A little boy 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 the boy waited, his 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 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.”
Many Orthodox Christians often say the same to themselves when they think about receiving Holy Communion. I’m not worthy of Holy Communion today. I didn’t fast. I didn’t [insert excuse here].
When (if ever) is someone worthy of receiving Holy Communion? We explore that question in this post!
Being worthy of the Eucharist
The feeling of unworthiness we just described? This is how people should feel when thinking about the Eucharist. If we come to Holy Communion thinking that we’ve earned it or deserve it, we need get out of the Communion line and go back to our seat. The sin of pride has poisoned us; we do not deserve Communion at all.
The Eucharist is a blessed gift given to us by God. It is the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the bread of eternal life that cleanses our sins and infuses us with the divine grace of God. No matter what we do, we will never be worthy of such a gift. Especially if we think that not eating certain foods and saying a certain number of prayers is enough to make us worthy of the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Talk about hubris!
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 Holy Communion. 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 we should prepare for Communion
It is the Grace of God that makes us worthy to receive the Eucharist when all is said and done. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all make an effort to prepare our souls and bodies to receive this blessed sacrament. Below are a few suggestions to help you prepare yourself to receive during the next liturgy you celebrate. 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, except for health reasons)
- 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 Holy Communion. But that does not mean we should not also do all we can to prepare ourselves in both body and soul.