Over the last year and a half I have been writing about this above topic as it pertains to the following areas of the spiritual life: Fasting, Prayer, Repentance (Baptism & Confession), and the moral lives we lead. I have stated why these areas are important in their relationship to receiving Communion. I have addressed when one should or should not come to Communion based on how one has approached these above areas as we “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.” I am not going to rehash all that. If you have never read what I have written, you can go to our web page and find those reflections in the Pastor’s Corner of our web page. Or if you have pitched the old newsletters and still want to read what I wrote, see me and I will be glad to provide you those articles for you to read. What I want to do this month is summarize what I would ask you to do as your priest in these above areas as you prepare for Holy Communion. If this conflicts with what other priests have told you to do, please speak with me, and I would be glad to further discuss this with you.
Guidelines in preparing for Holy Communion:
• FASTING: Observe the Wednesday and Friday fast throughout the week to the best of your ability. If you aren’t able to keep the full fasting guidelines please see Fr. Paul and talk with him. Please keep a total fast from midnight on, until you receive communion on Sunday. For evening liturgies the total fast should be after you eat your noon meal. Children eight and older should be able to observe this as well. We should not approach the cup if we have totally disregarded the fast due to rebelliousness and self will. (“I just don’t want to do it.”). I have not addressed here the need to observe the four major fasts through the year (i.e. Great Lent, Advent Fast, Dormition Fast, and Ss. Peter & Paul Fast) I will speak about those at another time.
• REPENTANCE/CONFESSION: People should come to Confession at the minimum of twice a year; once during the advent fast before Christmas and once during the great fast before Easter. For those who receive Communion every week, their participation in the sacrament of Confession should be more frequent (at least four times a year). Once again, if someone is ignoring and choosing not to come to Confession at all, I would ask you not come to Communion and speak with me so we can work out what deters you from coming to Confession. I will not refuse Communion to those who still want to receive because I realize there is a long history in this parish of people who don’t go to Confession and receive Communion. Love, patience, prayer and education are the solutions to changing this habit, not legislation and a hammer.
• MORALS AND BELIEFS ABOUT THE FAITH: People should not be receiving Communion if they are committing major sins, living a lifestyle that is contrary to the teachings of the Church; especially if they are not repentant about it. Having an abortion, doing physical harm, or adultery are examples of major sins. Unmarried couples of the opposite sex or couples of the same sex who are sexually active or living together in a non-platonic relationship, should not be coming to Communion until they have come to Confession and repented of the sin. If anyone has rejected and renounced any of the beliefs of the Orthodox Christian Faith as defined in the Nicene Creed one should not be receiving Holy Communion until one can once again reaffirm those beliefs in the sacrament of Confession.
• PRAYER: Endeavor to keep a public and private prayer rule as part of preparing to receive the Eucharist. The public prayer refers to coming to the cycle of services the parish offers throughout the year. When taking a vacation during the summer, don’t take a three month vacation from Christ and the Church. Find a church to attend while on vacation. Do not forget to say your morning and evening prayers each day, this is your private prayer rule.
Finally I can’t reiterate how important we do all the above for the right reasons. I have said time and time again, we could do all of the above and be no closer to Christ and His Church if we have the self righteous mind of the Pharisee who uses his self justification to find fault with others. If our goal in fasting, confession, prayer, and living a moral life, is not to seek God, not to hunger for Christ, and not to do it in love, then we will only condemn ourselves before God because of our arrogance and self serving motivation. The way to approach preparation for Communion is to do it with the idea of esteeming all others as being better than ourselves and to acknowledge as St. Paul did that “I am the chief of sinners.” This concludes my series of reflections on this above topic. Take care, and God bless you, Fr. Paul.