Thursday, January 16, 2014




“Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you . . .”

A Commentary on the references to the Eucharist.

Belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity of one nature and one essence, this is part of our primary belief and knowledge of God,  but belief is only a starting point of the journey of faith which leads  to the eternal kingdom.  We repeatedly seal ourselves with the sign of the Cross invoking the names of the Father Son and Holy Spirit which  identifies us as Orthodox Christians. We learned from unwritten Holy Tradition, dating back to the fourth century , how to make the sign of the Cross. Without our sacred tradition we would make no progress toward the ultimate goal which is everlasting life. 

     The evil one raises every type of obstacle to hamper and scuttle our  progress, for he is the hater of God and man.  He is maliciously skilled and extensively experienced , and  performs his deceptive work of hampering our progress, and we could not prevent him ourselves,  for we could do nothing without Jesus Christ, who has already fought and won the victorious battle. He overthrew and despoiled the authority of the Evil One. He is the only God man, the Head of the Church, the good and kind Savior, who out of  sacrificial love, taught us genuine love and He remains the  all-powerful ally, of those who approach him with fear, faith and devotion.

     Christian life does not stand still and we must make progress. Progress can best be understood, as a starting point and a known goal at the outset.  We may fall but we must always get up and get back on the royal path.  In Orthodox life, we can either progress toward that goal, or we can stagnate,  retrogress, or go astray, but we can return  and remain on the right path and strive toward our goal which is: “to  reach the stature of the fullness of Christ,” For this we need help, hence Paul writes: “ Come unto me all you who are weary and heavily laden and you will find rest for your souls. Learn of me for I am meek and humble in my heart.”

     In our Orthodox Faith, is found that an increasingly greater beauty and majesty awaits us, for Orthodox Christian life is not a system of rules, of do this or do that,  but is a living and divinely brilliant and fiery faith. Being  filled with  delightful work as during periods of prayer and fasts, followed by wonderful jubilation filled with joy during feasts, for our journey goes from feast to feast, in happy celebration. 

  The work of  Orthodox Christians  is more rewarding and productive than any other work  or  profession. It is also filled with pleasant discoveries and knowledge.   Like a new born babe,  we go through rapidly changing stages of spiritual life, just like a babe goes through different stages  until reaching adulthood.  We learn to speak to God in the language of humility.  We were the new robe and live the newness of life. Spiritual life transforms us, then like the infant is similar in growth pattern, going from one delightful stage to another, we rejoice in bringing joy to our parents, we and we bring joys to the heavens.  We begin  with weak credulous faith which increases to  powerful and logical faith. We begin with a rule of prayer and advance to love of prayer, and then to unceasing prayer. There is much more to Orthodoxy than  attending Church services.  Spiritual life  is a way of daily newness of life wherein, out of love, we freely govern ourselves by the commandments of Christ.

     Living an active spiritual life can even add many good years to this present life, due to our acquisition of the virtue of  temperance, which benefits  the  health of  body and soul. Our years  are determined, not by ourselves, nor by exercise, doctors, and hospitals alone, but by the Lord in heaven, who has already assigned us the number of our days . We must be careful for this  present life was not given us to flutter around and over indulge in pleasures, such as  entertainment, sports events, politics,  eating and drinking, and just “enjoying life”. Those who think and live this way, have   forfeited their inheritance.  For everything there is a time as Scripture says.  There is a time to live and a time to die. a time to feast and a time to fast, a time to rejoice and a time to weep; A time for us to act and a time for us to be judged.


    Most people consume their daily meals and enjoy them, and this food and water is necessary for  nourishment and  good health.  This food makes possible the accomplishment of physical work at our jobs or profession.   In the same way that physical food supplies the energy for accomplishment of physical work,  so the Eucharist is the perfect and holy food for nourishing both soul and body. Without this food from heaven  the soul will languish and  deprived of it can  affect the body’s health. The Bread and the cup which came down from heaven, which is Christ, must be consumed or the soul will surely die.
   Those who refuse to believe that Christ is  food and drink, that He is partaken of  by the faithful,  have no part in everlasting life, as the Lord clearly told His disciples and the Jews. Scripture emphatically  declares that the Eucharist is in truth the living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Those who are not in contact with the true Church declare that the Eucharist is just plain food, and this idea reaches and weakens some Orthodox Christian who are not well informed. The testimony from Scriptures in this article testifies like a loud trumpet that the Eucharist is epicenter of true Christian worship! Also it is referred to in all of the Gospels and St. Paul extensively speaks of this in his first Epistle to the Corinthians.

