Holy Communion is a joyous gift

Chalice and bread
Photo: Shutterstock
By on February 22, 2024

Lent is a precious gift of time in the midst of our often overly busy lives.  We are invited to intentionally step back from the many activities that fill our lives to focus for the 40 days of Lent on the essential elements of our spiritual journey. 

I like to spend some time in Lent reading familiar books that have helped shape my spiritual life and that have given me insights into how Christ is present in my life. I have always had a deep love and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, and while sorting through the cards and letters that accumulate on my desk I found a lovely card from Fr. James Koester, Superior of the Society of St. John The Evangelist, a religious community with a long history in Canada but now based in Cambridge Mass. The following quote on the card, from the writings of the founder of SSJE, Fr. Richard Benson, caused me to pause:

“Each communion should be, as it were,

Adding some fresh point to the image of Christ within our souls.

As each touch of the artist adds some fresh feature

To the painting, so each communion is a touch of Christ, 

Which should develop some fresh feature of His own perfect likeness within us.”

This wonderful image is a simple but profound insight into the beauty and gift of the Eucharist that Christ has given to His Church. 

One of the fruits of the liturgical renewal in the Church over the last 40 years is the return of the Eucharist as the focus of our life as parish communities. It is a rare event in the Church that is now not gathered around the altar or that is finding inspiration in the themes of the Eucharist. This development brings both joys and difficulties to our spiritual lives. The frequency of the celebration of the Eucharist and receiving of Holy Communion can lead to a loss of a deep sense of wonder at encountering Christ in such an intimate and personal way. 

Fr. Benson’s image of Christ as the artist who in Holy Communion brings forth the beauty and goodness that is our life in the Risen Christ is key to renewing our love of the Eucharist. 

The Eucharist is both the intimate communion of the individual soul with Christ but also of drawing the Body of Christ into one: “We, being many, are one body for we all share in the one bread.”(BAS p.212) The Body refers not to just to the local community at a particular time and place, but of the whole Communion of Saints on earth and in heaven. The prayer “therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…” attempts to capture the truth that the Eucharist is in time and out of time, of earth and of heaven. In light of the breadth and depth of the Eucharist, we do well to prepare ourselves to receive such a gift as St. Paul writes: “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” (I Corth.11:27) To receive unworthily means without due consideration of what we are sharing in, of the awe and wonder at God’s grace be offered to all of us, of not coming with an open heart and mind to hear Christ as he speaks to us as individuals and as parish communities.

I too often have been guilty of rushing in and finding a pew at the last minute, without making time to be still before God and acknowledging my need for healing, forgiveness and renewal. There is only great benefit to our souls if we carve out a little time in preparation as we come to worship the living God and to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. 

We can help others by creating a peaceful space in our Church before the services, by avoiding unnecessary chat until the coffee time after the service. Reading over the scripture lessons of the day or praying over the prayer requests in the bulletin are only a couple of ways to intentionally create an atmosphere of prayer and peace.

I pray that this Lent, all of us may deepen our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and find fresh joy each time we receive Him in our Holy Communions.


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