Behold the Pierced One (pp.97-98), Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI):
“When Augustine sensed his death approaching, he ‘excommunicated’ himself and undertook public penance. In his last days he manifested his solidarity with the public sinners who seek for pardon and grace through the renunciation of communion. He wanted to meet his Lord in the humility of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for him who is the Righteous and Merciful One. Against the background of his sermons and writings, which are a magnificent portrayal of the mystery of the Church as communion with the Body of Christ, and as the Body of Christ itself, built up by the Eucharist, this is a profoundly arresting gesture. The more I think of it, the more it moves me to reflection. Do we not often take the reception of the Blessed Sacrament too lightly? Might not this kind of spiritual fasting be of service, or even necessary, to deepen and renew our relationship to the Body of Christ?
“The ancient Church had a highly expressive practice of this kind. Since apostolic times, no doubt, the fast from the Eucharist on Good Friday was a part of the Church’s spirituality of communion. This renunciation of communion on one of the most sacred days of the Church’s year was a particularly profound way of sharing in the Lord’s Passion; it was the Bride’s mourning for the lost Bridegroom (cf. Mk 2:20).24 Today too, I think, fasting from the Eucharist, really taken seriously and entered into, could be most meaningful on carefully considered occasions, such as days of penance—and why not reintroduce the practice on Good Friday?
It would be particularly appropriate at Masses where there is a vast congregation, making it impossible to provide for a dignified distribution of the sacrament; in such cases the renunciation of the sacrament could in fact express more reverence and love than a reception which does not do justice to the immense significance of what is taking place. A fasting of this kind—and of course it would have to be open to the Church’s guidance and not arbitrary—could lead to a deepening of personal relationship with the Lord in the sacrament.
It could also be an act of solidarity with all those who yearn for the sacrament but cannot receive it. It seems to me that the problem of the divorced and remarried, as well as that of intercommunion (e.g., in mixed marriages), would be far less acute against the background of voluntary spiritual fasting, which would visibly express the fact that we all need that ‘healing of love’ which the Lord performed in the ultimate loneliness of the Cross. Naturally, I am not suggesting a return to a kind of Jansenism: fasting presupposes normal eating, both in spiritual and biological life. But from time to time we do need a medicine to stop us from falling into mere routine which lacks all spiritual dimension. Sometimes we need hunger, physical and spiritual hunger, if we are to come fresh to the Lord’s gifts and understand the suffering of our hungering brothers. Both spiritual and physical hunger can be a vehicle of love.”
As you know, in order to try to limit the spread of Covid-19, the Bishops have decided to suspend all public Masses for the foreseeable future.
This means that many people who are used to receiving Holy Communion regularly at Mass will not be able to do so for the time being.
During this “Eucharistic Fast” one way to keep close to the Lord is to make a “Spiritual Communion.” This is an ancient spiritual tradition of the Church which consists in making a simple act of “spiritual communion,” whereby we unite ourselves to God through prayer. It is a beautiful way to express to God our desire to be united with him when we are unable to receive Holy Communion.
St. Thomas Aquinas defined a Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament [in Communion at Mass] and in lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him.” You can make a Spiritual Communion whenever and wherever you like, using the prayer given below, or others like it, or your own heartfelt thoughts.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
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.
Remember, you can receive Jesus in your heart from anywhere you might happen to be, at any time, day or night! You just need to approach Him with sincerity, humility and a desire to follow in His footsteps in acts of faith and charity. And He’s delighted when we do so! The Catechism teaches that a Spiritual Communion “is an act of devotion, and one very pleasing to God.”
Countless saints incorporated this type of prayer into their daily lives. Making an act of spiritual communion for them was an essential part of life and drew them closer to God on a daily basis. St. Josemaria Escriva encouraged everyone to make a spiritual communion as often as they could, “What a source of grace there is in spiritual communion! Practice it frequently and you’ll have greater presence of God and closer union with him in all your actions.” Padre Pio also had a habit of making a spiritual communion throughout the day outside of the celebration of Mass. He desired to be always united with Jesus Christ in everything he did.
A prayer of spiritual communion can be prayed at any time, even in the midst of your daily work by lifting up your thoughts to God. The ultimate goal of our lives should be communion with God and an act of spiritual communion can help a person draw closer to that goal.