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.”
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
Holy Communion—Part Three
Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the Bread and drink of the Cup. I Corinthians 11:28
Good morning Prayer Team!
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I was taught as a child that we only received Communion a few times a year. In fact, I had a lot of “fear” in approaching. Now, we see the pendulum has swung the other way. Many approach, but do they come with complacency? And there are others who approach Communion in an almost “legalistic” fashion. They will call the office and ask me if “peanut oil” is still oil. Or what time is Communion on Holy Saturday, so they can duck in right before.
If you want to know what the “requirements” are to receive Holy Communion, let me offer the following (this presumes that one is a baptized, Chrismated Orthodox Christian):
- Faith in Jesus Christ—There is no point in receiving Communion if one does not have faith in Christ. This is one reason why we recite the Creed at the Liturgy, in order to “confess our faith” prior to receiving.
- A relationship with Christ—One who wishes to receive Communion should have a relationship with Christ. This is fostered through prayer and scripture reading.
- Living a life of faith—Yes, this includes moral living. One shouldn’t receive Communion if he or she is engaged in habitual sin—addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or promiscuity, sexually active outside of marriage, etc. Struggling with sin is one thing. Just giving into it is something else. God doesn’t expects us to be perfect, but He does expect an effort. Living a life of faith is more than just moral living. Do you live a life of humility, charity, and service? This is why going for confession regularly is an important prerequisite for receiving Communion.
- Reconciliation with your fellow man—What good is it to come to receive Communion if you are very angry with someone? If we are supposed to come to Communion with a grateful heart, we can be inhibited by doing so if we come with an angry heart. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
- Worship at the Divine Liturgy—Holy Communion is generally received in the context of the Divine Liturgy. (An exception is someone who is sick and cannot attend the Liturgy.) The Liturgy is a journey of faith that leads us to Communion. It is not really effective to come in just for Communion and miss out on the Liturgy.
- And, if one was making a list, I would put fasting here. Fasting without faith, and without prayer, is just dieting. Fasting is important. It is an important discipline that helps us gain control of our passions and have some focus on Christ. However, fasting is not more important than faith, prayer, Godly living, reconciliation and worship.
Saint Paul says it well in today’s Bible verses—We must examine ourselves and reflect on who we are before receiving Communion. Because this isn’t just a ritual, it is THE Body and THE Blood of Christ we are receiving.
No one is ever worthy to receive. That is not a standard we can achieve. So, we should not ask ourselves “Am I worthy?” because the answer will always be “no.” The question to ask ourselves is “Am I prepared? Have I prepared myself to receive?” If you have made a positive answer to all six, then you have prepared and should receive. If you have done the first five and you haven’t done a great job on the sixth, I would encourage you to receive anyway, with the idea that you’ll focus on fasting a little harder in the future. This is, again, the reason to have a close relationship with a priest or spiritual father, so that he can help you focus your life to appropriately receive Communion on a regular and frequent basis.
How shall I, who am unworthy, enter into the splendor of Your saints? If I should dare to enter into the bridal chamber, my vesture will condemn me, since it is not a wedding garment; and being bound up, I shall be cast out by the angels. Cleanse, O Lord, the filth of my soul, and save me, as You are the only who love mankind. In Your love, Lord, cleans my soul and save me.
(From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press, 2015).
Prepare to receive Communion each and every day.
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.
Photo Credit: St. James Armenian Apostolic Church
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