As the holiday storm hits me again, I’ve been wondering if I spend more time getting ready for Christmas than I do all year preparing for Jesus’ coming at each Eucharist.
I’m afraid Christmas probably wins.
We know Advent is about preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem on Christmas. And in the pre-Advent readings we’ve reflected on His coming again at the end of time. But the Church also reminds us that the Lord is coming today and tomorrow and next Sunday at Mass.
Thinking about Jesus the baby born in a stable surrounded by angels or Jesus the king coming on a cloud to save us is more exciting than reflecting on Jesus as we’re most used to seeing Him: in the form of a humble piece of bread.
For “so great and so holy a moment”
The Catechism tells us that in order to respond to Christ’s invitation to the Eucharist “we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment.” (CCC1385) The Church requires preparation for receiving the Lord and there are a number of other ways we can make ourselves ready both before and during Mass.
The most basic preparation for communion is living the Christian life well. In the early Church, St. Justin wrote about the Eucharist, “… no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.” (CCC1355)
The sacrament of Reconciliation is necessary preparation for communion for anyone who is conscious of having committed grave or mortal sin. Regular confession is also good preparation in general for the Eucharist because it “strengthens us against temptation and sin and helps us cultivate a life of virtue,” the U.S. Bishops state in their 2006 document, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper:” On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist.”
Fasting from food and drink (except water) for one hour before receiving the Eucharist is another requirement. Canon law states that the elderly, the sick and their caregivers do not have to observe this fast.
Preparing every day and right before Communion
The Bishops offer guidelines for preparing for the Eucharist before coming to Mass, as well as right before receiving the sacrament.
In daily life we can prepare by:
- Reading scripture and spending time in prayer;
- Being faithful to our state in life; and
- Seeking forgiveness daily for our sins and going regularly to confession.
When we arrive at Mass we should:
- Be dressed modestly in respect for the dignity of the liturgy and one another;
- Spend time in silence and prayerful recollection or read the Mass readings;
- Participate actively in the liturgy; and
- Approach “the altar with reverence, love, and awe as part of the Eucharistic procession of the faithful.”
Jesus made the Apostles aware of the “simplicity and solemnity” of the Eucharist when He told them to prepare carefully the “large upper room” for the Last Supper, Bl. John Paul II wrote in an encyclical on the Eucharist.
Preparation is thinking of the Lord and making “fervent acts of faith, hope, love and contrition,” according to EWTN television. It’s also important to approach the sacrament each time as devoutly and fervently as if it were our only communion.
I’m sure Christmas wouldn’t be the same this year if we knew it was our last one. How differently would Jesus’ coming in the Eucharist this Sunday be if we considered it the same way?