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The Holy Eucharist as Communion and

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Our secularized, paganized, former Christian America is beyond salvation

naturally speaking. The believing and true Catholic must wake up to the fact
that God became man and remains with us in the Holy Eucharist to help us to
make the impossible possible. Fr. Hardon shows clearly that much power and
many graces are conferred on one who frequently receives him and adores
him with deep faith and corresponding love. Do you want to absorb these
truths deeply, live them heroically, and spread them with apostolic
zeal? Listen to Fr. Hardon attentively and prayerfully. Then commit the rest
of your life as apostles of eternal life. Fr. Hardon:

Suppose we begin with a prayer. In the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our
death. Mother of the Holy Eucharist, pray for us. In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our conference this evening is on the Eucharist as communion and

sacrament. There is generally no difficulty in speaking about the Eucharist
as Sacrament. In fact, that’s the way most Catholics understand the
Eucharist. However, our focus is more specific. We wish to explore how the
Holy Eucharist is a sacrament three times over as present sacrament, as
communion sacrament, and as sacrifice sacrament. Tonight’s focus is on the
Holy Eucharist as communion sacrament.

We might begin by observing that the Church’s doctrinal history of Holy

Communion as a means of nourishing our souls goes back literally to the
first century, even before the New Testament was completed. To be exact,
the Didache otherwise known as the teaching of the twelve apostles is
unqualifyingly clear. However, from the very beginning, the Holy Eucharist
was challenged as we know by those who questioned the reality of the Real
Presence and the corresponding reality of the soul needing to be nourished
no less than the body.

What is the source of the Church’s teaching? The source of the Church’s
teaching is divine revelation as found in the sixth chapter of St. John’s
Gospel. John wrote his Gospel, as we know, to meet the two major
challenges in Christianity by the end of the first century. One questioning
Christ’s divinity and the other questioning his humanity. St. John, then, was
first of all preserved to the end of the first century unlike all the other
apostles who died martyr’s deaths. The Holy Spirit preserved John so he
would write his Gospel at the end of the first century by which time some of
the most devastating errors on both who Christ is and what the Holy
Eucharist is had arisen in Christianity. John concentrates so much on
showing Jesus as God himself in human form that he might begin to wonder,
why the stress in the fourth Evangelist on both Christ’s divinity and his
humanity. The stress on Christ’s divinity was of course to emphasize that
God truly became man. It is God, who became incarnate, but the stress on
Christ’s humanity, how these needs to be underlined and circled, etched in
bronze, it is Jesus Christ in his humanity whom we receive in Holy
Communion. He promised, as we know in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel,
that he would provide food and drink, in other words, nourishment for the
soul. Let’s be clear, nourishment for the soul animated by the grace of God.
We Catholics believe there are two kinds of souls, two kinds of animation,
there is the body animated by its principle of life, which we call the soul.
There is the soul animated by its principle of life, and that is sanctifying
grace. In other words, Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist in order to
provide our souls with means, not only of sustenance to remain
supernaturally alive, for, as we shall see to grow in this supernatural life.
From the dawn of Christianity, the Church has been absolutely
unambiguous in teaching there are two levels of life that we are to possess.
One level of life when we are conceived in our mother’s womb, the other
level of life when our souls acquire that super human supernatural life
when we are baptized. Two chapters of John’s Gospel always go together.
Chapter three and chapter six. In chapter three, remember the dialogue
with Nicodemus where Christ speaks of the necessity of being born again,
and Nicodemus in his, well, innocent stupidity asked, “Master, you can’t
mean that we’re supposed to enter our mother’s womb a second time.” Oh
Nicodemus, No, but we are to acquire or shall I say, reacquire, what our first
parents lost by their sin. We are to reacquire what they have lost by our
being baptized. In other words beyond and above the natural life of the
body whose principle of life is the soul. We are to acquire a supernatural life
for the soul. Sanctifying grace, as St. Augustine calls it, is the soul of the soul,
anima anime. It is that soul of the soul, which needs to be sustained and
nourished. In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, the principle, indeed
indispensable source of nourishment for that soul of the soul is the
sacrament of Holy Communion.

