My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE HOLY MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS) ACCORDING TO THE HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH: THE MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF HOLY EUCHARIST (Part III)
(Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazanky)
Conclusion of a Liturgical Character
From the accounts of the Gospels and in the writings of the Holy Apostles, and from the practice of the ancient Church, one must make the following conclusions:
a) In the Eucharist, as the Apostles were given at the Mystical Supper, so also all the faithful should be given not only the Body of Christ, but also the Blood of Christ. "Drink ye all from it", the Savior commanded (St. Matthew 26:27). "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of that cup" (I Corinthians 11:28). (This is not observed in the Latin tradition (Roman Catholic), where laymen are deprived of the cup.) [Please note: While this was the universal Roman Catholic practice when the present book was written, since the Second Vatican Council of 1963 the cup has been made available to laymen in some Roman churches.]
b) "We are all partakers of that one Bread" (I Corinthians 10:17), writes the Holy Apostle. In the ancient Church every community partook of one single bread, and in the Orthodox Liturgy there is blessed and broken one bread, just as one cup is blessed. (The blessing of the "one" bread was also violated by the Latins in the second millennium.)
c) In all passages of Holy Scripture where the bread of the Eucharist is mentioned, the bread is called artos in Greek (St. John, chap. 6; the Gospels of Saints Mathew, Mark, Luke; in the Apostle Paul and the Acts of the Apostles). Artos usually signifies wheat bread which has risen through the use of leaven ("unleavened" is expressed in Greek by the adjective azymos). It is known that in Apostolic times--that is, from the very beginning, from its institution--the Eucharist was performed during the whole year, weekly, when the Jews did not prepare unleavened bread; this means that it was performed, even in the Jewish-Christian communities, with leavened bread. All the more may this be said to the communities of Christian converts from paganism, to whom the law regarding unleavened bread was entirely foreign. In the Church of the first Christians the material for the Mystery (Sacrament) of the Holy Eucharist, as is well known, was usually taken from the offerings of the people, who, without any doubt, brought to church from their homes the usual, leavened bread it was also meant to be used, at the same time, for the love-fests (agape) and for helping the poor.
The Necessity and Saving Nature of Communion of the Holy Mysteries
To receive communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord is the essential, necessary, saving, and consoling obligation of every Christian. This is evident from the words of the Savior which He uttered when giving the promise regarding the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, hath eternal life" (Saint John 6:53-54).
The saving fruits or effects of the Mystery (Sacrament) of the Holy Eucharist, if only we commune worthily, are the following:
It unites us in the most intimate fashion with the Lord: "He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him" (St. John 6:56).
It nourishes our soul and body and aids our strengthening, increase, and growth in spiritual life: "He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me" (St. John 6:57).
Being received worthily, it serves for us as a pledge of the future resurrection and the eternal blessed life: "He that eateth of this Bread shall live forever" (St. John 6:58).
However, one should remember that the Holy Eucharist offers these saving fruits only to those who approach it with faith and repentance; but an unworthy partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ brings all the more condemnation: "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's Body" (I Corinthians 11:29).
THE MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF REPENTANCE/CONFESSION
The Mystery of Repentance/Confession is a Grace-giving sacred rite in which, after the faithful offer repentance of their sins, the remission of sins is bestowed by the mercy of God through the intermediary of a pastor (priest) of the Church, in accordance with the Savior's promise.
In the Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession the spiritual afflictions of a man or woman are treated, impurities of soul are removed, and a Christian, having received forgiveness of sins, again becomes innocent and sanctified, just as he came out of the waters of baptism. Therefore, the Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession is called a "spiritual medicine." A man' sins--which draw him downward; which dull his mind, heart, and conscience will--are annihilated, and his living bond with the Church and with the Lord God IS restored. Being relieved of the burden of sins, he again to life spiritually and is able to strengthen himself and become perfected in the good Christian path.
The Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance consists of two basic actions: (1) the confession of his sins before a pastor (priest) of the Church by the person coming to the Mystery, and (2) the prayer of forgiving and remitting them, pronounced by the priest.
This Mystery (Sacrament) is also called the Mystery (Sacrament) of Confession (even though the confession of sins comprises only the first, preliminary part of it), and this indicates the importance of the sincere revelation of one's soul and the manifestation of one's sins.
Confession--that is, pronouncing aloud--is the expression of inward repentance, its result, its indicator. And what is repentance? Repentance is not only awareness of one's sinfulness or a simple acknowledgment of oneself as unworthy; it is not even contrition or regret (although all these aspects should enter into repentance). Rather, it is an act of one's will for correction (to amend one's ways), a desire and firm intention, a resolve, to battle against evil inclinations; and this condition of soul is united with a petition for God's help in the battle against one's evil inclinations. Such a heartfelt and sincere repentance is necessary not only so that the effect of this Mystery (Sacrament) might extend to the removal of sins, but also so that there might enter the opened soul a Grace-giving healing, which does not allow the soul again to become immersed in the filth of sin. (Please note: The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, which literally means to "change the nous.")
The very uttering aloud of one's spiritual afflictions and falls before a spiritual father--the confession of sins--has the significance that by means of it there are overcome (a) pride, the chief source of sins, and (b) the despondency of hopelessness in one's correction and salvation. The manifestation of the sin brings one already near to casting it away from oneself.
Those who approach the Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession prepare themselves for it by an effort of prayer, fasting, and entering deeply within themselves, with the aim of uncovering and acknowledging their sinfulness.
The mercy of God goes out to meet the repenting Christian, testifying, through the lips of the spiritual father, that the Heavenly Father does not reject one who comes to Him, just as He did not reject the prodigal son and the repentant publican. This Testimony consists in the words of the special prayer and the special words of remission which are pronounced by the priest.
(Next: The Institution of the Mystery of Repentance)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
A BLESSED AND SAFE THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF YOU FROM ALL OF US.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God