Notes on receiving the Blessed Sacrament…
What will happen to you when you are in the bubble? Will you be able to receive the sacrament when you are confined or incapacitated?
From time to time images appear in the media detailing the spread of diseases like the Ebola virus and depicting sufferers, at least in developed nations, being cared for in an isolation tent. Mercifully this has been rare although there is no certainty that this will always be the case. There are, of course, other reasons why you might be isolated. It is possible that you may contract a disease which will require the imposition of restricted access to a side-room in the hospital. It is even more likely that you will be incapacitated in some way and effectively isolated in your own body. Sadly, it is also possible that some time in the future you may be incarcerated for reasons of faith or ideology: such is the fate of many Christians around the world in our own time.
When the worst happens, what spiritual provision will be made for you? Ideally normal arrangements may obtain and it may be possible for a priest to bring you the Blessed Sacrament at your bedside (or in your cell). The services of the Visitation and Communion of the Sick are always available and, of course, are a staple part of pastoral care in this and many other parishes.
It may, however, be necessary to make allowances depending on the circumstances in which you find yourself. It may be appropriate for medical reasons to receive in one kind, either partaking of the host or the precious blood as your medical condition permits. There is no need to be alarmed, or indeed disappointed, by this. Stop trying to relive the Reformation: our Lord is equally present in both species and he never disappoints!
In extremis, there is still anointing with oil. This beautiful rite is a prayer for healing and peace and can bring great solace to the Christian. There is also the possibility, if you are unable to take communion, of being present for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, adoration and benediction – all at the bottom of your bed!
If none of the above is feasible, then an act of spiritual communion is still possible. Unite yourself with the prayer of the Church and know that Jesus is present through his Spirit. Reflect upon your last reception and give thanks to God. Keep your hope alive and remember that the gift he gives to all his people is eternal communion with him.
(First published September 2015)
Notes on Spiritual Communion…
There are times when it is impossible to receive the sacrament. This may be as a result of a recognition of sin which has not yet been confessed, inadequate preparation or when visiting a church with which we are not in communion.
Spiritual communion is, as the name suggests, a practice of uniting the self with Jesus without receiving the sacrament. It is based upon a deep yearning in the soul for Jesus and a desire to be united with him. It is therefore not an inevitable consequence of just turning up somewhere and hoping for the best or presuming that something will happen just because.
Spiritual communion can also become a way of life, fundamental to the life of prayer. At different times during the day we can incorporate within our usual pattern of prayer that same yearning for Jesus, for an awareness of his presence and fellowship with us and to be united with him. This goes beyond merely doing what Jesus says which, although worthy in itself, can degenerate into an impersonal exercise, but instead consists of an act of union with our Lord which is based upon the love that he shares with us.
The same practice also forms a very effective, and remarkably simple, preparation for receiving the sacrament at mass. It is an intimate devotion and one which brings about a powerful renewal in the Christian life, something especially appropriate for Lent as we reflect upon the practice of our faith in preparation for the celebration of the paschal mysteries.
(First published March 2016)
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament, I love you above all things and I desire you in my soul. Since I cannot receive you now sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my soul. As though you were already there I embrace you and unite myself wholly to you; permit not that I should ever be separated from you. Amen.
St Alphonsus (courtesy of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament)