In the preceding article it was shown that the purpose of the mystery of the Eucharist is to make us virtuous and blissful like Christ. In the present article it is our duty to show that this purpose can be accomplished only by means of the right and lawful use of the mystery.
There does not exist on the earth a thing more precious and beneficial to human beings than the body and blood of the Lord. The perfect goodness of God has no greater gift or benefit to offer us than this. And yet the perfect gilts of God’s perfect goodness, the source of life and immortality, the treasure of everything good and desirable, on account of abuse and ignorance turns into the cause of utter destruction and becomes as injurious to us as it is beneficial. As many evils befall us from wrong use of it as benefits accrue to us from right use of it; so that we are injured as much in the one case as we are benefited in the other. The body and blood of the Lord are as fire. Accordingly, if we come to it like straw, we are burnt up; but if we approach it as a diamond or piece of gold we are made radiant. That is why Paul commands the following:
“But let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1 Corinthians 11:28-30)
From these words of the Apostle we learn that illnesses and death happened to the newly-established church of the Corinthians as a result of unworthily coming in and partaking of the life-giving gifts of God. From the right use of them benefit results, but from a wrong of them harm. What good thing is there that misuse does not turn into an evil? If we knew the right use of every thing usable, no evil would happen to us. Evils are due to a single cause, our ignorance and senselessness; and it is impossible for us to be rid of evils until we have been rid of the cause of evils. Evils are due to a single cause, our ignorance and senselessness; and it is impossible for us to be rid of evils until we have been rid of the cause of evils. As a remedy against senselessness and ignorance we have the words of Christ. He that hears the words of Christ and understands, becomes wise and versed in the use of things, and is benefited by all and harmed by none. Since it is here a question of using the most precious and most beneficial of all existing things that can be used, on which depends the accomplishment and attainment of the noblest purpose, we shall do well to pay attention to wisdom, that we may discern what the right use of the mystery consists in.
The right use of the mystery consists in coming up and partaking of the bread and wine of the Eucharist, or communing, with fear of God, faith and love. As a proof thereof, the voice of the Church which invites us to the mystic supper of the Lord says: “Come up with fear of God, faith, and love.” If, therefore, we come up with the fear of God in our souls, and with faith and love, it is evident that we are using the mystery aright, and attain the purpose of it. But if we come up without these, or if we fail to come up for want of these, we misuse the mystery, and sin a deadly sin against God in either case. For, whether you come up without fear of God, faith, and love, or fail to come up because you lack the fear of God, faith and love, in both cases you are transgressing God’s law and doing wrong. Doing wrong, of course, results in evil consequences. Therefore, whenever we are invited, we must come up with fear of God, faith, and love, in order to attain the purpose of the mystery, that is, in order to become virtuous and blissful like Christ. Moreover, we must previously, in accordance with Paul’s injunction, examine ourselves: “But let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread, and drink of the cup.” Ask what the examination recommended to us by Paul consists in. To examine means to try to learn how the matter stands, to seek with whatever means are available to inform oneself as to the truth of a matter. Since, therefore, God requires that I come to His mystic supper with fear of God, faith, and love, before coming it is my duty to examine myself, that is, to seek to find out and to learn whether I really have the fear of God in my soul, and the faith and love required. If I have, it is my duty to come up with confidence, and cheerfully. If not, I must first acquire these requisite qualifications, and then come up to communion. Examine, therefore, each of you whether you have the fear of God, faith, and love in your soul, and so eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, that is, without fear, faith, and love, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord, that is, sins without knowing that he is not eating the body of the Lord aright, but awrong and to his own detriment. This is the meaning of Paul’s injunction, in accordance with which it is our duty to act. It is our duty to examine ourselves as to whether we have in our souls the fear of God, faith, and love required for communion. As for how to conduct this examination, that shall be the subject of our next article.