The sacrament of communion in the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox faith presupposes the obligatory participation of Christians in church life. But simply going to church every Sunday will not have much meaning if a person does not participate in the fullness of church life and does not become one body with the Church. How can this be done?

We have been given great joy through which we can truly unite with the Lord, and which contains the whole meaning of Christianity - this is the Sacrament of Communion. Why is it so important and how to start it correctly? Let's look at it in this article.

What is the Eucharist

Translated from Greek, this word means thanksgiving. Vespers, hours, and matins serve as preparation for the Divine Liturgy , at which the most important and great Sacrament is celebrated - the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic canon occurs in the middle of the liturgy. During it, the prosphora and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a Sacrament that even the angels revere.

The Lord gave us this Sacrament for the salvation of souls and bodies. He bestowed it during His earthly life, namely, at the Last Supper. This is the last meal at which Christ and the disciples were. It was then that Christ, breaking bread, uttered words strange to everyone: “Come, eat, this is My Body, which was broken for you for the remission of sins . And then, raising a jug of wine, he said: “Drink of it, all of you, this is My Blood, which is shed for you .

With this He laid the foundation for a new and important Sacrament - the Eucharist (the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ). The apostles did not understand anything then, but only after Christ’s death on the cross did much become clear.

How to take Communion in church

Many have heard about this ritual, but not everyone knows how to prepare for communion in church. This ritual involves the transformation of the body and the shock of the soul. First of all:

  • it is necessary to treat this event reverently and consciously,
  • sincerely believe in Christ,
  • understand the meaning of the sacrament,
  • you need to understand your unworthiness to accept such a great gift,
  • there must be peace in the soul (forgive everyone and get along),
  • It is advisable to first read such prayers as “Following to Holy Communion”,
  • After the ceremony, you must read “Prayers of Thanksgiving for Holy Communion.”

In addition to the listed points, it is necessary to remember that the best way to cleanse your body and soul before accepting the Body and Blood of the Lord is fasting and confession.

The sacrament itself is performed in the church at a service called the liturgy. Mostly it takes place in the first half of the day. To find out more precisely about the time and day of the event, you should check with the temple you have chosen.

How long does Communion last?

Basically, the liturgy begins between seven and ten o'clock. The duration depends on the nature of the service, as well as on the number of people receiving communion. It can last from an hour and a half to 5 hours. Those who are preparing for communion should be at the service from the beginning, and are also recommended to attend the evening service, which is considered to be preparation for the liturgy and the rite of communion itself.

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On what days is communion? In cathedrals and monasteries, liturgies are celebrated daily, but in parish churches this action occurs mainly on Sundays or church holidays.

How does the sacrament work?

You can come to the evening service the day before and read certain prayers. On the day of this ceremony, you should come to the temple earlier. During the liturgy, you should not leave the temple. Participate in the reading of prayers until the priest comes out from behind the altar with a chalice and calls everyone to communion. After that, everyone should line up. Children come first, then the infirm, then men and then women.

A little history

The first Christians understood that the Eucharist is the basis of all services, and therefore they performed it constantly. Of course, it all looked different than it does now. The first Christian service was called “agapa”, which means the supper of love.

The Holy Scriptures were read and interpreted there, and Old Testament hymns were sung. Ancient Christians set aside special bread for the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was called “Panagia”.

Later, the ranks of services recorded by the saints appeared:

  • John Chrysostom;
  • Basil the Great;
  • Gregory the Theologian.

These rites still exist in the modern Orthodox Church. Later in Byzantium there was a separation of agapes, which turned into charitable meals for the poor, from the Eucharist itself. Many hymns became secret prayers. Great and small entrances appeared. Previously, agapes were served in the evenings, and liturgies began to be served in the mornings.

Then they stopped taking catechumens and penitents out of the temple. A distinction appeared between the altar and the main part of the temple. This is how the iconostasis appeared. They began to use a spoon to give communion to the laity.

Many modern chants were written:

  • “Only Begotten Son” - in the 6th century;
  • Trisagion - in the 5th century;
  • Creed - in the 5th century;
  • Cherubic - in the 6th century.

Then other daily services appeared: Vespers, Matins, etc.

What is the Eucharist for?

Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ is a great Sacrament, thanks to which a person can unite with Christ Himself. After the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, parishioners can proceed to the Holy Chalice. Thus, Christ enters a person’s heart, sanctifying his soul and body and making him worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We must understand that the Eucharist is not a remembrance of the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Last Supper, but a real action, Christ actually enters the Chalice at every liturgy. He could have created any Body for Himself, but since we, due to weakness, can only accept edible food, He chose the products most similar to the Body and Blood.

When giving communion to the laity, the priest pronounces the following words: “the servant of God (servant of God) receives communion for the remission of sins and eternal life.” This means that a person’s sins are forgiven at communion, and he becomes worthy of eternal life.

The choir sings during communion: “Receive the Body of Christ, taste the Immortal Source.” This means that by accepting the Body of Christ, we make our soul immortal. In the Gospel there are the words of Christ that whoever does not eat the Body of Christ and drink His blood cannot be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The prayer for Communion says that a person receives communion for the healing of soul and body. Those. Holy Communion heals not only the soul, but also the body. There were cases when people recovered after this Sacrament.

Communion practice: preparation, frequency, features

The greatest number of questions among believers is raised by the practical side of participation in the fullness of church life. Since Orthodoxy is not a formal faith of prohibitions, there are a large number of different opinions and approaches to Communion.

The most important sacrament of the Orthodox Church is communion

Some priests may also give various recommendations in this regard, based on their pastoral experience and the benefit for a particular person. Don't be embarrassed by so many different opinions. In essence, they boil down to one goal - for a person to worthily let the Lord into his life.

As for the official position of the Church on the participation of believers in the Eucharist, there is a special document that clarifies all the main points. It is called “On the Participation of the Faithful in the Eucharist” and was signed by representatives of the Bishops’ Conference of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2015.

According to this document, the frequency, rules of preparation and other requirements for believers before and after receiving the Mysteries of Christ are determined by spiritual mentors based on the characteristics of a particular person’s life. Let us consider below the features of communion for modern Christians.

How to properly prepare for the Sacrament?

Communion is a very important and responsible moment in spiritual life, and therefore requires special preparation. Just as we prepare for some special days in worldly life, so we must set aside time to prepare for a meeting with God.

Read about preparing for Communion:

  • Is it possible to celebrate Communion without Confession?
  • Is it possible to brush your teeth before Communion?
  • How to fast before Communion

According to the rules of our Church, before Communion all believers are required to fast and have a special prayer rule. Fasting is needed in order to pacify our flesh a little, quench its passions and subordinate it to spiritual needs. Prayer calls us to dialogue with the Lord, to communicate with Him.

Before Communion, all believers are required to have a special prayer rule

If you take an Orthodox prayer book, you can see that before receiving the Holy Mysteries of Christ, believers need to read a special rule. It includes the Follow-up to Holy Communion, as well as several canons and akathists. These prayers are usually read in addition to the basic morning and evening prayer rules.

A new Christian who has decided to participate in the Eucharist for the first time in his life may find it very difficult to read such a large volume of prayer texts. In addition, such backbreaking work will lead to despondency, great fatigue and a lack of understanding of the meaning.

Important! Any prayers, including those preparatory to Communion, must be read carefully, heartily, letting every word pass through your soul. Mechanical proofreading in pursuit of greater volume is completely unacceptable.

Therefore, a person who has decided to take communion for the first time needs to consult with an experienced priest about the feasible volume of prayers. It is much better to read a small rule, but with attention, than to read everything, but without completely understanding what is being said.

Read about other prayer rules:

  • Prayer rule of Seraphim of Sarov for the laity
  • Prayer rule against night and day desecration
  • How to pray correctly for Orthodox Christians

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Fasting is abstaining from eating animal products, as well as limiting idleness, entertainment and fun. You don’t need to think that fasting is a sad state of banning all joys in life. On the contrary, fasting helps a person to cleanse his soul so that it can contain the real Joy of God.

The measure of fasting before the Eucharist is as individual as the prayer rule. If a person has not previously had experience of restriction, then it makes no sense to impose a week-long fast on him before Communion. This will only lead to the person losing his temper, giving up everything and completely changing his mind about going to church.

Important! It is a generally accepted practice for believers to fast for three days before Communion. In addition, you need to go to church on an empty stomach and not eat or drink anything else until you partake of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The number of days of fasting may vary depending on the frequency of communion. If a person rarely begins the Sacrament, for example, several times a year, or once during Lent, then, of course, fasting can be longer (from several days to a week). If a person leads a rich spiritual life and tries to take communion every Sunday or every trip to church, he simply will not be able to fast for that long.

Before Communion, believers fast

For Orthodox Christians who very often participate in the Eucharist, it is permissible to shorten the fast to one day the day before. In any case, it is advisable to resolve such issues not on your own, but on the advice of an experienced priest. On the one hand, it is important not to take on impossible feats, and on the other hand, not to be lazy. An attentive confessor will be able to determine the correct line.


Despite the fact that confession is a separate Sacrament, it is inextricably linked with the Eucharist. The Orthodox tradition has always been based on the obligation of confession before receiving the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

Confession before communion is quite logical, because even while waiting for guests to come to our home, we put things in order and remove the dirt. How can we let the Lord into us without first cleansing our soul with repentance?

Important! Many holy fathers warn that if a person does not feel the inner need for frequent confession, then he is in a state of spiritual sleep.

Confession, when accompanied by sincere repentance, cleanses the soul and removes the burden of heavy sins. A person gets rid of everything unnecessary and can let the Lord into himself. Confession is necessary every time a person approaches the Eucharist, regardless of its frequency.

How to prepare for Holy Communion

In order to worthily accept Christ into your heart, you must carefully prepare for this Sacrament. The Apostle Paul warns in his letters that those who receive communion unworthily become weak and even sometimes die. Therefore, he advises approaching the Sacrament consciously, without fuss, and without trying to be the first to approach.

The Holy Fathers created the rite of preparation for Communion. It is called “The Rule for Holy Communion” and is found in every Orthodox prayer book.

The rank contains:

  • psalms;
  • troparia;
  • canon for Communion;
  • prayers for Communion;
  • poetry.

Spiritual verses were written by the holy fathers and introduced into the rite for a better understanding of the purpose of the Sacrament. They say that Communion is a Fire that scorches the unworthy, and that before proceeding to the Sacrament, one must reconcile with the offenders. It is also written about this in the Gospel that before going to the king, you must make peace with your opponent. There is also a Gospel parable about a debtor who did not forgive his friend, and the king, who forgave him the debt, learned about it and put him in prison. If the Lord forgives us many sins, then we should all the more forgive our brother the lesser sins.

Main preparation conditions

So, the first condition for preparing for Holy Communion is forgiveness of offenses . It is advisable to ask everyone for forgiveness and make peace with everyone. If this is impossible to do (the person has moved far away or is no longer alive), then at least mentally forgive him.

You cannot approach the Sacrament of Communion with resentment and anger in your heart towards someone. You can partake in judgment and condemnation if you approach with an unprepared or cold heart. Christ will not stay long in such a heart, and will simply come out of it. Or maybe illness, according to the apostle. It is important to remember that the Body of Christ is a Fire that “scorches the unworthy.”

We must realize that in the Chalice is the real Body and Blood of Christ under the guise of bread and wine. There was a case when a priest in Italy doubted that the Chalice contained the real Body and Blood of Christ, and then he saw in the Chalice a piece of flesh and blood (matching the blood type with the drops on the Shroud of Turin). These Holy Gifts are still kept in the Chalice in the altar of the church of the city of Lanciano. Another preparation for Communion consists of fasting , which can be physical or mental. The physical one is abstinence from some modest food (eggs, meat, milk), and the mental one is abstinence from evil thoughts, words, and intentions.

It is advisable to fast for a week before Communion. If that doesn’t work, then at least three days. If a person is seriously ill, then one can fast for one day. That's what it says in the missal.

Sometimes a person is on the verge of life and death, then he is given communion after meals, without fasting.

Why do you need to take communion?

Often in church circles you can hear the opinion that if a person prays, keeps the commandments, and tries to live according to his conscience, then this is enough to be considered a good Christian. To be considered may be enough, but to be a real Christian, you need more.

