In the Orthodox Church, the faithful gather together at the Divine Liturgy as one community, to pray, to read the Holy Scriptures, to proclaim God’s word, and to remember Christ and His all saving passion, death and resurrection. The culmination of the Divine Liturgy is the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is also known as Holy Communion. ‘Eucharist’ in Greek means thanksgiving. We thank God for all that He has done in making, saving and glorifying the world. The Eucharist is offered every Sunday (the Day of the Lord), as well as on Feast days and at the Pre-Sanctified Liturgies during Great Lent.
It is rarely celebrated daily, except in monasteries. The Holy Eucharist was instituted at the Last “Mystical” Supper. Jesus took bread, blessed, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat, this is My body.” He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28) The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ, His true Body and Blood mystically present in the bread and wine which are consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This was made clear by Jesus when He said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)
This mystery defies analysis and explanation in purely rational and logical terms … it is indeed a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven which is ‘not of this world’. This is why it is at the centre of the church’s life, everything leads to it and all things flow from it. Holy Communion is given only to baptised members of the Orthodox faith. It is provided in a spoon containing a small piece of the Holy Bread (consecrated earlier during the service of the “Proskomedia”), together with a portion of the consecrated wine. It is received standing.
A strict fast is observed during the week (Wednesday and Friday) and from the night before, with nothing being eaten or drunk after waking in the morning and prior to Holy Communion. Those who have not communed receive a small piece of unconsecrated bread called the Antidoron at the end of the service, as an expression of love and fellowship. None of us are worthy to commune the Body and Blood of Christ but we need it as medicine for our souls and bodies. We become part of the Mystical Body of Christ by our communion of the Holy Eucharist, united with Christ and each other as a church. Only by belonging to the Church can we attain salvation unto eternal life.
Source: Lychnos October-November 2019