(Written on May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown)
No Mass, no Eucharist. While we do have Mass and we do have the Eucharist, being in quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic prevents many Catholics from receiving Holy Communion. For several weeks now, Catholics have been worshiping virtually from their living rooms with the Body of Christ.
Most of us simulate being ‘at church’ on Sunday by getting out of our pajamas, standing, sitting, and kneeling at different parts of the Mass. We sing the hymns and engage in the prayers and responses. Then we make an act of spiritual communion. For us, it is reading from the screen a prayer composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Spiritual Communion is more than a prayer; it is an act. An act means to move, to do something, to take action. An act of faith is involved – believing that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. It also involves an act of love – asking Jesus to unite Himself to us. On our part, the action we take is to open our hearts.
Mary, Mother of Christ
The Angelus gives us a simple model of how spiritual communion leads us to receive Jesus.
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, in overshadowing Mary, initiated the spiritual communion within her.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
Be it done unto me according to Your Word.
Mary was interiorly disposed to receive – her faith and love of God provided an opening by which God is granted accessibility to her.
And the Word was made Flesh:
And dwelt among us.
Jesus was incarnated in her womb, and she gave birth to Him nine months later.
Mary, fully disposed and open to the will of God, is filled with the Holy Spirit. She receives Jesus in the flesh into her body.
To follow this model: I open my entire self to God, and the Holy Spirit comes and acts within me in spiritual communion. When I am privileged to receive the Eucharist, Jesus comes to me in sacramental communion.
Come at Least Spiritually into My Heart
It is Easter, but we feel like we are still fasting because we are not able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. These past months, our desire for Holy Communion has increased with every passing Sunday. We have come to a greater appreciation and deeper gratitude for the Blessed Sacrament: the gift of Jesus Himself. We have also learned and practiced the act of spiritual communion.
The beauty of the act of spiritual communion is that it is not confined to specific times or places. We can make this act whenever our hearts turn to Jesus, anytime, anywhere, and as often as we want to be with Him. When we ask Jesus to come spiritually into our hearts, He comes. Each act of spiritual communion increases our desire to receive sacramental Communion. We yearn to receive Jesus Himself – His real presence in the flesh – into our bodies.
We all wait in anticipation for the moment that we can return to Mass in our parishes and again receive Jesus in the Eucharist. It will remind us of our First Holy Communion. Jesus waits in the Blessed Sacrament. He too waits in anticipation to spread the table for us and satisfy our hunger.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
This post also appears in The Well.