My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world,
and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name
those whom You have given Me, THAT THEY MAY BE ONE
as We are one.” (John 17:11).
Our Most Merciful Lord, God and Savior, that the Father Himself protect His Disciples now that He is no longer with them on earth. But what kind of protection does the Father give? He bestows UNITY, “that they may be one.” “If they PRESERVE LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER AND DO NOT SEPARATE INTO FACTIONS, THEY WILL BE INVINCIBLE.” Saint Theophylact says, “Of course, Christ does not mean that they should become literally one person. He means that they should imitate the Father and the Son by acquiring UNANIMITY OF THOUGHT AND WILL AMONG THEMSELVES.”
The Orthodox Church possesses that ‘unanimity and will,’ for she (Church) has and will continue to “preserve love for one another.” Sadly, this is not the case or the reality of the heterodox, resulting in a great number of “factions” or thousands of denominations. Instead of unanimity, there is only fragmentation and divisions among them. There is no solidarity or unity of thought and will among them, but only a cacophony of diverse beliefs, and countless false interpretations of the Holy Scripture, religious anarchy, heresy, confusion, and distortion of the Gospel, etc.
The authentic Church of Christ is ONE. She is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church. We must continue to be obedient to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that we imitate the unity of God the Holy Trinity, “that they may be one as We are one.” Our Heavenly Father will always continue to protect His true disciples. “While I was with you, you were protected and guarded by the power of the Father’s name. Now you must believe that He will continue to guard you, for it is His nature to do so.” The Triune God always acts as one in everything. There is absolutely no separation between the Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Indeed there is “Oneness of Essence, there is fullness of Divinity, and equality of honor.”
The Orthodox Christian believers who receive the Divine Eucharist, the True Body and the True Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are united with Him, are united with one another, and are given eternal life. The Holy Eucharist is the greatest Christian Mystery (Sacrament). Jesus says, “… He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood DWELLETH IN ME, AND I IN HIM” (John 6:53-56). It is the unity with the Lord that brings to the believer remission of sins and life eternal (Matthew 26:26-28). The Orthodox Christian understands the importance of receiving Holy Communion frequently, for he/she believes that this is the only way to maintain the necessary unity and communion with our Savior God.
For me, there can be no life without the Holy Eucharist. Holy Communion for the practicing Orthodox Christian is everything. It is the very breath of life. Without it, life as we know it has no meaning or purpose. Only when the believer is not able to receive the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ do they understand how necessary it is for His very existence. There are some Orthodox Christian witnesses and survivors who were imprisoned in Siberia under the communist Soviet Union who reveal how they, even under horrific conditions, were able to secretly, and only with few things, conduct the Eucharist and receive Holy Communion at the risk of torture and death.
Concerning the performance of the Mysterion (Sacrament) of the Holy Eucharist in the early Apostolic Church, we read in the Acts of the Apostles (2:42, 46; 20:6-7), and in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 10 and 11, the holy Apostle Paul writes: ” The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ? For we, being many ARE ONE BREAD, and ONE BODY FOR WE ARE ALL PARTAKERS OF THE ONE BREAD” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
Having it made perfectly clear for all Orthodox Christians, Saint Paul points out that the Holy Eucharist is not simply a symbol as the heterodox believe. In the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, at the moment when the priest is INVOKING THE Holy Spirit upon the offered Gifts, blesses with the prayer to God the Father: “MAKE THIS BREAD THE PRECIOUS BODY OF THY CHRIST; AND THAT WHICH IS THIS CUP, THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF THY CHRIST; CHANGING THEM BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.” THE BREAD AND WINE ACTUALLY ARE CHANGED INTO THE BODY AND BLOOD BY THE COMING DOWN OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. After this moment, although our eyes see bread and wine on the Holy Table, IN THEIR VERY ESSENCE, INVISIBLY FOR SENSUAL EYES, THIS IS THE TRUE BODY AND TRUE BLOOD OF THE LORD JESUS, ONLY UNDER THE “FORMS” of bread and wine.
This great miracle takes place every time there is a Divine Liturgy. Should we not acknowledge it and praise God for giving us this Eucharist for the remission of our sins and eternal life? Everyone present at the Divine Liturgy is an eyewitness to this extraordinary miracle. How then are any of those present not inspired and edified? How can one leave the presence of God and His Holy Gifts empty handed? How can an Orthodox Christian believer see the Divine Liturgy as “boring” or “too long” or another “empty” ancient “ritual”? I have seen personally, over many years as a parish priest, that there are some who place a greater importance on the coffee and social gathering following the Divine Liturgy than what took place moments ago in the church. How can this be?
Speaking to retired brother priests years ago, they said to me that one of their most difficult experiences was not having a church and being able to conduct the Divine Liturgy as they did for all of their lives. The Orthodox priest is not, as someone told me once, that of ‘a spiritual guide’, ‘a driver’, ‘a conductor’, in Greek ‘οδηγός’, or a kind of a director. The actual truth, is that the Orthodox priest is a “λειτουργός,” one who performs the Divine Liturgy, “the celebrant.” The priest’s life is to serve the faithful by offering them the Bloodless Sacrifice, the Precious Body and Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All Orthodox Christians present in church during these sacred moments are glorifying God, crying out to Him: “We hymn Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks to Thee, O Lord…”
“Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of that cup.” ( 1 Corinthians 11:28)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George