By Priest Gregory Naumenko
"If thou desirest, O man, to eat the Body of the Master, approach with fear lest thou be burnt, for It is fire."
"Behold, I approach the Divine Communion. O Creator, let me not be burnt by communicating, for Thou art Fire consuming the unworthy." (From the Prayers Before Holy Communion)
Those who desire to have Confession and to commune of the Holy Mysteries must prepare properly, according to the rules instituted by the Holy Orthodox Church. Namely:
Those who desire to commune on Sunday must begin preparation from the previous Monday by at least being continually conscious of the fact that they are preparing to partake of the Most precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Explanation: In the 32nd chapter of the Typicon (book of church rules) we read: "When one desires to commune of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, it is most proper for him/her to keep properly the entire previous week; to remain in fasting, prayer and complete sobriety from the previous Monday; and then, with fear and great reverence, to receive the Most precious Mysteries.
Fast according to the rules of the Church.
Explanation: During the entire Great Lent and Dormition Fast, we do not partake of meat, eggs, milk and fish (Fish is allowed only on the days of Annunciation and Palm Sunday, and, during the Dormition Fast, on Transfiguration. During the entire Nativity Fast and Apostles; Fast, we do not partake of meat, eggs or milk. It is allowable to lessen the fast only in the case of severe illness, for small children, the feeble and elderly, and for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Be present at and attentively participate in the evening services before the day of Holy Communion.
Explanation: Communion of the most pure Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is the highest form of communion with the Lord God. Communing is the completion, the culmination of our communion with God. If a person comes to the chalice without having gone through the struggle of prayer, through which he comes nearer to God, if he does not go through a process of ever-increasing interaction with God, then this leap, as it were, from noncommunion to the ultimate level of communion (i.e., Holy Communion) is too drastic. That person is unworthy at that point for the acceptance of the Body and Blood of the Lord, and for that person the Gifts become "fire, consuming the unworthy." In other words, for such a person, Communion brings not healing, but harm. This is why it is necessary to be at the Divine Services preceding Holy Communion, for they are one of the most important forms of interaction with God available to us, and thus an important component of our preparation.
Those preparing for Communion must have Confession before or following the service on the eve before Holy Communion. Confession before Liturgy is permissible only as an exception for those who cannot come in the evening because of the condition of their health or for some other justifiable reason.
Explanation: Since we must be in church on the eve of receiving Holy Communion, it is wise for us to have Confession at that time. In the evening there is no hurry; one can calmly and thoughtfully lay out one's thoughts. In the morning the priest is busy with the Proskomedia, and there is little time. Confession becomes hurried, incomplete. Only extreme need is cause enough to pull the priest away from the Proskomedia for morning Confession.
Read at home all the prescribed preparatory prayers out of the prayer book.
Explanation: One must definitely read "The Order of Preparation for Holy Communion" (found in the Jordanville Prayer Book).* Those who have not read these prayers should not partake of Holy Communion. The following should also be read before Holy Communion: 1) Supplicatory Canon to our Lord Jesus Christ 2) Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos 3) Canon to the Guardian Angel 4) Akathist to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ or Akathist to our Most Holy Lady Theotokos.
Ask forgiveness and reconcile yourself with everyone with whom you have had an argument, misunderstanding or any deterioration in relationship. By taking Communion without full reconciliation with everyone we do ourselves great harm.
Explanation: The Church exhorts us to be in peace with everyone through the following words which are written in the prayers preparing us for Holy Communion: "If thou desirest, O man, to eat the Body of the Mastery, approach with fear, lest thou be burnt; for It is fire. And when thou drinkest the Divine Blood unto communion, first be reconciled to them that have grieved thee, then dare to eat the Mystical Food."
One must approach the Mysteries without having eaten or drunk anything from midnight on.
Explanation: We prepare ourselves with fasting for the partaking of the Holy Gifts. The final period before Communion we intensify our abstention, and eat and drink nothing. Those who cannot do without certain medication may take it with Holy Water that morning. Small children may eat before Communion in the morning. The sick (for example, diabetics) and those who are weak can receive a blessing from their spiritual father (priest) to eat a small amount the morning of Communion.
In the morning, one must come before the beginning of the service, respectfully venerate the icons, light candles, find a spot to stand and be prepared for the beginning of the reading of the Hours. One must listen attentively to the Hours and then to the Divine Liturgy.
Explanation: The Hours are part of the cycle of services. They are also an important part of the process of preparation for Holy Communion for the same reason outlined above.
Men are forbidden to come to Communion with their heads covered, according to the strict edict of the holy Apostle Paul. Women are forbidden to come to Communion with their heads uncovered, according to the same Apostle. (These rules apply not only when receiving the Holy Mysteries but at all times inside the temple.)
Explanation: The Church follows the instruction of the Apostle Paul, who says in his first epistle to the Corinthians (II:4-5): Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. But every woman that prayeth and prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head.
No one should take Holy Communion (or even come to church) with lipstick on.
Explanation: Besides the fact that such a practice is not becoming for God's House, how many pages of our churches' Holy Gospels have been ruined by kissing with painted lips. How many church vessels, crosses, spoons, have been treated the same way. Look at our icons at the end of a service. They are covered with lipstick smears. Even the Holy Shroud, the Body of Christ, Who suffered for us, has been marred with lipstick.
After receiving Holy Communion, one must stay and listen attentively to the thanksgiving prayers or diligently read them at home from the prayer book.
Explanation: In Holy Communion we receive a great gift from God. We express our gratitude for God's great act of mercy through these thanksgiving prayers.
At the end of the service, those who communed listen to the thanksgiving prayers and do not come up to venerate the Cross with everyone else. When the thanksgiving prayers are over, the Cross is brought out to the communicants for veneration.
Explanation: The people who have not taken Holy Communion come up to the Cross immediately and receive a piece of antidoron, as a consolation that they were unable to take Holy Communion at this Liturgy. The communicants, without interruption, listen to the thanksgiving prayers and then venerate the Cross, since they have partaken of the True Gifts and have no need to receive the antidoron (which means "in place of the Gifts").
Following Holy Communion, we piously return home, retain a prayerful and peaceful disposition, do good works, and exert all our efforts not to return to the sins from which we have been cleansed.
Fr. Gregory, a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary, is rector of Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church in Rochester, NY. He and his matushka homeschool their two daughters.[../../_private/oabot.htm]