4. Fasting 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
THIS expression is, strictly speaking, a misnomer, since what is signified by it does not necessarily imply the practice of fasting considered in its true sense of deprivation of ordinary food. When the Communion is made, as is usually the case, early in the morning, there is no question of fasting in the true sense of the term. It would be better, therefore, that the practice should be designated by some other term.
With regard to the practice itself, no doubt the leading principle upon which it is founded is a good one, whether considered as implying the idea of reverence, or that of fitness for the Sacrament in the sense of mental and spiritual receptivity. This principle appears to require that on the ground of reverence it is manifestly proper that provision should be made for a due vacancy in the physical frame for the reception of the sacred Body and Blood. Further ground on which the practice would seem desirable is that of the suitable mental frame thus induced, the faculties being certainly clearer and more vigorous when a cer tain interval has elapsed after a full meal. Again, the spiritual condition thus promoted, of calm, quiet, and self-control, is always to be considered. So far, then, as the practice implies the interposition of an interval sufficient for reverent reception as well as for 25
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mental and spiritual fitness for the apprehension of the benefit, the practice would appear to be not only right and seemly, but actually called for by the needs of the case.
The question next arises by what rule the inter position of this period or interval is to be regulated.
The prevailing view is to the effect that the starting point of the abstinence should necessarily be not later than the hour of midnight, whatever may be the hour of the day following at which the Communion is made.
This view of the case is, of course, very widely followed, and has been the rule from a very early period. But it may be questioned whether it has not acted to a certain extent as an obstacle to the very practice which it is designed to enforce. If we bear in mind simply the twofold object which the practice would appear mainly intended to promote, the question would arise whether its due observance does not depend rather upon the nature and length of the interval between the act of Communion and the last preceding meal, than on the assignment of any particular period from which the time of abstinence is to be reckoned.
For example, supposing one man should take a late supper and communicate very early the next morning, say five or six o clock; and that another man should take an early breakfast, say at seven or half-past seven, and that in his case the act of Communion were to be about midday (probably after that time if the Communion were a choral one), the physical effect, as regards bodily preparedness, would most likely be more effectual in the latter case than in the former, as the process of digestion proceeds much more rapidly during waking hours than during hours of sleep.
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This suggestion would no doubt be met on the part of many with indignant dissent. 1 The view that it is seemly that the Sacrament should be the first food entering the system on the day of Communion is certainly worthy of full consideration, but, after all, is a matter of sentiment only. And it is a question whether it is a sufficient reason for making the practice of so-called ” Fasting Communion ” a hard-and-fast rule to which no exception shall be allowed. Surely the first point to be considered in dealing with such a question is that of the due preparedness of the system for the reverent and effective use of the Sacrament.
Obviously, this condition of due preparedness cannot be said to exist during the process of digestion immediately following a full meal; nor on the other hand, can such a state of reverent fitness be predicated when abstinence from food has been prolonged to the extent of producing a disordered state of the digestive organs. The long period of abstinence involved in the usua 50:-practice of abstaining from food from the night of the previous day until after noon on the day of the celebration must, in most cases, be felt as a tax upon the physical energies. This is evidenced by the fact that some priests endeavour to meet it in some degree by lying late in bed, a practice most surely to be deprecated. Even when this is not the case, prolonged fasting under circumstances of active movement and expenditure is generally followed by a somewhat disordered state of the digestive organs, productive of a condition the reverse of that which reverence would seek to ensure as suitable for the solemn repast we are 1 This view has been criticised as objectionable. But is it not an unquestionable fact that physical conditions in the hygienic sense have a distinct effect, advantageous or disadvantageous, on spiritual exercise in its various forms?
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considering. Surely the question is not one of hours of the day, but of the effect to be produced; and what ever may best conduce, even in a physical sense, to a suitable effect is necessarily the first point to be aimed at, even though it may involve the departure from stereotyped rules.