Seeking to Encounter the Eucharistic Christ in Digital Bread and Wine

Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the bread of life and the one true vine.
I believe that you are truly present
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. 

I seek you.
I worship and adore you.

Since I cannot receive you
in the eucharistic bread and wine,
I pray that you will come into my heart and soul,
that I may be united to you,
by your all-powerful and ever-present Holy Spirit.

Let me receive you, and be nourished by you.
Become for me the manna in my wilderness,
the bread of angels
for my very human journey through time,
a foretaste of the heavenly banquet,
and solace in the hour of my death.

I pray all this, trusting that you yourself are
our Life, our Peace, and our everlasting Joy.
Amen.

Authors note:

Like many Christians around the globe, I found my parish doors closed this Sunday, owing to COVID-19. Like many, I had to find other ways to seek to live this day as the Day of the Lord, to encounter Him ever more deeply, to pray in communion with the whole Church, and to let myself be sustained by the One Who is the Bread of Life.

My parish offered one live-streamed Mass this Sunday morning, and as I sought to engage the moment of eucharistic communion (by the priest alone), with an act of “spiritual communion” on my part, it occurred to me to seek out, after Mass, some prayers for spiritual communion. There are several online, I discovered, but most of them did not resonate with my ways of praying. There are also some wonderful, mostly traditional prayers to be found in Eamon Duffy’s The Heart in Pilgrimage: A Prayerbook for Catholic Christians (London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2014). After trying several of them on (so to speak), I decided to draft a prayer myself. I offer it here for all who will have to seek to encounter the eucharistic Christ in digital bread and wine alone, in the weeks to come.

For those of you who know their traditional Catholic prayer practices, you will see that I tried to follow the main elements recommended for spiritual communion, namely, an act of faith, an act of love and adoration, and the expression of a desire to receive the Lord.

 

18 comments

  1. I’ve been looking at a variety of prayers of Spiritual Communion.
    The idea in itself is obviously good. There are, however, two perspectives which seem strange in all I’ve found.
    First: Such prayers seem to be based on the idea of Jesus coming into my heart and/or soul, as if Jesus is not already fully and really present in each member of his body: “I am with you all days …” It would seem more fitting to pray that I become more aware and appreciative of the abiding presence of Jesus at all times, whether in sacramental or in spiritual communion.
    Second: I have not found such a prayer which dwells on our Communion with all other members of the Body of Christ. Just as our sharing in the one bread and cup in sacramental communion is a celebration and strengthening of that bond of unity and peace, so also spiritual communion is lacking something if this is not an integral part of the prayer.

    1. It was somewhere around 2003 that Bishop Sean OMalley drafted the first prayer for the Sacrament of Marriage. Perhaps that may give further affirmation to the two points you raise. Please be patient with me, I’m not very skilled at framing yes-and responses. While serving on a parish vocations committee, I went in search of a prayer for the Vocation of Marriage – even banging on the door of the Vocations Office of USCCB. There were prayers for the Bride and Groom, prayers for Parents, prayers for the family — but for the Sacrament of Marriage as vocational call – nothing. And for the Vocation of the Single life – nothing – though Jesus blessed that status for 30 years.
      What I hear in your beautifully crafted observations leads one to ponder if what you suggest is for some the fruit of an interior contemplation, and for others the fruit of Vatican II that turned the priest of face “the communion of saints” present in the Body of Christ.
      (insert the visual of the relief carving on the back wall of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in DC)

      I offer here, a prayer of my heart, prayed in silence and solitude over a bowl of milk and Cheerios each morning when such was all there was — Lord, if you wanted to — you could, and if you did — I would be truly grateful. Amen

  2. I have a bone to pick with this beautiful prayer. The communion it references is only between me and the Lord. I just don’t think of Eucharist that way, ever. Spiritual communion, even if I am alone on a desert island, has to mean solidarity with the Body of Christ not only in the head but in its members. I get the “I” here, and that is important, but I am missing the “we.” Never is the believer alone in communion. Deeply personal, it is nevertheless not about me and Jesus. It’s about “us.” Radically, mystically, about “us.”

    1. I invite other prayers to be drafted that express the communal aspect more clearly! Mine was born out of a situation in which I was alone with my iPad, facing a lone priest at an altar.
      But more importantly, I also do experience my reception of the Eucharist as a very specific, radically personal encounter with the eucharistic Christ. And I make no excuses for that experience; it is definitely *not* rooted in ignorance of the ecclesial dimension of every eucharist.

      1. Teresa –
        Thanks for your prayer. I did not in any sense mean to imply that there is not also a “radically personal encounter with the eucharistic Christ.,” nor to imply that it is “rooted in ignorance of the ecclesial dimension.”
        For me, both sacramental and spiritual communion are deeply enriched when I am conscious of the abiding presence of the Lord in both individual and ecclesial encounter, and of the communion of all the saints.

  3. Well, here’s another communally oriented prayer that seems sharply apt to our age:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbczcKGgcwM

    Incipit lamentatio Ieremiae prophetae.

    ALEPH. Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! Facta est quasi vidua domina gentium; princeps provinciarum facta est sub tributo.

