“Holy Communion is not only a proof of Christ’s love, it is also a guarantee of the enjoyment of the Kingdom of Heaven”

Knowing that the hour of His sacrifice had arrived, our Savior Jesus Christ wanted to leave us before His Passion a greater proof of His love. Therefore He established the great mystery of the Divine Eucharist.

The revelation of this love, which was made during the last moments before His death, makes a deep impression in the hearts of men, and is reckoned exceedingly precious. For the same reason, men also usually bequeath gifts to the persons dearest to them in their wills in memory of the love they had for them. “But Thou, O my Jesus, when Thou didst leave this world, what didst Thou leave us in remembrance of Thy love? Thou didst give us Thy whole self. Thou didst leave us Thy body, Thy blood, Thy soul, Thy Divinity – in a word, Thy whole self, holding nothing back.” And as a guarantee in case we should doubt His love, we find in this mystery an obvious proof of it, as if when He established it the Redeemer was saying: “Souls of Christians, attend to this mystery, because by it I give you My whole self. Having such a proof in your hands, therefore, you are allowed no doubt that I love you greatly.”

One saint named this mystery “love above all other love”, because this gift has within it all the other gifts of the Lord – namely, the gifts of creation, deliverance, and eternal glory. For Holy Communion is not only a proof of Christ’s love, it is also a guarantee of the enjoyment of the Kingdom of Heaven, which, as our Church emphasizes, He desires to give us.

The Prophet Isaiah wanted to make known to the whole world the thoughts full of love which God showed in order to draw the love of men to Himself…. “How,” says the sacred Augustine, “does it not appear as madness for one to say, ‘Eat My flesh, drink My blood?'”

When Christ first spoke to His disciples about this mystery, certain of them could not believe it, and withdrew from Him., saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” In this which the men could neither think about nor believe, the exceptional love of Christ was realized. “Take, eat,” He said to His disciples, and through them to us all. He exhorted us to do this, even promising us entrance to His Kingdom: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life eternal.” Finally, He even used the threat of hell against one who does not wish to partake of this mystery. All these exhortations, promises, and threats come only from the fervent desire He has to give Himself to us through Holy Communion.

But why does Christ so greatly desire us to receive Him by Holy Communion? Because love desires and has as its goal our union with His Divinity.

By Holy Communion Christ is united with the soul, and the soul herself is united with Christ. This union is completely real. Christ gives nothing with so much love as He gives this mystery, giving Himself as food in order to unite Himself with the hearts of the faithful. With this fervent love has Christ desired to be united with us, that we might make up one being with Him.

“O divine Bridegroom of our souls, through the mystery of love Thou hast willed that Thy heart and our own become one single heart, inseparably united!”

As Christ seeks the union of us with Himself, so also we for this love must frequently partake of Divine Communion, according, however, to the judgement of our spiritual father, to whom we must confess. In any case, absolutely no obstacle can exist to continual Holy Communion, which again the spiritual father will regulate.

Nothing in this world is so beneficial as Holy Communion. The eternal Father established Christ as the keeper of this matter, and gave all the divine treasures to His disposal. Consequently, when Christ comes to the soul through Holy Communion, He brings with Him infinite treasures of Grace, and after Holy Communion everyone can say that “all good things came to me together with this mystery.”

St. Dionysios teaches that the mystery of the Divine Eucharist is the most effective means of the soul’s sanctification.

Through Holy Communion we are freed from our forgivable sins and preserved from deadly ones.

This mystery kindles in our souls divine love. God is love. He is fire which drives from our hearts every earthly inclination; and this fire of divine love which our Christ brought upon the earth seeks nothing else than to see our hearts flaming with divine love.

Holy Communion draws us so much to love, that when we retire after partaking of it we become terrible to the demons.

Some say that they receive Communion infrequently because they feel but little love for God within themselves. “Why, therefore, since you are cold, do you distance yourself from this divine fire? On the contrary, since you are cold you should approach this mystery very often, if indeed you desire to love Christ.”

When one is sick, one needs doctors so much the more. So also here: for our soul’s healing we must approach its doctor very often.

It is said somewhere that there are two kinds of men who should receive Communion frequently: the perfect, that they may preserve perfection; and the imperfect, that they may reach perfection.

