Treatise on the Most Blessed Sacrament
by St. Thomas More
A treatise to receive the Blessed Body of our Lord Sacramentally and Virtually both, made in the year of our Lord, 1534, by Sir Thomas More Knight, while he was prisoner in the Tower of London, which he entitled thus as followeth:
They receive the Blessed Body of our Lord both Sacramentally and Virtually which in due manner and worthily receive the Blessed Sacrament. When I say worthily, I mean not that any man is so good, or can be so good, that his goodness could make him of very right and reason worthy to receive into his vile, earthly body, that Holy, Blessed, Glorious Flesh and Blood of Almighty God Himself, with His Celestial Soul therein, and with the Majesty of His Eternal Godhead: but that he may prepare himself, working with the Grace of God, to stand in such a state as the incomparable goodness of God will of His liberal bounty, vouchsafe to take and accept for worthy, to receive His own inestimable, Precious Body into the body of so simple a servant.
Such is the wonderful bounty of Almighty God that, He not only doth vouchsafe, but also doth delight, to be with men, if they prepare to receive Him with honest and clean souls, whereof He saith, Deliciae meae esse cum filiis hominum.1 My delight and pleasures are to be with the sons of men.
And how can we doubt, that God delighteth to be with the sons of men, when the Son of God, and very Almighty God Himself, liked not only to become the Son of Man, that is to wit, the son of Adam, the first man, but over that, in His innocent manhood, to suffer His painful Passion for the Redemption and Restitution of man.
In remembrance and memorial whereof, He disdaineth not to take for worthy such men, as wilfully make not themselves unworthy, to receive the self-same Blessed Body into their bodies, to the inestimable wealth of their Souls, and yet of His High Sovereign patience, He refuseth not to enter bodily into the vile bodies of those whose filthy minds refuse to receive Him graciously into their Souls. But then do such folk receive Him only Sacramentally, and not Virtually, that is to wit, they receive His very Blessed Body into theirs under the Sacramental Sign, but they receive not the thing of the Sacrament, that is to wit, the Virtue and the Effects thereof, that is to say, the Grace by which they should be lively members incorporate in Christ's Holy Mystical Body: but instead of that live Grace, they receive their Judgment and their Damnation.
some such by the outrageous enormity of their deadly sinful purpose, in
which they presume to receive that Blessed Body, deserve to have the
devil, (through the suffrance of God) personally so to enter into their
breasts, that they never have the Grace after to cast him out: but like
as a man with bridle and spur rideth and ruleth a horse, and maketh him
go which way he list to guide him, so doth the devil by his inward
suggestions govern and guide the man, and bridle him from all good, and
spur him into all evil, till he finally drive him to all mischief, as he
did the false traitor, Judas, that sinfully received that Holy Body,
whom the devil did therefore first carry out about the traitorous death
of the self-same Blessed Body of his most loving Master; which he so
late so sinfully received, and within a few hours after, unto the
desperate destruction of himself.
For if we will but consider, if there were a great worldly prince, which for special favour that he bare us, would come visit us in our own house, what a business we would then make, and what a work it would be for us to see that our house were trimmed up in every point to the best of our possible power, and everything so provided and ordered, that he should by his honourable receiving perceive what affection we bear him, and in what high estimation we have him.
We should soon see by the comparing of that worldly prince and this Heavenly Prince together (between which twain is far less comparison than is between a man and a mouse), inform and teach ourself with how lowly, how tender loving heart, how reverent humble manner we should endeavour ourself to receive this glorious, heavenly King, the King of Kings, Almighty God Himself, that so lovingly doth vouchsafe to enter, not only into our house (to which the noble man Centurio knowledged himself unworthy), but His 'Precious Body into our vile wretched carcass, and His Holy Spirit into our poor simple soul.
diligence can here suffice us? What solicitude can we think here enough
against the coming of this Almighty King, coming for so special gracious
favour not to put us to cost, not to spend of ours, but to enrich us of
His, and, that after so manifold deadly displeasure done Him so unkindly
by us, against so many of His incomparable benefits before done unto us?
How would we now labour, that the house of our soul (which God were
coming to rest in) should neither have any poisoned spider, or cobweb of
deadly sin hanging in the roof, nor so much as a straw or a feather of
any light lewd thought, that we might spy on the floor, but that we
would sweep it away.
ever let us of our own part, fear our unworthiness, and on His part,
trust boldly upon His goodness, if we are slow not to work with him for
our own part. For if we willingly upon the trust and comfort of His
goodness leave our own endeavour undone, then is our hope, no hope, but
a very foul presumption.
Let us also with the poor publican in knowledge of our own unworthiness say with all meekness of heart, Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori (Luke 18): Lord God be merciful to me, sinner that I am. And with the Centurio, Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum (Matt. 8), Lord I am not worthy, that thou shouldst come into my house. And yet with all this remembrance of our own unworthiness, and therefore with great reverence, fear and dread for our own part, let us not forget on the other side to consider His inestimable goodness, which disdaineth not for all our unworthiness to come unto us, and to be received of us, but likewise as at the sight or receiving of this excellent memorial of His death (for in the remembrance thereof doth He thus consecrate and give His own Blessed Flesh and Blood unto us) we must with tender compassion remember and call to mind the bitter pains of His most painful Passion.
yet there-with-all rejoice and be glad in the consideration of His
incomparable kindness, which in His so suffering for us, to our
inestimable benefit, He showed and declared toward us. So must we be
sore afraid of our own unworthiness, and yet therewith be right glad and
in great hope at the consideration of His immeasurable goodness…
he forthwith was contented to make recompense to all men that he had
wronged, and that in a large manner; for every penny a groat; and yet
offered to give out also forthwith the one half of all his substance
unto poor men, and that forthwith also; by and by, without any longer
delay. And therefore he said not: Thou shalt hear, that I shall give it:
but he said: Ecce dimidium bonorum meorum de pauperibus. Lo, look, good
Lord, the one half of my goods I do give unto poor men.