The Holy Eucharist

A Holy Sacrament which Jesus the Christ instituted for us and for our salvation.

St Symeon teaches about how receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, in Holy Communion, affects us the faithful.  One of his main points “underscores the spiritual union of the believer with Christ that results from communing the Holy Mysteries:  ‘Spiritually joined and cleaving to Him, we shall each one be with Him one, Spirit and likewise one body, by virtue of our bodily eating His flesh and drinking His Blood’.”  (Alfeyev, 2019, p. 88}  With our eating of Christ’s Body and drinking of His Blood, we become ‘kinfolk’ of Christ.  “Hence, ‘when we receive the Spirit of our Master and God, we become participants of His divinity and essence, and when we eat of His all-pure flesh — I mean Holy communion — we become truly His kin, and one body with Him.” (p. 89),

St Symeon also describes the Eucharist with the images of ‘light and fire’.  He also teaches that communion must be with “perception and knowledge.”  “In communing a person must contemplate God with the eyes of his soul and sense his living presence in the consecrated gifts…” (p. 91) 

St Symeon also state, “Never communicate without tears.”  (p. 92)  He goes on to say, that we receive the gift of tears when we fulfill and obey the commandments of God to love Him and our neighbor.  “…if in his life a person adheres to what he hears in church at the services, he will always be able to approach for communion with heartfelt tears.” (p. 92)  St Symeon tells us, that if you do not commune with tears, you must accuse yourself, “…for if he had wished to shed them he could have kept all the commandments of God and received the gift of weeping and tender feeling.” (p. 93)

“St John Chrysostom always insists particularly on the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharistic bread and wine, and the reality of the believer’s union with Christ through communion.” (Alfeyev, 2019, p, 82)  In my opinion this one statement is the crux of the entire teaching of St John on the Holy Eucharist.

The author of the book discusses St John’s teachings with many examples of his view and teaching on the Holy Eucharist.  A teaching that resonates with me is his teaching on receiving unworthily.  “what does Chrysostom mean by communing ‘worthily’?  This is communing with spiritual trembling and ardent love, with belief in the actual presence of Christ in the Holy gifts,…” (p. 84)  St John goes on to talk about going to see your king.  Would you not be dressed properly and be in the correct frame of mind when approaching your king.  Christ is our King, so we must approach Him with with ‘spiritual trembling and ardent love”.

“Now as this (the Eucharist) is a great and wonderful thing, so if you approach it with pureness, you approach for salvation; but if with an evil conscience, for punishment and vengeance. For, It says, he that eats and drinks unworthily of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment to himself; since if they who defile the kingly purple are punished equally with those who rend it, it is not unreasonable that they who receive the Body with unclean thoughts should suffer the same punishment as those who rent it with the nails.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46 (Links to an external site.)

Also in the text we are told about St John’s belief in the union of the believer with Christ as we receive His Body and Blood.  A very true statement.  “In communion Christ imparts unto us his whole self, in order that we might become his brothers and his friends, He gives us His Body, so that we, by sinking our teeth onto it, might satisfy our desires.” (p. 85)  This is in-keeping with the words of Holy Scripture where St Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthian 10:16, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”  As we partake worthily of His Holy Body and Precious Blood, are we not in communion with God Almighty?

Source: Alfeyev, M. H. (2019). Orthodox Christianity Volume V: Sacraments and Other Rites. St Vladimirs Seminary Pr.

About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR.
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