Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Holy Communion

I have been ravenously devouring the words of Caryll Houselander in the past few months as I make my way through all of her books. This passage from her autobiography, A Rocking Horse Catholic about her second Holy Communion after a long bout with psychological illness speaks to my heart today...

"On the night before He died, when He instituted the Blessed Sacrament, He gave Himself for all time into the hands of Peter-and into the hands of Judas. A further reason why this way, the way of Communion with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, is of such great value to those who are tortured by psychological suffering, is because it necessarily involves other human beings; someone must bring Christ to the sufferer, someone must give Christ to him. There are other ways, too, by which Christ has made Himself man's gift to man; the Mystical Body is planned for that. But this way, through sacramental communion and the Sacred Host, is at the heart of the mystery of God's love, and from it flows every other communion and Christ-giving between men.

It is because the psychological sufferer is always cut off, isolated by his self-torment, from his fellow creatures, that this is so valuable to him. God must be brought to him by another man; only God can reach that centre of his soul that must be touched if he is to be made whole, but God chooses to come to him in Communion only if he will receive Him from the hands of a fellow man."

How beautiful that we can only receive God through the hands of another human, and yet how terribly difficult this can be! For in our awareness of our sin, don't we feel most unworthy of not only the presence of Christ but also of the presence of our fellow human beings whom we most often sin against with our words and our actions?

Like Peter I want to cry out "Depart from me Lord, for I am sinful!" (Luke 5:8) And then I hide my face behind the crook of my arm, unable to bear the beauty of the Lord that is being offered to me. And Jesus gently pries my arm away from my face, and looks deeply into my eyes. He whispers "Don't be afraid, and don't hold back. It is precisely because of your sin that I am here for you."

How blessed we are that our Lord chooses to come to us, to live within us and to unite us to those from whom we often pull away because of our wretched sinfulness. It is only through His love given to us by others that we can taste heaven right now, here on earth.


  1. Your words here are beautiful, Anne. I especially loved the last 2 paragraphs!

  2. Beautiful Anne!Your second paragraph is very powerful.

  3. Anne~very powerful post and very providential. I often forget how much healing can come through the Eucharist...more than prescriptions or supplements. Thank you!

  4. I've loved Caryll Houselander, I had no idea she struggled with psychological issues. I'm definitely going to be reading more of her this year. Thanks for this post!!!!

  5. Very profound ... like cutting through quicksand Anne. I've sensed that often with the Eucharist and it's one of the reasons why I love Caryll Houselander so much too; she is so perceptive and writes with a precision it is hard to match.

  6. I am reading Caryll's "Reed of God" right now! I also did not know that she suffered from psychological ailments. Having the Eucharist brought to those who suffer this way was a valuable moment of epiphany. Thank you for sharing that. We often stay holed up when we are suffering this way. What a heavenly gift to have Our Lord brought to us. (Mental note made) The other day, I read this quote that applies here: "I [God] can love you more than you can love yourself and I watch over you a thousand times more carefully than you can watch over yourself."~St. Catherine of Siena~ God Bless you, Anne!

  7. What a beautifully thoughtful post Anne :)
    I too love Caryll Houselander's writing, and have read A Rocking Horse Catholic many times. There is a beautiful passage in it about a German Nun cleaning shoes during the War, when Caryll sees the Crown of Thorns upon her head. It never fails to make me cry!
    A xx