The Sacrament of Holy Communion is Sacrament by which the believer eats the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, presented by Bread and Wine. This Sacrament has the greatest importance among the Seven Church Sacraments. It is sometimes called the ‘Mystery of Mysteries’ or the ‘Crown of Sacraments’; for all the Sacraments are crowned by the Eucharist.
The person baptized must receive Communion directly after Baptism.
The repentant person must receive Communion after having confessed.
The person who marries must receive Communion after the wedding, (which must take place between the Matins and Holy Mass), according to the original Rite of Matrimony. Also, whoever is ordained with any priestly rank must receive Communion following the Holy Mass of his ordination.
The Lord Jesus instituted the holy Eucharist on Covenant Thursday, in the Upper Room of Zion, shortly before His arrest and trial. “He took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat, this is My Body, then He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to His disciples saying, Drink from it, all of you, for this is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28), and our teacher St Paul repeats the same words in 1 Corinthians (11:23-25).
The Sacrament of Holy Communion has many benefits, such as :
Abiding in Christ according to His precious promise:”He who eats My Flesh, and drinks My Blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56). By receiving this Sacrament we become members of His Body, of His Flesh and of His Bones (Ephesians 5:30), and we also become partakers of the Divine Nature, (2 Peter 1:4).
It gives us the promise of eternal life : “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day. He who eats this Bread will live forever” (John 6:54,58).
It provides growth in the Spirit and spiritual perfection and life in Jesus Christ, for He said:”For My Flesh is food indeed and My Blood is drink indeed …. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me” (John 6:55,57).
As food develops the body and keeps it healthy, so too the spiritual food, which is the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, strengthens the soul so that it may grow continually in grace.
It provides remedy to the soul, body and spirit, as we say in the Offertory Mystery: That they (Holy Body and Precious Blood) may become to us all for participation and healing and salvation for our souls, bodies and our spirits.
Partaking of the Communion without worthiness causes weakness, sickness and death, for as St Paul said : “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30).
Also Communion received worthily and with preparation results in health, and strength for our bodies and souls. Our holy church fathers called Communion ‘the remedy for the death of sin’.
Communion results in our salvation and remission of sins; as mentioned in the final Confession in the liturgy : “Given for our salvation, remission of sins and eternal life to those who partake of Him”.
By repentance and Confession before the priest we are granted the remission of the sins we have confessed, but in Communion we are granted remission of sins that we are unaware of, including the sins of lust that we are not conscious of. Communion is the washing and cleaning of the repentant’s heart from all sins, as we read in the Book of Revelation about those redeemed and saved who are, “The ones who come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
Communion gives a person immunity against sin. Material food gives him health and immunity against bacteria and viruses that attack him. Likewise, partaking of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ gives the spirit immunity and inaccessibility against the viruses of sins, Satanic warfare and bodily lusts, so the person lives in victory in his spiritual struggle. The Psalmist says : “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5). This verse was a prophecy about the table of Communion and its benefits for victory against our enemies.
The introduction to the Litanies is as follows : “We ask You O our Master, to partake of Your holies for the purification of our souls, our bodies and our spirits. That we may become one body and one spirit, and may have a share and an inheritance with all the saints who have pleased You since the beginning…”
We find many benefits of Communion in this prayer :
It gives purification for our souls, our bodies and our spirits. St Paul advises us, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
It provides the unity of the body and spirit, as St. Paul our teacher says : “For we being many, are one bread and one body, for we all partake of that one body” (1 Corinthians 10:17).
As the bread that is changed into the Body of Christ was previously grains of wheat having become bread after much grinding, kneading and baking, and as the wine that is changed into the Blood of Christ was previously many grapes pressed to become liquid, so too all the community of believers, partaking of the Holy Body and Precious Blood, become one in Christ. For this reason, in the Gregorian Mass we pray, “May the unity of heart that is for love, be rooted in us,” and this is achieved through partaking of the same Body and Blood of our Lord.
It gives us an eternal inheritance with all the saints who have pleased the Lord by their good deeds, and this is our greatest longing and aim of our struggle; to please the Lord and granted an inheritance amongst His saints. Communion helps us achieve this goal.