The Eucharist is the tasting of the real Body and real Blood of Christ, only under the guise of bread and wine

You can give the following analogy: a person loves someone. He loves deeply, sincerely, with all his soul. What will all the lover’s thoughts be about? That's right - about how to connect with your loved one, to be with him every moment and every hour. It’s the same with God - if we are Christians, then we love Him with all our souls, and we try to build our lives in such a way as to always be close to Him.

And now the Lord himself gives us a great Miracle - the ability to fit Himself into our sinful bodies. Contain as often as we want. So can we be called believers if we ourselves refuse this meeting, avoid it? Why then is everything else needed if we do not recognize the Living God?

All the holy fathers of our church unanimously spoke about the importance of Communion for the life of an Orthodox person. Even those monks who led a solitary hermit life periodically came out to the brethren to participate in the Eucharist. For them, this doing was a natural need of the soul, like breathing, food or sleep for the body.

Important! We must strive to absorb Communion so deeply that it becomes an integral part of the spiritual life of a Christian.

You need to understand that all the Sacraments of the church are not strict rules introduced by God for our taming. All these are instruments of our salvation that are necessary for man himself. God always stands next to every person and is always ready to enter his soul. But man himself, through his life, does not allow the Lord into himself, drives Him away, does not leave room for Him in his soul. And the path of Orthodox church life with obligatory participation in the Sacraments is a way to open your soul to God so that he can dwell there.

How is the Sacrament of the Eucharist celebrated?

During the Divine Liturgy, after the singing of the Creed, the Eucharistic canon . It begins with the words of Archangel Michael, which he said before the creation of the world to stop the fall of the angels (“Let us become kind, let us become fearful”). Then follows the blessing of the priest and thanksgiving to God for everything. Then the angelic words (“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts”) and the words of Christ at the Last Supper are sung. And while singing “We sing to You,” the most important thing happens—the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Eucharistic canon ends with the glorification of the Mother of God. Then the clergy receive communion at the altar, then the laity.

When the Chalice is brought out, the priest reads a prayer before Communion. Then the parishioners who have passed confession approach the Chalice without fuss, without jostling one by one, with their hands folded on their chests. You cannot make the sign of the cross , so as not to accidentally knock over the Chalice. Approaching the Chalice, you must say your name loudly and open your mouth wide. Then kiss the bottom edge of the Cup, like the rib of Christ Himself.

How to behave after Communion

Having received communion, you must silently go to the table where the drink is located, take a piece of prosphora and wash it down. Then move away so as not to disturb others while drinking. After communion, you cannot immediately leave; you must wait until the end of the liturgy, go to the cross, and listen to prayers of thanks.

The prayer book says that on the day of communion one must keep oneself clean, abstinent and laconic in order to preserve the accepted Christ. It is better to remain silent after communion, otherwise you may lose Grace. You must also abstain from sins, at least on this day.

How often should you take communion?

Ancient Christians received communion at every liturgy. But it is difficult for a busy modern person to comply with this. The frequency of approaching the Chalice should be determined by the confessor. For some, once per Lent is enough, while others take Communion more often. An Orthodox person must take communion every Lent. And the Monk Seraphim of Sarov advised taking communion once a month. The priests receive communion at every liturgy. Everyone has their own measure.

prot. Andrey Tkachev about what the Sacrament of Communion gives us

What is Communion

The history of the origin of the rite of Communion in the Orthodox Church dates back to the Last Supper. It was established by Christ himself. It was he who broke and served the bread to his disciples, calling it his body, and calling the wine his blood. Thus, during the sacrament of communion, the unity between creation and the nature of the Creator, which existed even before the Fall, is restored. The result of communion is considered to be the gift of embryos of future life in the Heavenly

Kingdom. The mysticism of this ritual lies in the Savior’s sacrifice. He crucified His Body and shed His Blood on the Cross. Jesus sacrificed himself before the Creator for us to restore fallen human nature. And we, by taking part in this ritual, also help such restoration. Eating Flesh and Blood during Communion is quite possible. This is a symbolic frame of wine and blood.

Under the outer shell of perishable matter hides the incorruptible means of the Divine nature. Communion is the name given to the “nutrition” of the soul, which must occur after its “birth” in the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism should be done once in a lifetime, but Communion should be done at least once a month. At a minimum, such a ritual can be performed once a year, but this can lead to the survival of the soul.

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