Adapted from the weekly email to members of Church of the Mediator by Father George, June 26 2020.
Several have asked about “Spiritual Communion.” I’ve written a brief response, as follows:
Interest in “spiritual communion” is on the rise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage our nation and the world making our usual form of Holy Communion impossible in light of remote worship services. It’s actually a reawakening of a long-standing spiritual discipline that many Christians have used through the ages to connect with the presence of Jesus the Christ in the Holy Eucharist when access to the Eucharistic celebration was either not available or practical. The Roman Catholic Church offers it as an alternative for non-Romans attending the Mass who are not permitted to receive Communion.
The practice of Spiritual Communion is used by Christians, especially Lutherans, Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists, when they have been unable to receive the Holy Communion, especially in times of sickness and during persecution by states hostile towards religion. Anglican priest Jonathan Warren Pagán cited the joy Walter Ciszek experienced by making spiritual communion during the era of state atheism in the Soviet Union that resulted in the persecution of Christians in the Eastern Bloc.
Referencing theology related to the Body of Christ and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Anglican priest Jonathan Warren Pagán wrote that “Gathered worship in word and sacrament is therefore not an optional add-on for Christians” though the COVID-19 pandemic rendered it necessary to move to online formats for the common good. He encouraged the practice of Spiritual Communion amidst the pandemic, especially during the Anglican service of Morning Prayer. Pope Francis also suggested that the faithful say Spiritual Communion prayers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which renewed interest in the practice; Methodist clergy have also encouraged Spiritual Communion. Wikipedia
An article in Wikipedia states:
According to Catholic theologians, the value of a spiritual can be as great as Holy Communion itself. “Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori teach, produces effects similar to Sacramental Communion, according to the dispositions with which it is made, the greater or less earnestness with which Jesus is desired, and the greater or less love with which Jesus is welcomed and given due attention,” stated Father Stefano Manelli, O.F.M. Conv., S.T.D., in his book Jesus our Eucharistic Love.
“A special advantage of Spiritual Communion is that we can make it as often as we like — even hundreds of times a day — when we like — even late at night — and wherever we like — even in a desert, or up in an airplane,” Fr. Stefano continued.
The Church of England, mother Church of the Anglican Communion, teaches with regard to Spiritual Communion that “Believers who cannot physically receive the sacrament are to be assured that they are partakers by faith of the body and blood of Christ and of the benefits he conveys to us by them.” Some examples:
My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee. Amen.
Another example is:
As I cannot this day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the holy Mysteries, O my God! I transport myself in spirit at the foot of Thine altar; I unite with the Church, which by the hands of the priest, offers Thee Thine adorable Son in the Holy Sacrifice; I offer myself with Him, by Him, and in His Name. I adore, I praise, and thank Thee, imploring Thy mercy, invoking Thine assistance, and presenting Thee the homage I owe Thee as my Creator, the love due to Thee as my Savior. Apply to my soul, I beseech Thee, O merciful Jesus, Thine infinite merits; apply them also to those for whom I particularly wish to pray. I desire to communicate spiritually, that Thy Blood may purify, Thy Flesh strengthen, and Thy Spirit sanctify me. May I never forget that Thou, my divine Redeemer, hast died for me; may I die to all that is not Thee, that hereafter I may live eternally with Thee. Amen.
Here’s a couple of Protestant examples (also from Wikipedia):
Mitchell Lewis, a Methodist elder, authored an act of Spiritual Communion for use in the Methodist tradition:
My Jesus, I love you above all things. How I long to receive you with my brothers and sisters at the table you have prepared. Since I cannot at this moment receive you in bread and wine according to your promise in the sacrament of Holy Communion, I ask you to feed me with the manna of your Holy Spirit and nourish me with your Holy presence. I unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from your love. Amen.
St. Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Pompano Beach, published the following act of Spiritual Communion:
Lord Jesus, we desire earnestly to experience your love as guests at the heavenly feast you have prepared for your children on earth in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar. As were are not able on this day to be gathered at your Table, may we receive you into our hearts by faith, trusting the word of your promise, that “those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Strengthen our faith, increase our love and hope; and after this life grant us a place at your heavenly table, where we shall eat of the eternal manna, and drink of the river of your pleasure forevermore. Hear us for your own Name’s sake. Amen.
I commend the practice of Spiritual Communion to you as a means of staying spiritually connected during this time while we need to be apart. Always remember that there is no place or situation where our Lord is absent from us.