In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the temple. Above Him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lip; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then flew one of the Seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.”
Isaiah 6: 1-7
I’m always looking for practical ways to help others understand Scripture and theology. In our church, we speak of Holy Communion as a way that we touch Christ and a way that Christ touches us. While preparing to teach a lesson on this at summer camp, I had a thought go through my mind which I hadn’t ever had before, and I used it as an icebreaker to introduce this idea of Holy Communion being a place where we touch Christ and He touches us. (This is why we continually read the same passages of Scripture and meditate on the same things because each time we do, God sends us a different message. That doesn’t mean a cursory reading. That may not accomplish much of anything, but a careful reflection often results in seeing something we never saw before.)
I walked into the cabin to teach the morning Orthodox Life class. However, before doing anything I asked people how they were feeling. Some said they were tired, some still felt some stress even though they weren’t at home, some were anxious about the day, etc. I told everyone to get up and give a hug to the other people who were in the room. The people were all cabin-mates and friends so this was something they got excited about. After two minutes, everyone sat down. I asked how everyone felt. And without exception, everyone felt good. That’s the power of physical touch. That’s why studies on prisoners who are held in solitary confinement shows significant mental anguish because they have no “touch” in their lives. For those people in the cabin, they were still tired, perhaps some were still anxious, but that hug brought some renewed energy, confidence, and comfort.
We have all experienced the warmth of the sun. We can’t look directly into the sun for more than a second or two. It is powerful and blinding. If we traveled in a spaceship towards the sun, we would burn up. We can’t experience the essence of the sun. But we can experience the energy of the sun. We can enjoy its warmth. And even with that we have to be careful to use sunscreen if we are going to be out in the sun for too long.
Christ gave us a way to experience Him in a way that we can handle. We can’t handle the essence of God. If Christ walked into a room, as much as we’d like to think we’d run and embrace Him, most likely we’d duck and cover. Holy Communion gives us a way to experience Christ in a way that we can handle.
The verses from Isaiah 6:1-7 foreshadow the Eucharist, how Christ is like a live coal which touches our mouths but does not burn us. Rather, it should warm us, reassure us, comfort us and encourage us. Just like the exercise with the hugs, the Eucharist is not a cure-all for every problem we have. It’s not going to get someone a job, or to do better on a test. Rather, the Eucharist provides divine encouragement to keep going through life, on the way to everlasting life. In I Corinthians 11:26, Saint Paul writes, in regards to the Eucharist, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The Eucharist helps us to remember what Christ did for us. It also helps us to remember where we are going. Our end point is not a job, a paycheck, or even a friendship. Our end point is salvation in the kingdom of God.
We know when we are not encouraged, we become indifferent, if not saddened. When we partake of the Eucharist frequently, it should provide some spiritual encouragement, which will lead to spiritual confidence, which is what is needed to, in the words of I Timothy 6:12, “fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”
Lord, thank You for the gift of the church and for the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Thank you for giving us Yourself as a means of spiritual sustenance. Thank You for giving us a community in which to grow closer to You. Help me to commit myself more and more to You in faith each day. Help me to inspire others to be more committed in theirs. Amen.
Receive Holy Communion frequently, for spiritual sustenance, spiritual encouragement, and an opportunity to touch Christ and for Him to touch you!
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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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