April 6, 2022

Homilies on the Divine Liturgy - Preparation for Holy Communion (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homilies on the Divine Liturgy

Preparation for Holy Communiont

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou 

After the prayer of the anaphora, my beloved brethren, which is the most central part of the Divine Liturgy during which, by the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and in our prayers we address Christ on behalf of our ecclesiastical government, our Church prepares us to commune of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Divine Liturgy is not done just to pray, because if it had this purpose, then we could replace it with other services, namely Vespers, Matins, Paraklesis, etc. Rather, the Divine Liturgy is done to commune, that is, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and to have communion with Christ. It does not mean that the Clergy liturgy in the Holy Bema and we do not commune with the Body and Blood of Christ. In ancient times, all Christians communed, as long as they did not have an obstacle to Divine Communion.

Explaining this a little more, I would like to emphasize that, as it appears in the letters of the Holy Apostles, Christians in ancient times had the Grace of God active in their hearts. And this presence of the Holy Spirit was manifested by the psalms and hymns that were sung in the heart, by the prayer of the heart, so having this energy of the Holy Spirit, and being true members of the Body of Christ, they proceeded to receive Christ, and to have fellowship with Him. But when they sinned and the Grace of the Holy Spirit ceased to be active, they had to repent and confess, and then the spiritual father prepared them properly so that they could endure this great gift. For example: if a person does not have a good stomach he will not be able to eat strong foods, because he will be harmed even more. This is the meaning of the words of the Apostle Paul: "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." And he continues: "For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body" (1 Corinthians 10:28-30).

After the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, our liturgist prepares us to commune of the Body and Blood of Christ with a clear conscience, so that communion may contribute to the remission of sins, the forgiveness of sins, the communion of the Holy Spirit, the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, boldness before God and not for condemnation. Because the transformation of the Honorable Gifts can be a blessing, it can also be a condemnation, as is the case with medicines as well, which in one causes health and in another creates other reactions that cause harm. It is not the body of Christ that is to blame, but our spiritual condition.

During this stage of preparation the liturgist offers some entreaties to God, we recite the Lord's Prayer ("Our Father"), mainly because it has the request "give us this day our daily bread", but also because it has the request "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us", and because after Holy Communion we feel God to be our Father and especially the saints experience the Kingdom of God, since they can see the Light of God. That is why after every Divine Liturgy we chant: "We have seen the true light, we have received a heavenly Spirit."

Inside the Holy Chalice are the Holy Things, that is, the holy Body and Blood of Christ. That is why the priest says: "The holy things for the holy." Only those who struggle in various ways, in the struggle for the transformation of the passions, can commune of the Body and Blood of Christ. And those who struggle are divided into three categories, at the urging of the deacon or the priest, "With the fear of God, faith and love come forth." That is, those who have the fear of God come to commune, namely, those who struggle for fear of being condemned to Hell and behave like slaves; those who have faith, namely, those who struggle and hope to enter Paradise and behave like wage earners; and those who have perfect love and feel like children of God.

The Divine Liturgy is called Divine Eucharist because we thank God, and Divine Communion because we commune Christ. May God find us worthy to end our lives, after a worthy, as much as possible, divine Communion, so that it may be the provision of eternal life.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.