By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, Maronite Servant of Christ the Light
The greatest privilege and gift in our lives as Maronite Catholics is to receive the Lord of lords and King of kings, Jesus Christ, into our souls in the Eucharist.
Reflect on this just briefly, that He who made the stars, the oceans, the sky, the sun, the moon, and the entire universe comes down ever so lovingly at the words of His priests, and becomes our food and drink to nourish and sustain our souls. He is the One who loves us beyond all telling and measure, and longs to dwell within us and become one with us.
This amazing gift of God becoming our food and drink requires from us some preparation before receiving Him and thanksgiving after. Many of us would come to a dinner invitation with an important dignitary prepared with something in hand, and looking respectable, and I am certain that we would not come late either. In a similar way, the Liturgy is the ultimate invitation for us to dine at the supper of the Lamb, which requires important preparation.
Before Receiving the Eucharist
The Catholic Church sets out specific guidelines regarding how we should prepare ourselves to receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. First, you must be in a state of grace, which means that you must be free of all mortal sin. To receive the Eucharist without being in a state of grace profanes the Holy Mysteries in the most grievous manner. If you are in mortal sin, the Church requires that you go to Confession before approaching to receive the Eucharist.
Also, you must believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. According to the most recent 2019 Pew Poll, only one third of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Real Body and Blood of Christ. We must remember that at the Last Supper, Jesus held what appeared to be bread and wine, yet said: “This is my body. . . . This is my blood” (Mark 14:22-24, cf. Luke 22:14-20).
Also, we must observe a Eucharistic fast. Canon law states, “One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion” (CIC 919 §1).
All of the above are minimum requirements established by the Church in preparing to receive the Eucharist. Here are a few tips to help you ready yourself before Divine Liturgy, and place yourself within a prayerful and reverent mindset for your awesome encounter with God.
· Before Divine Liturgy, read the Sunday’s Epistle and Gospel readings in order to sharpen your focus on the feast that is about to be celebrated.
· Come a little early before Divine Liturgy begins.
· Bring your intentions before the Lord in prayer, He wants to hear them all. The most powerful time to offer these intentions is before Divine Liturgy begins, and this will keep you focused on the prayers, as you participate with purpose and meaning.
Thanksgiving After Receiving the Eucharist
There is nothing that delights the Lord more than a grateful heart. In all relationships, especially in marriages, one of the greatest dangers is to start to take the other for granted. In a similar way, we can become accustomed or used to the Liturgy and the Eucharist that we start to take the Lord for granted, and forget to thank Him for the gift of Himself.
On Sunday many are busy, rushing to get lunch prepared, gathering family and friends, greeting one another, and so forth, but I encourage you to spend a little time after Liturgy to offer intentional prayers of thanksgiving, which can be found in our Maronite Book of Offering, or online, or in any Catholic devotional.