13. Care in Preparation for Reception of the Holy Communion
- Title: Studies in Soul Tending or Pastoral Work in its Relation to the Individual
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Prayer in General
- 3. Fasting
- 4. Fasting Communion
- 5. Meditation
- 6. Intercession
- 7. Scheme of Private Devotion
- 8. Thoughts of Divine Immanence in Worship
- 9. Priest’s Relations with His People
- 10. On the Practice of Auricular Confession
- 11. Treatment of Individual Souls
- 12. The Sick
- 13. Care in Preparation for Reception of the Holy Communion
- Appendix: Standard Theological Works
ON THE NECESSITY OF CARE IN PREPARING FOR THE RECEPTION OF THE HOLY COMMUNION BY THE PATIENT
MENTION has been made of the Holy Communion as the objective point to be aimed at, so far as regards external observance, in the process of dealing with a soul which needs pastoral care. At the same time, great care and caution will be found necessary to guard the learner against approaching the Sacrament without due preparation and qualification. A man may be in the practice of observing this, and other means of grace, without actual hypocrisy; he may experience a certain degree of pleasure and satisfaction in the observance; he may be regular in his prayers and in the performance of other religious duties; he may appear to himself sincere in his prayers and to a certain extent earnest in their utterance; his life may be free from gross or flagrant sin yet, nevertheless, he may be entirely devoid of what may be called real grace: and this because his heart and life have never been completely given up to God, self in some form or other being the ruling principle of his character, and showing itself to his conscience at every turn of his life as the ruling principle.
Such a man will always carry about with him an under lying suspicion that all is not right with him, that his 141
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religion consists merely in external form and observance.
He will probably, if he set about the work of selfexamination, find himself to be living in the allowed commission of some form of habitual sin. His life has no real conflict in it, or if such a thing should occur at all, it is merely occasional, and the real victory is always gained by the power of evil, that is, self.
Dealing with a case of this kind calls for the very utmost degree of skill on the part of a spiritual director.
There is terrible danger of confirming the soul in a condition which is on the way to become ruinous.
The priest, then, is to be on the look out for this subtle form of spiritual evil, that, namely, of mere formalism.
It may appear to some persons a monstrous thing to say, yet nevertheless it is none the less true, that in many cases there is danger in too frequent Communions.
Not that Communion can of itself be too frequent, even daily Communion, but it may be too frequent for the spiritual attainment of the observer. Frequency in Communion calls for a high degree of spiritual attainment, spiritual energy and devotion, or it may be a positive source of injury by degenerating into mere formalism. ” Let a man test himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” l Clergy have been known to urge a man to come to Communion with a view to acquiring that, without the possession of which he ought not to come at all. Communion is meant to feed and sustain those who are in a state of grace, not to convert men to that state.
It is the fashion nowadays to speak of redemption as though it represented merely deliverance from sin itself, and not from the penal consequences of sin, as though when the sin was forgiven those consequences 1 I Cor. 11:28.
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must still hold on their way unchanged. This surely is an error. The consequence of sin is death death in its various aspects and stages of moral and spiritual disintegration the dissolution of that Order which is Heaven’s first law. No doubt there are certain con sequences which follow the commission of sin in any case, and which are not averted by repentance and absolution; but those consequences are not to be regarded as penal; they are simply permitted as remedial, disciplinary in their character, wholesome ” chastening ” which ” yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness in them that are exercised thereby “: in those, that is, who ” endure ” it as chastening, in accordance with the pleasantly expressed charge in the Visitation of the Sick: Take therefore in good part the chastisement of the Lord.” We may believe, then, that in the case of true repentance the consequences of sin in so far as they are attended with suffering follow naturally to such an extent as they are necessary for the prosecution of the course of discipline which is requisite for the soul’s health. It must frequently be the case that while such results of past sin may for one person be a means of salutary discipline, and have the effect of raising him to a higher level of spiritual attainment and growth in grace, to another individual circumstances of similar or practically identical character following as consequences of past sin may form a stage in his downward career, confirming his condition of alienation from the love of God. In one case such consequences become ” a savour of life unto life “; in the other, ” a savour of death unto death/ l The actual consequences of sin as sin must be unspeakably more serious than these temporal accessories which 1 2 Cor. 2:16.
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are merely incidental. You will sometimes hear a penitent say with regard to such temporary ills, “God is punishing me for my sins, and I must bear it, for I know I deserve it.” He should be taught that the visitations to which he refers have a much. deeper significance and wider purpose than he as yet realises.
They are to be exhibited and utilised, turned to their due account in the way of promoting the work of correcting his tendencies to sin, and aiding his growth in grace and knowledge.