Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Risen Lord, God, Redeemer and the Only True Savior of the world,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
"The Mysterion (Sacrament) of the Holy Eucharist is consummated and the Divine Lamb has been bloodlessly immolated by the priest. Through his blessing the power of the Holy Spirit has changed the Precious Gifts, the bread and wine on the altar, into Christ's Precious Body and All-Holy Blood in a manner that senses cannot perceive and created intelligence cannot understand." (The Divine Liturgy Explained by Fr. Nicholas M. Elias)
The priest kneels and continues in a low voice the Prayer, in which it is mentioned now, the purpose of the performance of Holy Eucharist:
"That to those who partake thereof, they may be unto cleansing of soul, unto the remission of sins, unto the Communion of the Holy Spirit, unto the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven, unto boldness toward Thee, and not unto judgment of unto condemnation.
Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship for all those who have fallen asleep in the faith, forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, teachers, and every righteous soul made perfect in faith."
"WITH FEAR OF GOD AND FAITH AND LOVE, DRAW NEAR"
By Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos (Source: Experience During the Divine Liturgy)
Every time there is a Divine Liturgy, the priest invites the faithful to take part in the Table of Life "with fear of God and faith and love". With his invitation, the priest points out how well prepared our soul and body must be in order to sit at Christ's Supper.
The Holy Fathers of the Church tell us the way in which we must receive Holy Communion: Saint John Chrysostom says, "After we have received the blameless and holy Sacrifice-that is to say Christ's Holy Body and Blood-let us kiss it incessantly, let us embrace it with our eyes, let us fill our intellect with spiritual fervor so that our Church gathering may not be the cause of condemnation and censure, but the cause of our soul's moderation, love, virtue, reconciliation with God, and firmness of peace. May our gathering become the foundation of myriads of gifts, so that we may not only sanctify ourselves but also make our neighbors sound in the faith.
We must absolutely draw near our Lord's Most Holy Table, wearing a bridal garment. Moreover, the most important jewel of this spiritual garment is the love towards all and mainly our enemies, to those who have tempted us, have treated us unjustly, have robbed us blind, have dishonored us, and have ruined us. Remission and concession are the jewels of love."
Saint Isaac the Syrian says, "that the Divine Liturgy is the Kingdom of God. In addition, love is the nourishment during the Kingdom's Festal Supper. 'God's love is Paradise...In fact, when we find love, we are fed with heavenly Bread...The one who finds love nourishes Christ every day and becomes immortal...Blessed is the one who eats from the Bread of love, Jesus Christ...In order to cause a spiritual alert so that we are able to maintain and cultivate the virtues, with which we draw near Holy Communion, even more, he says that '...Repentance is the vessel. The vessel's Captain in the fear of God, while love is a divine port. When we have fulfilled love in its practice, then we reach God, the God of love. Life's path has already ended, for we have gone over to the other side, where the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are present".
However, when the time has come for the priest to invite the faithful, love is preceded by the fear of God.
"With fear of God and faith and love, draw near..."
This fear is not the fear of a slave, nor the fear of the person who is terrified, nor is it of psychological nature, or the fear of losing our money, our job, our health and thereafter. It is neither fear nor anxiety. It is noble sentiment of godliness and contrition, a sentiment of reverence and wisdom. Besides, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10).
When you realize that God became man in the Person of Jesus Christ, so that many may become god by grace, you are filled with fear, awe, wonder, and wisdom. If the Cherubim and the Seraphim stand with immense fear, reverence before the Throne of God, and cover their countenances with their wings, how much more so ought we striving faithful Christians to stand with holy fear before the Most Holy Altar and before the Holy Cup!
"With fear of God... with faith..."
We must draw near Holy Communion not only with fear (awe, reverence, godliness, divine humility), but also with faith. Not an abstract kind of faith, not faith in a supposedly "superior power", but faith in a particular Triune God, exactly the way we confess Him in the Symbol of Faith (Creed). The faith that was revealed to us by God Himself, when He became man. Only Orthodoxy includes a divine revelation, Orthodoxy means:
* Faith in the Holy Trinity
* Faith in the Incarnation of the Son and Logos (Word) in the Person of Jesus Christ.
* Faith in the Mother of God, the person of the Holy Theotokos.
* Faith in the Holy Cross, the Holy icons, the Saints and the holy Relics.
* Faith in the Holy Canons and the Dogmas of the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, as well as in the Holy Tradition.
* Faith in the Seven Mysteries (Sacraments) and especially in the Four Saving Mysteries (Sacraments) (Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Confession).
There should be no doubt or hesitation in the heart of a Christian who receives Holy Communion that what he is partaking is the Body and Blood of Christ. If he does not believe it, he must not draw near!
"With fear of God and faith and love..."
The conditions for taking part in the holy Cup are not only the godly yearning and proper faith, but love as well. When we receive Holy Communion, the love of God, which is the noblest feeling, must reign in our hearts.
