Each week, we members of St. Joseph of Optina Russian Orthodox Church meet on Saturday evening for the All-Night Vigil and then again on Sunday morning to celebrate the Divine Liturgy as a family, the Body of Christ, His Church. The Divine Liturgy is one of the most important, spiritual events of Orthodoxy. One we who call ourselves Orthodox are obliged to attend and willingly participate in. The central theme of the Divine Liturgy is the reception of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior God, Jesus Christ.
According to Orthodox Wiki, The Divine Liturgy is the primary worship service of the Church. The Divine Liturgy is a Eucharistic service. It contains two parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens, sometimes called the Liturgy of the Word, at which the Scriptures are proclaimed and expounded; and the Liturgy of the Faithful, sometimes called the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which the gifts of bread and wine are offered and consecrated; the faithful then partake of them in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The Church teaches that the gifts truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, but it has never dogmatized a particular formula for describing this transformation.
Eucharist (from the Greek εὐχαριστία, or eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving or giving thanks) is a holy mystery (or sacrament) that is celebrated during the Divine Liturgy within the Orthodox Church where the consecrated bread and wine, through the power of the Holy Spirit becomes the Precious Blood and Body of Jesus Christ, that is consumed by prepared Orthodox Christians. Other names for the Eucharist include: the Holy Gifts, Communion, and the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christians believe that the Real Presence of God (not merely a sign or symbol) is present after the consecration of the Gifts. The Eucharist is the center of life in the Orthodox Church because the Church is primarily a Eucharistic community.
The Eucharist is the completion of all of the Church’s other sacraments and the source and the goal of all of the Church’s doctrines and institutions.
Why do we not wish to participate in this special and Holy moment within the Divine Liturgy, Holy Communion? Yes we are required to have confessed our sins to our Priest often in order to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Sacrament of Confession is made available before each service: before the All-Night Vigil and the before the Divine Liturgy. Why do we not avail ourselves of this God-inspired Sacrament of the Church? We are also asked to Fast from the evening before, until you receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. Preparation Prayers, located in the Jordanville Prayer Book are requested to be said the evening before.
So why do we not partake of the most important part of our Orthodox Life? Did not our Lord and God and Savior state we should receive His Body and Blood often? “Then Jesus said unto them, 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.” (The Holy Gospel of St John 6:53.)
Here is what Paul writes to the Corinthians around A.D. 54: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is [broken] for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
“The Divine Liturgy, what a splendor, indeed! Man has been honored by God in such a way that He Himself came down to earth with His Angelic Orders, every time there is a Liturgy, in order to nurture man with His Most Holy Body and His Most Precious Blood! For He has given us everything; is there anything physical or spiritual, perishable or everlasting that has not been offered to us? None! Is there anything superior to His Most Holy Body and Blood, which is given to us on a daily basis? There is certainly not. God has enabled man, who is of soil and dirt, to serve the Divine Liturgy. So Priceless is the Divine Love that just a tiny drop exceeds any global, physical and secular love.” From Experiences During the Divine Liturgy,
by Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos.
(This is posted on the Home Page of our Website)
You May fail to be regular in your partaking of the Eucharist because you feel unworthy. In this case, ask yourself, when will you be worthy? One of the reasons we must constantly go forward is precisely because we are unworthy.
If you are not able to accept the fact that you should be a regular participant in the Eucharist, you ask, ‘why do you feel this way?’ Only the devil stands to gain by your staying away from the Chalice. The longer you stay away from the Eucharist, the stronger the devil’s influence in your life. The Body and Blood of God both deifies and nourishes. 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 works subconsciously in our members. It increases virtue and perfection for Communion with the Holy Spirit as a provision of salvation and eternal life.
If you know that you will receive the Body and Blood of Christ on Sunday then during the week you will begin to discipline yourself and make a determined effort to overcome your passions and 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 will be able to approach the chalice with a contrite heart, knowing you are unworthy and seeking the help from our God, accepting His most valuable gift given freely by Him for your assistance.
Saint John Chrysostom states:
Dearly beloved and most cherished brethren, who are gathered in this holy temple to adore the living God in piety and justice and partake of the holy, immortal, spotless, and awesome mysteries of Christ: hear me, humble and unworthy as I am, for it is not I who speak and teach you, but the grace of the all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit. I speak, not on my own, but as I was taught by the Holy Canons, the God-bearing Fathers, and the ways of our Holy Church as received by the holy apostles, instructed by God. I am the humblest and smallest of men: I do not know your actions nor do I know your needs, but I do know the fear of God which commands each and every one of us, both men and women, small and great: Let none of you who is guilty of sin and who is gnawed by his or her conscience dare to draw near this sacred Fire before repenting and confessing or to come in ridicule, because God is a consuming Fire.
To those who draw near in faith and fear of Him who is our God and King and the judge of all mankind, He will completely burn away your sins and will fill your souls with light and sanctification.
But to the faithless who draw near without shame, He burns and sears both soul and body. “For this reason there are many among you who are sick and, being sick, sleep”; that is, many die without having repented or been forgiven.
Therefore, my brethren, I implore you and say: let no blasphemer, perjurer or liar, no fornicator, adulterer or sodomite, no magician or fortune teller, no thief or heretic draw near to the awesome mysteries of Christ or touch them without having confessed and prepared himself, for “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Then, as we are all sinners and sick, we need the life giving food of Jesus Christ. We need His forgiveness first, then to partake of His Body and Blood each and every time we are present at Divine Liturgy. Thus are days will be blessed!
It is an obligation of every Orthodox Christian to receive Holy Communion.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life. (John 6:53-54)
It unites us with the Lord.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:56)
It nourishes the soul and body and aids our spiritual growth.
He who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (John 6:57)
It pledges of future resurrection and eternal life.
He who eats this bread will live forever. (John 6:58)