On Holy Communion During Advent
(from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., abbot of Solesmes)
It is true that everything in Advent is so arranged as to be a preparation for the coming of the Saviour at the feast of Christmas, and that the spirit of the faithful should be one of earnest expectation of this same Saviour; and yet, such is the happy lot of the children of the new Law, that they can, if they wish it, really, and at once, receive this God whom the Church is expecting; and thus, this familiar visit of Jesus will become itself one of the preparations for His great and solemn visit. Let those, then, who are living the life of grace, and to whom the glorious day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring an increase of spiritual life, not omit to prepare, by Communion, for the reception they intend to give to the heavenly Spouse on the sacred night of His coming. These Communions will be interviews with their divine Lord, giving them confidence, and love, and all those interior dispositions wherewith they would welcome Him who comes to load them with fresh grace, for this Jesus is full of grace and truth.
They will understand this better by reflecting on the sentiments which the august Mother of Jesus had in her blessed soul during the time which preceded the divine birth. This birth is to be an event of more importance, both to the salvation of mankind and to Mary‘s own glory, than even that of the first accomplishment of the Incarnation; for the Word was made Flesh in order that He might be born. The immense happiness of holding in her arms her Son and her God, would make the sacred hour of Jesus‘ birth dearer and happier to Mary, than even that in which she was over-shadowed by the Holy Ghost, and received from Him the divine fruit of her womb.
During those nine months, when she knew that her Jesus was so undividedly hers, what must have been the happiness which filled her heart! It was a bliss which was a worthy preparation for that more blissful night of Bethlehem.
Christians! your Communions during Advent are to prepare you for your Christmas joy, by giving you something of the delight which Mary felt before the birth of Jesus. When you are in the house of God, preparing by recollection and prayer for receiving your Saviour in holy Communion, you may perhaps be assisted in your preparation by the sentiments and affections which we have ventured to offer you in the following acts.
ACT OF FAITH
Knowing that thou art about to enter under my roof, O eternal God, Jesus Son of the Father, I have need of all my faith. Yes, it is thou who art coming to me, thou who didst enter into Mary‘s virginal womb, making it the sanctuary of thy Majesty. Thou didst send thine angel to her, and she believed his word, when he said: ‘Nothing is impossible to God: the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.‘ She believed, and then conceived in her chaste womb him who had created her. Thou hast not sent an angel to me, O my Saviour, to tell me thou art coming into my heart. Thou hast spoken thyself, and thou hast said: ‘I am the living Bread come down from heaven: he that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood, abideth in me and I in him.‘ Thou hast willed that those words of thine, spoken so many hundred years ago, should reach me by thy Church, that thus I might have both the certainty that they are thine, and the merit of bowing down my reason to the deepest of mysteries. I believe then, O Jesus! Help the weakness of my faith. Enable me to submit, as Mary did, to thy infinite wisdom; and since thou desirest to enter under my roof, I bow down my whole being before thee, using her blessed words: ‘May it be done to me according to thy word;‘ for how dare I, who am but nothingness, resist thee, who art all wisdom and power!
ACT OF HUMILITY
But, O my Saviour, when thou didst choose the womb of the glorious Virgin for thy abode, thou hadst but to leave one heaven for another. Thou hadst prepared her, from her conception, with every grace; and she, on her part, had been more faithful to thee than all angels and men together. Whereas my heart has nothing in it which can induce thee to come and make it thy dwelling. How many times has it refused thee admittance, when thou didst stand at the door asking me to receive thee? And even had I been always faithful, what proportion is there between its lowliness and thy infinite greatness?
Elizabeth humbled herself when she was visited by Mary, and exclaimed, “How comes such an honour to me?‘ And I am to receive a visit, not merely of the Mother of God, but of God himself, and in such an intimate familiar manner, that a greater union cannot be. Thou sayest, “He that eateth me, abideth in me and I in him‘: O Son of God! thou seekest, then, for what is lowest and poorest, and in that thy heart loves to dwell. I am overwhelmed with admiration at this condescension; but when I reflect that thou art going to show it me, I can do nothing but sink into my own nothingness, and there beseech thee to show me more and more clearly, that I am but nothing; that so, when thou hast come within me, my whole being may proclaim the glory, the mercy, the power of my Jesus.
