The merit of the Blessed Sacrament

A friend asked why we need to receive Christ in the Eucharist more than once if He comes to live in us through the blessed sacrament? Does Jesus “wear off”? What follows is a slightly more elaborate version of my answer.

Let’s start by securing the premise: Why would it be necessary at all? The answer to that is on the lips of Christ:

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world. … In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.

(Jn 6:48-51, 53-54,56.)

So, if reception at least once is necessary, why would reception more than once be necessary? The answer to that comes from our understanding of mortal sin. By separating ourselves from God, cf. CCC1855; Edmund Wirth, Divine Grace 191 (1903), we kill our relationship with Him, and thus, I would suggest, the grace of the sacrament. Cf. Baltimore Catechism, no. 375. Our relationship is repaired in the sacrament of reconciliation, CCC 1856, but the discrete graces of the blessed sacrament should be renewed through receiving anew.

So, if reception is advisable following mortal sin and reconciliation, why (assuming that the foregoing’s not a weekly occurrence) would reception on a weekly basis be necessary? The short answer is that it isn’t. As I noted in part IV of this post, the Church obliges us to hear Mass every Sunday, see CCC 2042; 1983 CIC 1247,  but only obliges us to receive the Eucharist once a year—the same minimum frequency with which she obliges us to receive the sacrament of Penance, not coincidentally. See CCC 2042; 1983 CIC 920, 988-89.

While frequent reception isn’t necessary, however, it does seem to be good. Just on a practical level, frequent reception obliges a more scrupulous avoidance of sin and more frequent trips to the confessional. That’s a good incentive! Moreover, as the Holy Father recently put it, “participating in the Eucharist, we live in an extraordinary way the prayer that Jesus has done for each and continually makes for evil, that all encounter in life, did not act in us to win and the transforming power of death and resurrection of Christ.” And as the Baltimore Catechism puts it: “It is well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily, because this intimate union with Jesus Christ, the Source of all holiness and the Giver of all graces, is the greatest aid to a holy life.”

Post facto:

MP: Four aspects of Confirmation (March 3, 2012)

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