How do we receive the Eucharist in a holy manner? Aside from being in a state of grace, there are practical steps to be taken to benefit the most from this blessed encounter:
It is important to grasp that sanctifying grace is a real transformation of the soul! Luther taught that the soul in grace is wearing the garment of Christ’s merits, which cover the soul like a cloak covers a leprous beggar. The church teaches that the very substance of the soul is renewed. The soul is affected in its very being so that it can genuinely be called a “new creation.” Sanctifying grace gives a new life to the soul, a life with its own new abilities, powers, and destiny, given as a gift from God. Thus, the baptized Christian can now perform actions at the level of its new being, actions which because they are supernatural, merit a supernatural reward. (cf. 2Cor 5:17; Titus 3:8; Eph 2:10.)
Actual grace: a kind of divine or supernatural thrust or impetus that allows us to act above our own power. This is because our own natural powers are incapable of attaining supernatural rewards. Prior to the reception of sanctifying grace, we need a special help from God, which is called actual grace.
The spiritual doctors of the church offer us a simple way of understanding the steps along our path to sanctity.
In previous articles, we learned about the various stages of prayer: vocal, mental and contemplation. Let’s now simplify the stages and examine our spiritual life in terms of personal conversion.
Lectio Divina, or “divine reading,” is another form of mediation by the reading of Scripture in the context of prayer. It is a traditional Benedictine practice intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied but as the Living Word.
The following points can be of help in growing closer to Jesus if you find it difficult in getting into a habit of daily mediation.
St. Theresa of Avila mentioned that without a book written for spiritual reading on her lap, she found meditation almost impossible. The following is based on and inspired by her instruction to her nuns on how to practice meditation:
Just as you and I get to know people by meeting, listening and speaking to them, so in meditation we get to know God by conversing with him in a quiet place. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father in the secret place.” Matthew 6:6.
We listen to God speaking to us through the beauties of nature, Sacred Scripture, the texts of the Liturgy and the lives and writings of the saints. In meditation, we ponder what Jesus says to us in all of these ways and then we respond with our inner thoughts, applications and words. It is a mental conversation between two friends.
What is prayer? What is its purpose? St. Theresa of Avila says, “Prayer is to realize how much it means to you to have God’s friendship and how much he loves you.” She also says, “Prayer is when we raise our hearts and minds to God.” St. Therese of Liseux offers this beautiful explanation about prayer: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look, turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”