ACT OF CONTRITION
Happy should I be, O Jesus, if I could feel that this my nothingness was the only obstacle to the glorious union to which thou invitest me! I would then approach to thee, after the example of thy Immaculate Mother, my august Queen, and would dare to partake of the banquet at which she is on thy right hand. But I am worse than nothing – I am a sinner: and surely there can be no union between infinite sanctity and sin, between light and darkness! I have been thine enemy, O my Redeemer! and yet thou wishest to come into my heart, with the sores of its shame and wounds barely closed; and thou tellest me, that thou, who couldst delight to dwell in Mary‘s heart, canst find pleasure in mine! Oh! how this teaches me the malice of my sins, since they offended a God so generous, so wonderful in his love for me! In these few moments, which precede thy descending into the midst of my darkness in order to change it into light, what can I do but renew my sorrow for those many sins whereby I lost thee, as also for those whereby I grieved thee without losing thy grace. Accept this my contrition, O my Saviour! It is thus that I would prepare thy way to my heart, by removing everything which is in opposition to the righteous path of thy holy Law.
ACT OF LOVE
For I would indeed love thee, O my Saviour, as Mary loved thee. Art thou not my God, as thou wast hers? Nay, by forgiving me my sins, hast thou not shown marks of tenderness to me, which Mary could not receive? I love thee, then, sweet Jesus, who art coming into me. Most welcome visit, which is to increase my love! Thy blessed Mother had lived, up to the very moment when thou didst enter her womb, in all holiness and justice; she had loved thee alone, and as no other had loved: but when she felt thee within her, when she felt that now thou wast one and the same with herself, her love redoubled, and lost all sight of limit. May it be so with my heart, when thou comest into it, my God and my all! Yea, come quickly; for though most unworthy of thy visit, yet am I forced to desire it, seeing that thou art the Bread which giveth life unto the world, and our daily Bread, by eating which we support life until the day of our eternity arrives. Come, then, my Lord Jesus! my heart is ready and trusts in thee.
And thou, O Mary, by the joy thou didst experience in containing within thyself him whom heaven and earth could not contain, help me, in this Communion, to have my heart pure and fervent. Holy angels, who looked with astonish-ment and awe upon this simple creature carrying God within her, have pity on me, that poor sinner whose heart, so lately the abode of Satan, is this very hour to become the tabernacle of your sovereign Lord. All ye saints of heaven, and ye especially my ever faithful patrons, come to my assistance now that he, in whom ye live for ever, just and immortal, is coming down to me, a sinful mortal. Amen.
In order to make your preparation complete, follow, with a lively faith and attention, all the mysteries of the Mass at which you are to receive Communion using, for this purpose, the method we have given in the preceding chapter. After your Communion, you may sometimes make your thanksgiving by reciting the prayers we here give.
ACT OF ADORATION
O sovereign Majesty of God! thou hast, then, mercifully deigned to come down to me! This favour, which thou didst heretofore grant to Mary, has been given to me too! Would that I, during these happy moments, could adore thee as profoundly as she did! The sentiment of her lowliness and unworthiness, at that solemn moment, would have over-powered her, had not thy tender love for her supported her to bear that ineffable union of the Creator with his crea-ture. My lowliness, and still more my unworthiness, are of a very different kind from hers; and yet I find it so hard to feel them. This much at least I know, that in order thus to come to me, and be my own infinite treasure, thou hast had to overcome immense obstacles. What, then, shall I do for thee, that is worthy of thee? How can I best compensate thee for the humiliation thou hast thus borne out of love for me? I can but adore thee, and humble myself to the far-thest depths of my own nothingness. And because this my adoration is not worthy of thine acceptance, I presume to offer thee that which Mary herself offered thee the first moment she became Mother of God, and during the nine months thou wast so closely united with her. Thou hast given her to me to be my own Mother; permit me to make this use of her wealth, which she loves to see her children so freely giving to thy greater glory.
