Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
There Is No Communion Without Community
“For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
Good morning Prayer Team!
Now that we have spent several reflections discussing what we believe as Christians, it is now time to reflect on what it means to belong. Today’s reflection will discuss one word “koinonia” which can be translated into two different English words—community and communion. The word “koinonia” is probably best translated as “fellowship”. But for purposes of our discussion, we will talk about fellowship in communion and the divine fellowship of Holy Communion.
Community and Holy Communion go hand in hand in the Church. In Holy Communion, we enter into a fellowship with the Divine God. In the moment we are receiving Holy Communion, we reflect Matthew 18:20, as there is a priest (or bishop or deacon) distributing Holy Communion, a communicant who is receiving Holy Communion and Christ Himself, the Holy Communion. Each encounter at the chalice makes us part of a Divine Community. Take Holy Communion out of the church community and we are left with a group of friends, even good Christian friends. Holy Communion makes the community a divine entity, as holiness enters the community through the receiving of Holy Communion.
At the same time, we can’t take community out of Holy Communion. In order for the Divine Liturgy to be celebrated, there has to be “community” present. There has to be at least one other person present—A priest cannot offer the Eucharist or partake of it unless he is doing so in the context of community. If a Divine Liturgy is scheduled and no one shows up, then the Liturgy cannot be held. It can only be held in the context of community.
So, there is no Holy Communion without community, but there is also no church community without Holy Communion. Holy Communion is the centerpiece of the community. Someone once told me that we should rename our churches and call them “Eucharistic assemblies.” So that the church I serve in Tampa would be called “St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Eucharist Assembly of Tampa.” Now, before you get up in arms that I’m changing the church, I’m not. I’m merely pointing out that the purpose of our Greek Orthodox Church community in Tampa, its number one reason for existing, is for us to assemble to receive the Eucharist. Take the Eucharist out of the community and it will have lost its identity. This is because the Eucharist, the Divine Fellowship, Holy Communion, is the most unique thing done in the Church community. In fact, it is the only unique thing done in the community. There can be Bible studies, youth groups, charitable outreach, social gatherings and many other activities that don’t necessarily need to take place in a church building. One doesn’t have to be baptized in order to engage in these things. One doesn’t need a priest to lead these things. However, to receive Holy Communion requires one to be baptized, requires a place and requires a priest.
Thus, the most important thing that happens in a church community is the Eucharist. It is the number one reason to belong. So, if a person says “I can have Holy Communion without the community” they are wrong. Even if one person is present for Holy Communion, like when we distribute Holy Communion to someone in a hospital bed, there is a small community present. And if a person says “I can be part of the community but never receive Holy Communion, they are wrong as well. While we all may abstain from Holy Communion at times (we are not prepared, we came late, etc.), to never partake is to miss out on the most important part of the church community. It’s like saying “I am part of a family but I never eat with them,” or “I have a family that I never see.” To be part of a family is to see them, to have fellowship with them, to break bread with them. To be part of a church ommunity is to attend, and to partake of the Divine Fellowship, Holy Communion. To be part of a church community is also to engage in the life of the parish—learning, serving, helping and encouraging.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down the beard, upon the bear of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore. Psalm 133
There is no church community without Communion. There is no Communion without community. To belong to the Church is to engage in both the life of community (fellowship) and Holy Communion (the Divine Fellowship).
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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