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communicated every day; and this lasted in Rome and Spain until the time of St. Jerome: concerning which diligence he gives the same censure, which I now recited from St. Austin; for it suffered inconvenience by reason of a declining piety, and the intervening of secular interests. But then it came to once a week; and yet that was not everywhere strictly observed. But that it be received once every fortnight, St. Hierome counsels very strongly to Eustochium, a holy virgin: "Let the virgins confess their sins twice every month, or oftener; and, being fortified with the communion of the Lord's body, let them manfully fight against the devil's forces and attempts." A while after, it came to once a month, then once a year, then it fell from that too; till all the Christians in the west were commanded to communicate every Easter by the decree of a great council above five hundred years since. But the church of England, finding that too little, hath commanded all her children to receive thrice every year at least, intending that they should come oftener; but of this she demands an account. For it hath fared with this sacrament as with other actions of religion, which have descended from flames to still fires, from fires to sparks, from sparks to embers, from embers to smoke, from smoke to nothing. And although the public declension of piety is such, that, in this present conjuncture of things, it is impossible men should be reduced to a daily communion; yet that they are to communicate frequently is so a duty, that, as no excuse but impossibility can make the omission innocent, so the loss and consequent want is infinite and invaluable.

20. For the holy communion being a remembrance and sacramental repetition of Christ's passion, and the application of his sacrifice to us and the whole Catholic church; as they who seldom communicate, delight not to remember the passion of our Lord, and sin against his very purpose, and one of the designs of institution; so he cares not to receive the benefits of the sacrifice, whoso neglects their application, and reducing them to actual profit and reception. "Whence

Epist. 30. ad Lucinum.

1 Itaque sicut nobis licet vel jejunare semper, vel semper orare, et diem Dominicum, accepto corpore Domini, indesinenter celebrare gaudentibus, &c.

Idem.

* Concil. Lat.

came the sanctimony of the primitive Christians? whence came their strict observation of the Divine commandments? whence was it, that they persevered in holy actions with hope and an unweary diligence? from whence did their despising worldly things come, and living with common possession, and the distributions of an universal charity? Whence came these, and many other excellencies, but from a constant prayer, and a daily eucharist? They who every day represented the death of Christ, every day were ready to die for Christ." It was the discourse of an ancient and excellent person. And if we consider, this sacrament is intended to unite the spirits and affections of the world, and that it is diffusive and powerful to this purpose, (" for we are one body," saith St. Paul, "because we partake of one bread;") possibly we may have reason to say, that the wars of kingdoms, the animosity of families, the infinite multitude of lawsuits, the personal hatreds, and the universal want of charity, which hath made the world miserable and wicked, may, in a great degree, be attributed to the neglect of this great symbol and instrument of charity. The chalice of the sacrament is called by St. Paul," the cup of blessing;" and if children need every day to beg blessings of their parents, if we also thirst not after this cup of blessing, blessing may be far from us. It is called "the communication of the blood of Christ;" and it is not imaginable, that man should love heaven, or felicity, or his Lord, that desires not perpetually to bathe in that salutary stream, the blood of the holy Jesus, the immaculate Lamb of God.

21. But I find, that the religious fears of men are pretended a colour to excuse this irreligion. Men are wicked, and not prepared, and busy, and full of cares and affairs of the world, and cannot come with due preparation; and therefore better not come at all: nay, men are not ashamed to say, they are at enmity with certain persons, and therefore cannot come. Concerning those persons who are unprepared, because they are in a state of sin or uncharitableness, it is true, they must not come; but this is so far from excusing their not coming, that they increase their sin, and secure misery to themselves, because they do not "lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset them," that they may come to the marriage-supper. It is as if we

