Sunday, June 6, 2021

Saint Thomas More for Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ)

While he was in the Tower of London, St. Thomas More wrote a treatise on Holy Communion: To receive the Blessed Body Of Our Lord Sacramentally and Virtually both. Since my last post was about Macaulay's wonder that St. Thomas More believed in the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion, I thought this was good follow up. This document written by More shows how devoutly he did believe in that Presence. You can read the entire treatise here.

And, therefore, have we great cause with great dread and reverence to consider well the state of our own soul when we shall go to the Board of God, and as near as we can (with the help of His special Grace diligently prayed for before) purge and cleanse our souls by Confession, Contrition, and Penance, with full purpose of forsaking from thenceforth the proud desires of the devil, the greedy covetousness of wretched worldly wealth, and the foul affection of the filthy flesh, and being in full mind to persevere, and continue in the ways of God, and holy cleanness of Spirit: lest that, if we presume so irreverently to receive this precious Margarite, this pure Pearl, the Blessed Body of our Saviour Himself, contained in the Sacramental sign of bread, that like a sort of swine, rioting in the dirt, and wallowing in the mire, we tread it under the filthy feet of our foul affections, while we set more by them than by It, intending to walk and wallow in the puddle of foul, filthy sin; therewith, the legion of devils may get leave of Christ so to enter into us as they got leave of Him to enter into the hogs of Genezareth; and as they ran forth with them, and never stinted till they drowned them in the sea, so run on with us, (but if God of His great mercy refrain them and give us the grace to repent) and not fail to drown us in the deep sea of everlasting sorrow. . . .

We must (I say) see, that we firmly believe that this Blessed Sacrament is not a bare sign, or a figure, or a token of that Holy Body of Christ: but that It is in perpetual remembrance of His bitter Passion, that He suffered for us, the self-same precious Body of Christ that suffered it, by His own Almighty power and unspeakable goodness consecrated and given unto us.

St. Thomas More urges both careful preparation before receiving Holy Communion and prayerful gratitude and meditation after:

Now, when we have received our Lord, and have him in our body, let us not then let him alone… and get us forth about other things, and look no more unto him (for little good could he… that so would serve any guest); but let all our busyness be about him. Let us by devout prayer talk to him, by devout meditation talk with him. Let us say with the prophet, “Audiam quid loquatur in me Dominus”—“I will hear what our Lord will speak within me.” (Psalm 85:9) For surely, if we set aside all other things… and attend unto him, he will not fail with good inspirations to speak such things to us within us… as shall serve to the great spiritual comfort and profit of 30 our soul. And therefore let us with Martha provide… that all our outward busyness may be pertaining to him: in making cheer to him, and to his company for his sake; that is to wit, to poor folk—of which he taketh every one… not only for his disciple, but also as for himself. For himself saith, “Quamdiu fecistis uni de his fratribus meis minimis, mihi fecistis”—“That that you have done to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to myself.” (Matthew 25:40) And let us with Mary also sit in devout meditation… and hearken well what our Savior, being now our guest, will inwardly say unto us. Now have we a special time of prayer: while he that hath made us, he that hath bought us, he whom we have offended, he that shall judge us, he that shall either damn us or save us… is, of his great goodness, become our guest, and is personally present within us… and that for none other purpose but to be sued unto for pardon—and so, thereby, to save us. Let us not lose this time, therefore; suffer not this occasion to slip… which we can little tell whether ever we shall get it again… or never.

I think that for a time More was allowed to attend Mass in the Tower and perhaps he received Holy Communion a few times--but he must have known that those opportunities would probably end. There's no record of him receiving any Sacraments (Confession or Viaticum) before his execution. 

Very appropriate reading for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, celebrated in Catholic Churches today (on some calendars it was celebrated on Thursday, June 3).

Image Credit (public domain) Thomas Morus (1478-1535), based on Hans Holbein.

1 comment:

  1. excellent and timely focus, on this important day for freedom- "...There's no record of him receiving any Sacraments"
    I never pondered this but always assumed the Crown would have allowed them. Sad then, and now especially in light of current mudding of the sacraments and other arbitrary departure of the Catechism. Will enjoy reading More's Treatise.