Early History of Eucharist

Weekly reception of the Eucharist was customary already in apostolic times. In the Didache, the faithful are admonished that, “having come together on the Lord’s Day, you are to break bread and give thanks, after you have confessed your sins, so that your sacrifice might be undefiled. But anyone who is estranged from his friend should not join us, until both have become reconciled, lest your sacrifice be polluted.” Equally clear is the description of the Sunday morning service given by St. Justin during the middle of the second century: “On the day which is called Sunday, we have a common assembly… The Eucharistic elements are distributed and consumed… ”

From the end of the second century there are numerous indications that priests and laity received Holy Communion everyday. Tertullian mentions that Christians daily extend their hands, according to the prevalent custom, to receive the body of Christ. St. Cyprian states that in Africa “we who are in Christ, daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation.” From Egypt we have the witness of Clement of Alexandria, and also of Origen, who says that “the Lord hates those who think that only one day is a festival of the Lord. Christians partake of the Lamb every day, that is, they daily receive the flesh of the Word of God.” St. Basil in Asia Minor writes that “it is commendable and most beneficial to communicate and partake of the body and blood of Christ every single day.”

Regarding the European practice, St. Ambrose wrote of northern Italy that Mass was celebrated every day, at which priest and people received of the “food of saints.” Jerome says the same for Spain. The custom in France, at least among the hermits, was “to feed daily on the most pure flesh of the Lamb.

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Your principal motive in going to Communion should be to advance, strengthen and console yourself in the love of God, receiving for love alone what is given for love alone. At no other time is our Lord more loving and more tender than when he, as it were, humbles himself and comes to us in the form of food that he may enter our soul and enter into intimate union with us. If you are asked why you go to Communion so often say it is to learn to love God, to be purified from your imperfections, delivered from your miseries, consoled in your troubles and strengthened in your weaknesses.

– St. Francis de Sales

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The Real Presence – St Catherine of Siena

Nor is the sacrament itself diminished by being divided, any more than is fire, to take an example. If you had a burning lamp and all the world came to you for light, the light of your lamp would not be diminished by the sharing, yet each person who shared it would have the whole light. True, each one’s light would be more or less intense depending on what sort of material each brought to receive the fire. I give you this example so that you may better understand me. Imagine that many people brought candles, and one person’s candle weighed one ounce, another’s more than that, and they all came to your lamp to light their candles. Each candle, the smallest as well as the largest, would have the whole light with all its heat and color and brightness. Still, you would think that the person who carried the one-ounce candle would have less than the one whose candle weighed a pound. Well, this is how it goes with those who receive this sacrament. Each one of you brings your own candle, that is, the holy desire with which you receive and eat this sacrament. Your candle by itself is unlit, and it is lighted when you receive this sacrament. I say it is unlit because by yourselves you are nothing at all. It is I who have given you the candle with which you can receive this light and nourish it within you. And your candle is love, because it is for love that I created you, so without love you cannot have life.

The Dialogue
St. Catherine of Siena

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