(OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE SUNDAY OF THE FOREFATHERS)
PARTICIPATION IN THE HOLY COMMUNION
The eleventh Sunday of Luke, dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, is also known as “Sunday of the Forefathers”. It bears this name because on this day the forefathers of Jesus Christ are commemorated. Some of them lived prior to the Mosaic Law and some of them lived during the time of the Mosaic Law. The Church on this specific Sunday remembers them and honours them and in this way reminds us of the forefathers of the Lord in His human nature.
On the following Sunday, which is called “Sunday Before the Nativity of Christ”, all these people are recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew, which is read during the Divine Liturgy. Therefore, the forefathers of Christ are commemorated once again.
The Gospel reading of this Sunday speaks to us of the Great Supper which was prepared by the Lord and the invitation which is addressed to us by the Church and in which she asks us to participate in this. It tells us: “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many.” (Luke 14:16).
Let us explain that each time the Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy, it prepares the Great Supper, the Holy Communion, the Last Supper. After the consecration of the Divine Gifts, the Sacrament is complete and the Church invites all her members to come forward and participate with the fear of God, faith and love. Let us now comment on this invitation by the Church. The Church advises us to have fear when we approach the Holy Chalice (Cup). What is this fear about?
In reality the Church does not speak about fear itself but about fear of God. The fear of God means to respect and express devoutness towards everything which is Divine. However, on this occasion the respect refers to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion, the respect which we must have when we approach this Mystery. On both occasions the feeling of devoutness and reverence with the necessary care must prevail.
Man, during his life, must always have fear of God, that is, he must behave in such a way as to show that he is aware of the presence of God in all places and that he lives and walks always under God’s sleepless eye. Otherwise, man runs the risk of easily committing many great sins and becoming a victim of the evil one since the latter places many traps, which have man as their target, man. Let us remember that the Holy Bible says: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God”, that is, whoever truly respects God, then he has begun to be wise.
When we approach the Holy Chalice, in order to receive the spotless, the life-giving, the awesome and pure mysteries of Christ, the Church requests that we come with faith. This faith must be firm, steadfast, sincere and positive. However, to what else must this faith respond? This faith must have the belief that, what the Church offers us at the end of the Divine Liturgy, are indeed the Body and Blood of Chirst, and we receive them for the remission of sins and eternal life. Let us stress here that following the blessing which takes place during the Divine Liturgy, the bread and wine are changed to the Body and Blood of the Lord and they remain in this state for ever. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ we become, in accordance with the Patristic fathers, one body and one blood with Christ as well as God-bearers and Christ-bearers.
Additionally, let us bear in mind that the receiving of the Holy Communion, heals the wounds of our soul which are caused by sin and attaches us to God and guides us closer to Him. Apart from this, it is a pre-tasting of the Kingdom of God. Christ took the opportunity to narrate the present parable because of the following words of someone among the audience: Blessed is he who would be privileged to participate in the Supper of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 14:16).
The Church teaches that love must prevail when we come to receive Communion. The expression of love has two dimensions. The first one refers to God and it is called vertical. The second applies to man and is called horizontal. The person who comes to Comunion must have in his soul both of these kinds of love. Further, in this instance especially, it is necessary that he must feel love towards the person of Jesus Christ our Lord and wishes to offer his soul to become Christ’s throne.
At this point let us remember St John the Theologian and Evangelist, who advises and says that “If someone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whome he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4: 20).
Perhaps some of the faithful may wonder how regular must be their participation in the Holy Communion. The command of the Lord with His words: “take, eat” and “drink from this all of you” is using present tense, that is the tense of continuity and the eternal presence. The Lord did not ask us to receive the Holy Mysteries only occasionally. On the contrary, He wants us to receive Holy Communion often and at regular intervals. It is not right to seek various plausible excuses and avoid our regular participation in the Holy Communion, for in this way we follow the various groups of people referred to in the present Gospel reading. All these people refused to respond to the invitation of God to take part in the Divine Supper, seeking casual justifications. These justifications revealed that one was attached to materialistic goods, the other one was attached to the cares of this life and the last one was a flesh worshipper.
Thus, the Lord, through His servant invited others who in the eyes and the thoughts of the first-called were insignificant and not worth mentioning. However, we must be certain that God can produce children to the progenitor Abraham even from stones. That is, God can use those who are ignored by men and even more so, to honour them and elevate them higher.
At this point, let us stress that, especially during the Great Days of our faith as it happens to be the present period of time, we must live them in a God-loving manner. This means that we must prepare ourselves properly with prayer, repentance, confession, fasting, almsgiving and generally cultivating within us all the virtues of the Gospel. Following this action of preparation we can welcome within us the Exceptional Guest, Who out of love towards man descended from heaven and came to earth, became man and came to invite us to return to the arms of God the Father. Glory and honour be to Jesus Christ in all ages. Amen!
C O M M U N I T Y N E W S
MEALS FOR THE ELDERLY: We advise all our elderly and our loyal supporters that the meals for the elderly have now ceased for the Christmas celebrations. They will commence again early in the New Year 2010. We take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed in any way towards this very worthy cause.
RENEWAL OF SUBSCRIPTIONS: The subscriptions for the Community (£50.00), Pantanassa (£25.00) and the Archdiocese Magazine (£15.00) are now due. If you have not already paid your subscriptions or wish to subscribe to any or all of these you may contact our Community’s offices.
ARCHDIOCESE CALENDARS: We are pleased to inform you that the large and small calendars of the Archdiocese are now with us. Price: £6.00 for the large one and £1.50 for the small one. You may obtain either or both of these from our two churches or from the Community’s office.
VASILOPITTA FOR NEW YEAR’S DAY: We would ask all those of you who will be preparing a vasilopitta for your family for the New Year to please prepare an extra one and bring it to Church for blessing, cutting and sharing with the faithful.
VESPERS FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE: Vespers for New Year’s Eve will be sung in the Chapel of our Archdiocese. At the end of Vespers, His Eminence, Gregorios, Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain will bless, cut and give out the Vasilopitta. Vespers begins at 6.00 p.m. All are welcome.