My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"RECEIVE ME today, O Son of God, as a Partaker…" (Part II)
PRAYERS BEFORE HOLY COMMUNION By Saint
John of Damascus:
"O Lord and Master Jesus Christ, our God, Who alone hath power
to forgive the sins of men, do Thou, O Good One Who lovest
mankind, forgive all the sins that I have committed in knowledge
or in ignorance, and make me worthy to receive without
condemnation Thy Divine, glorious, immaculate and Life-Giving
Mysteries; not unto punishment or unto increase of sin; but
unto purification and sanctification and a promise of Thy Kingdom
and the Life to come; as protection and help to overthrow the
adversaries, and to blot out my many sins. For Thou art a God of
mercy and compassion and love toward mankind, and unto Thee
we ascribe glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit:
now and ever, and unto ages of ages." Amen.
The following prayer is from Saint John Chrysostom.
" I BELIEVE, O LORD, and I confess that Thou are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who didst come into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. And I believe that THIS IS TRULY THINE OWN IMMACULATE BODY AND
THAT THIS IS TRULY THINE OWN PRECIOUS BLOOD. Wherefore, I pray Thee,
have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and
involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance and make me
worthy to partake without condemnation of Thine immaculate Mysteries, unto
remission of my sins and to Life Everlasting. Amen.
Of the Mystic Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant: for I will
not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither will I give Thee a kiss as did
Judas; but like the thief will I confess Thee: ‘REMEMBER ME, O LORD, IN THY
Not unto judgment nor unto condemnation be my partaking of Thy Holy Mysteries.
O Lord, but UNTO HEALING OF SOUL AND BODY.
The Divine Eucharist is the center of spiritual life for all Orthodox Christians. The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to unite human beings with their Creator God and the union of human beings among themselves. According to Saint John Damascene, "It is called Communion because, through it, we commune the Divinity of Christ" together with His glorified humanity. Saint Nicholas Cavasilas describes the essence and purpose of the Divine Liturgy in his Commentary:
"The essential act in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries is the transformation of the
elements into the Divine Body and Blood; its aim is the sanctification of the faithful,
who through the Mysteries (Sacraments) receive the remission of their sins and the
inheritance of the Kingdom of heaven. As a preparation for, and the contribution to,
this act and for this purpose, we have prayers, psalms, and readings from the Holy
Scripture: in short, all the sacred acts and forms which are said and done before and
after THE CONSECRATION OF THE ELEMENTS."
This "Divine and Most Sacred of services" constitutes the highest expression of praise, glorification, love, and gratitude to God for His inexpressible love toward us. The people of God gather together in obedience to Christ’s COMMAND ("do this") to offer their "sacrifice of
praise" in thanksgiving (ευχαριστία), to actualize Christ’s saving acts, TO COMMUNE His Holy Mysteries, and to rejoice IN PARTAKING OF
THAT "Day" when they will partake of Him "more perfectly" in the "uncertain day" of His Kingdom.
Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church keeps in the word "Mysterion" or "Mystery", meaning "SECRET." She fears FAMILIARITY. She VEILS AND COVERS what others lay open and exhibit. The Church feels reluctant "to regulate the approach to the Holy Mysteries by precise disciplinary canons and to utter too detailed statements on the nature of such or such a mystery (e.g. on the Eucharistic presence). Our Holy Orthodox Church is determined for a mystery to remain a "mystery." Not to become a theorem or a ‘juridical institution’. Our Holy Orthodox Church "is not only "mysteric", but "pneumatic", and the Mysterion is conditioned by the Pneuma, the Spirit."
The Gifts of the Pneuma (the Spirit), which marked the beginning of the Church, are not things of the past. They have been given, they are given, to the Holy Church for all times. What are these "pneumatica" gifts? Some biblical texts describe the graces of the Holy Spirit as follows: "After this, it shall pass that I will pour out My Spirit upon ALL FLESH: your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions…" (Joel 3:1-2). These verses are fulfilled ultimately in the Mysteriaki Zoe (Sacramental Life) of the Church, and Pentecost.
"Eucharistic grace fulfills the grace of Baptism and the grace of Holy Chrism." In the Paschal mystery–the Holy of Holies–we find the three essential moments of the Divine Eucharistia: the Lord’s Supper, the Passion, and the Resurrection. "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9). The breaking of the bread remains the center of the Holy Mysteries. Saint Basil the Great says that the Christian eats the flesh of Christ and drinks His blood when he shares in the Logos/Word, in His coming, in His teaching." According to Saint Basil the faithful of the 4th century used to communicate (receive Holy Communion) FOUR TIMES A WEEK: on Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. On the days without a Eucharistic gathering (synaxis), the faithful could communicate themselves directly with reserved Sacrament which they kept in their houses. On the other hand, Saint John Chrysostom states that many people used to communicate ONLY ONCE A YEAR. He blames this neglect and recommends frequent Communion.
The Holy Orthodox Church emphasizes the fact that, in the celebration of the Divine Eucharist, OUR LORD HIMSELF IS THE REAL AND INVISIBLE PRIEST: "Thou Thyself both offerest and art offered, Thou Thyself both dost receive and art distributed, O Christ our God" says the text of the Divine Liturgy. We believe that in the Divine Eucharist both the Presence and the Sacrifice of our Lord ARE REAL, but pneumatic (spiritual) and mystical. The text of our liturgies makes it clear that the Eucharist is THE REMEMBERING NOT ONLY OF THE DEATH OF OUR LORD, BUT OF HIS BURIAL, RESURRECTION, AND ASCENSION AS WELL.
It is important to note that no Orthodox Christian ceases to believe in the authentic and sacred teachings of our Holy Orthodox Church in regards to the Divine Eucharist. There is a real concern in recent years that there are unorthodox elements within our Church whose mission is to undermine the truth and confuse the faithful Orthodox Christians. There is no "open" communion in our Church to people of no faith, or to those belonging to non-Orthodox religions or cults. To do so would go against the holy canons of the Church and the theological understanding of the Divine Eucharist.
The Divine Eucharist cannot be marginalized or abused for reasons of accommodation or fraternization. It is our sacred duty to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to retain the purity, authenticity, and integrity of our Church. "As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself to her, that He might sanctify her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself A GLORIOUS CHURCH NOT HAVING SPOT OR WRINKLE OR ANY SUCH THING, BUT THAT SHE SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLEMISH" (Ephesians 5:25-27). Our Savior Jesus Christ forbids giving sacred things to the unbelievers (heathen people). He said: "Do NOT GIVE WHAT IS HOLY TO THE DOGS; NOR CAST YOUR PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, LEST THEY TRAMPLE THEM UNDER THEIR FEET, AND TURN AND TARE IN YOU IN PIECES" (St. Matthew 7:6).