V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
How should we receive Holy Communion? We often don’t think about this question on Sunday. We approach and receive the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion. This is the holiest moment of the entire Divine Liturgy. What does receiving the Holy Eucharist mean?
First, let us reflect on our daily eating habits. How many times every week do we eat with our family? We rarely dine with our entire family, barring major holidays. Moreover, because of our busy workdays, we eat our meals very quickly. We’ve lost the habit of having family dinners every day, instead of once a week or once a month. We can see it in our church life. How many times each year do we find the church full of faithful, participating in the Divine Liturgy? The Liturgy, after all, is a gathering of our church family around the Lord’s Holy Table.
To put us in the right mindset for the Eucharist, we must first imagine that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, descended onto earth to share supper with His children. However, He didn’t just share a simple meal with us, but His true body and blood. How can we make sense of this fundamental truth?
Genesis teaches us that humankind lost eternal life in the true presence of God after eating from the forbidden tree. By disobeying God’s commandment, humankind rejected the tree of life, desiring instead the fruit of the forbidden tree. It is not a coincidence that Jesus Christ said the following, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) At the same time, Jesus talks about the manna that God provided His people with in the desert, so that they would live until reaching Israel. This symbolizes Jesus’s mission for humanity: coming to earth and giving life to the people living in the desert world. This is the meaning of the Holy Eucharist.
While the manna from heaven was miraculously given to the Israelites without any kind of “work,” the Eucharist is made possible by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. Christ’s blood seals a new covenant which gives us a new life. Further, He did not commit any kind of sin in His earthly mission, and did not deserve His punishment on the cross. On the other hand, we sin every minute and neglect God’s grace, making us worthy of punishment. Our Lord Jesus Christ bore the consequences of our sin. To receive the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice, we must participate. How can we participate in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? Through the Holy Eucharist, the body and the blood of our Lord, we receive His life, crucifixion, entombment, and resurrection. In other words, the tree of Life that Adam and Eve forsook in the garden of Eden came to Earth and returned eternal life to His mortal children.
Now we know that the tiny Holy Eucharist we partake in during the Liturgy contains His sacrifice on the cross and the new life of resurrection, His life and love. How should we receive it during the Divine Liturgy?
How would it feel for someone to hand you a check that pays off all of your debts? How about if you need a kidney transplant and a total stranger donates his kidney? You would feel love and gratitude toward the person who saved your life. Christ died for us, and saved us from eternal condemnation. When we receive the Holy Eucharist, the gift of salvation and love, we should feel the warmth of God’s love. We should welcome Christ into our heart, with great joy. Should we not also feel sorry that we are welcoming our Lord into our heart, with our sins everywhere? We should make three important reflections before receiving the Holy Eucharist:
1. Repent. We should be aware that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. We cannot feel indifferent toward the sins that we commit. We cannot partake in the Holy Eucharist without acknowledging that Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross, to free us from our sins. Receiving the Holy Eucharist without repentance is hurtful to the Lord and ignorant towards His love.
2. Rejoice. Receiving Our Lord Jesus Christ, who makes us new, should fill us with great joy. He makes us a triumphant child of God with His grace. His sacrifice overcomes the ugly and inevitable truth of our life, death. How can we not rejoice when God gives us a new, resurrected life through His body and blood. To show our joy, we praise and glorify His love and mercy.
3. Pray. It is important to pray before receiving Holy Communion. What does Communion make you say to the Lord? What do you have to say to Him? We should approach the Holy Eucharist with prayer. We can pray the following before approaching the altar and receiving Holy Communion:
“In faith I taste Your Holy and Life-Giving and Saving Body, O Christ my God, Jesus, for the remission of my sins. In faith I drink this, Your Sanctifying and Cleansing Blood, O Christ my God, Jesus, for the remission of my sins. Let Your Incorruptible Body grant me for Life, and Your Holy Blood grant me expiation and remission of sin. Amen.”
Glory to the Lord Jesus Christ for His body and blood, for a new resurrected body, a new life, and a seat with the saints and angels. May we praise Him now, forever and ever, amen.