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cied herself to be a horse; he advised her, “ Never to depart from the church of God, or to abstain from the communion of the sacraments of Christ. For this misfortune hath prevailed upon you, because, for these five weeks, you have not communicated.”
Now this was but a relative crime; and because their custom was such ; P which is always to be understood according to their acknowledged measures, viz. that only pious persons were to be meant, and required in that expectation ; this will not conclude, that, of itself, and abstracting from the scandal, it was, in all cases, unlawful to recede from the mysteries at some times. For sometimes a man may. be called off by the necessities of his calling or the duties of charity or piety. A general of an army, a prince, a privý counsellor, a judge, a merchant, may be very unfit to communicate, even then when they cannot, or, it may be, ought not to stay. But if he can stay, and be a good man, and rightly disposed by the habits of good life, he ought to stay and communicate; and so much the rather, if it be in any degree scandalous to go away. The reason is ; because if he be a good man, he can no more be surprised by an unexpected communion, than by a sudden death; which although it may find him in better circumstances, yet can never find him unprovided. But in this case, St. Austin's moderate determination of the case is very useful, “ Let every one do, as he is persuaded in his mind;" for a man may, with a laudable fear and reverence, abstain. If he shall be persuaded that he ought not to communicate, unless, besides his habitual grace, he hath kindled the fires of an actual devotion and preparation special : and so much the rather, because he may communicate very frequently, and to great purposes and degrees of a spiritual life, though he omit that single opportunity in which he is surprised; and though it be very useful for a good man to communicate often, yet it is not necessary that he communicate always. Only let every pious soul consider, that it is an argument of the divine love to us, that these fountains are always open; that the angel frequently moves these waters; and that Christ says to every prepared
p S. Cyprian, lib. iv. ep. 7.
S. Ambros. lib. v. de Sacr. c. 4. Epist. 118. Euseb. lib. 1. de Demonstr. Evan. c. 10.
heart, as to the multitudes that followed him into the wilderness, “ I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” And, if Christ be ever ready offering his holy body and blood, it were very fit we should entertain him : for he never comes but he brings a blessing.
But how often is it advisable, that a good man should com
municate ? Once in a year, or thrice, or every month, or every fortnight ; every Sunday, or every day.
This question hath troubled very many; but to little purpose. For it is all one, as if it were asked, “How often should a healthful man eat; or he that hath infirmities, také physic? And if any man should say, that a good man should do well to pray three times a day;' he said true; and yet it were better to pray five times, and better to pray seven times; but if he does, yet must leave spaces for other duties. But his best measures for public and solemn prayer, is the custom of the church in which he lives; and for private, he can take no measures but his own needs and his own leisure, and his own desires, and the examples of the best and devoutest persons, in the same circumstances. And so it is in the frequenting the holy communion.— The laws of the church must be his least measure; the custom of the church may be his usual measure; but if he be a devout
the spirit of devotion? will be his certain measure; and although that will consult with prudence and reasonable opportunities, yet it consults with nothing else; but communicates by its own heights and degrees of excellency. St. Jerome' advises Eustochium, a noble virgin, and other religious persons, to communicate twice every month. Some did every Sunday ; and this was so general a custom in the ancient church, that the Sunday was called “ the day of bread, as we find in St. Chrysostom 8: and in consonancy to this, the church of England commands that the priests, resident in collegiate or cathedral churches, should do so: and they, whose work
9 Metuebat Maria, ne amor Magistri sui in corpore suo refrigesceret, si corpus ejus non inveniret: quo viso, recalescebat. Origen. homil. 1. cx variis. r Ad Eustoch. Virg. c. 9.
$ Homil. 5, de Resurrect.
and daily employment is to minister to religion, cannot, in such circumstances, pretend a reasonable excuse to the contrary. But I desire these things may be observed
i. That when the fathers make a question concerning a frequent communion, they do not dispute whether it be advisable, that good people should communicate every month, or every fortnight,-or whether the more devout, or less employed, may communicate every week;—for of this they make no question :—but whether every day's communion be fit to be advised, that they question. And I find, that as they are not earnest in that, so they indefinitely give answer, that a frequent communion is not to be neglected at any hand, if persons be worthily prepared.