    The Lord is the living bread which came down from heaven. Bread is something that is to be eaten. Christ certainly means that His Flesh and Blood are heavenly food and drink, by recalling that “your fathers did eat manna”  (which came from heaven) and are dead. But, some will say,  those who eat the true bread and drink of the cup also die!  The Theotokos, the Apostles and Saints together with the martyrs all died.  So why did Christ say: “This is the bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of it he shall not die?  Here He is speaking of the second death, the death of the soul, for the soul will never cease to exist, and is either raised in the resurrection or cast into the lake of fire and sulfur, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.


  On a daily basis, we see the first death all around us, accidents, funeral processions, ambulances, are constant reminders us of  the death of the body, but there is another death which few  know about or show the least concern. This is the fearful second death, which every person will believe in upon leaving this world, for then each of us will remember all their evil deeds,  and in that dark, cold, and bitter place, they will experience  the worst thing that can possibly happen, the agony beyond all agonies  –  separation from God and His merciful kindness. 

The second death lacks any consolation making it incessantly torturous, for there are the constant regret and extreme sadness, followed by the  inability to return  the love of God, which will pierce our souls like a sword, gnawing away our souls like the worm that never dies. It is misery worse than all miseries and calamity beyond  calamities.   It is being hungry and unable to eat, thirsty and unable to drink, tired and unable to rest, pitch black darkness with no source of light.  Our companions will be the wicked Devil, evil demons, and the wicked people  from the ages. To experience this eternally where time stands still, it would have been better had we not been born. In the second death, all of our passions accompany us inflicting  even more torment, and this is not from God, but because we with our free will have sinned and never repented, it is of our own doing. The writer  firmly believes that the full extent to describe the self-suffering is beyond words to describe, and this is but a feeble attempt.

     “And I saw the dead small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened and another book was opened which is the book of life, and the dead were judged by the things written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in them; and death and Hades deliver-ed up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, each according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
     The “books” are the consciences of each person which testifies to everything we have done, which is also irrefutable, and we know that even now in this world, it approves or censures us according to our thoughts and actions.  It is not our own voice, but the voice of God very silently praising or chastising us, according to our deeds. In “the book of life”  is inscribed those who feared, obeyed, and loved God with all their hearts, honored His Prophets, and  believed in Jesus Christ, His Crucifixion and third day Resurrection and being baptized into His Church, kept all of His commandments.

   The Protestants cry out from the hilltops that “they are saved” and accomplished this by reading it in the Bible as they interpret it, but they ignore Christ and the Church He founded which is also the author of the Bible.  They claim, that they need no church but only the Bible, then by quoting certain particular verses, and ignoring others they say that the Bible has saved them for it  declares that “by faith are you saved”, then they proclaim themselves as being saved, Armed with this heresy they proceed to preach this error to the Orthodox, asking them if they are saved like themselves,. But they fail to honor the very Bible upon which they place all their hope, for there they will see how wrong they are.  Although faith saves us, we will not be judged by faith alone but what we did with that faith: “And they were judged each according to his works”,  and as they have chosen to reject the  works of faith  and the true Church, so they will stand naked and ashamed on the day of judgment.


   “The cowardly and unbelieving and abominable, and murderous, and fornicators, soothsayers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 20:12-15, 21:8). 

   Why will all these sinners be condemned and what is their crime? It is not the sins they have committed, for some saints have committed the same sins. It is that they do not come to Christ and His Church and, repenting,  confess their sins to the Priests, for without this there is no forgiveness. Christ did not say to the people, confess your sins directly to God and He will forgive you: He delegated the authority to forgive sins to his Church, first to His disciples, then to His Bishops and Priests, saying: “He breathed upon them and said unto them, receive Holy Spirit; whosoever’s sin you forgive they are forgiven unto them, and whosoever’s you  retain are retained.” This authority and power is found only with the true Christ in His true Church.


