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Woman giving thanks after Communion, by Alphonse Legros.

Thanksgiving after Communion is a spiritual practice among Christians who believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist they receive during Holy Communion, maintaining themselves in prayer for some time to thank God for what they believe to be the great gift of receiving God Himself in person.

This practice was and is highly recommended by saints, theologians, and Doctors of the Church.

Roman Catholic Church

Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, says that there is no other time than thanksgiving after Mass when Christians can so easily enrich their soul with virtues, or so rapidly advance to a high degree of perfection. "There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul," said another Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori, "than that which is made during the thanksgiving after Communion."

"Thanksgiving after Mass has traditionally been greatly esteemed in the Church for both the priest and the lay faithful," said Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The official Roman Catholic position was presented in Inaestimabile Donum 17: "The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence, with a hymn, psalm or other song of praise, or also after the celebration, if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable time."

Basis of the practice

File:Ratzinger Szczepanow 2003 10.JPG

Pope Benedict XVI: "The precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected."

Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, said in the Bible that whoever receives him will obtain eternal life. This promise of everlasting life has urged Roman Catholics throughout the centuries to strive to receive Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, bread is transubstantiated into the "Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ," whom Christians believe to be God Himself.

Since they believe that Jesus in person is present under the species of bread given to them as a Supreme Gift, Roman Catholics have seen it fit to pray for some time in thanksgiving for this gift.

St. John Chrysostom: "When we have received the precious Body of Jesus Christ, we should take care not to lose its heavenly flavor by turning too soon to the cares and business of the world."

Thus, the Fathers of the Church have recommended this practice. St. John Chrysostom once explained that "when a person has eaten some delicious food at a banquet, he is careful not to take anything bitter in his mouth immediately after, lest he should lose the sweet flavour of those delicate viands. In like manner, when we have received the precious Body of Jesus Christ, we should take care not to lose its heavenly flavour by turning too soon to the cares and business of the world." [1]

Fr. Michael Muller, CSSR, explained the basis thus: When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited St. Elizabeth, the aged Saint was astonished at the condescension of the glorious Mother of God, and said: "Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my God should come to me?" Now, in Holy Communion, it is the Lord Himself that comes to us, the Eternal "Wisdom which proceeded from the mouth of the Most High," the "Lord and Prince of the House of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush," the "King of nations," "Emmanuel," "our King and Law-giver." To remain indifferent after having received the Blessed Eucharist is to show either a total want of faith or a levity and stupidity unworthy of a reasonable being. What a spectacle for the Angels, to see a creature approach that Sacred Host before which they bow in lowliest adoration and, when he has had the unutterable happiness of receiving his Redeemer, leave the church with as much unconcern as if he had but partaken of ordinary bread!

Thus, the Baltimore Catechism states:

Q. 913. What should we do after Holy Communion?
A. After Holy Communion we should spend some time in adoring Our Lord, in thanking Him for the grace we have received, and in asking Him for the blessings we need.

The Roman Catholic Church has officially recommended this practice in the Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Inaestimabile Donum), prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, approved and confirmed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II on 17 April 1980:

"The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence, with a hymn, psalm or other song of praise, or also after the celebration, if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable time" (Inaestimabile Donum, 17).

"Thanksgiving after Mass has traditionally been greatly esteemed in the Church for both the priest and the lay faithful," said Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2003. "The missal and the breviary even suggest prayers for the priest before and after the Eucharistic celebration. There is no reason to believe that this is no longer needed. Indeed in our noisy world of today, such moments of reflective and loving prayers would seem indicated more than even before. [2]

Pope Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis referred to the "precious time of thanksgiving after communion", urging everyone to preserve the importance of communion as "a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament." He recommended that during this time "it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence." "I heartily recommend to the Church's pastors and to the People of God the practice of eucharistic adoration, both individually and in community." (Sacramentum Caritatis, 50)

Practice of the saints

St. Teresa of Ávila: There is no other time than thanksgiving after Mass when we can so easily enrich our soul with virtues, or so rapidly advance to a high degree of perfection

St. Teresa of Ávila urged her daughters not to rush out after Mass but to treasure the opportunity for thanksgiving:" Let us detain ourselves lovingly with Jesus," she said, "and not waste the hour that follows Communion."

St. Francis de Sales compared the care in carrying the body of Jesus with the care of merchants during his time of walking with extreme care so as not to "stumble and break their costly wares. In like manner should the Christian, when he carries the priceless treasure of Our Lord's Body, walk with great care and circumspection in order not to lose the costly gift committed to his keeping?"

Once Saint Philip Neri noticed that a parishioner usually left the church immediately after receiving Holy Communion. To correct him, he told two acolytes to accompany the man with lighted candles as he walked home. The people in the streets stared in surprise. When the man returned to St. Philip to ask why, St. Philip replied, "We have to pay proper respect to Our Lord, Whom you are carrying away with you. Since you neglect to adore Him, I sent two acolytes to take your place." Realizing his fault, the man knelt and made proper thanksgiving after Holy Communion.

