I will deal with a subject, which will benefit many who receive Communion. Indeed, I have the pleasure of seeing many people go to Communion often. As to the number of Communions, they are excellent. However, what can be said about their quality?
When dealing with Communion, quality, more than in any other point, is worth more than quantity. This does not dispense with quantity. I do not adhere to the theory that “A few magnificent Communions are worth more than many Communions received in a correct but not marvelous way.” Indeed, I believe the opposite to be true. As long as Communion is received in a sufficiently correct manner, it is invaluable, and one should receive Communion as often as possible.
Putting aside this problem of frequency, I often think: How many of these Communions are received with much aridity? How many people who receive Communion with aridity are aware of what they should think about aridity in Communion?
What is aridity? What is a consolation? Consolation is the opposite of the aridity. Consolation in Communion occurs when we feel piety, fervor and enthusiasm upon receiving Our Lord. We thus perceive the excellence of the qualities that exist in our souls that are accentuated when we receive.
However, the Church teaches us that other states of mind frequently occur when receiving Communion, and which can last for years. Thus, a person can receive daily for five or ten years without any consolation. When receiving, he feels nothing—no fervor, no pity, just nothing. He reaches the point of being afraid of having made an automatic and therefore, unworthy Communion.
Thus, the person drags himself along in his Eucharistic life without understanding the treasures he is receiving. He experiences a state of inner discouragement, which is naturally harmful to the development of his spiritual life. That is why we need to say a word about this aridity.
First of all, we should not think that consolation is normal and aridity abnormal. Quite the contrary is true. Aridity is common even among very fervent souls. Consolations are out of the ordinary.
A saint who was a model of arid piety was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. When praying the office or singing in the choir, she experienced so much aridity that she sometimes fell asleep. She compared her arid soul to a brazier full of ashes. She said that she kept adding straw to the ashes because she knew that underneath them, there were some embers and the straw would eventually catch fire.
The same thing happens with arid souls. An arid soul can be truly holy. Feeling aridity does not mean the person is doing poorly or well.
Spiritual progress is unrelated to aridity. The person can be doing very badly or very well in the spiritual life. Aridity is not a sign of progress or regression. The soul may be feeling the greatest aridity or dryness at the time of Communion, yet may be progressing perfectly well.
Saint Francis de Sales, who always made excellent comparisons, puts it this way: Imagine a singer who is singing for a king. He sings very well and hears his own voice, by which he knows he is singing well. He experiences the double delight of hearing his own good voice and knowing that the king is hearing him sing well.
On the contrary, imagine if the singer goes deaf and thus cannot hear his own voice. He must continue to sing to delight the king, who is listening. Because he sings only to delight the king, the deaf singer has more merit than the singer who hears his voice and delights both the king and himself.
The same thing happens, he says, with an arid Eucharistic soul. He knows that Our Lord likes to be received and that he will give Our Lord a true pleasure when received by him. However, he feels nothing. God sees what the person does not see. God sees the person’s good dispositions, righteousness and desire to sanctify himself. And God gives more value to that Communion received with the greatest aridity than if the aridity did not exist.
Thus, many times a Communion made with aridity may be worth much more than one without it. A person experiencing aridity should consider this point as a means to prepare for Communion. He should make an act of faith in this truth.
He should say, “My God, I am in the state of grace. If my aridity is due to a lack of fervor, I will receive Thee so that Thou may increase my fervor. If it is not due to a lack of fervor but to a mysterious plan of Thine (as happens very frequently in Thy guidance of souls), give me the grace to be unperturbed and receive Thee with confidence. Thus, this aridity comes from Thee. All things coming from Thee to me are always a gift and a favor. I can, therefore, exclaim, O blessed aridity!”
The person in aridity can then meditate or briefly recall what it means and receive Communion with confidence and joy.
In aridity, a person who cannot receive Communion joyfully can do so in peace with the thought that, in today’s troubled days, we can recall that Our Lord has a real pleasure being received in our souls. As long as we are not in the state of mortal sin, Our Lord delights in coming to us. His mercy is so great that despite our possible defects and misery, He is pleased to come into our souls. Thus, we receive a Divine Guest Who is full of condescension and comes joyfully to our souls. In the tabernacle, Our Lord so to speak joyfully awaits the moment of the day when He will be received by each of us.
Nothing is more encouraging for a soul in aridity than to think of the true joy that Our Lord will have by being receiving amid this aridity. Another very encouraging thought is to make an act of confidence in Our Lord, which is very commendable when in aridity.
We must ask how should we behave during our thanksgiving after Communion when in aridity. More importantly, how should one prepare for Communion in this state?
We can prepare by telling Our Lord some things that will not impress us in this state, but we know cannot fail to please Him. For example, tell Him that we love Him, and understand the good that His visit will do to our souls. We can say to Him we are sorry not to receive Him in better conditions, and ask Him to prepare our soul for His visit.
The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on October 14, 1964. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.