2. The frequency of communion is to be estimated by the measures of devout people in every church respectively. And although, in the apostolical ages, they who communicated but once a fortnight, were not esteemed to do it frequently; yet now, they who communicate every month, and upon the great festivals of the year besides, and upon other solemn and contingent occasions, and at marriages, and at visitations of the sick,-may be said to communicate frequently, in such churches where the laws enjoin but three or four times every year, as in the church of England, and the Lutheran churches. But this way of estimating the frequency of communion, is only when the causes of inquiry are for the avoiding of scandal, or the preventing of scruples; but else the inward hunger and thirst, and the spirit of devotion married to opportunity, can give the truest mea
3. They that communicate frequently, if they do it worthily, are charitable and spiritual persons, and, therefore, cannot judge or undervalue others that do not; for no man knows concerning others, by what secret principles and imperfect propositions they are guided. For although these measures we meet with in antiquity, are very unreasonable, yet few do know them; and all of them do not rely upon them, and their own customs, or the private word of their own guides, or their fears, or the usages of the church in which they live, or some leading example, or some secret impediment which ought not, but is thought sufficient: any of these, or many other things, may retard even good persons from such a frequency as may please others; and that which one calls opportunity, others do not. But, however, no man ought to be prejudiced in the opinion of others : for besides all this now reckoned, the receiving of the holy sacrament is of that nature of good things, which can be supplied by internal actions alone, or sometimes by other external actions in conjunction; and it hath a suppletory of its own, viz. spiritual communion :-of which I am to give account in its proper place. And when we consider, that some men are of strict consciences, and some churches are of strict communions, and will not admit communicants but upon such terms, which some men cannot admit, it will follow, that as St. Austin's expression is, “ Men should live in the peace of Christ, and do according to their faith :” but that, in these things, no man should judge his brother. In this no man can directly be said to do amiss, but he that loaths manna, and despises the food of angels, or neglects the supper of the Lamb, or will not quit his sin, or contend towards perfection, or hath not the spirit of devotion, or does any way, by implication, say, “ That the table of the Lord is contemptible.'
4. These rules and measures, now given, are such as relate to those who, by themselves or others, are discernibly in, or discernibly out of, the state of grace. But there are some, which are in the confines of both states; and neither themselves, nor their guides, can tell to what dominion they do belong. Concerning such, they are, by all means, to be thrust or invited forward, and told of the danger of a real or seeming neutrality in the service of God; of the hatefulness of tepidity, of the uncomfortableness of such an indifference. And for the communions of
I can give no other advice, but that he take his measures of frequency, by the laws of his church, and add what he please to his numbers by the advice of a spiritual guide,—who may consider whether his penitent, by his conjugation of preparatory actions, and heaps of holy duties, at that time usually conjoined, do, or is likely to, receive any spiritual progress : for this will be his best indication of life, and declare his uncertain state, if he thrive upon this spiritual nourishment. If it prove otherwise, all that can be said of such persons is, that they are members of the visible church, they are in that net, where there are fishes good and bad; they stand amongst the wheat and the tares; they are part of the lump, but whether leavened or unleavened, God only knows ;and, therefore, they are such to whom the church denies not the bread of children; but whether it does them good or hurt, the day only will declare. For to such persons as these, the church hath made laws for the set time of their communion: Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, were appointed for all Christians that were not scandalous and openly criminal, by P. Fabianus; and this constitution is imitated by the best constituted church in the world, our dear mother the church of England : and they who do not, at these times, or so frequently, communicate, are censured by the council of Agathonu, as unfit to be reckoned among Christians, or members of the Catholic church. Now by these laws of the church, it is intended, indeed, that all men should be called upon to discuss and shake off the yoke of their sins, and enter into the salutary state of repentance: and next to the perpetual sermons of the church, she had no better means to engage them unto returns of piety; hoping, that by the grace of God, and the blessings of the sacrament, the repentance which at these times solemnly begins, may, at one time or other, fix and abide; these little institutions and disciplines being like the sudden heats in the body, which sometimes fix into a burning, though, most commonly, they go away without any further change. But the church in this case does the best she can, but does not presume that things are well; and indeed as yet they are not: and, therefore, such persons must pass further; or else their hopes may become illusions, and make the men ashamed.
any such person,
I find, that amongst the holy primitives, they who contended for the best things, and loved God greatly, were curious even of little things; and if they were surprised with any sudden indecency, or a storm of passion, they did not dare that day to communicate.
66 When I am angry, or when I think any evil thought, or am abused with any illusion or foul fancy of the night, “intrare non audeo,' • I dare not enter' (said St. Jerome*), I am so full of horror
t An. Christi 236. ut Sabellicus et Volaterranus referunt, » Can. 18.
x Adver. Vigilant.