Go to Confession and Communion Regularly

Christ is risen! In this season of the celebration of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, how appropriate that the Maxim we are focusing on both last week and this week from Fr. Thomas Hopko’s 55 Maxims for Christian Living is “Go to Confession and Communion Regularly.” We obey Christ’s command to eat His flesh and drink His blood so as to have eternal life in Him (John 6:54).  This week’s entry is a writing by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain in this crucial subject.

by Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite

In divine Communion, the Son that is the whole God-man enters into, mixes with, and leavens the whole man, being He Who illumines, enlightens, and sanctifies all of the powers and senses of the soul and body of man, and refashions him from corruption to incorruption. In his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, Saint Nikodemos translates “give us this day our daily bread” to “give us this day the superessential bread”. The superessential bread is the Body and Blood of the Lord, which differs as much from the word of God as does the sun from a ray. Thus the words superessential bread primarily and for an especial reason refer to the divine Communion of the All-Immaculate Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for it preserves and sustains the essence of the soul, and gives strength to do the Master’s Commandments and everything else, as our Lord says: “For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (St. John 6:55),  which is today, “My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.”

If someone is in doubt as to how the Body of Our Lord is called superessential bread, let him listen to what the sacred teachers of our Church say concerning this. First, the divine Gregory, the illuminator of Nyssa, says: “If he ever comes to himself (like the Prodigal Son), if he longs for the food of his father’s house, if he returns to the rich Table, upon which is an abundance of the superessential bread which feeds the hirelings of the Lord. The hirelings are those who labor in the vineyard of the Lord (which is to say, His Commandments) in the hope of receiving as payment the Kingdom of Heaven.” Saint Isidore Pelousiotes says: “The prayer which the Lord taught does not contain anything earthly, but everything is heavenly and looks to the profit of the soul, even that which appears to be unimportant and sensible. And it is the opinion of many wise men that the Lord said this prayer for the following reason: in order to teach in a special way about the divine word and bread which nourishes the bodiless soul and which, in some way, is mixed and infused into the essence of the soul. For this reason it is called superessential bread, inasmuch as the word essence is more becoming of the soul than the body.”

The Prophet Moses fasted forty days and nights without eating any bodily food. The Prophet Elias likewise fasted for forty days. Under the New Grace a great number of Saints, with only the word of God and Holy Communion, have lived without food for many days. For this reason, as many of us as have been deemed worthy to receive spiritual rebirth through Divine Baptism, have the need to frequently eat, with fervent love and a broken heart, this spiritual food, in order to live a spiritual life and to keep ourselves unharmed by the poison of the noetic serpent, the devil. If Adam had eaten of this food, he would not have died the double death of the soul and of the body.

We must not eat this spiritual bread, however, without preparation, for our God is called a consuming fire that burns. Holy Communion purifies, illumines, and sanctifies those who eat the Master’s body and drink the immaculate blood with a pure conscience and true confession. But it scorches and injures severely the souls and bodies of those who commune unworthily and unconfessed, just as in the case of those, who as the Sacred Gospel says, “entered the wedding feast not having a garment worthy of the wedding”–that is, not having works and fruits worthy of repentance. And those who listen to satanic songs, gossip, chatter, and other like absurdities are not worthy to listen to the Word of God. Likewise, those who lead sinful lives cannot receive Communion and enjoy immortal life which is brought about by divine Communion, because the powers of their souls have been put to death by the sting of sin. As an analogy, let us consider the members of the body. Inasmuch as the members are able to receive Life-Giving power, they receive life from the soul. If some member rots or withers, however, it can no longer receive life, for life-giving power does not pass into dead members. In the same fashion, the soul lives inasmuch as it receives the life-giving power from God. But when it sins and becomes unreceptive to the life-giving power that pitiful soul dies a spiritual death. And, after a time, the body also dies, and the wretched man is completely lost in eternal hell.