My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"And Jesus said unto them, I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE: he that
cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in Me
shall never thirst. But I said unto you, that ye also have seen
Me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth Me shall come
to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For
I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will
of Him that sent Me." (St. John 6:35-38)
We recall, I am confident, Satan tempting the Son of God soon after "He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry." Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones BECOME BREAD" (St. Matthew 4:2). "But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (St. Matthew 4:4).
Bread is essential for life. Saint Theophylact writes, "The Jews thought that Jesus was speaking about ordinary bread. The Jews wanted Jesus to perform a miracle such as Moses to feed their flesh and satisfy their gluttony. Jesus said to them, "Moses did not give you the True Bread." "I am the bread of life." When all mankind was spiritually dead [because of sin], Christ, the SPIRITUAL BREAD, brought us to life again by leavening the lump of our human substance, making it like unto Himself, and baking it with the fire of His Divinity. He is the bread, not of the ordinary type found in everyday life to which we are accustomed, but another kind: ONE STRANGE AND MARVELOUS, NOT CUT SHORT BY DEATH. A man who believes in such a bread "SHALL NEVER HUNGER."
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, contrasting Himself to the manna which was eaten by the Hebrews, He said "Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and they died. THIS IS THE BREAD WHICH COMES DOWN FROM HEAVEN, THAT A MAN MAY EAT OF IT AND NOT DIE" (St. John 6:49-50).
Orthodox Christians believe that the Holy Communion is the "MANNA" for today. This "Bread of Life" is what sustains us and saves us. It is given "for the remission of sins and eternal life." The Precious Body and Blood of Christ God sustains us in our journey through the spiritual wasteland of life. During the Divine Liturgy the celebrant Orthodox priest, shortly before Holy Communion, breaks the Bread, the Body of Christ, and places it into the Chalice, saying the following words: The Lamb of God is broken and distributed, broken but not divided, He is forever eaten and is never consumed, but sanctifies all those who partake of Him." In calling Himself "The Bread of Life," Christ was building on the concept of the manna, but "superseding the purpose of the manna, for His bread leads to eternal life."
A sign of the anticipated Messiah was one who would feed His hungry people in a supernatural way. This bread is the Son of God Himself, Who was willing to die on the Cross so that we might live. Christ is making another revelation to His Deity. He says the "I AM". The phrase "I AM" is the covenant name of God (Yahweh), revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). His invitation to "come" to Him involves making a personal choice to denounce the world and to follow Him. In the word "believe" we are called to place our faith in Him and to trust that He indeed is the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
In the Old Testament Book of Exodus chapter 16, verse 33, we read "Moses then said to Aaron, ‘Take a golden pot, put one full omer of the manna in it, and lay it up before God to be kept for your generations." A type of the Theotokos. For Christ became the Bread of Life in her womb for the salvation of the world. Also, this became the precursor of the Tabernacle that sits on the altar table in all Orthodox churches, where a portion of the "Bread of Life," Holy Communion, remains perpetually.
In coming near to communicate (receive Holy Communion) the faithful say to themselves:
"Behold, I approach for Holy Communion,
O Creator, burn me not as I partake,
For thou art Fire which burns the unworthy,
Wherefore do Thou cleanse me from every stain."
Saint Theophylact says, " To show that faith in Christ is NOT acquired by chance, but IS A GIFT FROM GOD bestowed by the Father to those who are worthy and upright of heart, the Lord declares, "ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVETH ME SHALL COME TO ME." This means, "The Father gives Me those who believe in Me… The Lord is teaching the Jews that the man who does NOT RECEIVE HIM IS AN ENEMY OF GOD WHO OPPOSES THE WILL OF THE FATHER. Since they were insisting that he was the enemy of God, Christ turns the charge against them and says indirectly: "You are the enemies of God, who reject the One obedient to the will of the Father."
"Though the man who eats this bread nevertheless tastes of physical death, he lives in hope of the resurrection. Clearly, the Lord is speaking here about the mystical communion of His Body. Christ said, "The bread which I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." The Lord shows that He went willingly and by His own authority to His crucifixion, not as a servant or a subordinate to His Father," writes Saint Theophylact.
The elements (bread and wine) ARE CHANGED BY THE INVOCATION, EPICLESIS, of the Holy Spirit. For Orthodox Christians, the EPICLESIS IS AN INDISPENSABLE ELEMENT OF THE CONSECRATION OF the Holy Gifts. In other words, WE BELIEVE that without calling upon God the Holy Spirit TO SANCTIFY the Gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ, there would be no conversion of the gifts. This constitutes an essential difference we have with Western Christendom, which DOES NOT hold unto the belief.
"Send down Your Holy Spirit on this Sacrifice, the
witness of the suffering of the Lord Jesus, that He
may show this bread to be the Body of Your Christ,
and this Cup to be the Blood of Your Christ, that they
who shall receive them may be strengthened for piety,
may obtain the remission of their sins, may be delivered
from the devil and his deceit, may be filled with the
Holy Spirit, may be made worthy of Your Christ,
and may obtain eternal life upon Your
reconciliation to them, O Lord Almighty."
To doubt, God forbid, the Descent of the Holy Spirit and the consecration of the elements of bread and wine, and the change of them to the very Body and Blood of Christ, constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, our God, an unforgivable sin and a great heresy. No matter what the conditions are in the world, epidemics, or pandemics, our belief remains unchanged. When we receive Holy Communion we receive the very Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Those who do NOT believe it MUST NOT RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION! For the unbeliever, IT IS CONDEMNATION and FIRE.
The Prayer before Holy Communion:
"I believe, Lord, and confess, that You are truly the Christ, Son of the Living
God, Who came into the world to save sinners, OF WHOM IA M THE GREATEST.
I ALSO BELIEVE THAT THIS IS TRULY YOUR SPOTLESS Body, and this is truly
Your Precious Blood. Wherefore I pray You: have mercy on me and forgive my
offenses, whether or not intended, whether committed in word or deed,
knowing or unknowingly; and count me worthy to share without judgment in
Your pure mysteries, for the remission of sins and for everlasting life. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD