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Spiritual Communion

During this time, when maybe a third of the planet’s people are in lockdown to battle Covid-19, many are missing Holy Communion. Most sacramentally-focused churches would hold to teachings akin to what is presented in A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa:

When people who desire to receive the Holy Communion are unable to do so for any other reason, their desire and such prayers as they are able to offer ensure that they do spiritually receive the body and blood of Christ.

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This post suggests some prayers that might be appropriate for what is called ‘Spiritual Communion’. You also may have some suggestions that you can put in the comments area below. Remember: pray as you can; not as you can’t. Here are some helpful thoughts from the Christchurch Cathedral:

St Thomas Aquinas defined Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him.” Our New Zealand Prayer Book puts it this way (p.729): [the quote above]

A Prayer that you may wish to use in preparation for this video [or use for Spiritual Communion:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.

Dean Lawrence Kimberley

The prayer that Lawrence quotes is by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

There’s a good reflection on the Roman Catholic understanding of Spiritual Communion in a Time of Coronavirus. I love the typo in that article, “Sacrament of the Alter” – I have never, in a typo, seen the converting power of Communion so well expressed!

Here are some Anglican Spiritual Communion prayer texts (language modernised):

In union, O Dear Lord, with the faithful at every Altar of Your Church, where Your blessed Body and Blood are being offered to the Father, I desire to offer You praise and thanksgiving. I present to You my soul and body, with the earnest wish that I may ever be united to You. And since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, I beseech You to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to You, and embrace You with all the affections of my soul. O let nothing ever separate me from You. Let me live and die in Your love. Amen.

Grant, O Lord Jesus Christ, that as the hem of Your garment, touched in faith, healed the woman who could not touch Your Body, so the soul of Your servant may be healed by like faith in You, Whom I cannot now sacramentally receive; through Your tender mercy, Who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit ever one God. Amen.

A FORM OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION compiled by Bishop Cecil John Wood (see more at that link)

You can surround such prayers above with other prayers you find helpful: the confession you are used to; readings from the Bible, including the Gospel (the Daily Eucharistic Readings are a suggestion), and prayers of thanksgiving and petition.

Christ Church Cathedral Oxford (CofE) offers this prayer and describes the prayer above (“In union, O Dear Lord…”) as ‘Traditional Anglican form for use by armed forces’:

you stand at the door of my heart
and knock.
You wait for me
and only I can let you in.
I believe and trust in you
and ask you now
to fill me with presence.
Feed me with your body
and unite me in your blood,
that I may be your blessing
to a world in need.

Fr Peter Bolton offers a card with similar prayers here.

Paul A. Zalonski offers a prayer for Spiritual Communion according to the Byzantine form to aid our uniting ourselves to the Eucharistic Lord.

A balance: as one absolutely devoted to the Holy Eucharist, I have regularly said that we are asking the Sunday hour of the Holy Eucharist to bear too much: prayer, meditation, teaching, fellowship… It is great that the movement of ‘the Lord’s own service for the Lord’s own people on the Lord’s own day’ has gained such wonderful traction. But we have come to a “do you want communion with that” attitude. The Eucharist is the jewel in the crown. But we now seem to carry around the jewel (in our pocket) without the crown. In these days of Covid-19, perhaps God is calling us to renew the crown: the Daily Office.

If you wish to use today’s Eucharistic scripture readings, you can find them:
Daily Eucharistic Lectionary (NRSV) and here
Daily Eucharistic Lectionary (Jerusalem Bible)
Daily Eucharistic Lectionary
and here and here
You might need to go to the next day in some of these examples that are resourced from, say, UK or USA.


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2 thoughts on “Spiritual Communion”

  1. I’ve appreciated your Lockdown Liturgy Lessons: they have echoed and enhanced some of the conversations I’ve been having with colleagues lately. I have had one concern about the use of these Spiritual Communion prayers, though. Would it be fair to say that since they’re primarily written in first person singular, they’re better suited to private devotions for individuals, rather than corporate worship?

    1. Such a great point, Jonathan, thanks. You could adapt to the plural – or create your own. I would note that the RC community rites are often in the first person singular: “I confess…”, “I believe…” Easter Season Blessings

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