In his last encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II discussed spiritual communion. He said,
The Eucharist thus appears as the culmination of all the sacraments in perfecting our communion with God the Father by identification with his only-begotten Son through the working of the Holy Spirit. With discerning faith a distinguished writer of the Byzantine tradition voiced this truth: in the Eucharist “unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union”. Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of “spiritual communion”, which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. Saint Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you”.http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_eccl-de-euch.html
Spiritual communion is a legitimate practice of the Church, and it is appropriate at times to withhold from taking communion so that we might “cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist.”
Furthermore, the Book of Common Prayer has always offered two services for Sunday mornings: Morning Prayer and Holy Communion. Celebrating Holy Communion every Sunday has not always been a regular part of Anglican life as it is today, and while it is a good and healthy norm for us now, if we don’t take communion every Sunday, we are still well within the bounds of the Anglican tradition.
So, this Sunday, when it comes time for communion, I will invite you all to pray a prayer for Spiritual Communion that comes from our prayerbook. I want to stress that this should not be the norm for Christians, but in times like this, it is a viable, meaningful, and traditional option.
For now, I will continue to celebrate Holy Communion in our livestream because that is the service with which we are all most familiar, but if this situation lingers longer than anyone hopes, we may switch to Morning Prayer. In preparation for our service for Sunday, please take a moment to look over the prayer for Spiritual Communion now so that you may pray it during the service on Sunday:
Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to possess you within my soul. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, together with all your faithful people, and I embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.BCP 2019, p. 677.
I am hoping and praying that tomorrow goes well. Please feel free to give me constructive feedback about how to make the livestream better for next week.