The Sacraments of Communion

Oftentimes, it’s easy to get into a sort of “sacramental funk,” if you will – I coined that term, so don’t go looking for it anywhere else. What I mean is, it’s easy to just sort of breeze through the reception of the Sacraments without really thinking much about what is going on. It happens to us all, even seminarians and priests; we just lose sight of Jesus in the midst of all the liturgical hubbub. But, let this serve as a small reminder that there really is something more to being Catholic than simply going through the motions…

It struck me today that the two Sacraments most present in most of our lives – namely, Confession and the Eucharist – seem to complement each other quite perfectly. First off, if we don’t frequent both, then we should make a resolve to do so, since Christ wants us to 1) be freed from our sins by confessing them sincerely and being absolved, and 2) to receive Him fully, Body and Blood, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. By making use of both Confession and Eucharist on a regular basis, God can do wonders in bringing us closer to Himself, even more than we could ever imagine.

The complementary nature of these two Sacraments can be seen on a few levels, which I’d like to share here:

First, the obvious harmony is that before receiving the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we should be freed from all mortal (and hopefully venial) sin. By going to Confessing, we present ourselves whole and entire to the same Lord, in the hope of His merciful healing. In this sense, Confession acts as a kind of necessary precursor for the Eucharist, allowing us to be properly prepared to welcome God the Son into our hearts and bodies. This by itself is an unfathomable mystery!

The second harmony between Confession and Eucharist plays off the above distinction; this second complement is the deeper of the two, and something that we all could/should meditate upon. In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ gives Himself to us, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, to physically consume so that He might consume us into His spiritual presence; it is a true communion (“union with”) that is beyond any superficial communion we could imagine by ourselves. In this way, the Eucharist is Christ presenting Himself to us in His entirety, without holding anything back from us. But, in order to receive Him worthily, He asks that we first present ourselves to Him, whole and entire, without holding anything back, in the Sacrament of Confession. By confession our sins to the priest – and in that way to the Church and to the Lord Jesus, acting through him – we open our hearts as wide as possible to welcome our King, who desires to dwell within us, and us in Him. In actuality, Confession and the Eucharist function together to provide a unity with the Holy Trinity that is inestimable in both depth and love: the infinite God communes with His people, dwelling fully within them, and allowing mere mortal beings to dwell completely within Himself.