A little boy named Jacob sat on the steps, waiting for his mother and brother to walk with him to town. His mother, worried he would dirty his Sunday clothes, told him not to stray from the porch until she came outside. But while Jacob waited, his younger brother came down to the porch and they got into a fight. Both boys ended up in the dirt, their clothes torn and sullied. A couple minutes later, the boys heard the tell-tale jingle of the ice cream truck. Their fight forgotten, they rushed back into the house to find their mother and ask her for some coins. “Just look at yourselves,” the mother chastised when she met them at the door. “You’re in no condition to ask for anything after what you’ve done.”
Many Orthodox Christians often say the same to themselves when they think about receiving Holy Communion. I’m in no condition to receive today. I shouldn’t take Communion. I’m not good enough. When is someone in condition to receive Holy Communion? Are we ever good enough?
Are we good enough?
The sort of feeling I just described? This is the approach we should take when we think about the Eucharist. If we come to Holy Communion with the feeling that we do deserve it, the sin of pride has poisoned us; this proves that we do not, in fact, deserve Communion at all.
Put simply, we will never be “good enough” if the measure of being good enough relies on meeting a set of criteria. In other words, if “good enough” means that we have not sinned, that we have prayed constantly in preparation for the Eucharist, and that we have fasted prior to approaching the chalice, we will never, ever be good enough.
We must remember that when Christ calls us to Holy Communion, He does not call us to perfection. Instead, He calls us to repentance. We must confess our sins and receive the Lord’s forgiveness on a regular basis if we hope to be cleansed and made worthy, though unworthy, to receive Him. It is Christ who makes us worthy, not ourselves. As He says, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37).
How to prepare for Holy Communion
While it is the Grace of God that makes us worthy to receive the Eucharist when all is said and done, we should all make an effort to prepare our souls and bodies to receive this blessed sacrament. Below we list a few suggestions for what you can do to prepare yourself to receive during the next liturgy you participate in. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Strive to live the Christian life
- Go to Confession (or at the very least confess your sins to God in personal prayer)
- Fast from midnight the night before (no food or drink)
- Attend a Vespers service
- Say the Pre-Communion prayers (you can find these in any Orthodox prayer book; read either the evening or morning before liturgy)
- Arrive on-time to liturgy, and attend Matins/Orthros if possible
In humility, we must acknowledge that without Christ we can do nothing. It is through His forgiveness and His Grace that we become worthy of receiving the Eucharist. But that does not mean we should not also do all we can to prepare ourselves in both body and soul.