    BETH. Plorans ploravit in nocte, et lacrimæ ejus in maxillis ejus: non est qui consoletur eam, ex omnibus caris ejus; omnes amici ejus spreverunt eam, et facti sunt ei inimici.
    Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum.

    (Book of Lamentations 1:1-2)

    Here begins the lamentation of Jeremiah the prophet.

    ALEPH How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal.

    BETH. She weeps bitterly in the night, tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn again to the Lord your God.

  4. Instead of relying on digital worship and on old or new spiritual communion prayers, could we not return to the more ancient and traditional disciplines of praying of the Hours and to increased contemplation on the Word, in liturgies of the Word and lectio divina, as ways the domestic Church can be nourished and exercise its baptismal priesthood and mission through prayer in union with the entire Church?

    1. Beautifully said! Especially, as the Liturgy of the Hours is embraced as a Prolongation of the Eucharist. What you are reminding us of is the Yes-AND to the Eucharist as Source and Summit of our Faith. For some seasons, there was great resistance to the very idea of the Laity being allowed to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Even to the point of pricing the volumes well out of reach of most and formation in how to pray the Hours was a Gift of the Holy Spirit. And the vision impaired who couldn’t read micro size type could not find an audio Catholic Bible that included the Old Testament. Yet, we are indeed fed as you say by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.
      What we are experiencing via this virus is what is the emerging normal for the aging population, for the 12,000+ a day turning 65. This crisis has given us a visibility of an elder person’s normal faith experience as it is being globalized via the pandemic. For aging pew people, we have been coping with this for some time. Going begging for the crumbs that fall from the table has been our shared experience. We’ve been accused of wanting to usurp the clergy, even of being obsessed with the new digital media. We were welcome if we could get through the parish door some how, then we were part of the active reality of community of faith. It seems to me that the Lord has brought the home bound a pastoral visibility through some rather extraordinary circumstances. HOME BOUND is a passing norm, with it though, is an empathetic understanding moving across the globe. After it passes there will still be left a massive population of old people whose bodies are no longer road worthy… keeping the faith… like candles in the wind. For however long this lasts, you will be sharing like Simon in carrying our cross. And when it is over for you, it will not be so for us. Amen

    2. Surely we are not wanting to create an either-or here, Diana, but rather a both/and, or even a “the more the better”. Moreover, different contexts will demand different ways of praying through this crisis. I happen to pray the liturgy of the hours daily, at least in part; I also have a parish that now live-streams its Sunday Mass. Why would I not want to be part of that Sunday eucharistic celebration (together with my 600+ fellow parishoners who joined in digitally for that hour).

      1. Yes! Absolutely bring all the gifts and resources we have. I just see so much focus on the Catholic social media and friends’ comments on watching livestream Mass and spiritual communion and almost nothing on praying the hours. So I want both-and.

  5. STAYING UNITED WHILE KEEPING DISTANCE:
    On our parish website (Parish of the Ascension of the Lord, Balally, Dublin 16) we have some suggestions about how people could celebrate, and share with others, the Table of the Word, recognizing the real presence of the Lord, the Word made flesh, while not physically present at the celebration of the Eucharist.
    It’s at https://www.balallyparish.ie/staying-united-while-keeping-distance/
    The links to where to find the readings are for Ireland, so these could be adjusted.

    An anecdote about Alexander Solzhenitsyn could also encapsulate participation in the eucharist in exceptional situations. I used it at Mass this morning for those on line. I have not found the source of the anecdote; if anyone can let me know, I’ll be grateful!

    The Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008) tells of a Eucharist he attended while a prisoner in the Gulag.
    In that place of utter hopelessness,
    a long-imprisoned Orthodox priest
    celebrated Holy Communion from memory
    without vestments or service books
    as if in the grandest of churches.
    When the priest turned and declared:
    “The body of Christ. The blood of Christ”,
    Solzhenitsyn said he watched the tears of joy
    on the faces of the prisoners
    who held out grimy hands to receive
    what only the eyes of faith could see,
    and sip from an unseen chalice
    what only the soul could taste –
    for there was no bread or wine
    to be the body and blood of Jesus that day,
    and yet the miracle did occur.

    1. Thank you for this. I too would love to see the Solzhenitsyn story verified (if only because receiving eucharist by extending one’s hands and sipping from a cup are not what Russian-Orthodox believers would have done, I think — but maybe the original story narrated that element differently?)

      1. I wonder are there different rites and customs in the Russian Orthodox tradition? Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned in a Gulag in Kazakstan.
        Of course, the Orthodox priest in the anecdote could have been from anywhere in the Soviet Union.

  6. Teresa, not sure how we stand on copyright, but I am increasingly aware of providing resources for people who do not have knowledge of accessing online resources or don’t have internet or devices. Would it be possible to print hard copies of your prayer? If so, how should it be atrributed?

    1. I hereby gladly give permission to print copies of this prayer.
      Attribution could be as simple as be: Teresa Berger, March 15, 2020; first published on PrayTell Blog [and maybe add the URL of the blog]

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