Augustine stresses the importance of believing inwardly what we receive outwardly, of embracing inwardly, with charity and obedience to the commandments, what we eat outwardly. If we do not, then in vain do we receive the Sacrament. Thus, Christ’s message in Jn 6: “The flesh is of no avail” without the Spirit, i.e., Sacramental reception without existing in the Spirit of Christ, is of no avail; indeed, it is to our condemnation. Let us go to Confession, be reconciled, before approaching the Holy Eucharist.
From the celebration of Corpus Christi in the Extraordinary Form, the following is from Augustine, in the 8th reading of Matins (cited from that excellent website Divinum Officium):
“He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.” To dwell in Christ, therefore, and to have Him dwelling in us, is to “eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup,” 1 Cor. xi. 28, and he which dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, without all doubt doth not spiritually eat His Flesh nor drink His Blood, although he do carnally and visibly press the Sacrament with his teeth but, contrariwise, he “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,” because he dareth to draw nigh filthy to that secret and holy thing of Christ, whereunto none draweth nigh worthily, save he which is pure, even he which is of them concerning whom it is said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Augustine is simply repeating what Paul said in 1 Cor 11. Paul spoke of those who became ill or died because of unworthy reception of the Eucharist. Augustine, in his magisterial City of God, speaks of remarkable scourges some of his parishioners suffered because of unworthy reception of the Eucharist.
All these lessons from Tradition should be instructive for those deliberating at the upcoming Synod on the Family. Let us pray their deliberations not only are guided by the Holy Spirit but issue in prudent judgment. Let us pray that some sort of very distorted moral analysis of those who are living in sin does not blind them to such prudent judgment. It is just such a moral analysis that we are in the midst of expounding on this blog, the 16 part series on Fr. Rahner.