Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rules for Receiving Holy Communion

This was published in this week's issue of al-Karma, the newsletter of the Archdiocese of Tripoli, without attribution. Arabic original here.

Rules for Coming Forward to Receive Holy Communion

"Behold I come to the holy communion. Do not burn me, O my Maker, as I receive it, for You are a fire burning the unworthy."

Those who desire to come forward to receive the Mystical Sacrifice must prepare themselves according to the rules established by the Church so that they may receive grace instead of judgment. There is no compromise when we come forward to receive the Holy Eucharist. After we receive the Eucharist, we will be in one of two states: either we will have received grace or we will have received judgment.

Preparation for receiving does not begin on the day in which we will receive the Lord's body and blood. It starts several days earlier, which is why we call it preparation.

How do I prepare myself to receive?

The spiritual father who guides us along the path of salvation helps me to develop the appropriate way to prepare myself according to my abilities, my health, and my endurance. Yes, each Christian must have a spiritual father who guides him along the way of salvation. Receiving communion and confession constitute the two fundamental pillars of this.

Confession is an important matter in the life of every believer. Through it, we receive a blessing, through the resting of the Holy Spirit upon us, because confession is one of the mysteries of the Church. Through confession, I reveal to my God, through the spiritual father, the reservoir of suffering and I seek forgiveness and healing from the Physician of souls and bodies. I fight the good fight to cleans myself in order to receive the reward, according to the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Preparation also takes place in my room, particularly through my reading my prayer rule and my reading the prayers of preparation for Holy Communion (metalepsis) found in the daily prayerbook or the Euchologion. If someone does not read the prayers of preparation for Holy Communion, he cannot come forward to receive the Holy Eucharist. Likewise, if someone desires to prepare more, he can choose, in addition to the prayers of preparation, prayers and canons that he may pray individually, such as the Akathist to the Sweetest Lord Jesus, for example, or other prayers.

Seeking forgiveness from those whom we have wronged or saddened is of the utmost importance before receiving Holy Communion because, if we come forward for the Eucharist when we have a quarrel with anyone, we will harm ourselves. The Church teaches us as follows: "If you resolve, O man, to eat the body of the Lord... and drink the divine blood unto communion, first make right with those whom you have sorrowed."

Those who come forward to receive the Mystical Sacrifice must refrain from eating and drinking on the day in which they will partake of the Lord's body and blood. This fast is a form of preparation and this fast differs from one person to another according to each one's ability and health and according to what the spiritual father deems appropriate, as we mentioned above. There are those who will abstain from grease and oil for a week in preparation to receive the Eucharist, those who will abstain for three days or perhaps one day, according to each one's determination. In cases of sickness or disability, there is no impediment to receiving the Eucharist even for those who do not fast, especially if there is a need to take medicine for a chronic illness. As for children, they may receive without fasting, but their families should not forget to train them in fasting, confession and prayer when they are still at a young age.

Presence at the liturgy from its start is something extremely important, as is focusing during the prayer as much as possible. Understanding the divine words, pondering them, and listening intently to the reading of the Epistle and Holy Gospel allows divine grace to dwell within us and makes us worthy to receive the Lord's body and blood and the Eucharist makes us worthy of the kingdom of heaven and preserves us from the tricks and temptations of the Evil One, brings us forgiveness of our sins, and makes us a dwelling-place for the Lord.

Modest dress is an important part, because it makes us worthy to enter into the church without judgment, since we are not permitted to be a stumbling-block for others. Clothing for church should be loose and cover the shoulders, chest, back and legs and it should not be torn as in today's ridiculous fashion. Men should have bare heads, but women should cover their heads, according to the command of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:2-5). When we cover the beauty of our bodies, we are like the angels who surround God, who cover the beauty of their bodies and faces with their wings because they believe that their beauty amounts to nothing before the beauty of the face of God's light.

The prayer of thanksgiving is obligatory after receiving the Mystical Sacrifice. This is so that we are not without thanks, as was Judas Iscariot, who received from the Lord's hand at the Mystical Supper and went on to betray Him. Likewise, the Lord Jesus taught us to give thanks when He asked the leper who came to Him, out of the ten whom He had healed, "Where are the nine  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:17-18). How much more so should we sinners whom God has made worthy of this great gift that heals the sicknesses of our souls and bodies and makes us worthy of the heavenly kingdom! We can follow the prayer of thanksgiving in church, if it is read there, or in our home after returning from church.

After we receive the Eucharist, we cannot, as a matter of principle, kiss the priest's hand, because we have received the greatest blessing through our union with Christ Himself through our receiving His body. When we leave the church, we must preserve our prayer and our inner peace, do good works, and fight not to return to sin from which we have been purified, and so become children of the heavenly kingdom.


Diakrisis said...

Would it be off base to surmise that this particular mode of preparation reflects Russian influence?

Samn! said...

In this case, it's Greek monastic influence. Russians are less into fasting from oil for a set number of days beforehand and have a different set of preparatory prayers than the metalepsis. They also tend to have a rule of saying (any) three canons/akathists as part of preparation.

BorisJojicj said...

Well, this doesn't seem to reflect contemporary OCA practice.There, it's usual for almost the whole congregation to forward to receive, no matter what.
The Serbs tend to go to the other extreme, some people commune 4 or 5 times a year, some less, some fast strictly, but never commune!