In Holy Communion, Jesus gives Himself to me and becomes mine, all mine, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. One day Jesus said to St Gemma Galgani with artless simplicity, “I am Your Master.”
With Communion, Jesus enters my heart and remains corporally present in me as long as the species (the appearance) of bread lasts; that is, for about 15 minutes. The Holy Father teaches that during this time the angels surround me to continue to adore Jesus and love Him without interruption. “When Jesus is corporally present within us, the angels surround us as a guard of love,” wrote St Bernard.
St Therese of the Child Jesus wrote a little Eucharistic poem, “Desires near the Tabernacle,” in which, among other beautiful things, she said, “I would like to be the chalice and adore the Divine Blood therein. I can, however, in the Holy Sacrifice, gather Him in me every morning. My soul is therefore dearer to Jesus, it is therefore more precious than vessels of gold.” And how great was the happiness of the angelic Saint, during an epidemic, daily Communion was given to her!
A Day without the Sun
For the angelic youth Aldo Marcozzi, a day without Holy Communion was a day without the sun. In the winter mornings, his mother wanted him to take something hot before leaving for school. In doing so, however, he would not be able to receive Holy Communion (since in those times fasting was required from midnight, and not for only one hour as it is today).
The holy youth would then say to his mother with sorrow: “Mother, you will have to render an account to God for the Communions that you do not let me receive!” Another time a companion asked him if he was not feeling well because he appeared a little sad. “Today is a bad day for me,” replied Aldo, “because I have not been able to receive Jesus.”
“My son, how can you not perceive the fragrance of Paradise which comes forth from the tabernacle?” asked St Philip of a young man in love with the pleasures of the flesh, of dances and amusements. The joys of the Eucharist and the satisfaction of the senses are “opposed to each other (Gal 5:17)” and the “sensual man perceives not these things which are of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14) – that is, he knows not the wisdom which comes from God.
St Philip Neri loved the Eucharist so much that, even when he was gravely ill, he received Holy Communion every day, and if Jesus was not brought to him very early in the morning, he became very upset and could not find any rest. “I have such a desire to receive Jesus,” he exclaimed, “that I cannot have peace while I wait.”
The same happened within our own time with Padre Pio of Pietrelcina; for only holy obedience could make him wait until 4 or 5am to celebrate Mass. Truly, the love of God is a “devouring fire.” (Deut 4:24)
For the souls in Purgatory then, Holy Communion is one precious personal gift which they can receive from us. St Bonaventure made himself an apostle of this truth and spoke about it in vibrant tones: “O Christian souls, do you wish to prove your true love towards your dead? Do you wish to send them a most precious help and golden key to Heaven? Receive Holy Communion often for the repose of these souls.”
Holy Communion is indeed pure love of God and neighbour. It is the true “feast of love,” as St Gemma Galgani said. And in this “feast of love”, the soul in love can exult singing with St John of the Cross, “Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are men; the just are mine and sinners are mine. The angels are mine, and also the Mother of God – all things are mine. God Himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.”
Holy Communion with Mary
Oh, how much it pleases Jesus to be received by a soul cleaned and clothed with His Divine Blood! And what affectionate delight He takes when such a soul is a chaste virgin! For, remarks St Albert the Great, “the Eucharist came from the Paradise of Virginity” and our Eucharistic Lord does not find such a paradise except in virginity. No one can repeat with the Spouse at the Canticles of Canticles, as can a virgin, at every Holy Communion, “All mine is my true Love, and I am all His; He goes out to pasture among the lilies… and address His love to me (Cant 2:16-17).”
One praiseworthy way of preparing for Holy Communion is to invoke the Immaculate Virgin, to count on her to enable us to receive Jesus with her humility, her purity, her love – praying rather she herself may come to receive Him in us .This pious practice is much recommended by the saints, in particular St Louis Grignon de Montfort, St Peter Eymard, St Alphonsus de Liguori, and St Maximilian Kolbe. “The best preparation for Holy Communion is that which is made with Mary,” wrote St Peter Eymard. A delightful illusion is given by St Therese of Lisieux, picturing her soul as a little three or four-year old girl whose hair and dress were in disarray, ashamed to present herself at the altar rail to receive Jesus. However she appeals to Our Lady and “immediately” the Saint writes, “the Virgin Mary occupies herself with me. She quickly replaces my dirty dress, ties up my hair with a pretty ribbon and enables me to take my place without embarrassment at the Banquet of angels.”
Thanksgiving after Holy Communion
The time of thanksgiving after Holy Communion is the most ideal time for an intimate exchange of love with Jesus. Let it be a love of total self-giving, thus returning Jesus’ love so wholeheartedly that there is no longer two of us but one, so to speak, in soul and body. Let it be a love that vivifies and unites – He in me and I in Him, so that we may be consumed in the unity and uniqueness of His Love.
St John wrote, “Blessed are they that are called to the wedding banquet of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). In truth, Eucharistic Communion rightly received, the soul realises, in a heavenly, virginal union, a nuptial love for the Spouse Jesus, to whom the soul can say with the most tender enthusiasm of the Bride in the Canticle of Canticles “Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth.” (Cant 1:1)
Thanksgiving after Holy Communion is a small foretaste, while on earth, of the love which will be experienced in Paradise. In Heaven, in fact, how shall we love Jesus if not by being one with Him eternally? Dear Jesus, oh how I ought to thank You for every Holy Communion that You grant me! What a miracle of love to be so completely united with You, O Jesus!
At least a quarter of an hour
The saints, chose, when possible, to set no time limit on thanksgiving after Communion, which consequently might last for them at least half of an hour. St Teresa of Jesus told her daughters, “Let us entertain ourselves lovingly with Jesus and not waste the hour that follows Communion. It is an excellent time to deal with God and put before Him the matters that concern our soul. As we know that the good Jesus remains within us until our natural warmth has dissolved the breadlike qualities, we should take great care not to lose so beautiful an opportunity to treat with Him and lay our needs before Him.”
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr Stefano Manelli’s book Jesus: Our Eucharistic Love. Visit the Academy of the Immaculate website: academyoftheimmaculate.com