 “Amen, amen, I say unto you: He that believes in me has everlasting life. I am that bread of life.
Your  fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

   In exchange for a small effort on our part,  the Lord is offering eternal life. When the Jews ate the manna that fell from heaven, as they ate it, they were delighted for each one would taste according to his taste, sweet, sour, spicy etc. It would taste to suit  their taste,  showings God’s thoughtfulness and love for man. Instead of manna, Christ the living God becomes a man like us, and He is the Bread that came down from heaven. Just a drop of His blood could sanctify the whole world. As when he fed thousands of people with a few loaves, his quantity is limitless.  When we believe in Christ, we also are certain that He is the Truth, and He cries out to everyone: “If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”  The offering and partaking is the most important parts of our worship in Orthodoxy, and is offered in Orthodox Churches throughout the world.
                                                                                                               HARDNESS OF HEART CAUSES UNBELIEF

The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  Then Jesus said unto them,: Amen, amen, I say unto you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me, and I in him.  As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father, so that he who eats me he shall live by me.  This is that bread which comes down from heaven; not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead; he that eats of this bread shall live forever.  These things He said in the synagogue as he taught in Capernaum.

In these words is seen the great love and mercy of our God, for He who is the Lord and Creator of all that exists, offers himself to us, that we may eat Him as food, for the body of God deifies me and the divine blood cleanses my sins!   “For my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me, and I in him.”

Perhaps we fail to comprehend what Christ is saying!  For if we fully realized what He says, we ought to be jumping up and down in excitement and thanksgiving to Him. We would rush to keep every commandment and avoid losing this greatest of treasures, worth much more than all the treasures on earth, the fabulous treasure of everlasting life!  Drawing near to God is perpetual joy and sweetness beyond comprehension. To be near God is the  ecstasy that is immeasurable, it is the joy above all joys. 


   Many of His disciples. When they heard this saying said: This is a hard saying, who can bear it?   When Jesus knew in himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said to them: Does this scandalize you?  What and if you shall see the Son of man ascend up to where He was before? It is the spirit which enlivens; the flesh benefits nothing; the words that I speak unto you, are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning wh they were that did not believe, and who should betray Him.  And He said: Therefore, I say unto you that no man can come unto me unless this were given to him of the Father. From that time many of His disciples went back and no longer walked with Him.  Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will you also go away Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal; life. And we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:47-69).

While Peter replies to Christ’s question: “Will you also go away?” Peter responded: “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”  Why did the crowd walk away?  Because they could not accept that Christ could give himself to them as food and drink. Because they could never accept the divine Eucharist or Holy Communion.  Because they could not understand it and were unable to comprehend His words. Because  they were living in their  sins while judging the Godman, ignoring His goodness, His kindness, His holiness  and the many marvelous works He had done among them, showing that their spiritual eyes were blinded.


“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and said: Take eat, this is my body. And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” 
(Mat. 26:29).

  The word for bread in the original Greek of the Bible is “artos” which only  means leavened bread. Unleavened bread is called by the Greeks  azymes, which  means “without yeast” The Orthodox use leavened bread as did Christ, but the Latins changed to unleavened wafers.   Before the Jewish Passover, leavened  items had to be removed from premises. Christ did not celebrate a Jewish Passover as He was crucified and dead before Passover, at this time these were preparation days.   Scripture says that they hastened to take Christ’s Body down before the Passover, according to Scripture. Again the Latins claimed that Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover, which He did not. The Jewish Passover must be eaten standing and dressed  with boots on, ready to depart. At the Mystical Supper, Christ and His disciples were relaxed sitting around table, in place of the sacrificial lamb, the Lamb of God is offering himself as food for the faithful. He clearly demonstrated a new Passover or Pascha, saying:  Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” 

Do you want beauty? Who is more beautiful than Christ who through His death, destroyed death’s dominion, rose gloriously on the third day resurrection grants to us eternal life?

Do you want food and drink? Eating earthly food we must eat repeatedly to be satisfied, but eating the Bread which came down from heaven we are satisfied beyond measure, and delightfully partake again and again, never being overfilled or left hungry, delighting in partaking, The after effects of such feasting not only do not cause distress, but the soul becomes joyful and happy, struggling to become more sanctified by feasting on  the Flesh and Blood of Christ.

