Chapter VI. Of our Actual and Ornamental Preparation to the Reception of the Blessed Sacrament. Section I. An Inquiry whether we are habitually prepared, is the proper Preparation for the Holy Communion.
HE that is dressed by the former measures, is always worthy to communicate; but he that is always well vested, will, against a wedding-day, be more adorned; and the five wise virgins that stood ready for the coming of the bridegroom, with oil in their lamps, and fire on their oil, yet, at the notice of his coming, trimmed their lamps, and made them to bum brighter.  The receiving of the blessed sacrament is a receiving Christ; and here the soul is united to our Lord; and this feast is the supper of the Lamb, and the Lamb is the bridegroom, and every faithful soul is the bride; and all this is but the image of the state of blessedness in heaven, where we shall see him without a veil, whom here we receive under the veil of sacraments; and there we shall live upon him, without a figure, to whom we are now brought by significations and representments corporal.  But then as we here receive the same thing as there, though after a less perfect manner; it is also very fit we should have here the same, that is, a heavenly conversation, though, after the manner of men, living upon the earth. It is true, that blessed souls receive Christ always, and they live accordingly, in perpetual uninterrupted glorifications of his name, and conformities to his excellencies. Here we receive him at certain times; and at such times, we should make our conversation celestial, and our holiness actual, when our addresses are so; so that, in our actual addresses to the reception of these divine mysteries, there is nothing else to be done, but that what in our whole life is done habitually, at that time be done actually. No man is fit to die, but he who is safe if he dies suddenly; and yet he that is so fitted, if he hears the noise of the bridegroom's coming, will snuff his lamp, and stir up the fire, and apply the oil; and so must lie, that hath warning of his communion.
He that communicates every day, must live a life of a continual religion; and so must he, who, in any sense, communicates frequently, if he does it at all worthily; but he that lives carelessly, and dresses his soul with the beginnings of virtues against a communion-day, is like him that repents not till the day of his death; if it succeeds well, it is happy for him: but if he does not, he may blame himself for being confident without a promise. Every worthy communicant must prepare himself by a holy life, by mortification of all his sins, by the acquisition of all Christian graces; and this is not the work of a day, or a week; but by how much the more these things are done, by so much the better we are prepared.
So that the actual address and proper preparation to the blessed sacrament, is, indeed, an inquiry whether we are habitually prepared; that is, whether we be in the state of grace; whether we belong to Christ, whether we have faith and charity, whether we have repented truly. If we be to communicate next week, or it may be, to-morrow, these things cannot be gotten to-day; and, therefore, we must stay till we be ready. And if, by our want of preparation, we be compelled, for the saving of our souls and lest we die, to abstain from this holy feast,--let us consider what our case would be, if this should be the last coining of the bridegroom. This is but the warning of that; this is but his last coming a little antedated; and God graciously calls us now to be prepared here, that we may not be unprepared then: but it is a formidable thing to be thrust out, when we see others enter.
And therefore, when the masters of spiritual life call upon us to set apart a day, or two, or three, for preparation to this holy feast, they do not mean that any man, who, on the Thursday, is unfit and unworthy, should be fitted to communicate on Sunday; but that he should on those days try whether he be or no, and pass from one degree of perfection to a greater, from the less perfect to the more; for let us think of it as we please, there is no other preparation. And it might otherwise seem a wonder to us, why St. Paul, who particularly speaks of it, and, indeed, the whole New Testament, should say nothing of any particular preparation to this holy feast; but only gives us caution that we do not receive it unworthily, but gives us no particular rule or precept but this one, 'That a man should examine himself, and so let him eat:' I say, this might seem very strange, but that we find there is, and there can be, no worthy preparation to it, but a life of holiness, and that "every one, who names the Lord Jesus, should depart from iniquity;" and, therefore, that against the day of communion there is nothing peculiarly and signally required, but to examine ourselves, to see if all be right in the whole; and, what is wanting towards our proportion of perfection and ornament, to supply it. So that the immediate preparation to the holy communion can have in it but three parts and conjugations of duty:
1. An examination of our conscience:
2. An actual supply of such actions as are wanting:
3. Actual devotion, and the exercise of special graces by way of prayer, so to adorn our present state and dispositions.
 Lucne, creian ecwn epecein, memnhso elaion.
 Panem angelorum sub Sacramento manducamus in terris, eundem sine sacramento manifestius edemus in coelis, non ministerio corporali saepe repetitis actionibus ad eundem revertentes: sed, consummato sacerdotio nostro, erit et permanebit perpetua et stabilis, implens et reficiens nos sufficientia, qua proferet se palam absque ullis integumentis, omnibus conspicabilis summi presentia sacerdotis.--S. Cyprian. de Coena Dom. cap. 2.
Ecce panis angelorum
Factus cibus viatorum.
Qui nos pascis hic mortales,
Tuos ibi commensales,
Co-haeredes et sodales,
Fac sanctorum civium.--Hymn. Eccles.