ACT OF THANKSGIVING
But thy blessed Mother, O Jesus, was not satisfied with adoring thee interiorly; her glad heart soon gave expression to its intense gratitude. She saw that thou hadst preferred her to all the daughters of her people, nay, to all generations both past and to come; her soul therefore thrilled with delight, and her lips could scarce give utterance to her im-mense joy. ‗He that is mighty,‘ she said, ‗hath done great things in me; he hath regarded the lowliness of his hand-maid; and all generations shall call me blessed.‘ And hast thou not favoured me, O Jesus, above thousands and tens of thousands, in giving me the wonderful gift I now hold within me? Thou hast made me live after the accomplish-ment of thine Incarnation. This very day, how many pious servants of thine have not had given to them what I have received from thee! I possess thee here within me; I know the worth of thy coming; but how many are there who neither possess thee nor know thee! Thou hast indeed invited all to these graces, but a great number have refused them; and whilst thou hast compelled me, by the powerful yet sweet ways of thy mercy, to come to thee, thou hast, in thy justice, permitted them to continue in their refusal. Mayst thou be for ever blessed, O my God! who lovest, in-deed, all the works of thy hands, and wishest all men to be saved; so that none is lost, but he that refuses thy grace: yet, in the superabundant riches of thy mercy, thou dost multiply, for many, the boundless resources of thy love.
ACT OF LOVE
I will love thee, then, O Jesus! because thou hast first loved me; and I will love thee the more because, by this thy visit to me, thou hast so greatly increased my power to love. It was thus with Mary, when thou didst choose her for thy Mother. Up to that time she had been the most faithful of thy creatures, and deserved the preference thou didst give her, above all women, of being honoured with the high privilege of becoming Mother of God. But when thou didst enter her virginal womb, when thy divine Person came into that admirable contact with her nature, which, though holy, was human; Mary, transformed, as it were, into thee, began to love thee as she had never been able to do before. May it be so with me, dear Jesus! May my own life be lost in thine! Is not the visit thou hast paid me that of a God? The visits of creatures are but exterior; thine to me is interior; thou hast not entered my house and blessed it, thou hast penetrated into the deepest recesses of my very soul; so that I live, no, it is not I, but thou livest in me, as thy apostle expresses the mystery. So that if I love myself, I must love thee, since thou abidest in me, and I abide in thee. Can I ever separate from thee again? No, my divine Master, I desire to have but thee for my love and my very life, now and for ever.
ACT OF OBLATION
But take heed, my soul: let not the love of thy God be mere sentiment. He that loves God, lives for him. Jesus‘ pres-ence produced in Mary, the moment it was effected, far more than the sentiment of total devotedness of herself to the interests and glory of him who was both her God and her Son. It gave her a conformity to all God‘s appointments, which stood unshaken, without one moment of faltering, through all the trials of her long life. Thou hast visited me, dear Saviour, and courage is what thou wishest to leave with me. Between this day and that of my death and my judgement, I am to go through many trials and temptations, all difficult, and some of them perhaps severe. If I love thee, I shall triumph over them all. And how can I but love thee, even at the bare remembrance of this thy visit to me, which thou art ready to repeat as often as I wish it! I am thine, O God of my heart, as thou art mine. Thou knowest my great weakness: give me courage and strength. Thou hast given me, this happy hour, the richest pledge of thy mercy; on this infinite mercy I rest all my hope.
O Mary, pray for me that I may profit by this visit of thy divine Son.- Ye holy angels of God, defend me against my enemies, for your Lord has made me his dwelling place.- All ye saints of God, pray for me, that I may never lose this sovereign Good, with whom ye are united for a happy eternity. Amen.