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.
"WITH FEAR OF GOD AND FAITH AND LOVE, DRAW NEAR"
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 about the way in which we must receive Holy Communion:
Saint John Chrysostom says, "When you are about to draw near the Divine and dreadful Table, with fear and trembling, with a clear conscience, with fasting (of the soul and body) and prayer, you should do so without any commotion, without stepping on and pushing the person who is next to you. For, this lack of order manifests the great madness and ignorance that exists towards the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments). Those who act in this way receive Hell and punishment. Holy Communion is a saving medicine that heals our infirmities; it is everlasting richness and the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let us therefore sense this trembling, as we draw near to commune. Let us tear and mourn for the sins we have committed. After we have cleansed ourselves, let us draw near so that we may commune with silence and order that are appropriate, for we are drawing near the Kingdom of Heaven. 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, ware are fed with heavenly bread…The one who finds love nourishes Christ every day and become 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 is 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. (Gregory Hieromonk, Church Attendance, Mount Athos 1991, p. 88).
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 feat of a slave, nor the fear of the person who is terrified, nor is it of a psychological nature, or the fear of losing our money, our job, our health and thereafter. It is neither fear nor anxiety. It is the noble sentiment of Godliness and contrition, a sentiment of reverence and wisdom. Besides, "the feat 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 man 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 (Creed) of Faith. The faith that was revealed to us by God Himself, when He became man. Only Orthodoxy includes a Divine revelation. Orthodox Christianity 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 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 flame 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 Stephen 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 do 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 that spitefully 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 (Sacrament) 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. 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 (Lavida), since dropping The Lord's Blood or a certain Pearl 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 (Name) unto forgiveness of my sins and unto life everlasting".
Next, the celebrant priest takes three sips from the holy 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 (Name), unto forgiveness of my sins and unto life everlasting. In the Name of the Father (one sip) and of the Son (second sip) and of the Holy Spirit (third 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 Precious 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" (Communion napkin) or "kalima", the scarlet cloth, which helps the communicant 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 psychosomatically (i.e., soul and body). (Source: Experiences During the Divine Liturgy by Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos).
FROM THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
Let us pray to the Lord
At nightfall, dawn and noon, we sing to You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we beseech You, Master of All. Lord and lover of mankind: guide our prayers aright as an offering of incense before You. Let not our hearts be led to wicked thoughts or words, but deliver us all from those who pursued our souls. For it is on You, Lord, Lord, that our eyes are fixed, and in You that we have our hope; do not put us to shame, O our God.
For all glory, honor and adoration are Your due, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
O joyful radiance of the Holy Glory of the Immortal Father, the Heavenly, Holy, Blessed Jesus Christ! Having come to the setting of the sun and seen the evening light, we praise God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is fitting at all times to raise a song of praise in measured melody, O Son of God, Giver of Life. Behold, the universe sings Your Glory.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God