Holy Communion or Eucharist is a very significant sacrament. It is being described by the fathers of the Church as a fire, that either warms up our hearts and souls or burns and condemns the unprepared and unworthy. Holy Communion is not a magic ritual, but a sacrament of the Church that saves us. It is offered “for remission of sins and life everlasting.” Therefore, it is imperative that we prepare before receiving Holy Communion, in order to be cleansed vessels that will welcome the grace of God for salvation not for condemnation. The following articles are ways to make our preparation more effective:
1) Fasting: Fasting has been instituted by the Lord. Jesus fasted for 40 days and He taught us that we cannot overcome the powers of evil and temptation without prayer and fasting. Also Moses fasted for the same period of time before receiving the 10 Commandments. Fasting involves giving up certain types of food (dairy, fish and meat on most fasting days, even oil and wine on the strict fasting days) and giving up bad habits (smoking, cursing, gossiping, spending too much time for TV & video games, etc.). It helps us physically and spiritually; this way we cultivate our discipline and we exercise our virtue of obedience to God. The first sin of Adam and Eve was their disobedience to fast!
2) Prayer: There are prayers that we are prompted to say before and after Holy Communion. Prayer is not just an act at the beginning and the end of our day, or before and after meals; it is a way of life. Praying for others allows us to forgive and love and to have a spiritual connection with God. Prayer is our communication with Heaven, while on earth. Jesus (a perfect God and a perfect human being) prayed fervently before the Crucifixion, before He begun His public ministry and many other times.
3) Confession: One of the directives of Jesus to His disciples is to forgive the trespasses of people. Priests, the successors of the apostles, offer confession as an instrument to cleanse our souls and minds. The sacrament of forgiveness makes us pure, as the day we were baptized.
4) Worship: Before we come to Church to receive Holy Communion, we have to make sure that we come to the necessary services and we worship God frequently. It is important that we come to Church early, to receive the spiritual inspiration and cultivation that will lead to the precious gifts of Eucharist. When in Church, we need to be attentive and aware of the gravity of the sacrament. We show our love and respect to God by our attire, demeanor and posture.
5) Respect: As we approach the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we need to repeat the phrase: “Lord, remember me in Your Kingdom.” We make the sign of the cross and say our baptismal name clearly. We cannot have lipstick, since it would go on the spoon and in the chalice. We have to be careful and open our mouth well, so that there is no spillage. The Communion cloth has to be under our chin and level. We wipe our lips well, we make the sign of the cross and we carefully walk back to our seats. It is not appropriate to greet people or talk while waiting for Communion; others are praying at that time. This is a time when we approach our Savior; a time of solemn prayer and respect.
6) Transformation: Holy Communion changes us and our lives. We should be mindful, after receiving, of the Gifts we are bearing and live our lives on a more holy basis. For at least 8 hours after receiving, we cannot spit, loose blood, chew gum or go to the dentist. The precious elements are still in our mouths. Most importantly, we need to be transformed in the way we think, speak and act. The Eucharist is the sacrament of salvation and all faithful need Christ. After receiving, we are to read the thanksgiving prayers and live our lives based on Christ-centered ideals.