St. Alphonsus said, "There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul, than that which is made during the thanksgiving after Communion. It is the opinion of many grave writers (Suarez, Cajetan, Valentia, De Lugo, and others), that the Holy Communion, so long as the sacramental species lasts, constantly produces greater and greater graces in the soul, provided the soul is then constant in disposing itself by new acts of virtue. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But you do not have me always with you."

St. Magdalena de Pazzi said, "The minutes that follow Communion are the most precious we have in our lives."

St. Louis de Montfort wrote, "I would not give up this hour of Thanksgiving even for an hour of Paradise."

St. Alphonsus Liguori: There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul, than that which is made during the thanksgiving after Communion

St. Josemaria Escriva preached: "If we love Christ, who offers Himself for us, we will feel compelled to find a few minutes after Mass for an intimate personal thanksgiving, which will prolong in the silence of our hearts that other thanksgiving which is the Eucharist." In his short homily In Love with the Church, St. Josemaría says, "We give thanks to God our Lord for the wonderful way He has given Himself up for us. Imagine, the Word made flesh has come to us as our food! ...Inside us, inside our littleness, lies the Creator of heaven and earth!"

St. Faustina Kowalska said that she received a private revelation from Jesus who told her: "My great delight is to unite myself with souls...When I come to a human heart in communion, my hands are filled with graces which I want to give to souls. But souls do not pay attention to me: they leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things. They do not recognize love. They treat me as a dead object."

St. Padre Pio, canonized June 16, 2002, wrote:

When Mass was over I remained with Jesus in thanksgiving. Oh how sweet was the colloquy with paradise that morning! It was such that, although I want to tell you all about it, I cannot. ... The heart of Jesus and my own — allow me to use the expression — were fused. No longer were two hearts beating but only one. My own heart had disappeared, as a drop of water is lost in the ocean. Jesus was its paradise, its king. My joy was so intense and deep that I could bear it no more and tears of happiness poured down my cheeks.

Padre Pio, who asked God to become a victim for poor sinners and souls in purgatory, received the marks of the stigmata, believed to be the wounds of Christ, while he was praying before a crucifix and making his thanksgiving after Mass.

Length of time

According to the Baltimore Catechism, Roman Catholics "should spend sufficient time in Thanksgiving after Holy Communion to show due reverence to the Blessed Sacrament; for Our Lord is personally with us as long as the appearance of bread and wine remains."

Through the years, the saints have varied in their recommendation as regards the amount of time to be spent in thanksgiving. A number of saints referred to an hour of thanksgiving. St. Alphonsus specifically advises everyone to devote at least half an hour to it, if it is at all possible.

St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, who taught that lay Roman Catholics can sanctify themselves not just in church but also at their workplaces, stated that Roman Catholics should not neglect their work to spend unnecessary amount of time on acts of piety. But at the same time he realized the infinity of the gift received and the necessity to give proportional thanksgiving. Thus, he said: "If our thanksgiving were in proportion to the difference between the gift and our just deserts, should we not turn the whole day into a continuous Eucharist, a continuous thanksgiving? Do not leave the church almost immediately after receiving the Sacrament. Surely you have nothing so important on that you cannot give Our Lord 10 minutes to say thanks. Love is repaid with love." He thus divided his day into two parts. During the first half of the day, he devoted himself to thanking God for the Eucharist he had received that morning. During the latter half, he would prepare himself spiritually for the next day's Mass, particularly with spiritual communions.

Cardinal Arinze alludes to the practice of staying for 10 minutes after Mass in his lecture on reverence towards the Eucharist. "It is a beautiful testimony to hear parishioners say of their pastor: 'Father is doing his thanksgiving after Mass and will be available to us about ten minutes later'. And why should this not be applicable to the congregation too? Reverence is not automatic. It has to be nurtured, to be built up, to be kept up."

Prayer during thanksgiving

According Fr. Carlos Belmonte, author of Understanding the Mass, "The content of our thanksgiving will be just a continuation of the sentiments and affections we have felt --or tried to foster in ourselves-- during the Mass, but perhaps in an atmosphere of greater intimacy this time. Sometimes, acts of faith, hope, and charity addressed to the three divine Persons will spurt from our soul. At other times, we will maintain an intimate dialogue with Jesus, our divine Friend who will purify and transform us. Or perhaps, we will just be sitting still, in silent adoration, in the same manner that a mother watches over her son who has fallen asleep. We should not look for prayers or formulas, if we do not find any need for them. But if we realize they can help us, we should overcome our laziness (say, to open our missal and read the prayers for thanksgiving there), or that subtle kind of vanity which makes us feel humiliated by having to read prayers composed by somebody else." [3]

Through the centuries, several prayers have been composed for this. Symeon Metaphrastes (probably 10th century) who is venerated by the Eastern Orthodox Church as a saint, and who is known for his Byzantine hagiography, composed the following Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion which is found in the Hieratikon, or prayers for the priest.

