WHY DO WE RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION?
HOW DOES HOLY COMMUNION HELP US TO
COME CLOSER TO GOD?
ANGELS CELEBRATING THE DIVINE LITURGY
A human being becomes united with whatever he eats more than with anything else he does in life. Therefore by eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Jesus Christ unites us with Jesus. In this way, we become Christ-like. This, of course, does not make us magically holy. But by uniting us with God in Christ, it strengthens us to be able to endure the great martyrdom of LOVE. For without Holy Communion, dear Lord, I cannot fulfill your commandment “to love one another” and especially to love our enemies. (Luke 6: 27-36). We usually say: “I want to hate my enemies.” On the other hand, if I love unconditionally, most people will take advantage of me; they will betray me and turn against me. And as a result of this, I will either be annihilated or I will stop loving people in obedience to your commandments. I will love only those that love me and have conditional compassion for others. But I will arm myself with your Body and Blood and this will allow me to endure the problems of life and obey your commandments.
When a person receives Holy Communion, a manifold unity takes place with the whole universe. During Holy Communion the whole of creation is transformed. Holy Communion brings together the whole material cosmos which is represented by these two basic foods, bread and wine, which express the relationship of man with the created universe. This is so because there is a purposeful relationship in eating this food. Fr. Alexander Shmemann says that “man lives because he eats.” In other words, when receiving Holy Communion a Christian takes within himself the whole cosmos and is united with it. Secondly this unique food encapsulates the whole of humanity with the supernatural presence of Jesus Christ. In receiving this food the Christian becomes the New Adam. When a Christian takes Holy Communion all human beings are joined together from all eternity. The third reality in Holy Communion is the presence of the complete Godhead because Jesus Christ, as God, is always united with the other two persons of the Holy Trinity. Holy Communion is the reenactment of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ because His Body was tortured and His Blood was spilled. In this act Christ abolished all the sacrifices of the ancient religions and initiated the only true way of worship, the only true sacrifice, the self-sacrifice of Jesus.
This is how we look upon a Christian who receives Holy Communion. Receiving Holy Communion is the highest act of unity that we can achieve as human beings with all of humanity and the whole creation of God. Man also mystically participates in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He also is united to every other person who receives Holy Communion on that particular day because we all receive from the Common Cup.
In reference to the (προσκομιδή-the preparation of the elements for Holy Communion), which is really the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, the priest cuts from the (πρόσφορον-the offering bread) the following portions: the Lamb of God which becomes the consecrated Host, the portion that honors the Holy Mother, portions honoring the angels and the saints. Near the end of this service of preparation the priest commemorates the members of his family and finally he commemorates the names of the living and the dead. These are the names that have been submitted to him by the members of the parish. All of these portions that are taken from the offering bread are placed on the discos (δισκάριον) which eventually end up in the chalice to be consecrated for Holy Communion. When therefore the time comes to dispense Holy Communion to the faithful from the Common Cup of LOVE not only does it unite all of us, but the contents of the chalice become a microcosm of the universe.
Finally we note that the portions of the (πρόσφορον- the offering bread), that become consecrated, symbolize our unity. The prosphoro is round because in symbolizes the universe. Whatever remains from the proskomidi and is not consecrated is cut up into small cubes and is distributed to those who have not received Holy Communion. It is called (άντίδωρον—in place of the Gifts). The practice today is all the faithful in attendance receive the anidoron at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
The Theologian Th. I. Rigniotis, November, 2012
Translated from the Greek and edited by:
+Fr. Costas J. Simones, Waterford, CT, USA, February 11, 2017