St Paul tells us:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks [Gr. eucharistesas], He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me'” (1 Cor. 11:23-25).
Did he really mean what he said? Was he really inspired from the Holy Spirit to pen these words? YES! Well then how come some of the faithful, Orthodox Christians, do not partake of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist each week or even once a month? Why only once a year if they remember to come to the Pascha service?
During each Divine Liturgy, as we lead up the reception of His Holy and Precious Body and Blood, we pray prayers. Prayers telling Him how much we love Him and believe.
St John Chrysostom in his Homily 3 on Ephesians, seems to indicate those who come and do not receive, have problems:
You have sung the Hymn with the rest: you have declared yourself to be of the number of them that are Worthy, by not departing with them that are unworthy. Why stay, and yet not partake of the table? I am unworthy, you will say. Then are you also unworthy of that communion you have had in prayers. For it is not by means of the offerings only, but also by means of those canticles that the Spirit descends all around … For it is not at all the same thing never to have reached the mysteries, and when you have reached them, to stumble at them and despise them, and to make yourself unworthy of this thing. One might enter upon more points, and those more awful still; not however to burden your understanding, these will suffice. They who are not brought to their right senses with these, certainly will not be with more.
St Ignatius of Antioch states:
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, WHICH IS THE FLESH OF JESUS CHRIST, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I DESIRE HIS BLOOD, which is love incorruptible. (Letter to the Romans 7:3)
The Church has always believed that Our Lord Jesus, by the action of the Holy Spirit, is truly and wholly present when the bread and wine have been consecrated to be His Body and Blood. The Orthodox Church believes that, I believe that, and if you ask most of the Orthodox Faithful, they would probably say they believe that. BUT, they still do not come to the Eucharistic Table during the Divine Liturgy.
Orthodox Theology sees the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice and this is affirmed in the words of the Priest, when he says, during the Eucharistic Canon, “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee on behalf of all and for all.” The sacrifice offered at the Eucharist is Christ Himself, but He Who brings the sacrifice is also Christ. Christ is, at one and the same time, High Priest and Sacrifice. In the prayer before the Great Entrance, the Priest prays: “For Thou art the Offerer and the Offered, the Receiver and the Received, 0 Christ our God….” This Eucharist is offered to God – the Holy Trinity, and so if we ask the threefold question, What is offered? By Whom is it offered? To Whom is it offered? we say in answer, Christ. In addition, the sacrifice is offered “on behalf of all and for all,” for it is a sacrifice of redemption which is brought for the living and the dead.
To receive Communion the usual two or three times a year is okay and helpful, but to receive Communion more frequently is far better. Remember, the nearer a person comes to the light, the more light he gets. The closer he draws to the fire, the warmer he is. The nearer he approaches sanctity, the more saintly he becomes.
OK, now that we have all that written, why then do the Faithful not still come to Communion each Divine Liturgy? Culture, yes there are cultural reasons. In the past in Russia, when the communist were in charge, it was very hard to receive on a regular basis, especially on the threat of death. So as our forefathers lived that life, and even some alive today, this belief was passed down to the next generation, and prayerfully not to the next generations. Understandable…. though today, we may receive OFTEN! We know the very early Church shared communion at least once a week, from their specifically celebrating the resurrection on the first day of each week, and the description we have of them celebrating the sacrament whenever they were gathered together.
If we search the canons which the Holy Spirit has given us through the Holy Church, and the teachings of our Holy and Godbearing fathers, then we will find that with one accord and as if with a single voice, they direct us to partake of the Holy Mystery not merely frequently, but constantly.
Finally, our Holy and God-bearing fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, calling upon us to come forth for Holy Communion have taught us:
“The divine Apostle loudly proclaims that man created in the image of God is to be a body of Christ and a temple. Standing, therefore, far above all sensible creation and having attained to a heavenly dignity by virtue of the saving Passion, by eating and drinking Christ as a source of life, he readjusts both his eternal soul and his body and by partaking of the divine Grace he is continually sanctified” (c.1 0 1 of 6;. cf lCor.l2:27; 2Cor.6:16).
Please talk to your Priest about receiving Holy Communion often, as God commands us.
Father, bless. You are in ROCOR: is not the Eucharistic discipline in ROCOR that one MUST go to confession beforehand each and every time one communes? I think this is a good rule, don’t get me wrong; but it makes things difficult, logistically. In our church it is different: when I converted, I was told that only in extraordinary circumstances was I NOT to commune (only if I had committed very serious sin). Some years I have been to confession as few as four times in the entire year, and still communing every liturgy. I have been questioning this a lot lately, and if I have anything on my conscience at all that is bugging me, then I don’t commune unless I have confessed it. The trouble is, once you start paying attention to your conscience you start to realize there a lot more things there than you suspected. And confession is hard to get to more than once a month for a variety of reasons, so I have been communing far less frequently. I pray that God will somehow allow me to go to confession and commune, but if He doesn’t, He doesn’t. It is distressing to not be able to partake of Him. But I fear the judgement if I continue to do so unthinkingly as I have in the past. Please pray for me. And thank you for your blog.
The time frame for going to Confession is between your Priest and yourself.
We must prepare ourselves for receiving the Holy Body and Precious Blood, by praying, fasting, humble Christian behavior and spirit as well as by confession.