O Thou who didst gladly give me Thy flesh for nourishment; who art fire to consume the unworthy: Burn me not, O my Creator, but search out my members. Quicken my reins and my heart. Let Thy flames devour the thorns of all my transgressions. Purify my soul. Sanctify my thoughts. Knit firm my bones. Enlighten my senses. Piece me with Thy fear. Be Thou my continual shield. Watch over and preserve me from every word and deed that corrupt the soul. Purge me and wash me clean and adorn me. Order my ways, give me understanding and enlighten me. Make me the temple of Thy Holy Ghost, and no more the habitation of sin, that as from fire all evil, every passion, may flee from me, who through Holy Communion am become a place for Thy dwelling. I bring unto Thee all the saints to make intercession: The ranks of the heavenly hosts; Thy forerunner; the wise Apostles; and withal Thy pure and holy Mother. Their prayers receive, O merciful Christ, and make Thy servant a child of light. For Thou art our hallowing, Thou only art the brightness of our souls, O gracious Lord: And we rightly give glory to Thee, our Lord and our God, All the days of our life. Amen. [4]

St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) composed a Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion which has become a classic:

I thank You, O holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, who have deigned, not through any merits of mine, but out of the condenscension of Your goodness, to satisfy me a sinner, Your unworthy servant, with the precious Body and Blood of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this Holy Communion be not a condemnation to punishment for me, but a saving plea to forgiveness. May it be to me the armor of faith and the shield of a good will. May it be the emptying out of my vices and the extinction of all lustful desires; and increase of charity and patience, of humility and obedience, and all virtues; a strong defense against the snares of all my enemies, visible and invisible; the perfect quieting of all my evil impulses of flesh and spirit, binding me firmly to You, the one true God; and a happy ending of my life. I pray too that You will deign to bring me, a sinner, to that ineffable banquet where You with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, are to your Saints true light, fulfillment of desires, eternal joy, unalloyed gladness, and perfect bliss. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

During the early 14th century, the prayer Anima Christi was composed, probably written by John XXII. It was wrongly attributed to Ignatius of Loyola (born 1491) who favored this prayer:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ's side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints
and with Thy angels
Forever and ever

One of the recommended texts for thanksgiving in My Daily Psalm Book, Arranged by Father Joseph Frey, Confraternity of the Precious Blood (1947) is the Canticle of the Three Young men, or Trium Puerorum: [5] This is a traditional canticle that is included in the prayers for thanksgiving in the Roman Missal of 1962. [6]

All things the Lord has made, bless the Lord.
Angels of the Lord! all bless the Lord.
Sun and moon! bless the Lord.
Stars of heaven! bless the Lord.
Showers and dews! all bless the Lord.
Winds! all bless the Lord.
Fire and heat! bless the Lord.
Dews and sleet! bless the Lord.
Light and darkness! bless the Lord.
Lightning and clouds! bless the Lord.
Mountains and hills! bless the Lord.
Every thing that grows on the earth! bless the Lord.
Let us praise and exalt him above all for ever.

There is also the Universal Prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI, which begins thus:

Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

Prayer Before a Crucifix

Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before Your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech You to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Your five wounds, pondering over them within me, and calling to mind the words which, long ago, David the prophet spoke in Your own person concerning You, my Jesus: "They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones."

Mother Teresa taught her Missionaries of Charity to recite Prayer of Saint Francis for Peace during the Thanksgiving.[7]

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

Among Anglican Use Roman Catholics, the following prayer of thanksgiving is often used after receiving Holy Communion:

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death and passion of thy dear Son. And we most humbly beseech thee, 0 heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Eastern Orthodox

In the Eastern Orthodox Church there are various sets of prayers recommended both for Preparation for Communion and of Thanksgiving After Communion. The specific form will differ depending upon national jurisdiction.

In the Russian Orthodox Church there are usually a set of five prayers (including the one by Symeon Metaphrastes quoted above) that are recited after the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. After the dismissal of the Liturgy, those who have received Holy Communion will remain behind and pray as the prayers are recited by a Reader. The priest and other celebrating clergy will usually say the Prayers of Thanksgiving immediately after receiving Holy Communion. However, the deacon who will perform the ablutions will wait to say them after he has finished his duties at the Table of Oblation.

Among the prayers said is one by Saint Basil the Great:

O Master Christ God, King of the ages and Creator of all things, I thank Thee for all the good things which Thou hast bestowed upon me, and for the communion of Thy most pure and life-creating Mysteries. I pray Thee, therefore, O Good One and Lover of mankind: Keep me under Thy protection and in the shadow of Thy wings; and grant me, even until my last breath, to partake worthily and with a pure conscience, of Thy Holy Things, unto the remission of sins and life eternal. For Thou art the Bread of life, the Source of holiness, the Giver of good things; and unto Thee do we send up glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The prayers usually end with the Nunc Dimittis and the Troparion and Kontakion of the saint who wrote the Liturgy that was celebrated (John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory Dialogist or, rarely, James the Brother of the Lord). Then the rite ends with a dismissal pronounced by the priest.

After the Prayers of Thanksgiving, the communicant should spend the rest of the day in a spirit of thanksgiving, engaging only in activities which are of benefit to the soul. If it is a Sunday or Holy Day he should rest from labour.

See also

External links and references