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June 18, 2008 + Reflections On The Word of God

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By The Rev. Dr Stanley S. Harakas

Word Magazine, December 1985

bp.thomas@antiochian.org

You may be one of those Orthodox Christians who find it hard to accept that frequent Holy Communion is Orthodox teaching. You learned at your mother’s knee that a long and strict fast was required, so in your family, you only went to Holy Communion three or four times in the year. Yet, this is not the case, as far as the teaching of the Church is concerned. This was a practice which developed late in our Church’s history. The truth of the matter can be found in the Bible and in the Holy Tradition of our Church. In this issue of The Word, we will look at some Bible passages about Holy Communion.

Communion and Being A Christian

In the Bible we find at least three important verses which speak to us about the importance of Holy Communion for our Christian life. The first comes from our lord Jesus Christ. “Truly, truly, I say to you, 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. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him”, (John 6:53-56).

These words show us how important it is for our Christian life that we receive Holy Communion. Jesus connects receiving Holy Communion with the present practice of our Faith (“unless you eat. . . you have no life in you”) and with our eternal destiny (“he who eats ... has life eternal”). He also connects it with a promise regarding the quality of our Christian life (“he who eats. . . abides in me and I in him”). What this means is that being a Christian requires that we receive Holy Communion.

Keeping Us United With Christ

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave another reason for receiving Holy Communion: “Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”, (Matthew 26:28).

He invites all of His followers and disciples to partake in Holy Communion, “for the forgiveness of sins.” Clearly, since none of

us is free from sins on a day by day basis, even if they are not so serious as to break off our relationship with Christ and His Church, we need that regular forgiveness. The argument is this: “if we sin each week, we need forgiveness each week.” The most important consequence of sin is that it separates us from God.

Holy Communion, is precisely what its name says it is — communion, that is, union with Christ. Holy Communion needs to be received regularly to maintain our union with Christ. And it doesn’t make sense to be a Christian and not want to be in union with Christ. Frequent reception of the Sacrament helps make that possible.

Communion and Proclaiming Our Faith

The third passage from the Bible is from St. Paul. “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he come”, (1 Corinthians 11:26). We conduct the Divine Liturgy every Sunday as a witness to our faith in God, in His Son who came to the world for our salvation, and in order to proclaim and affirm the great truth that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected to give humanity new life in the Kingdom of God. But notice. It is not just words that proclaim His Kingdom. It is not just “the Service” which we conduct or the sermon which we preach and hear. In fact, these are not even mentioned here.

“Eating the bread and drinking the cup” makes the proclamation. The more frequently we receive Holy Communion, the more faithful we are to this commandment of the Bible.

Conclusion: Frequent Communion Needed

So you see, the Bible teaches us that Holy Communion is an essential aspect of our Christian life, both for the present and in eternity. The Bible teaches us that we need to receive Holy Communion on a frequent and regular basis because we need forgiveness to be in union with Christ. The Bible teaches us that our responsibility to let others know where we stand about our religious faith (“proclaiming the faith”) includes the requirement that we participate frequently and regularly in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

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clip_image004Nativity of the Forerunner, June 24

Troparion of the Forerunner Tone 4

O Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ, we honour thee lovingly but cannot extol thee worthily; for by thy birth thy mother's barrenness and thy father's dumbness were unloosed; and the Incarnation of the Son of God is proclaimed to the world.

Kontakion of St John the Baptist Tone 3

The formerly barren one today gives birth to the Forerunner of Christ Who is the fulfillment of prophecy. For the Prophet, Herald and Forerunner of the Word submitted to Him Whom the prophets foretold by laying his hand on Him in the Jordan.

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