June 2020

Take this,allof you… 

Spiritual Communion and Streamed Adoration


 The Real Presence

Over the last few weeks we have all had to suffer the consequences of locked churches, and to get used to the live streaming of our devotional service. 

I for one have watched everything from Masses in Cathedrals, to Eucharistic Adoration, and the Blessing of a hospital from across a road in Preston, Lancashire. During this time I have been asked on numerous occasions what the difference is when we watch a live streaming instead of being in the church, when communion is spiritual rather than physical, or adoration is on line, and not in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I have given a lot of thought to this. It seems to me that the problem people have comes not from the lack of an answer but is implicit in the question itself. We have been talking for a very long time now about “cherry picking Catholics”, those who think the sacraments grow on trees, and that they can grab a wedding, baptism, or Holy Communion whenever they wish. This attitude leads even the good folks to fall into the error of thinking “If I receive Holy Communion, my reward will be some additional grace, or if I sit in a church during Adoration I will automatically get added grace. This is what would make someone now ask what they might lack due to receiving spiritual rather than physical Holy Communion, or lack by praying in front of streamed Adoration instead of the Blessed Sacrament in Church. For me we are talking about the same thing here whichever of these two activities we are speaking about, Christ’s physical and spiritual presence on Earth, his Mystical body.

The basis is of their thinking is all wrong. Just think of the Mystical Body of Christ that Jesus himself instituted, not just spiritually, but physically too. The Mystical Body of Christ is made up of us all, together with Christ, spiritually and physically. “For as one body we have many parts…so we, though many, are one body with Christ,” (Romans 8: 4-5).

St. Paul goes on to say: “…  the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love,” (Ephesians 4: 15-16). The Catholic Church is the body, in and through which, Christ continues to live and love and speak, and will do so until His Second Coming – He does this just as truly as when He lived and loved and spoke in the Holy Land two thousand ago. Our Lord emphasized the supernatural quality of His Church when He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The branches express the life of the vine. Branches can do nothing apart from the vine. But the vine bears fruit only through its branches.

The Blessed Sacrament is both the physical and the spiritual food that nourishes every part of Christ’s body on earth.

Do we lack anything in our union with Christ if we only receive the Body of Christ and not the Precious Blood? Of course not, we can never receive anything less than the fullness of Christ, Man and God, physically and spiritually. Why then would we lack anything if we receive Christ spiritually and not physically? Is Christ’s presence limited to his physical presence? Of course not. He is present both physically and spiritually.

However, it is clearly better for us to receive Christ, or to adore Him, in the communion that is his Mystical Body, within the Church, together with other fellow parts of His body – to do so is to receive Christ or adore Him in the fullest possible way, and is the way Christ ordained it. But if we are prevented from doing so by circumstances beyond our control, then we have not lost out on anything, we just have not had the fullness of Christ’s desire for us.

Is Spiritual Communion important? Of course, it is, it is still union with Christ. Just as in adoration we are still adoring the Holy Trinity, St. Thomas Aquinas described spiritual communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most holy sacrament and lovingly embrace Him” at a time or in circumstances when we cannot receive Him in sacramental Communion. In his encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” in 2003, Pope John Paul II encouraged the practice of spiritual communion, noting that it “has been a wonderful part of Catholic life for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life.”

As for Adoration, Pope Pius XII said it doesn’t matter when or where you are, as long as you practice the devotion with “renewed faith, reverence, humility and in complete trust in the goodness of the Divine Redeemer” and are “united to Him in the spirit of the most ardent charity.” (Mediator Dei).