Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Reflective Lifestyle

On this Sunday, I picked up one of the favorites, The Spiritual Combat (Lorenzo Scupoli), and read his chapter 55 on preparation for the reception of Holy Communion. The chapter is rich in counsels on how to prepare for Holy Communion, but I was struck by two references in that chapter, one early and one late, about how that preparation ought to start the evening before, yes, and fill your morning as well. I'm taking the quotes from my Kindle edition:

"In order to stir up within you the love of God, by means of this most Heavenly Sacrament, let your meditation on the preceding evening be upon His Love for you. You should consider how that Great and Almighty Lord, not content with having made you after His own image and likeness, and with having sent His Only-begotten Son on earth to suffer during three and thirty years for your sins, and to endure the most bitter sorrows and the painful death of the Cross for your redemption, was, besides all this, pleased to leave Him with you for your food and support in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar." - Highlight Loc. 1642-46

"With such loving affections, you should exercise yourself in the evening and morning before Communion. Then, as the time of Communion draws near, consider what you are about to take; no less than the Son of God, of Majesty Incomprehensible, before Whom the Heavens and all the powers therein do tremble—the Holy of Holies, the Spotless Mirror, and the incomprehensible Purity, in comparison with Whom no creature is clean; the One Who, as a worm and an outcast of the people, willed for love of you to be rejected, trampled upon, mocked, spit upon, and crucified, by the malice and wickedness of the world. You are about to receive God, in Whose Hands are the life and death of the whole universe." - Highlight Loc. 1675-80

In the days of larger families many a mother might look at me askance and appeal to the hectic involved in getting everyone up and dressed to church on time. My point however is another and namely, how many of us "free agents" give Sunday Communion a thought on Saturday night? I fear we live too restlessly and without any focus. I really don't think that St. Francis de Sales would take me to task for not sufficiently distinguishing between the active and contemplative life. St. Francis was among those who always kept his copy of Scupoli close at hand.

While on the one hand, I would be among the first to urge liturgical reform: ad Orientem worship, respect for rubrics in the celebration of Mass, while striving for decorum and a recollected environment (punctuated by meaningful silences), truly sacred music, removing the hectic from the Communion procession by returning to the Communion rail (or like in Lviv's Latin Cathedral, having the priests go to the people kneeling along the aisles of church for Communion), on the other, external sublime is no substitute for inner focus, for a heart well-disposed to receive the Lord of Glory.

Maybe the start could be bedtime prayer on Saturday night, kneeling down before we climb into the feathers and recalling the love for us of the One we hope to receive next morning? Maybe a first thought in the morning on waking, before the toothbrush, to the Infinite One Who seeks to enter under our roof?

Scupoli described the quest for holiness, for oneness with God, as a struggle, as combat carried on on many fronts at once. May we each and every one play our part in winning the victory for Christ and yes in the hearts of one and all.



  1. While on the one hand, I would be among the first to urge liturgical reform: ad Orientem worship, respect for rubrics in the celebration of Mass, while striving for decorum and a recollected environment (punctuated by meaningful silences), truly sacred music, removing the hectic from the Communion procession by returning to the Communion rail ...

    In these points, concerning the external aspects, I totally agree wit Your Excellency. But I see also a possibility for increasing inner focus by two relatively simple ascetic means. First of all, by returning to the older practice of the Eucharistic fasting, even from midnight until receiving Holy Communion (except evening Masses). I am affraid that reducing it to just one hour has almost banned it from laymen's awareness. It could also emphasize that this is a not an ordinary food, especially since the Eucheristic species are considered rather a symbol of the gathered community than Body and Blood of the Lord, and the belief in the Real Presense is enfeebled.

    On the other hand, the faithful should be encouraged to practise sacramental confession at Saturday evening / Sunday morning (even each week) before receiving Holy Communion - just as the Eastern Churches practise it.

    1. Thank you, Sir! I'm in your pew! The fast and the catechesis for restoring it (I don't think any amount of catechesis could empower the 1 hour fast)would go a long way to confirming people in the faith.

  2. If I may be permitted to say the following:

    It is useless to encourage the faithful to go to Confession times that do not exist (just as it is useless - tangent warning - to encourage to the faithful to get spiritual directors, who may well be rarer than parishes that offer enough Confession times for every parishioner to go to Communion even once or twice a month).

    Furthermore, it is useless to encourage the faithful to make use of something that the faithful do not understand... at all. The faithful are rarely taught about Confession from the pulpit and almost never in religious education before First Communion/Confirmation, in RCIA, in whatever camps, etc. (Question: How many of the faithful, as a percentage, know what sanctifying grace is and how it is gained and lost? Not many!)

    Finally, it is almost useless to offer Confession times that few people can get to.

    1. Dear Hidden One, I won't say my sentiments exactly, but you are right on. In more than one country over the course of my life as a priest, I have experienced how hard it is to find someone to hear my confession (Nuncios have it easier for some reason!). For the laity, including religious who ought to have regular spiritual direction by nature of their consecration, the issue is as you say. I have learned,however, to live in hope and to see how priests can grow and change in the awareness of their calling to be available and give of themselves. We hope and pray that this Year of Faith will begin the turnaround for the sake of all the faithful, but especially for coming generations.

    2. On a happy and hopefuly note, I will say that two parishes local to me have, within the last several months, added Masses during the week and started offering Confessions before all daily Masses.


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