I was reading the Second Reading from the Office of Readings today, and it struck me that it says a lot which we ought to think about.
The passage comes from S. Cyprian’s Homily on The Lord’s Prayer :
As the prayer continues, we ask Give us this day our daily bread. This can be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread does not belong to anyone at all, but to us. And so, just as we say Our Father, because he is the father of those who understand and believe, so also we call it our bread, because Christ is the bread of us who come into contact with his body.
We ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation may not be prevented, by the interposition of some heinous sin, from partaking of the heavenly bread and be separated from Christ’s body, for as he says: I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of my bread, he will live for ever; and the bread I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
So when he says that whoever eats of his bread will live for ever; and as it is clear that those are indeed living who partake of his body and, having the right of communion, receive the Eucharist, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone should be kept at a distance from salvation who, being withheld from communion, remains separate from Christ’s body. For he has given us this warning: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. And therefore we ask that our bread – that is, Christ – may be given to us daily, so that we who live in Christ may not depart from his sanctification and his body.
Apart from the interesting fact that we have S. Cyprian suggesting that daily reception of Holy Communion was normal at that time, it seems to me that it is also reminding us that as we are dependent upon the Body of Christ to sustain us in our journey through this life, and to give us the nourishment we need to gain us entry to heaven, we must not only ensure that we receive that Most Holy Sacrament frequently, but also that we ensure, by frequent confession (as well, of course, as by a devoted attempt to avoid all occasions of sin), that our souls are always worthy to receive it.
Obviously none of this is new; but in an age where frequent confession seems to be very much a thing of the past, I am grateful to S. Cyprian for reminding us all of the fundamental need for it as an essential step to a worthy reception of that Sacrament without which we cannot hope for salvations.