Growing up in the Orthodox Church, we may (or may not) have been told about the Holy Sacraments’ central role in our lives.
We may (or may not) have been told about the primary reason for celebration of the divine liturgy.
We may (or may not) have been told about our resource of our power in our walk here on Earth.
We may (or may not) have been told about how we can replenish our source of Life, while here living in this life.
We may (or may not) have been told about we should not skip an opportunity to participate with the Holy Trinity.
We may (or may not) have been told about how all of these bits come together in #1, beautiful, accessible, life-changing, and cohesive answer.
See – when you are are certified for Advanced Cardiac Life Support, you are NOT taught everything there is to know about the heart. But you are taught some imperative points that CANNOT be missed in a life-saving situation.
I think (personal opinion flag) that we as a church need to be teaching and relaying what are these “basic” building blocks of our faith. The things that should be known without question.
I was taught some points recently about the Holy Communion that I would be selfish if I kept to myself, and wanted to tell you about them. We’ll start with a quote:
Yet we should not keep away from the Lord’s communion because we know that we are sinners, but we should hasten to it all the more avidly for the sake of our soul’s healing and our spirit’s purification, yet with that humility of mind and faith that will cause us, while judging ourselves unworthy to receive such a grace, to seek it instead as medicine for our wounds. –The Conferences, St John Cassian
Woah – alert #1 – do NOT skip communion. Its our healing and purification. He goes on to say that skipping because “I am unworthy” is actually out of pride, not humility. Talk about it with your father of confession. Take communion then confess. My avoiding of the sacrament just sets me up to think I ‘deserve’ it more so later. Fact is – its all from His grace.
These people are guilty of a more arrogant presumption than they seem to themselves to avoid, because they judge themselves worthy of receiving them when they do receive them. But it is much more righteous for us to receive the sacred mysteries every Sunday as a remedy for our sickness. –The Conferences, St John Cassian
He continues –
If we loveeternal life, however, if we pray to have the supplier of immortality in ourselves, let us not, like some of the more negligent, refuse to be blessed, nor let the devil deep in wickedness fashion a harmful piety as a trap and a snare for us. Indeed, it is written, the devil reminds me, “Whoever eats of the bread and drinks of the cup in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment on themselves.”
Wow. Does that mean satan can use a Bible verse to make me fall? Absolutely. He tried with Christ didn’t he? So, alert #2 – Jesus in giving us the sacrament, offers us much more than what our physical eyes may see. He offers sonship, inheritance, life, healing, and the summary of all this theosis.
Here is the big finish of St John’s passage about what communion offers us. Please please please, note that I said ‘offers’ – because you and I need to recognize what is available for us to partake of by His grace.
He kindles reverence toward God and deadens our passions, not counting against us the transgressions we are in but ratherhealing us as people who are ill. He binds up what has been crushed, he raises what has fallen, and he does this as the good shepherd who has laid down his life for the sheep
Next, we’ll look to St Cyril of Alexandria. He’s recently become one of my favorite authors to read from. He was one of the patriarchs of Alexandria, and has some important points for us to engrave in our memory.
Christ says that He will be in us not by a mere relation understood in terms of disposition but by a natural participation. If one combines one piece of wax with another and melts them both with fire, one piece is made from both. In the same way, by participation in the body of Christ and his precious blood, we are united so that he is in us, and we are in him.
How was I not more focused on this all of the years I took communion? I can be in Him. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and make me aware of this statement. Make me aware of what you prayed to the Father in John 17, let me recognize the gravity that is communion with You.
There was no other way that what was subject to decay by nature could be made alive except by being combined bodily with the body of him who is life by nature, that is, the Only Begotten
Alert #3 – there is no eternal life without partaking of His body and blood. For our flesh to have life everlasting, we need to be united with He Who is that life. The divine liturgy reminds us that communing with Christ is ‘for remission of sin and eternal life to those who partake of him’ – so make a change today. Take communion, often and with excitement, looking forward to what is available to you. Read. Ask. Let us learn together so that we can be “ONE Body”, church, with Christ as our Lord.
We may (or may not) have been told. But now we definitely have. Without question.