We go on. The state of grace is necessary to receive the graces that Christ
wants to confer to the sacrament of Holy Communion. May I speak clearly;
the sacrament of Holy Communion does not confer sanctifying grace. That’s
why Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance. Or as our Holy Father
prefers calling it, the Sacrament of Confession. I like that. Anyone who goes
to Holy Communion not in the state of grace, not only does not receive
grace. That person commits the grave sin of blasphemy. Loses further grace
as St. Paul tells us, “Such a person draws condemnation on himself.” We do
not have to be mystics to know that not a few people are receiving
sacrilegious communions --- widespread. I never tire repeating what our
present Holy Father told the assembled American hierarchy on his first
pilgrimage to America. In Chicago, in the name of God, he told them, I hear
on Sundays most of your people who attend Mass receive Holy Communion,
but I also understand that not many go to Confession. In other words, to
receive Holy Communion, we must be in the state of grace in order to obtain
the graces that Christ intends to confer through the Holy Eucharist as
Communion sacrament. You might say this stands to reason. You don’t feed
a human corpse. A person in mortal sin is a spiritual corpse. Holy
Communion is a source of nourishment, but the soul had better be alive
with what we’ve been calling the soul of the soul, otherwise known as
sanctifying grace. I cannot tell you what a flood of errors are pouring, surely
in the United States, on just this subject. Not too many months ago, I
understand, forty parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago do hear
confessions. The priests give general absolution. Just refresh our memories;
a general absolution is to be a rare, most extraordinary event. There must
be a real emergency and a large number of penitents, the Church tells us, is
not such an emergency. An epidemic, a time of war, 5,000 soldiers going to
battle need general absolution, but let’s be clear. Those receiving general
absolution validly must get the imperative, they must intend soon the Latin
word is mox, soon after having received general absolution, they must
intend to make a personal, private, individual confession of their mortal
sins. Unless they have that intention, the general absolution is invalid.

Now the centerpiece of our conference: The effects of the sacrament of Holy
Communion. These I will draw mainly from the teaching of the Council of
Trent. Protestantism in the sixteenth century flooded Christianity with a
deluge of errors, but none more devastating than their denial of the Real
Presence. And the consequent effects of receiving Holy Communion. I would
like to number these as we go along.

First, sustenance of the supernatural life. Following the promise of Jesus

Christ, the most basic effect of Holy Communion is to enable the
communicant to remain supernaturally alive. And that is mentioned not
once, but several times in the Gospel of John. “If anyone eats of this bread,
he shall live forever.” And again, Christ in John’s Gospel, “Unless you eat the
flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life within
you.” Or again, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life
everlasting.” And once more, “As the living father has sent me and as I live
because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me.”
Christ could not have been more concretely specific on the need for Holy
Communion to sustain ourselves in supernatural life.

Second effect: The promise of bodily resurrection from the dead. In the same
context of John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ, the person receiving him in the
sacrament of communion, “I will raise him up on the last day.”
Consequently, receiving the glorified Christ into our pathetically mortal
bodies is a prelude and a divine promise of having our bodies immortalized
and glorified on the day of resurrection at the end of present time. What a
dream world people can be living in. These bodies of ours we want to have
reunited with our souls and glorified. Very well. Two thousand years of the
Church’s teaching tells us, we insure our bodily glorified resurrection by
receiving Christ glorified in Holy Communion.

Third effect: Remission of venial sins. As explained by the Church, whatever

the soul loses by venial sins can be totally restored through Holy
Communion. Note the adjective, venial sins. Every sin, as we’ve been saying,
always has two effects. One called guilt, the other called penalty. The guilt
means loss of grace. It has nothing to do with emotional feelings. Guilt
means loss of grace. Penalty means a debt of pain. Holy Communion
restores us to that state, which we had before we had sinned, restores the
grace we had lost through venial sin, and remitting the punishment, here
temporal punishment due to the venial sins we had committed. This in no
way detracts from the value of the sacrament of confession. We are
speaking of the sacrament of Holy Communion. Part of the infallible
teaching of the Church is that Holy Communion removes both the debt of
punishment and restores grace, but watch it. Depending on the frequency of
receiving and the fervor of reception.

