Preparation for Holy Communion 10 Things. Part 1,2 of 10 – Strive to be a Christian, Concerning all communion rules

Preparation for Holy Communion

10 Things [1]

Part 1 , 2 of 10 – Strive to be a Christian, concerning all communion rules

O God the Lord and Creator of all, Thou are become poor, uniting a created nature to Thyself, while remaining free from passion. Since Thou art the Passover, Thou hast offered Thyself to those for whose sake Thou wast soon to die; and Thou hast cried: 'Eat My Body, and ye shall be firmly established in the faith. [2]

 

1. The most important “thing” about preparation for preparing for communion is that one must strive to be a Christian. If you are not trying to live a Christian life, you should not be going to communion.

 

Definitely, go to confession and seek counsel, but if you are not trying to live a Christian life, then you should not approach the cup.

 

I cannot emphasize enough that you should not make this decision for yourself. This is the role and responsibility of the confessor.

 

You may consider yourself to be “not trying” but the confessor may see things very differently. Sometimes being addicted to a sin, or being unable to start something good (such as prayer, or consistent fasting, and a thousand other things) can make a person think that they are not trying, when actually, they are trying, but failing, because they do not have the strength of will to accomplish their desire.

 

The point of Holy Communion is to give medicine to the sick, so such a person is precisely the one who should commune, with as much preparation as their weak will allows them to, under the guidance of their confessor. In time, if they approach the chalice with fear and expectation, they will get stronger.

 

If you are unable to commune for some long-standing reason, keep coming to confession, and do whatever you CAN do.  Anything you do, even if it seems to be a “little thing” to you and you are embarrassed to be “repeating the same sins over and over”, will help you, and is definitely at least an effort at repentance.

 

Sometimes we need to “want” to repent before we repent. Or perhaps we even need to “want to want to repent”. A terrible mistake that those who are enmeshed in some difficulty or sin, such that they are unable or not allowed to commune is to give up on the small things they CAN do, even if they cannot do what they feel they should be doing. With effort, even what seems to be a small effort, comes eventual success, as long as you do not just give on everything because you feel unworthy.

 

The confessor is even more important for such a person, who needs guidance and encouragement.

 

2. All “rules” for preparation for Holy Communion MUST be understood as “general rules”, under the guidance of a confessor.

 

There are some hard and fast rules. If you never want to confess, ever, or accept the guidance of one of God’s priests, ever, then you definitely should never commune!  Certain other things are obvious to some, but not to others.

 

We are proud creatures, and we think we know stuff, when we really don’t. The way this ignorance comes to light is when we humble ourselves and seek counsel, and over time.

 

Do not decide to go to communion, or to not go to communion on your own!

 

This is a very difficult lesson for modern man, because our culture is polluted with a sense of enlightenment, and ruinous self-reliance. Don’t fall into this trap. Fight it!

 

Humble yourself, and accept the church’s way of doing things, and you will be much more peaceful. You do not know a better way to prepare for communion than the church does.

 

This does not mean that you collect a list of 27 “rules” that you slavishly follow. Doing this without counsel is just another form of self-reliance. Talk to your confessor. Do not treat him like a holy guru (but his priesthood is holy) who knows all mysteries, but submit to his authority in a healthy way, and everything will be as it should.

 

Perhaps one may ask “what does submit to your confessor in a healthy way” mean? This is a difficult question to answer. If you have a healthy confessor, he will be sure that your submission to his authority is healthy. This is one of those things that you will know when you experience it.

This is an important subject that is too big for this little tract, but I must leave you with at least something:

 

“One of the signs by which a layman can recognize his spiritual Father is this: a spiritual guide is not longing to give anyone advice; on the contrary, he knows that of himself he is empty and incapable — as even Elder Makarios wrote: "I have told you nothing that is an invention of my own. All of what I say comes from the writings of the Fathers. Mine is only the humble work of choosing passages suitable to your particular case."

 

Similarly, Bishop Ignatios says that the Fathers forbid us to give advice to our neighbor of our own accord, without our neighbors asking us to do so. The voluntary giving of advice is a sign that we regard ourselves as possessed of spiritual knowledge and worth, which is a clear sign of pride and self-deception.

 

How many spiritual Fathers today can withstand such a test? Yet, there may be a handful. Such true spiritual guides give advice with fear of God and only because it was asked of them; knowing their own grievous inadequacies, they do not expect instant obedience, but leave it to the judgment of their spiritual child. In this way they protect both themselves and their spiritual children.

 

The spiritually mature layman, however, knows that if he obeys his spiritual Father in all things that do not conflict with the Law of God or his God-given common sense, God will not at all abandon him.” [3]

 

A person cannot learn about healthy submission without the help of God, and of course, his effort to submit to another human being regarding his sins. As the scripture has said, “this is a hard saying” [4], and very few are able to do this. May God help you and guide you.


From St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texaswww.orthodox.net

 

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[1] This document is a list of ten (more or less) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at http://www.orthodox.net/10things. They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called  “Redeeming the Time”http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime. Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

[2] Triodion p. 549 Matins Canon Irmos, Ode III, taken from an unpublished term paper by Reader Nicholas Park: “The Eucharist”, Spring 2008

[4] “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60 KJV) This was said regarding out Lord’s assertions about Himself being the “bread of Life”, that is, what we call the Holy Eucharist. The scripture has many “hard sayings”. May God help us to hear them, and follow them, even if we also have fear.

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