Unto life, not unto condemnation

by Archbishop Paul of Finland

Christ speaks about the importance of Holy Communion,

"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day".

On hearing these words the Jews were offended. We know what is meant. "Life in us," the real life of faith, is possible only "in Christ," in the real communion, which is realised in Holy Communion. And this communion will continue until the day of resurrection: "and I will raise him up at the last day." This is an amazing mystery, which makes a person long for Holy Communion, especially when death is approaching. Regular Holy Communion has already become customary in many of our parishes. However, we must always remember the Apostle's warning,

"For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself".

Although it is not necessary to go to confession before Holy Communion every time, nevertheless we must prepare ourselves every time to meet the Risen Christ in Holy Communion. This preparation includes fasting and prayer. In the Orthodox prayer book there is a rule of prayer. a number prayers which are to be read at home before going to church for Holy Communion. A prayerful mind has a transforming effect upon the body as well, so that the slight hunger which the body feels is changed to a spiritual hunger for Holy Communion with God, and to sense of expectation. Such preparations awaken the mood of humility and repentance which is appropriate for approaching the sacrament and about which the Apostle says:

"Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup".

Let no one, however, because of his unworthiness, fail to accept the Lord's invitation heard in the Liturgy, or think that by receiving Holy Communion less often he can prepare for it better and be more worthy, The sense of unworthiness is just the right mood, the only one which permits us to be sharers in God's supreme grace offered to us as a completely free gift.

At the end of the prayers for receiving Holy Communion are the Thanksgiving prayers which are to be read after the Divine Liturgy at home.

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