Do you love life? Christ is the source of all life and is called the Lifegiver, who initially gave us our lives and our being, who raises the dead to life, and exalts  the sinners by rendering them pure as described by Isaiah:  “Though your sins are as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.”


“And as they ate, Jesus took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said: Take eat, this is my body. And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank of it.  And He said unto them. This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many”  (Mark 15:22-25).

“The cup of blessing which we bless; is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10: 16-17).

St. Paul uses this question to draw out the affirmative, which is apparent by the rest of the sentence. 
The true Church is the Body of Christ and all true believers eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, and thus become one body, having Christ as its head.

“For I have received from the Lord, that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, he broke it and said: Take eat, this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner he also took the cup, when he had supped, saying: This cup is the new testament in my blood, This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Cor. 11:23-26),

The Old Testament called for the blood of animals to be offered as sacrifice, as Moses commanded.    The blood of animals was not “for the remission of sin” but was simply a “sin offering” For both the priests and the people. But the New Testament is established and sealed with the flesh and blood of the Godman, for without this the covenant would not be effective.  Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”   The sacrifice of the Eucharist is a bloodless sacrifice, nothing is being killed, for it is the sacrifice of Christ perpetuated in time. 

 It was necessary that Christ die on the Cross, that He be mocked and spat upon, and all the other things which were spoken of by the Prophets, for His death on the Cross is a completely new death, for how can life be put to death and how can death hold the Life of all men ? The death of Jesus Christ crucified on the Cross is the death of  death itself, and we sing: “Behold through the Cross joy has come into the world!” And on Pascha:  Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb, bestowing life.



   Wherefore, whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.  For he who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this reason, many are weak and sickly among you, and some have even fallen asleep (died)” (1 Cor. 11:23-30).

    In the Divine Liturgy, the Priest calls out to the faithful: “With the fear of God, with faith and love, draw near.” If we have fear of God, we will strive to keep every commandment, we will strive to avoid even the smallest of sins as  our Lord commanded. Fear of God means to be well  prepared and not partake as if it were just bread and wine. But fear of God should make us think: “it is fire that burns the unworthy!”  We are called  to approach with faith: “I believe Lord and I confess that this is your own immaculate body and your own precious blood . . .”  Faith is the mother of hope and love, and in communing of Christ we should love Him above everything and everybody, for He first loved us  and by His sacrifice, He taught us the true sacrificial love. He is our God and we glorify Him, the God of our fathers, and we exalt Him, for He although he is  God He did not hesitate to give himself up to death on the Cross in the flesh, for He is  our God and the Savior of our souls.

 Partaking of Holy Communion without preparation prayer and fasting, lacking preparation and thanksgiving prayers, and not struggling to live without sin, places us in grave danger of eating and drinking the Eucharist unworthily. It is not a divine potion which sends us to heaven. It is spiritual food, enabling us to repent and ascetically struggle for holiness, which strengthens us  and requires that we do only good and then  approach with fear, faith and love. If we struggle to live a holy life, the Eucharist is our greatest help, and will give us eternal life.

     The preparation prayers as well as the thanksgiving prayers are very helpful to increase our faith, hope and love. Here are a few excerpts: 

Pre-Communion Prayers:

Tremble O man, when you see the deifying Blood
For it is a coal that burns the unworthy.
The Body of God both deifies and nourishes;
It deifies the spirit and wondrously nourishes the mind.

Behold I approach the Divine Communion
O Creator, let me not be burned by communicating,
For you are fire which burns the unworthy,
But purify me from every stain.

Post-Communion Prayers

Master and Lover of man, who did die for us and arise 
and bestowed upon us these your awesome and lifegiving                 mysteries for the well being of our souls and bodies, 
grant that these may  even be to me for the healing of my 
soul and body; for the averting of everything hostile, 
for the enlightenment of the  eyes of my heart, for peace, 
for the powers of my soul, for  unashamed faith, 
for sincere love, for the fullness of wisdom, 
for the  keeping of your commandments, 
for an increase of your divine grace, and
for familiarity with your kingdom, that being kept 
by them in your holiness, I may ever remember your 
grace and never live or myself but for 
you our Lord and Benefactor.

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