedictions sung by the angels and saints to God in glory.
O happy moment of Communion, which makes us forget our exile and its miseries! O sweet repose of the soul on the very Heart of Jesus!
This good Master knows very well that we need to taste the sweetness of love now and then! One cannot be always on the Calvary of suffering, nor in the thick of the battle. The child needs the mother’s bosom; the Christian, the Heart of Jesus.
Yes, virtue without Communion is like the strength of the lion; it is the result of combat, of violence; it is hard. If it is to have the gentleness of the lamb, we must drink the Blood of the spotless Lamb; we must eat this honey of the desert.
After all, happiness begets love; we love only that which gives happiness. Seek no farther, then. The Savior has placed this divine happiness neither in the different virtues nor in His other mysteries, but solely within Himself. To taste His joy to the full, we must receive Him as our Food. “Taste and see how sweet is the Lord,” said the prophet. And our Lord Himself said, “He who eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood hath everlasting life.” And that life everlasting is Heaven; it is sanctity beatified in Jesus Christ.
Thus the Savior’s virtues, the different mysteries of His life, and even of His Passion are but so many roads whose destination is the eucharistic Cenacle. Only there has Jesus made Himself a lasting abode on earth. There we must dwell, there live and die.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in St. Peter Julian Eymard’s How to Get More out of Holy Communion. It is available from your local Catholic bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.