Book 4, Chapter 14: Of The Fervent Desire Of Devout Persons Toward Receiving The Body And Blood Of Christ.
In this chapter on the Holy Eucharist, Thomas reflects deeply on what is to be demonstrated in true devotion in receiving Holy Communion. Two pictures came to my mind upon reading this selection: First, the elderly woman at Mass who struggles to her feet, dragging her gnarled, arthritic body to the aisle to receive The Host. Second, when I see the young second-grader who is a pure, chaste First Communicant, eager to receive Our Lord. She receives Him for the first time in innocence and awe. These witnesses inspire me. These two disciples awaken in me a sense of the sort of devotion needed to recognize the Holiness that stands before me, and the privilege I am about to receive freely. In the second paragraph, Thomas composes a prayer for us to aid us in cultivating a desire to receive Holy Communion more devoutly. Thomas ends with a confession that he’s not as fervent as he’d like to be. But Thomas knows that our Lord may grant this fervency as a consolation in His good time, putting in us the desire and the innocence to receive worthily.
Chapter 14, In Short.
1. When I call to mind how devout persons draw near to Blessed Sacrament, they do so with the deepest devotion, not careless and cold.
2. The truly ardent people of faith become a proof of Your Sacred Presence in the Breaking of the Bread!
3. God’s mercy is powerful indeed: Powerful enough to grant me the grace which I long for.
Question: From 1 to 10, with 1 being indifferent, and 10 being ardent, how would you describe your desire level when receiving Holy Communion?
The Text of Chapter 14: Of the Fervent Desire of Devout Persons toward Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.
Ah, how great is the abundance of Your sweetness, O Lord, which You have laid up for those that fear You.
O Lord, when I call to mind how devout persons draw near to Your Sacrament, they do so with the deepest devotion and affection. Very often I am confounded and blush for shame because I approach Your altar and the Holy Communion table so carelessly and coldly. Likewise, I remain so dry and lacking in affection for You, in such a way that I am not wholly enkindled with love before You, my God, nor so vehemently drawn and affected like the many devout persons have demonstrated. These are the devout, who out of the earnest desire for Communion, and tender affection of the heart, could not refrain from weeping in receiving You, but as it were with the mouth of the heart and body alike they panted inwardly after You (Ps 42:1). O God, O Fountain of Life, they had no power to appease or satisfy their hunger, except by receiving Your Body with all joyfulness and spiritual eagerness.
2. Oh, the impressive ardent faith of these people, demonstrate the very proof of Your Sacred Presence! For they know their Lord in the breaking of the Bread, whose heart so strongly burns within them (Lk 24:32) as when Jesus walked with the disciples by the way. Ah me! for the most part, such love and devotion as this are far from me. I lack this vehement love and ardor. Therefore, be merciful to me, O Jesus. Be good, sweet, and kind and grant to Your poor disciple the ability sometimes to feel, even just a little, the cordial affection of Your love in Holy Communion, so that my faith may grow stronger, my hope in Your goodness increase, and my charity, once kindled within me by the tasting of the heavenly manna, may never fail (1 Cor 13:13).
3. Your mercy is powerful indeed: Powerful enough to grant me the grace which I long for and to visit me most tenderly with the spirit of fervor on the day of Your good pleasure. For although I do not burn with desire as readily as those who are especially devoted towards You, yet, by Your grace, I ask to have this inflamed desire, praying and wishing that I be made partaker with all such fervent lovers of You and be numbered among their holy company.