Fifth Week of Lent

Holy Communion and Spiritual Warfare

Soldiers won't get far without their rations. Military leaders have to figure out how they will feed their troops quickly and efficiently, often in adverse conditions. This has led to many ingenious solutions, including the MRE (Meal, Read to Eat), a small package that contains everything a soldier needs for a hot meal during combat or when other types of rations are impractical. An MRE provides about 1,200 calories in the form of a main course, side dish, dessert, drink, and more. It has a shelf life of approximately three years.
What does this have to do with receiving Holy Communion? Well, the Blessed Sacrament is like a sacred MRE that our Lord gives us to maintain our strength on the spiritual battlefield. A tiny host contains the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It provides the spiritual nourishment we need to engage in combat with Satan and his forces. It's compact, yet it gives us everything essential. Plus, since Christ's presence subsists in the Eucharist as long as the appearance of bread remains, the Blessed Sacrament has a "shelf life." The Church reserves the Sacred Host in the tabernacle for those who are ill, dying, or otherwise unable to attend the liturgy.
Of course, all analogies are limited. Like an MRE, Holy Communion is our emergency rations, since the Christian life is a constant struggle and conditions are never ideal on this side of eternity. However, the Eucharist is also the paschal banquet, our participation in the heavenly wedding feast. That's a far cry from eating shredded beef out of a package in the trenches!
Now let's get practical. Before receiving Holy Communion at Mass, participate attentively in the Eucharistic prayers. Offer yourself and your life on the altar with Christ. Then approach with reverence and faith, bowing your head when you get to the front of the line. You can receive the Sacred Host standing or kneeling. Respond "Amen" when the person distributing Holy Communion says "The Body of Christ." This is an expression of your faith in Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

You also have a choice between receiving the Sacred Host on the hand or on the tongue. If you receive on the hand, create a throne for Christ with your dominant hand underneath your non-dominant hand. That way, you can use your dominant hand to lift the Sacred Host to your mouth without risk of dropping our Lord. If you choose to receive on the tongue, make sure you open your mouth wide and stick your tongue out of your mouth to make things easier for the minister.
Finally, if you are also receiving from the chalice, respond "Amen" when the minister says "The Blood of Christ" and take a small sip of the Precious Blood. Throughout the whole process, keep in mind that you are receiving an indescribable gift from God. Receive with reverence and praise, then continue thanking God when you return to your pew.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.