Fourth effect. Protection against future sins. Two basic forms of future
protection are taught by the Church as effects of receiving Holy
Communion. The Holy Eucharist received protects the recipient from the
contagion of sin like a spiritual vaccine. What an effect. And secondly, it
protects the soul from the assaults of temptation, like a supernatural armor,
especially from the assaults of the world and the devil. St. Cyprian, one of
the fathers of the Church, writing in the early third Century says, “Christians
imprisoned and tortured for the name of Christ received from the hand of
the Bishop the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord so that they
would not yield to a Roman prosecutor or deny their faith before going on
trial. They pleaded, “Give me communion so I will be able to resist.” My dear
friends, all I can do is raise my voice, but I cannot tell you how desperately, I
mean that adverb literally, how desperately we need Holy Communion in
today’s world to be protected from a world, which I don’t hesitate saying is
itself possessed by the evil spirit. From the very beginning of her history,
the Church recognized that Holy Communion had to, and the verb had to, be
brought to Christians in prison to provide them with the strength they
needed to remain faithful to Jesus Christ. I hope you don’t think I’m wasting
my breath, the Roman Empire had nothing, I mean this with all my heart,
had nothing, on the culture of the United States in our day. The pressure to
conformity with, not just a pagan society, as was the Roman Empire, but a
de-Christianized, paganized society. The pressure to conformity, I repeat,
demonic. If we think for a moment that the age of persecution has passed,
we are living in a dream world. The real world in which we live is a world
that hates Christ. I mean that verb literally, hates Christ and hates his
followers. I know how well I know. And among my worst enemies have
been ordained prelates and priests. The media calculated deliberately, I
don’t know by now how many times I have repeated Marshall McLuhan’s
statement, “The modern media are engaged in a Luciferian conspiracy
against the truth.” I say, amen, amen. We need to believe that Holy
Communion should be received as often as we can to protect us against the
virulent hatred found in Christ’s enemies today. Shrewd, cunning, smiling,
Fifth effect of the Holy Eucharist as Communion: It cures, or shall we say
curbs, the urges of concupiscence. As we all know, concupiscence is not
removed when we are baptized. Our falling human nature remains our
leaning Tower of Pizza. We are naturally, spontaneously, proud, lustful,
irascible, covetous, envious, lazy, and gluttonous. As a result, we need to
curb, control, these spontaneous passions to which we are all subject. And
Holy Communion provides us the indispensable means we need to control
what is naturally not controllable. Hear me; these passions are not naturally
controllable. Christ tells us that without me you can do nothing. And that
me in the without me, that me is especially, He, Jesus Christ, received
physically in Holy Communion. For years I have told my students in
teaching comparative religion, that Christianity with emphasis on Catholic
Christianity must be the one true religion. Why? It provides the means for
human beings to live as human beings by controlling themselves. If we rely
on our own human nature, we are fools. That’s why psychiatry is a massive
delusion. We need to use supernatural means, especially those found in the
Holy Eucharist. This is so true, and the verdict of history is certain. Either a
person receives Holy Communion frequently and regularly or human
nature is no match for the passions that plague every human being. This is
especially true for the two most demanding passions of pride and lust. This
year, I’ll keep repeating, my 50th year in the priesthood has taught me a lot.
I have told people in the name of God; go to Communion often, even daily.
Otherwise, forget it. You will never overcome either your pride or your lust
and the two go together. All of this, I repeat, the verdict of history of the
experience, I would add, of every Catholic priest, who has come to know
human souls.

Effect number six, Spiritual Joy. The Church compares the effects of savory
food and drink for the body with a spiritual satisfaction assured the soul
through Holy Communion. For example, we can eat food and we can eat
food, food A and food B, and both foods may nourish our body. But what a
difference. As every cook knows, between eating food you enjoy and eating
food where you have to, well, make an act of faith that the food is good for
you. Similarly, we are not only to practice virtue, how this needs to be said.
I’ve asked people; do you want to enjoy the spiritual life? Do you want to
enjoy practicing virtue? What do you mean? I am asking the question, do
you? Of course. He might add, but I don’t. Guaranteed, receive Holy
Communion as often as you can. Wonder of wonders, you’ll come to enjoy
the practice of virtue. I tell people, try it out. As we know, our service of God
should be satisfying. We speak of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the
Latin verb to enjoy is frui. The Holy Spirit wants us to enjoy doing God’s
will, and there is no more effective way known to God or Man for enjoying
the practice of virtue and doing God’s will than receiving Holy Communion,
I’ll add once more, as you can.

Effect number seven: Perseverance in grace. One of the most sobering

truths of our faith is that even living a lifetime of virtue is not in itself a
guarantee of perseverance. Hear it. Final perseverance is a special gift from
God that we cannot directly merit, in the sense of earn, by living a good life.
We must pray for the gift of final perseverance and receive the sacrament of
Holy Communion. In other words, we must keep asking our Lord as we do
in closing every Hail Mary; let’s say the last part of the Hail Mary together,
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our
death. Amen. Now, and at the hour of our death. In other words, we must
both pray as we do for the grace of final perseverance. I’ve assisted too
many people at their deathbed, good people, and holy people. The devil’s
last chance. Oh how the devil tries to seduce these people, especially
through discouragement, which he hopes will lead to despair. The grace of
final perseverance, I repeat, must be prayed for and must be obtained
through the reception of frequent Holy Communion. This is the Church’s
teaching from the dawn of Christian history.

