To this feast, wherein the King of angels is Himself the host and the nourishment, God, by the mouth of His servants, the priests, invites all the faithful; and certainly if we consider the great dignity of the Host, and how precious the nourishment is, who should not extol with joy and gratitude the infinite mercy of the Redeemer and approach the holy table as often as possible?
Before the altar of His Holy Church the Lord spreads the holy table for the great supper, and He invites many to the banquet. Such an invitation we should think does not need much urging to bring in the guests as quickly and as frequently as He desires. And yet, as He tells us in the parables, and as we see and hear ourselves, there are many who make little of His invitation, and either do not come at all, or come with such reluctance that it is plain that they are acting more from the fear of punishment than from a motive of love.
When St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi was a little girl, and saw her older companions going up to the altar to receive Holy Communion, she asked her mother if she also might go up with them. "You are too young yet, my child," she answered; "you must wait till you are a little older." This brought tears to her eyes, for she loved Jesus so much and desired so much to be with Him. The manna was the daily bread of the Israelites, and had in it, as the Psalmist tells us, the sweetness of every taste, that is, the flavor of every kind of food. So also does God wish the Blessed Eucharist to be our constant food by a frequent and worthy Communion, giving to us therein every precious grace that can strengthen or delight the heart of man. It is only when we arrive at the "habitable land," our true home in the heavenly Jerusalem, that this Divine Food will no longer be communicated to us under the humble form of bread; for it will then be permitted us to behold our Lord in all His glory, and to possess and enjoy Him by the sweetest and most intimate union for all eternity.
It is related in Holy Scripture that when Elias was fleeing from the persecution of the impious Jezabel, he was overtaken with fatigue and hunger in the desert. And when he was there and sat down under a juniper, he requested for his soul that he might die. And he cast himself down and slept under the shadow of the juniper tree; and, behold, an angel of the Lord touched him and said: Arise and eat. He looked, and, behold, there was at his head a hearth cake and a vessel of water; and he ate and drank and fell asleep again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time and touched him, and said to him: Arise, eat, for thou hast yet a great way to go. And he arose, and ate and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights unto the mount of God, Horeb.
My dear children, this miraculous bread brought by an angel to Elias in the desert is a significant figure of the Bread of Angels, the Holy Eucharist, which is given to us by our Lord, to nourish and support us in our pilgrimage through the desert of this world. Strengthened by this Divine Food, of which we should eat not once only, but again and again, we shall be able to walk manfully in spite of every obstacle until we arrive at Mount Horeb, which means the vision of God; in other words, the sight and enjoyment of God in the heavenly Jerusalem.
It is a great supper on account of the One who has prepared this heavenly banquet, for He is not a mere man or an angel, but God Himself—great on account of the food, which is nothing less than the true Body and the true Blood of our Lord, with His soul and divinity—great on account of the multitude of the guests, for these are all the Catholic Christians upon earth—great on account of the angels, who invisibly assist at Holy Communion, and adore Jesus with the most profound veneration. Everything is great in Holy Communion; but we are little and unworthy, and yet Christ invites us. Oh, how great is His love for us !
Ought we not to appear at this divine banquet with the greatest joy in order to satisfy our hunger and thirst ? Ought we still to have a desire for the food of the world and of the flesh, which is but deceitful bread?
We read in the life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga that, being permitted by his confessor to receive Holy Communion every Sunday, he divided the week between his thanksgiving and preparation, three days to each. The same is related of another devout soul who, in arranging his devotions, observed the following plan: Sunday, the day of his Communion, was spent by him in union and interior converse with our Lord. Monday was a day of thanksgiving for the rich treasure he had received. On Tuesday he continually offered and consecrated himself to God. Wednesday was spent in constant petitions to our Lord for his own wants and those of the Church. On Thursday he began his preparation for his next Communion, spending that day entirely in acts of faith and adoration: "O, my Jesus, I believe in Thee present in the most Holy Sacrament! O, my Jesus, I adore Thee!" Friday was a day of humiliation and contrition, yet of hope and confidence in the divine mercy: "O Lord, I am not worthy! O Jesus, make me worthy ! In Thee have I hoped, and I shall never be confounded !" Finally, Saturday was devoted to acts of love and desire: "Oh, my Jesus, I love Thee. I long for Thee ! Oh, my Jesus, come and take possession of me." It is such souls as these, souls who spare no trouble to make a good preparation and thanksgiving, that enjoy the full fruit of a good Communion. It is of Communions like these that it may be justly said, "One Communion is sufficient to make a saint."
It is related that when Jesus was about to institute the Holy Eucharist, He sent before Him into the city of Jerusalem two of His disciples to prepare a room in which they might partake of this heavenly banquet. This, my dear boys and girls, is a lesson for us; it teaches us what we ought to do when we intend to approach the Holy Communion. The room is the temple of our souls, into which our Lord is about to enter that He may make His dwelling with us. For some days before Communion we should prepare that room, that is, we should cleanse it and adorn our interior, by carefully abstaining from sin, fighting against our passions, and practicing acts of virtue and self-denial.
Prepare yourselves for every Communion with the greatest care; never approach the altar except with a pure heart, and with the greatest veneration and devotion. Pray that God may bless your good resolutions and keep you in His grace. Blessed are you if you always communicate in such a manner; you will advance from virtue to virtue, persevere in grace to the end, and be united to Jesus forever in Heaven.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921