“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of our Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (died). But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” (1 Corinthians Chapter 11)
My Dear Spiritual Ohana,
I speak to you out of love as your unworthy priest and pastor. I care about your spiritual well-being and your salvation. Every time I wear my “Epitrachelion” (stole) I am reminded of the heavy yoke put upon my shoulders as I was ordained to the office of “Presbyter.” Each tassel on the stole represents the souls that are entrusted by God to me.
One of my many great concerns is our preparation for Holy Communion. When we approach for Holy Communion we must always discern and be aware of what we are doing. We receive the very Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Of course, we are never worthy and we must approach the chalice with that sense of “unworthiness.”
Below, is a general guideline for how to approach for Holy Communion.
Concerning Holy Communion and Fasting
Everyone receiving Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy must observe the ancient custom as prescribed by the Holy Canons of fasting from every food item. No person should approach and receive Holy Communion if they have not fasted the morning of a Divine Liturgy. Traditionally, no food or drink is taken (complete fast) from at least Midnight until after receiving Holy Communion. The elderly who require medication may take small amounts of food to help the medication work effectively. Young children are encouraged to learn the discipline of fasting at an early age. Children older than ten years of age should start to practice the complete fast. Tots may require breakfast but should not approach the chalice with food particles remaining on their face. Babies need nourishment and should eat at their prescribed time.
The Eucharist is at the very center of Orthodox piety, worship and theology. One is encouraged to receive Holy Communion as frequently as possible. However, as frequent communion is encouraged, casual communion is not. One must always prepare themselves through prayer, fasting and confession before receiving Holy Communion. A cavalier attitude toward Holy Communion demeans, not the Eucharist, but the individual who receives it un-prepared. Holy Communion is a fire that devours and burns away our sins. But it can also become a fire that devours and consumes us if we partake of it unworthily. Remember, Holy Communion is a gift and should be received with joy in the fashion prescribed by the Church.
Please Be Respectful
As you approach the Chalice to receive the Eucharist, please do so with utmost respect and reverence, for you are receiving the Lord, Jesus Christ into your being. No sudden movements should be done in front of the Chalice. In order to prevent accidental contact with the Chalice, please do not make the sign of the cross near the Chalice. Ladies should blot off their lipstick prior to receiving Holy Communion and brush any lose hair away from the face and/or chalice.
In addition, we must be in “good standing” with the Church. If you have any questions to what this means, please do not hesitate to ask me for guidance. A few examples are as follows: (1) Marriage must have been in an Orthodox Church; (2) Baptized or chrismated in Orthodox Church; (3) No canonical impediments which bars one from receiving. Please also see the article on page 4 of this publication for some practical guidelines concerning the disposition and attitude in which we should approach the chalice. We should also do our very best in coming to the Divine Liturgy at its beginning, when the priest exclaims, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages.”
With Love in Christ,