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.
PREPARING TO RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION (Part II)
By Reverend Father Avramis
Sacrament OF Holy Repentance/Confession
In general, two views emerge concerning the Mysterion (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession and the Divine Eucharist. The first sees the Sacrament of Repentance/Confession as necessary before each participation in the Divine Eucharist. The second sees the Sacrament of Repentance/Confession as a periodic practice not required before every participation in the Divine Eucharist (Holy Communion).
The result of viewing the Mysterion (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession as a pre-requisite to every participant in the Divine Eucharist (Holy Communion) is that it does not enhance one's spiritual life but hinders it. It hinders it because Confession becomes an excuse not to take Holy Communion, much like fasting becomes an excuse to stay away from the Chalice.
The Mysterion (Sacrament) of Holy Confession itself, of course, is not a hindrance, but people make it a hindrance. It is not uncommon to hear from individuals that they are not regular participants in the Divine Eucharist because they have not been to Confession.
The Church, does not require a Confession from her people every time they wish to partake of the Divine Eucharist (Holy Communion). However, if it is your practice to receive the Divine Eucharist (Holy Communion) a few times per year at certain times, your Priest may rightfully insist that you go to the Sacrament of Repentance/Confession. If it is your practice to partake of the Divine Eucharist rarely, it is probable that your whole approach to the Divine Eucharist could, and should, be questioned.
If you resolve to be a regular participant in the Divine Eucharist, as every Orthodox Christian should be, you should plan on periodic participation in the Mysterion (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession. This is defined by your Priest and/or Spiritual Father and usually, it means anywhere from once a month to once every six months.
Frequency of Participation
Did you know that the first Orthodox Christians took Holy Communion every day? That's right, they could not think of going through a day without taking the Divine Eucharist. So strongly did the early Orthodox Christians feel about this that they introduced the 9th Apostolic Canon that anyone who did not stay for prayer and Holy Communion must be excommunicated. This shows how seriously the Divine Eucharist should be taken when offered on Sundays.
Christians sin constantly. Sin (Amartia) is a tragically part of our life. Therefore forgiveness must also be a part of our life. Constant sin requires constant forgiveness. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth in not in us" (St. John 1:8).
The Divine Eucharist, approached in the correct manner, takes away our sin and gives us the strength to draw closer to God. What is the correct manner? The answer is found in the Divine Liturgy itself when the Priest presents the Chalice and intones, "With The fear of God, faith and love, draw near". Therefore, if you do not have a valid reason for not partaking, you are obliged to receive the Divine Eucharist.
If you have kept the Divine Eucharistic Fast (i.e., not eaten or drunk anything after waking up in the morning), and if you approach with "fear of God, faith, and love", and there is no moral or canonical reason to impede you-you must go forward when you hear the call.
To live a life of infrequent participation in the Divine Eucharist means spiritual sickness. It may be you fail to be regular in your partaking of the Divine Eucharist because you feel unworthy. In this case, the question must be asked; when will you be worthy? Of course, if you wait until you are worthy, forget it, you will never approach the Chalice. One of the reasons we must constantly go forward is precisely because we are unworthy.
Should you still not be able to accept the fact that you should be a regular participant in the Divine Eucharist, you must question yourself. Why do you feel this way? Are you aware that there does exist someone who stands to gain by your staying away from Christ? That person is the Devil. The longer you stay away from the Divine Eucharist, the stronger the devil's influence in your life. Do you want to overcome the devil? Then receive Jesus Christ. The Holy Body and Precious Blood of God both deifies and nourishes. It deifies the spirit and nourishes the mind. It heals, purifies, enlightens and sanctifies the body and soul. It helps us to turn away from every fantasy, evil practice, and diabolical activity which work subconsciously in our members. It increases virtue and perfection for Holy Communion with the Holy Spirit as a provision of salvation and eternal life.
If you know that you will receive the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Jesus Christ on Sunday then during the week you will begin to discipline yourself and make a determined effort to overcome your passion. You will make every effort not to sin. You will pray and fast with relative ease for you are preparing your body and soul to receive Christ. You clean and tidy your house (your heart) to receive the King to Whom no other king can be compared. And once you receive the Divine Eucharist (Holy Communion), Christ gives you the spiritual gifts to ward off the temptations of the devil which war continuously against you and assist you to climb the ladder of Divine ascent. (By Fr. Avramis (with the approval of Bishop Anthony of San Francisco) from The Truth, March 2004), Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Christian Missionary Society of the Ascension of our Lord publication, Perth, Western Australia)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God