As a Priest I have become disturbed and distressed. Why? It is because of the lack of Orthodox Christians partaking of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist during the Divine Liturgy!! This lack of participation in receiving, weekly, the Divine Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, may just be what I observe in my own Parish; but it is sad. It is sadder yet, if this is the case many times over in other Parishes as well.
I wrote this article awhile back and I am not sure where I can attribute some of the text to. I believe some came from OrthodoxWiki and other sources, so please forgive me.
The central place among the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church is held by the Holy Eucharist – the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; which we ought to receive during the Divine Liturgy!
“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.
Orthodoxy is the First Church. It is the living, unbroken continuation of the Faith as first given to the Apostles. This doesn’t mean that the Orthodox Churches have researched and attempted to re-create the Primitive Church. It means that we live, pray and preach continuously and consistently every day since the time of the Apostles.
Since we don’t believe in things like “development of doctrine,” Orthodox teaching has been carefully safeguarded and faithfully passed down through the centuries. Thus the Divine Liturgy has and always will be the same.
“Liturgy” comes from a Greek word that means “a common effort” and “divine”; and relates to the worship of God. So the Divine Liturgy is the common effort of Orthodox Christians to worship God. It is the primary public form of Orthodox Christian worship, wherein we celebrate the Eucharist — Holy Communion with God in Christ. The version of the Divine Liturgy celebrated on most Sundays is that of St. John Chrysostom, the 5th century Archbishop of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. We also use the slightly longer Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, the 4th century Archbishop of Caesarea, on 10 occasions each year; for instance, on the Sundays of Great Lent.
The Eucharist is the high point of the Divine Liturgy. During the Liturgy, the faithful call on the Holy Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine, making them by grace, the Body and Blood of Christ. Some other Christian traditions have tried to explain this. Orthodox Christians are content to accept this Sacrament as a mystery by faith.
The Savior Himself said, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst… If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh (John 6:35,51). At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat: this is My Body, which is broken for you for the remission of sins.”. And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:26-28; cf. Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13; 1 Cor. 11:23-30).
This institution of the Eucharist by our Lord, is the means whereby we become united with Christ and with each other as a Church, for, as St. Paul says, the goal of every Christian is to grow up in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ, from Whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied – makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love (Eph. 4:15-16).
This is so, since Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Savior (Eph. 5:23), we become part of the Mystical Body of Christ by our communion of the Holy Eucharist. As St. Paul says: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
The Holy Eucharist is called the “sacrament of sacraments” in the Orthodox tradition. It is also called the “sacrament of the Church.” The Eucharist is the center of the Church’s life. Everything in the Church leads to the Eucharist, and all things flow from it. It is the completion of all of the Church’s sacraments—the source and the goal of all of the Church’s doctrines and institutions.
Who here today, truly believes that the Bread and Wine changes into the Real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, during the Liturgy?
Who believes, when I read, just before Communion: “I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Moreover, I believe that this is truly Thy most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine Own Precious Blood…”
Who here, truly believes this, believes this by Faith? This is the essence of our Orthodox Faith!
Going back to the Saints of the Church; Here is what a couple of them had to say:
St. Ignatius of Antioch states,
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God…They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).
Saint John of Kronstadt, in ‘My Life in Christ’, states;
“I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” So it is, Master: Thou art with us throughout all days; we are not a single day without Thee, and we cannot live without Thy presence near us! Thou art with us especially in the Sacrament of the Body and Blood. O, how truly and essentially art Thou present in the Holy Mysteries! Thou our Lord in every liturgy takest upon Thyself a vile body similar to ours in every respect save that of sin, and feedest us with Thy life-giving flesh. Through the Sacrament Thou art wholly with us, and Thy Flesh is united to our flesh, whilst Thy Spirit is united to our soul; and we feel this life-giving, most peaceful, most sweet union, we feel that by joining ourselves to Thee in the Holy Eucharist we become one spirit with Thee as it is said: “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” We become like Thee, good, meek and lowly, as Thou hast said of Thyself: “I am meek and lowly in heart.”
True, it is that often our evil and blind flesh, or the prince of this world, who dwells in our simple flesh, whispers to us that the Sacrament contains only bread and wine, and not the very Body and Blood of our Lord Himself, and sends sight, taste, and feeling as his crafty witnesses to this. But we do not allow ourselves to listen to these slanders and reason thus. To Thee, Lord, everything is possible: Thou createst the flesh of men, animals, fishes, birds, reptiles, of all creatures, is it possible that for Thyself, Thou “Who art everywhere, and fillest all things”, wilt not create flesh? Not only this, Thou changest a dead substance into a living one–as, for instance, Moses’s rod into the serpent–and there is nothing impossible for Thee. Canst Thou not, therefore, create flesh for Thyself out of bread and wine, which are so near to our flesh, being used for food and drink, and thus being converted into our own flesh and blood? Thou dost not test our faith more than it can bear, for Thou dost not transubstantiate a lump of earth into Thy most-pure Body, but white bread, soft, clean, pleasant to the taste; and Thou doest not create Thy Blood from water, but from wine, called in Holy Scripture the blood of the grape, corresponding in color to that of blood, agreeable to the taste, and rejoicing the heart of man. Thou knowest our infirmity, the weakness of our faith, and therefore Thou condescendest to employ in the Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood the substances most suitable to them. Let us, therefore, firmly believe that under the form of bread and wine we communicate of the true Body and of the true Blood of our Lord; that in the mystery of Holy Communion, Jesus Christ Himself will dwell with us “always, even unto the end of the world.”
“The Lord might have made the whole world, heaven and earth, into His own body; or instead of creating the world, He might have created for Himself a temple for His body; and it is only on your account that He deigned to create to Himself a Body similar to your own, in order to save you, and having created the world from nothing, He has also created out of a small part of it His Body to give life to you, leaving the world to remain as He created it. O goodness and mercy of God! “We are members of His Body” through the communion of His life-giving Mysteries!”
St John of Kronstadt received the Holy Eucharist on a Daily basis. This is how he started his day, with Christ! The partaking of His Body and Blood, is that important to our physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare.
SO, where do you stand? Do you believe? If you truly do, then why do you not receive His Body and Life giving Blood, each and every Sunday?
If you do not believe and consider yourself an Orthodox Christian, then why are you here, in an Orthodox Church, attending the Divine Liturgy? You hear me say most every week, you must give up the worldly goods and passions and come to Him who created you, God Almighty.
Faith is a hard thing…… but a necessity as Orthodox Christians. Pray, continue to Pray, daily, and ask God to guide you to Him! Partake, of His Body and Blood weekly! Let Him offer Himself to you, to nourish you for your coming week.
Don’t go without HIM!!