The first circumstance which presents itself to your meditations is the strange command which Jesus gives to His apostles, viz., to prepare a room which shall be at once large and beautifully appointed. In fact, it is a strange command, since it is the first time that the divine Master shows that He is particular in the choice of a place which He shall honor by His presence. For a palace, He chose a stable; for a cradle, He selected a manger; for a refuge of His infancy, He is content with the house of a poor artisan; to offer His last sacrifice, a wooden cross sufficed. It is only now that He does not wish to appear poor. He wishes to surround His Eucharistic body with honors; and why? These surroundings are intended more for us than for Him. He wishes to give us a lesson. He teaches us that we cannot surround the Blessed Eucharist with too much respect or magnificence. He justifies His Church from the reproach of too much pomp, which unthinking men would make against her, and who would wish to see her offer the holy sacrifice under a roof of straw and in vessels of wood and potter's clay, while they themselves walk on richest tapestry and eat and drink from gold and silver vessels. Ah, if gold and silver were ever legitimately employed, it is certainly when there is question of erecting a throne to the God of the Eucharist and to heighten the splendor of its festivals.
This has been the mind and conduct of all thesaints, and of all who have with David loved the "beauty of God's house." They have all considered it a duty and a joy to contribute to the ornamentation of the place which He has chosen to make His dwelling among men. St. Cajetan wished that the churches and the altars should be decorated with all possible splendor, and, in spite of his love for poverty, he sought for the richest ornaments, saying that nothing was too precious for the Lord of the world. Are these your sentiments? By this command Jesus warns us specially concerning the interior dispositions which we should bring to the reception of the Holy Eucharist. He asks that the room in which the institution of the Blessed Eucharist takes place should be grand and vast and spacious. But that which constitutes the grandeur of the heart are the exalted sentiments and a complete detachment from earthly things.
Our souls ascend or descend with the objects which preoccupy them. If the soul habitually loves and seeks after what is beneath her, the weight of these things compel her to descend. There is nothing so little or contracted as a soul whose intelligence revolves habitually in the narrow circle of purely material interests. The ideas are narrow, the tastes are low, and the mind is frivolous; grand and serious thoughts are too heavy for such a soul to carry. Do you wish to possess a grand and noble heart? Then banish from it every earthly affection. Jesus can be but ill at ease in a heart which is also occupied by creatures. The throne of your heart is by far too beautiful to allow some earthly idol to possess it; He only is worthy to occupy it who has formed it by His own hands, and then can enrich it by His grace from the treasury of His virtues.
When approaching the holy table, offer to your King, Jesus, a heart void of all earthly affection or whatever is purely human. If you would possess a truly great heart, let it be filled with a holy confidence. Confidence dilates the soul, unfolds all her faculties, and opens them to receive the dews of heavenly grace. It is precisely to facilitate this unfolding of the soul when approaching the holy table, that Jesus veils there His majesty under the Eucharistic species, and invites us in words that are full of tenderness : " Come, My well beloved, and eat the bread which I have prepared for you, and drink also of the wine; be inebriated by the delights of My table. Oh, with what ardor I have desired to eat of this Pasch with you!" How then can you be wanting in confidence when Jesus calls you to Him with so much goodness? Not only does Jesus wish a room vast and spacious, but also beautifully adorned. If your soul should be a dwelling-place worthy of God, she should be adorned with many virtues. This is a necessary condition for a worthy and fervent communion. And you know what these virtues should be: you should possess a lively faith, which shall present to you Jesus, true God and true man, under the sacred veils which hide Him from your corporal eyes—even as He was in the crib, when He received the adorations of the shepherds and the wise men; and even as He is in heaven, where He offers to His Father for you the wounds of His sacred humanity, the scars of which are still evident.
While approaching the holy table, let your soul be filled with an ardent charity. The Eucharist is by excellence the sacrament of love. Love begets love. When Jesus opens His heart for you with unspeakable tenderness, should you close yours to Him? What to Him are your protestations, your words of devotion, your sterile assurances? It is your heart that He desires, and it is your love He yearns for. He says to you, with an incomparable sweetness: " My son, give Me thy heart." I ask it of thee, not as the world asks it, to fill it with trouble, agitation, and often remorse; but I ask it that I may bless it, purify it, and enrich it with My graces. "My son, give Me thy heart." What an enemy you shall be to yourself if you refuse to give it!
To a lively faith and an ardent charity add a profound humility. Alas, who are you to merit the distinguished honor which awaits you at the holy table? Moses, while thinking that he was only"dust and ashes," was astonished that God should hear him; St. Elizabeth, on seeing the Blessed Virgin, who had come to visit her, exclaimed: "Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my God should come to me?" The centurion acknowledged he was unworthy to receive Jesus in his house. But it is in your heart that Jesus is going to descend; He is about to unite Himself to you, and you to Him. Even were you an angel, you could not sufficiently merit such a favor. But oh! how far you are from being an angel!
These preparatory dispositions for communion are indicated to us by a circumstance in which Jesus gives us at once the example and the precepts. Before the mysterious repast at which the Blessed Eucharist was instituted, He put aside His garments, and, after having girded Himself as the servants
do, He washed the feet of His apostles. What a lesson for us who are so jealous of our rank and dignity, so particular concerning precedence, and so desirous of honor ! The God of heaven and earth is on His knees before His apostles, washing their feet with those hands which can hurl the thunders, heal the sick, and lavish blessings. And Peter, at the sight of his Master's conduct, is seized with a holy indignation. "What ! Lord, Thou wash my feet! I shall never permit Thee." Peter fully realized the dignity of his Master, says Bossuet, and he only wished to hinder Him because of the lowliness of the ministry which He performed; he did not understand that this was, for him, an indispensable preparation for the Holy Eucharist, and that he could not participate in it unless his body and his feet also were purified ; that is to say, that the least stains, as well as the greatest faults, must be wiped away. But scarcely has Jesus declared to him that without this preparation he should have no part in His kingdom, than he exclaimed with greatest fervor: "Ah, Lord, wash not only my feet, but my hands and my head. Purify me wholly."
From this let us learn with what purity we should approach the holy table. After having effaced our grievous faults, do not neglect those which are venial. You have been purified in the sacred waters of penance, but we have something yet to do. Besides those sins which kill the soul, there are others which disfigure it, and these also must be effaced. Then, before approaching the holy table, repeat with St. Peter: "Lord, my God, wash me, my feet, my head, my hands, that nothing in me shall be displeasing to Thy eyes, that I may be pure and without stain, to receive Thee into my heart, God of purity!"
Source: Short Instructions on the Feasts of the Year, Imprimatur 1897