Love is based on forgiveness. Forgiveness and the kiss of love constitute the supreme Sacrifice. It is in fact that saving Holy Communion's most basic requirement that God requests. Unfortunately, the majority of people do not commune bearing this love and therefore resemble someone who has fasted and went to commune Pascha day. However, when he saw his enemy in the church, he became so upset that he forgot not only where he was but also the sacred moment he was in and he pulled out a knife to kill him! He would have killed him, if he were not held back! Cruel hearts, which are not able to soften, not even in the church, or before the divine flamed of God's infinite love. Yet, the Lord is our model, Who while on the Cross cried: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (St. Luke 23:34).
Other examples of models are the Martyrs and our Holy Fathers who imitated Our Savior Christ's gentleness and love, with the First Martyr and Archdeacon Stefanos being the first: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60), he said while he was being stoned and murdered.
As Christians and God's true children, we ought to keep His Commandments especially those that have to do with love. This is why "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (St. Matthew 5:44).
"With fear of God, with faith and with love draw near..."
Christians who do not have fear and reverence towards God, who have no faith in the Mystery of Divine Worship and have no love towards their neighbor who uses them, should not be allowed to partake of the Mystery of Holy Communion. Moreover, Christians who are not allowed to commune also include those who are faced with obstacles that prevent them from receiving Holy Communion but most of all those who do not go for confession.
During the first Christian era, Christians used to commune the way priests, deacons and bishops would commune in the Holy Altar: First the Lord's Body Which they took in their right palm, and second the Blood Which they drank from the holy Cup (Chalice). In this way, however, there were many big losses and our Church decided that Holy Communion would be administered as it is done nowadays, that is to say by using the holy Spoon, since dropping The Lord's Blood or a certain Pearl (Body) is considered sacrilegious.
By exception, priests still commune the Body separately, by taking the section of the Holy Lamb sealed XC saying: "The precious and All-Holy Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ is imparted unto me, the unworthy presbyter N..., unto forgiveness of my sins and unto life everlasting".
Next, the celebrant takes three sips from the Cup and says, "The precious and All-Holy Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, is imparted unto me, the unworthy presbyter N..., unto forgiveness of my sins and unto life everlasting. In the Name of the Father (one sip) and of the Son (one sip) and of the Holy Spirit (one sip). Amen. The fact that the All-Holy Blood is imparted unto the priest three times means that the soul of the communicant unites with the Triune Divinity through the Mystery of Divine Worship.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem mentions, "that during his time the Celebrant Priest would urge the communicant Christian who had received Holy Communion, to put the three fingers on his lips while they were still damp after having partaken of the Blood of the Lord and then bless his eyes, his ears, his forehead and arms". This was withdrawn since there were often examples of carelessness; this is why there is the "maktron" or "kalima", the scarlet (red) communion cloth, which helps the communicants to avoid accidents. We do not recommend it; we simply mention it. We shall only do the sign of the Cross, which is more than enough, for Holy Communion sanctifies the whole person pyschosomatically.
"Man was made to liturgize. He was made to be offered ands to offer God his Creator Thanksgiving, Doxology and Divine Worship...Therefore, through this continual offering and Worship, he would be united with God, be sanctified, be alive!
This is why a superabundance of triune gifts was given to him. The primordial gifts of Divine Righteousness were given to man, so that he may be able to have a Liturgical relationship, a relationship of Worship with God...Adam and Eve's nous, understanding, their word, their will, their freedom, the good, their sinless state, the gentleness, the purity, the immaculate, dispassion, the blessedness, through their yearning tended towards Worshipping our Holy God. Adam and Eve's communion with the Angels and with God was a liturgical relationship, one of Worship. Through this Worship, man who was "according to His image"-his soul tended and headed dynamically and without any trouble towards that which was "according to His likeness".
Thus, in all certainly, we stress that Divine Worship was Adam and Eve's intimate relationship and union with God. (This is what Divine Worship is all about: communion with God!) Therefore, their life in Paradise was a Divine Liturgy...(Not the way we minister it here, but union with God.)
Nevertheless, as man fell due to his self-centeredness and pride, he lost his potential to offer and be offered to God in a Eucharistic way, and therefore was not able to ever take part in Paradise "concelebration" with the Angels. (For the Angels also continually offer their Worship to God. This is what Adam and Eve used to do. Thus, what they had was a "concelebration", not in today's sense, but in the sense of offering to God.) As a result, self-exiled from the Liturgy of Paradise, man found himself on earth without having attended or taken part in the Divine Liturgy...
God became man in the Person of Jesus Christ "by the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary". He is the Great, "High Priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:10), "without father" and "without mother" (Hebrews 7:3), Who began the concelebration of the New Testament, which lasted for three years, with His Life that was Most Blessed and without sin, with his Divine teaching and his Sacrifice on the Cross.
This inconceivable concelebration takes shape on Great and Holy Thursday night, with the Mystical Supper, it is fulfilled on the Cross and sealed with His Resurrection. Christ was He that Offereth and is Offered in a perfect way; the blameless sacrifice that is being offered, the "Lamb of God, which taken away the sin of the world" (St. John 1"29).
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God