Effect number eight: Growth in the supernatural life. You might say it stands
to revealed reason that Holy Communion increases sanctifying grace. It
nurtures our spiritual life and enables us to grow in God’s grace as no other
means available to us in the valley of tears can do, but there is more here
than meets the eye. Every worthy reception of Holy Communion deepens
the life of God in our souls, automatically, spontaneously, and infallibly. The
moment we receive our Lord in Holy Communion, at that moment, feeling
has nothing to do with it, we are thereby made more holy with the essence
of holiness as we know is the possession of God’s grace. Every Holy
Communion received draws us closer to the Holy Trinity and makes us
more pleasing to the divine majesty. After all, this is the source of growth in
the spiritual life. It is the essence of holiness. Let me repeat. It may not be
obvious. The essence of holiness is not, is not the practice of virtue. The
essence of holiness is the possession of God’s grace. A week old child just
baptized is holy and couldn’t possibly have practiced any virtues. But that
child is in possession of God’s grace. And every Holy Communion received
increases; I repeat, infallibly, the life of God in our souls which is another
name for God’s grace. And that is why for all the reasons we’ve given so far,
for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, never before, in
almost 2000 years has the Vicar of Christ not only allowed or permitted, but
encouraged the faithful to receive Holy Communion more than once a day.
Never before, and the condition I’m sure you all know, the first communion
on the same day need not be at Mass. The second communion on the same
day must be received when or while assisting at the sacrifice of the Mass.
Because, and this is the literal truth, in the mind of the Vicar of Christ, never
before in the history of Christianity, has there been a more desperate need
for holy people possessed of God’s grace to withstand the deluge of demon
assault on the followers of Jesus Christ.

Number nine: Remission of sin. We have touched on this before, but now we
are more explicit. It is part of Christ’s teaching that Holy Communion
removes both the guilt of venial sin and the debt of pain due to our forgiven
sins. As I’ve said before, this does not minimize the importance and value of
the sacrament of confession, but it does mean that in Holy Communion we
have a divinely ordained means for the remission of sin on both levels. And
watch it, God allows us to sin so that we might be more holy, dare I say it,
mysteriously, because we have sinned. The humiliation of having offended
God, the realization of my infidelity, God intends as a means, not only
through Holy Communion, of restoring the grace I had lost. But of becoming
more holy than I would have been, what a statement, had I not sinned.

Now our closing observation, the apostate of Holy Communion. You might
wonder what is an apostle of Holy Communion. My answer, an apostlate of
Holy Communion. Is one who shares with others his own deep experience
of the blessing received by receiving Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist? The
Church tells us that Holy Communion is holy precisely because it sanctifies
those who receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This experience is to
be passed on to others. After all, that is the heart of charity. What is the
heart of charity? The heart of charity is to share with others what God in his
merciful love has given to me. Is there any gift, any gift, deeper or more
sublime, greater, or more divine, that the Lord can give us than himself, the
God man in Holy Communion? However, let’s be honest, to engage in this
apostolate we must be strongly motivated, motivated, deeply convinced
from our own, both experience and depth of our faith, we must be
convinced of the miraculous power, I repeat, miraculous power, I repeat
once more the miraculous power which Holy Communion gives those who
receive our Lord to do the humanly impossible because we receive the
incarnate miracle worker every time we receive Holy Communion. It is
impossible to exaggerate the power, the power that Christ confers on those
who receive him in the Blessed Sacrament with deep faith and
corresponding love.

The Holy Eucharist has been the source of charity. It is not coincidental, but
profoundly providential, that Jesus gave us the humanly impossible
commandment of loving one another as he has loved us. And, at the same
Last Supper at which he instituted the Holy Eucharist, you might say, he had
no choice. It is impossible to love those who do not love us. And love them
not only with generosity, but love them even to sacrificing our lives. For
those who may not love us only Christ Himself can give us the power we
need to do this humanly impossible thing of loving those who do not love
us, even to dying out of love for them.

Lord Jesus, you instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion to give us the
light we need to see you in everyone whom you place into our lives. You
gave us this sacrament to provide us with the strength to do what is
humanly impossible, to love those who not only do not love us but
positively hate us, oppose us. Lord Jesus, deepen our faith in your Real
Presence so that receiving you here on earth we may love as you want us to
this side of heaven. So that we may join those who have learned the
meaning of love from you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Amen.
Mary, mother of the Holy Eucharist, pray for us.