Monday, September 12, 2016

Preparing for Holy Communion: 'Do this in remembrance of Me'

'Take, eat... This is My Body...'

Dear Parish Faithful,

"Do this in remembrance of me."  (LK. 22:19)

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (I COR. 11:26)

We are well into the ecclesiastical New Year, and it is at this time that I like to "review" some of our more basic, but important, practices; so that by way of remembrance we do not lose sight of who we are as Orthodox Christians and of what we are doing.  This "review list" will always begin with our reception of Holy Communion and with our preparation so as to receive "in a worthy manner."  

It is first essential to realize the primary place of the Eucharist in our ecclesial lives.  

The Liturgy is meant to lead us to the Chalice and so fulfill the words of the Lord, who commanded to "do this in remembrance of me" - that is to participate in the reception of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. To reinforce this point, we find in the words of St. John Chrysostom the affirmation that receiving the Holy Mysteries - and here St. John means the consecrated bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ -  is a practice that is equally enjoined upon both clergy and laity:

"There are cases when a priest does not differ from a layman, notably when one approaches the Holy Mysteries.  We are all equally given them, not as in the Old Testament, when one food was for the priests and another for the people and when it was not permitted to the people to partake of that which was for the priest.  Now it is not so:  but to all is offered the same Body and the same Chalice ... "

We are quite aware of this as a parish, and we have the good practice of the vast majority of those present in church on a given Sunday, "drawing near in the fear and love of God" to receive the Eucharist.  That then leads us to the balancing point of "frequent Communion," and that is our preparation so that we never take the reception of the Eucharist in a careless or carefree manner.  Both frequent Communion and a sense of preparation are equally essential components of our shared ecclesial life.  We are thus "Eucharistic beings" in a manner that reveals vigilance and a care for the "things of God."

I have thus attached an older document that outlines the various elements of Preparing for Communion for everyone's "annual review," so that we maintain the vigilance and care mentioned above. These guidelines not meant to be a "check list" nor is it meant to be a straightjacket.  But I hope that it may jar our minds if necessary into remembrance of the responsibility with which we need to approach the chalice to receive the gift above all gifts - Christ Himself. 

Fr. Steven

Preparation for Holy Communion (short version) PDF

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