Communion with the Lord through the sacrament of flesh and blood is possible only at definite times, according to one’s possibilities and zeal, but never more than once a day. But inner communion with the Lord, in the spirit, is possible every hour and every minute; that is, through His grace, it is possible to be in constant intercourse with Him, and to be aware, when He so wishes, of this intercourse in one’s heart. According to the Lord’s promise, by partaking of His flesh and blood we receive Him Himself, and He enters and dwells in us with all His blessings, allowing the heart, that is prepared for it, to be aware of this. True communicants are always in a palpably blessed state after communion. Then the heart partakes of the Lord in spirit.
But since we are constrained by our body and surrounded by external activities and relationships, in which duty forces us to take part, so, by the splitting of our attention and feeling day by day, the spiritual partaking of the Lord is weakened and becomes overlaid and hidden. The sense of partaking of the Lord becomes hidden; but intercourse with the Lord is not broken, unless unfortunately some sin enters and destroys the state of grace. Nothing can compare with the delight of partaking of the Lord; therefore the diligent, when they feel it weaken, hasten to restore its full power, and, when they have restored it, they feel themselves again partaking of the Lord. This is spiritual communion with the Lord.
It is in this way that it takes place in the times between making communion with Him through the Holy Mysteries. But it can also be unceasing – in a man who always keeps his heart pure and his attention and feeling constantly directed towards the Lord. All the same, this is a gift of grace, granted to a man struggling on the path of the Lord, if he is diligent and pitiless to himself.
Even if a man partakes of the Lord in spirit only from time to time, this partaking is still a gift of grace. All that we can bring is thirst and hunger for this gift, and diligent striving to obtain it. There are, however, works, which open the way to this communion with the Lord and help to obtain it, although it always seems to come as it were unexpectedly. These works are pure prayer, with child-like crying of the heart, and special acts of self-denial in the practice of virtues. When no sin pollutes the soul, when no sinful thoughts or feelings are tolerated, that is, when the soul is pure and cries to God, what can keep the Lord, Who is present, from letting the soul taste Him, or the soul from awareness of this taste? And so it happens thus, unless the Lord deems it better, for the good of the soul, to prolong its thirst and hunger for Him before satisfying it.
Amongst acts of self-denial the most powerful of all for this purpose is humble obedience and casting oneself under the feet of all men, stripping oneself of acquisitiveness and suffering injustice with a good heart, all this in the spirit of complete surrender to the will of God. Such actions liken a man to the Lord more than any others, and the Lord, present in him, allows his soul to taste Him. Also pure and diligent fulfillment of all God’s commandments bears fruit in the abiding of the Lord in the heart, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 14:23).
Spiritual communion with the Lord should not be confused with mental memory of communion with Him in the Mysteries of flesh and blood, even if this memory is accompanied by strong spiritual sensations and an ardent longing for actual communion with Him in the Holy Mysteries. Neither must it be confused with what the worshippers present in the church receive when the Eucharist is celebrated. They receive divine sanctification and benevolence, as participants in the bloodless sacrifice through faith, contrition and readiness to sacrifice themselves to the glory of God; and they receive in the measure of these dispositions. But it is not the same as communion, although communion can also take place here.”
+ St. Theophan the Recluse +