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The Difference Between Actual Communion and Spiritual Communion

During the weeks that have past recently, we have not been able to gather in our Churches due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many of us are attending virtual Masses and receiving Our Lord spiritually in Holy Communion.

Some of us long to have actual or sacramental communion and therefore questions have arisen about whether or not we receive the same graces. Our Spiritual Director, Father Michael J.T. Nguyen, C.Ss.R. helps us with the following teaching:

Here's our 100 BLESSINGS for today:


Regarding the teaching on Spiritual Communion, it is good that all of us have begun to "think God," that is, to theologize.

To theologize means to think God first. Not just think about God.

Suddenly God has become the center of our life, all the more, due to this pandemic.

There is more.

Nonetheless, as we all center our life on God alone and place our focus on Jesus Eucharistic, since "we cannot receive Him in actuality," we begin to speculate what it means to receive Him "SPIRITUALLY."

It is clear now that there are two ways to receive Jesus:

(1) Actually

(2) Spiritually

How different are they? And how they are the same?

Those are practical questions.

What is the same is the love?

And what is the difference is the degree of being present.

(1) On love, when you really love someone, you always love them spiritually.

You can love when they are not physically present with you or you to them. Just like the instance of a husband goes to work or to war overseas, he loves his wife and children all the more. Yet not the same as being home or at home.

You could even love them after they die and they, you on the other side.

It is the separation that makes the desire for the beloved one grow much stronger and deeper.

Apply this love reasoning to our desire for the Eucharistic Lord when we cannot receive Him any longer.

Do you know that the desire you have for the Eucharistic Lord is the DESIRE FOR HEAVEN?



(2) On the DEGREE OF BEING PRESENT, it is not the same.

Keep in mind the Lord Jesus is ALWAYS PRESENT with us, for us and to us.

He is the "YHWH - I AM."

He does not have "being" or "existence" or "presence" because He IS BEING ITSELF, EXISTENCE ITSELF and PRESENCE ITSELF.

So, the problem is not His, but that of ours.

Please take a deep breath.

We are getting into true Catholic thinking now.

So be patient.

So, the problem is NOT that of God, but ours.

Let us return to the two ways of receiving Holy Communion:

(1) The actual.

(2) The spiritual.

We are still speaking about the difference between the two.

And the problem is not with the "actual reception" of Holy Communion because we all know what that means by personal experience, up to a certain degree; but we seldom heard or are taught about "Spiritual Communion."

Why? Because according to the survey in the US, 70% of Catholics do not "believe" in the Real Presence."

When 70% of Catholics in America do not believe in the Real Presence when "we" come up to receive Holy Communion at Mass, the discussion or even speculation on "Spiritual Communion" is obsolete or has no meaning.

Until we renew and recommit our Faith in the Real Presence, in the Actual Reception of Holy Communion, then and only then "Spiritual Communion" would make a little sense.

This is why many of your comments portrays a confusion in making the distinction between the two modes of reception of Jesus: (1) Actual or (2) Spiritual.

Here is the distinction in practical terms.

Has anyone ever gone for "WINDOW SHOPPING?"

For the ladies, perhaps standing at the window of Nordstrom and looking at an exquisite Louis Vuitton bag, oh my! What a rush of excitement!

I do not know your own reaction, ladies, but I have seen some.

It is simple like this, "I WANT IT. I'VE GOT TO HAVE IT."

But wanting it is NOT the same as HAVING IT.

I do not know if anyone WANTS JESUS, whether you receive Him in actuality or in spirit, as much as those "sisters of mine" who desperately want those "Louis Vuitton" bags!

Other examples on the difference in degree of being present:

(1) Being engaged is NOT the same as being married.

(2) Attending a wedding by means of a live-stream video feed is NOT the same as actually being present at the wedding.

(3) Watching the IRON CHEFS cooking their delicious meals on TV and wanting to taste their food, no matter how hungry you are, is NOT the same at being present at the Studio Kitchen where you could actually smell the onion sizzling on melted butter and tasting that frog's leg!

That's French!

The point: IT IS NOT THE SAME.

Nonetheless, what window shopping or watching TV Commercial or Mass in real time on TV does is to "whet your appetite."

You are still hungry.

The love is there, but the satisfaction is not.

That is the distinction between ACTUAL and SPIRITUAL COMMUNION.

The great benefit of SPIRITUAL COMMUNION is that we grow more in desire, in need for the EUCHARISTIC LORD.

Hopefully that desire or need would turn into true faith in the Real Presence and true love for Jesus, Eucharistic.

Yes, we want Jesus Eucharistic all the more now, because we can't have Him in actuality. But when we do have Him every day or at least every Sunday, do we really pay attention?

The point:

(1) The EUCHARISTIC Lord Jesus is ALWAYS PRESENT with us, for us and to us.

(2) Are we present to Him, with Him and for Him? How is our degree of being present to the Lord?

What this cloistered experience due to the Coronavirus pandemic does is that it makes us think God all the more, desire the Eucharistic Jesus all the more and be present to Him all the more.

Hopefully this will be transformed into Love for the Jesus Eucharistic all the more.

Thanks for listening.

Pax Christi


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