should excuse ourselves from the duties of charity, by saying we are uncharitable; from giving alms, by saying we are covetous; from chastity, by saying we are lascivious. To such men it is just that they graze with the goats, because they refuse to wash their hands, that they may come to the supper of the Lamb. 2. Concerning those that pretend cares and incumbrances of the world; if their affairs make sin and impure affections to stick upon them, they are in the first consideration: but if their office be necessary, just, or charitable, they imitate Martha, and choose the less perfect part, when they neglect the offices of religion for duties economical. 3. But the other sort have more pretence and fairer virtue in their outside. They suppose, like the Persian princes, the seldomer such mysterious rites are seen, the more reverence we shall have, and they the more majesty: and they are fearful lest the frequent attrectation of them should make us less to value the great earnests of our redemption and immortality. It is a pious consideration, but not becoming them: for it cannot be, that the sacrament be undervalued by frequent reception, without the great unworthiness of the persons, so turning God's grace into lightness and loathing manna: nay, it cannot be without an unworthy communication; for he that receives worthily, increases in the love of God and religion, and the fires of the altar are apt to kindle our sparks into a flame; and when Christ our Lord enters into us, and we grow weary of him, or less fond of his frequent entrance and perpetual cohabitation, it is an infallible sign we have let his enemy in, or are preparing for it. For this is the difference between secular and spiritual objects: Nothing in this world hath any pleasure in it long beyond the hope of it, for the possession and enjoyment is found so empty, that we grow weary of it; but whatsoever is spiritual, and in order to God, is less before we have it, but in the fruition it swells our desires, and enlarges the appetite, and makes us more receptive and forward in the entertainment: and therefore, those acts of religion that set us forward in time, and backward in affection, do declare that we have not well done our duty, but have communicated unworthily. So that the mending of our fault will answer the objection. Communicate with more devotion, and repent with greater contrition, and walk with more caution, and

pray more earnestly, and meditate diligently, and receive with reverence and godly fear; and we shall find our affections increase together with the spiritual emolument; ever remembering that pious and wise advice of St. Ambrose, "Receive, every day, that which may profit thee every day. But he that is not disposed to receive it every day, is not fit to receive it every year1."

22. And if, after all diligence, it be still feared that a man is not well prepared, I must say that it is a scruple, that is, a trouble beyond a doubt and without reason, next to superstition and the dreams of religion; and it is nourished, by imagining that no duty is accepted, if it be less than perfection, and that God is busied in heaven, not only to destroy the wicked, and to dash in pieces vessels of dishonour, but to "break a bruised reed" in pieces, and to cast the "smoking flax" into the flames of hell. In opposition to which, we must know, that nothing makes us unprepared but an evil conscience", a state of sin, or a deadly act: but the lesser infirmities of our life, against which we daily strive, and for which we never have any kindness or affections, are not spots in these feasts of charity, but instruments of humility, and stronger invitations to come to those rites, which are ordained for corroboratives against infirmities of the soul, and for the growth of the spirit in the strengths of God. For those other acts of preparation, which precede and accompany the duty, the better and more religiously they are done, they are indeed of more advantage, and honorary to the sacrament; yet he that comes in the state of grace, though he takes the opportunity upon a sudden offer, sins not and in such indefinite duties, whose degrees are not described, it is good counsel to do our best; but it is ill to make them instruments of scruple, as if it were essentially necessary to do that in the greatest height, which is only intended for advantage, and the fairer accommodation of the mystery. But these very acts, if they be esteemed necessary preparations to the sacrament, are the greatest arguments in the world that it is best to communicate often; because the doing of that, which must suppose the exercise of so many

De Sacram. lib. v. c. 4.

m Tempestivum accessum sola conscientiæ integritas facit.— S. Chrys,

graces, must needs promote the interest of religion, and dispose strongly to habitual graces by our frequent and solemn repetition of the acts. It is necessary that every communicant be first examined concerning the state of his soul, by himself or his superior; and that very scrutiny is in admirable order towards the reformation of such irregularities which time and temptation, negligence and incuriousness, infirmity or malice, have brought into the secret regions of our will and understanding. Now, although this examination be therefore enjoined, that no man should approach to the holy table in the state of ruin and reprobation, and that therefore it is an act, not of direct preparation, but an inquiry whether we be prepared or no; yet this very examination will find so many little irregularities, and so many great imperfections, that it will appear the more necessary, to repair the breaches and lesser ruins by such acts of piety and religion; because every communication is intended to be a nearer approach to God, a farther step in grace, a progress towards glory, and an instrument of perfection; and therefore upon the stock of our spiritual interests, for the purchase of a greater hope, and the advantages of a growing charity, ought to be frequently received. I end with the words of a pious and learned person": "It is a vain fear and an imprudent reverence, that procrastinates and defers going to the Lord that calls them :" they deny to go to the fire, pretending they are cold; and refuse physic, because they need it."

THE PRAYER.

O blessed and eternal Jesus, who gavest thyself a sacrifice for our sins, thy body for our spiritual food, thy blood to nourish our spirits, and to quench the flames of hell and lust, who didst so love us, who were thine enemies, that thou desiredst to reconcile us to thee, and becamest all one with us, that we may live the same life, think the same thoughts, love the same love, and be partakers of thy resurrection and immortality; open every window of my soul, that I may be full of light, and may see the

Joan: Gerson, in Magnificat.

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