Elder Gerasimos Menagias

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7 Responses to “Holy Communion is not only a proof of Christ’s love, it is also a guarantee of the enjoyment of the Kingdom of Heaven”

  1. My one dislike, disagreement with this article can but serve to emphasize how very much my thoughts are one with the totality of it: I don’t believe any “spiritual fathers” have the right to regulate the approach to the Lord of those who desire Him: He says, “Let the little children come to Me,” and that means all of us who love Him Who is the Father, and no one should presume to let us come to Him less often or less closely than we would, than He desires.

    For the rest of it, I cannot explain how much I like it, how much is my agreement with it.

    This Union is real. He gives Himself to us, body and blood, soul and divinity.

    Even the threat of hell is only so that we may taste Heaven, that is, taste happiness, and having tasted, return to feast in full, not now out of fear of hell, but out of desire and love that casts out all fear and knows no hell.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Raina, I understand your concern about spiritual fathers regulating the communions of believers. Elder Gerasimos was a monk on Mt Athos, where the relationship between spiritual father and spiritual child is judged decisive for growth in the Spirit. One may question, as I do, whether this monastic discipline should be applied to ordinary parish life.

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    • Through regular confession don’t we all allow our spiritual fathers, or whatever we call our father confessors, to regulate our partaking? Because it is within their power to tell us that for the health of our soul we muse be excluded for a time. However, my own parish priest does encourage frequent partaking!

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Hi, Gretchen. I can only offer my personal opinion, which will probably be at odds with many Orthodox priests. If one is fortunate enough to have as one’s spiritual father a genuine staretz, then I agree that one may subject oneself to his counsel regarding the frequence or infrequency of communion. But genuine staretzes are few and far between, and for most of us not within easy driving distance. That means that for 99% of regular Orthodox folk, any spiritual father to which we might be led will be an ordinary priest or monk. He may be more spiritually mature or insightful than others, but usually not. It’s nice to think (as many state) that God provides special charisms to our parish priests and spiritual directors … but we have to be honest about this, too. I know and have known more than my share of parish priests … 😉

        My theological problem here is that I believe too many Orthodox think of the Eucharist in an individualistic way, rather than as the sacramental event that actually creates the Church. Hence I believe that weekly communion is virtually mandatory for the baptized, with the only barrier being grievous or mortal sin. Priests often worry about the nominal faith of their parishioners, but restriction of communion to the “worthy” (whatever that means) is not the way to address the problem.

        As I said, this is only MHO.

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      • I don’t think that’s right. I think Jesus calls us all to Him. And, if we are sick in our souls, does abstaining from the Food which is Spiritual Life, Strength and Health do us any good? If we are being beaten by temptation and the Devil, how does it help us to starve ourselves of our One Refuge? We may abstain from bodily foods and beat our bodies into submission that our spirits may grow in communion with Him, but abstain from Him? He is the Only One who can heal us! He is the Only One who can help us. To restrict our communion with Him is but to harm ourselves.

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        • Robert Fortuin says:

          On the other hand, we don’t want to partake of Christ haphazardly, unprepared, without due consideration of the gravity of our situation, such as people we may have offended, or partaking as a matter of habit. St Paul warned about these and other such problems in the early church related to the holy mysteries. The point is that sometimes a period of abstinence is appropriate, to reflect, to reconcile and be reconciled, to repent, and so forth. In the parish setting sometimes this may take a priest to call this to our attention. These are, I would say, exceptions but true and real nonetheless. For monastics, who voluntarily have submitted to the oversight of their elders, all this is much amplified, which is as Fr. Kimel pointed out above, not applicable to laity – at least not without consideration of the many and substantial differences between the monastic and secular vocations. Nonetheless, with qualification, the monastic calling serves as an enduring model for the ascetic aspect of the Christian vocation. Alas to modern American Christianity the ascetic element is virtually unknown.

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          • I don’t understand how one CAN, believing that it is His Body and Blood, partake without reverence. Are we worthy enough? Holy enough? Not in ourselves ever. Even were we sinless Seraphim, yet One is worthy, One is holy – this is the flesh and blood of God Himself: who but He is worthy to receive it?

            Yet, to partake casually, carelessly?

            The very thought makes me feel like vomiting.

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