From time to time all of us find it impossible to attend the Eucharist on a Sunday and few Anglican churches offer one on Saturday evening – or even Sunday. There are also times when we cannot be present at the Eucharist on a Principle Feast Day (Holy Day or a Day of Obligation) when we might receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Because of this there is an ancient and valuable tradition of making an act of Spiritual Communion, an act which expresses what was described by St. Thomas Aquinas as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and in lovingly embracing Him.” In a Spiritual Communion, with a contrite heart, we ask Jesus to come to us in the same way He would if we were able to receive the Sacrament. This can be done as often as one likes, informally in one’s own words or through one of the traditional prayers which appears below.
What is the value of this practice? The graces received may be as great as — or greater than — those received by some people in the actual Sacrament. Though, of course, the Sacrament itself is inherently greater, our disposition towards the Sacrament affects how we receive its fruits. For example, imagine someone who is unable to be with the person they love but desires them with a deep desire, as contrasted with someone who is in the presence of one who loves them but they have little care for the other. Whilst Jesus loves both, His love is received to the extent it is desired.
How to Receive Spiritual Communion
St. Thomas Aquinas defined a Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament [in Communion] and lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him.”
You can make a Spiritual Communion whenever and wherever you like, using the prayer given below or one you have composed. St. Leonard of Port-Maurice offers this advice for receiving Spiritual Communion: “To kindle your devotion, imagine that most Holy Mary, or some saint, is holding forth to you the sacred particle; figure yourself receiving it, and then, embracing Jesus in your heart, reply to Him, over and over again, with interior words prompted by love: “Come, Jesus, my Beloved, come within this my poor heart; come and quench my desires; come and sanctify my soul; come, most sweet Jesus, come!” This said, be still; contemplate your good God within you, and, as if you really had communicated, adore Him, thank Him, and perform all those interior acts to which you are accustomed after Sacramental Communion.”
Here is a prayer to use while following St. Leonard’s advice, though you can pray in your own words, if you prefer. (A complete Form of Spiritual Communion is available here):
An Act of Spiritual Communion
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.