In the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the
Holy Ghost. How mysterious the Church is; one at the
core, one at the root and yet so painfully,
In the communion service, in the Liturgy, after the
words "The Holy Things to Them that are Holy" the
priest breaks the Holy Bread, already consecrated,
which is the Body of Christ and says "The Lamb of
God is broken and distributed, which being ever
broken, never is divided but halloweth them that
Is that an image of the Church in history? If it is
true that all those who believe in Christ, all those
who through baptism have died with Christ and risen
with Him, if it is true that all those are at one
with Him, then it is true also that there is unity;
but it is also so patently true that we are divided
on all levels.
Dare we say that we are so one with each other that
nothing can break the bonds of solidarity and of
love? Can we say that the Churches which call
themselves Christ's own are so one that there is no
divergence of faith, no competition, suspicion,
mutual dislike, all things that are unthinkable in
one body possessed of one spirit which is called to
be to the world a revelation of the fact that God
came into the world, into a world divided, a world
broken and, like the key of harmony in music,
brought everything into oneness, is it thinkable?
And yet so it is.
We may say that no one but the saints can experience
that oneness of which we speak. But this is not
enough. To say that only the saints experience it
does not mean that we have a right to remain
outsiders to it, and in our every day life it is
dividedness and separation that we perceive so
painful. Can we say that we love one another?
Certainly not. We love a few, we ignore the many, we
dislike or hate a number of people. Are we at one?
Yes, at blessed moments, when prayer takes over,
when God takes over and we forget ourselves and one
another in a way, to see one another only in Christ;
but otherwise, no.
It makes each of us question: have I a right
to come to the Table of the Lord? Yes, I may be
proclaiming to the extent to which I know and
understand it, the wholeness and integrity of the
Orthodox Faith, but it is not enough to proclaim
things with our lips; one must identify with them in
such a way that what we proclaim, profess with our
lips, must be our life. We can be heretics, we can
be apostates of the Church and of Christ through the
way in which we live; and this is why the Apostle
says to us "Beware! beware! be attentive to the way
in which you live" lest when you come to Communion
you be condemned, lest you come to Communion and
cannot commune with the God to whom you have come.
Saint Paul has some very frightening words about it
when he says that we should be aware of how we
receive the Body and Blood of Christ, because it is
fire, we may be consumed in it.
Perhaps the most tragic thing is that we are not
aware either of the fact that the Body and Blood of
Christ are fire, or of the fact that by receiving
them unworthily we are consumed, we are dried and
gradually reduced to cinders. But there is also
another saying, of Saint Symeon the New Theologian,
as a warning; anyone who comes to communion without
a living awareness of Christ Whom he is meeting in a
mystery, receives neither the Body nor the Blood of
Christ, because in His mercy Christ allows him to
receive nothing but bread and wine. Is not that
And when we think of ourselves and ask ourselves,
who of us can receive the Holy Gifts? Yes, we must
profess the Orthodox faith, we must belong to the
Church, but this is not enough. We must belong to it
through life; all our life must be in accordance
with Christ's life, our thoughts with His thoughts,
our hearts attune to His heart, our will at one with
His will; not perfectly because we are still
incapable of this, but at least in longing, in
determination, in a passionate, stern effort to
overcome in us anything which is alien to this.
Who is entitled to come? Certainly no one who is not
here for the beginning of the service, because the
liturgy is not something done by the priest, it is
something that takes place within the community, and
every member of the community is active in its
fulfilment; and so, if you do not care to be here
from the very beginning of it, do not dare to come
to communion. There is no place in it for you. If we
discover hatred, rejection of anyone, refuse
inwardly to make our peace, within our heart, within
our will, within our life and action, with anyone,
we cannot dare come to corn-come (?) to communion.
Christ has said "If you bring your gift to the
sanctuary and feel you have ought (?) against
someone, leave your gift, go and make your peace",
and only then come, because otherwise it is
condemnation that we will receive, claiming a right
to be at one with Christ while we reject someone for
whom He became man, for whom He died upon the cross.
So let us be very, very careful. It is not greed
that should bring us to communion, it is not the
desire to receive something for ourselves, it is a
desire to unite ourselves with Christ so as to be in
conformity with Him in thought, in heart, in mind,
in action, in everything which is us, and ask Him to
make it possible by His power and grace. So again,
again let us think of it. Is it possible that you
have come simply in order to receive and not in
order to share with Christ His own destiny. Can we
say in the Lord's prayer "forgive us as we forgive"
if there is no forgiveness in us, and in that case
how can we come to receive communion?
Let us reflect a little lest the warning of Saint
Symeon the New Theologian and the more terrifying
warning of Saint Paul come upon us. Amen.