Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Last Saturday, we looked at one of the hymns we sing immediately before receiving Holy Communion, and that got me thinking about our preparation for Communion in a broader way. I’d like to mention a few things that we do to prepare for Communion, starting with those things closest to the moment of our Communion, and moving back.

So, the last thing we do in our preparation is our attendance at the Holy Liturgy. If we look at the language of the Liturgy, we are doing several things: obviously we are worshipping and praising God, and as we do that we are also being prepared for Communion. The language of the Liturgy assumes that we will be partaking of our Lord’d Body and Blood, and the movement of the Liturgy is focused on that moment. Throughout the Liturgy, we’re moving toward Communion, not just in time, but also in content, being prepared for that awesome reception of the grace of God. With this reality in mind, it’s important not only that we be at the Liturgy, but that we participate with our minds and with our hearts as much as possible. During the Liturgy we are lifted up to heaven and we worship at the altar of God with all of the angels and the saints and all of the people throughout the world offering that worship with us.

Moving back from Liturgy, service-wise we also have the preparation of Great Vespers and Matins before Divine Liturgy. Vespers is the first service of the day, introducing us to the themes of our Lord’s Resurrection for Sunday, and also to the lives of the Saints that we commemorate. There’s a lot for us to learn in a Vespers service, and again, we praise and worship God, and we pray for a peaceful and sinless night. This is important, because there’s much we do in the night to prepare ourselves for Holy Communion. Matins is the teaching service of the Church, especially in the Canon that is read after the Gospel. And then immediately before the Liturgy, we sing the Praises and the Doxology, very much preparing us to worship God in the Holy Liturgy. Attending both Matins and Vespers helps us to begin to separate our hearts from the cares of the world so that we can participate more fully in the Holy Liturgy.

Moving back another step from Liturgy, we prepare for Holy Communion with the intentional things we do the evening before the Liturgy. Specifically, here we think about our Prayers and our Fasting. There are a great number of different prayers and canons and ways of putting these things together which fall under the umbrella of “Prayers in Preparation for Holy Communion.” Whatever rule of prayer that you’ve come to with your spiritual father, it’s very important for us to set time aside Saturday evening/Sunday morning to prepare ourselves for the Eucharist with prayer. Those prayers of preparation remind us constantly of our sinfulness and unworthiness, they remind us of God’s grace and mercy, and they remind us of what an awesome gift we’re preparing to receive. We need to walk through and live all of these things as part of our preparation. Joined to our prayer is a fast from all food and drink before the Liturgy (exceptions are sometimes made for necessity, in agreement with one’s spiritual father). This fast is a very tangible and physical way of giving God the first place in that day, very reminiscent of the words of Christ that we live not by bread alone.

Moving back one final step, our lives in Christ on a daily basis are a final part of our preparation for Holy Communion. Elder Sophrony said that everything we do is in preparation for receiving the Holy Body and Blood of our Christ. We draw closer to Christ in our day to day walk with Him, and the closer we are to God, the more the grace of God fills us at all times and in all places. Our life in Christ is foundational – if we live far from Christ, then we remember the words of St. Paul, that we receive unworthily. If our life is not a sacrifice well pleasing to God, if we aren’t sincerely trying to follow Christ, then no amount of preparation will truly prepare us for Holy Communion.

And finally, one phrase on why our preparation for Holy Communion is so important – in the Eucharist, God shares with us His life, and the Fathers teach us that we are only able to receive and contain that portion of grace that we’re prepared to receive. We want to communion as completely as possible with our God, and therefore every part of our preparation for Communion is vital for our continuing growth in Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson