Happy New Year!
Today we give thanks to God for the blessings from this past year, and thank Him also for the New Year and the blessings we will receive this year. Below are two meditations from saints on thanksgiving, the Eucharist. Both encourage us to partake of the Eucharist to nurture our spiritual life and both discourage the practice of refraining from the Eucharist because of feelings of unworthiness.
The first quote is from St Ambrose of Milan: who notes it is not the passing of time which makes us worthy to receive the Holy Gifts in Communion. His take is that if you are not worthy of receiving Communion on any given day, then abstaining from Communion for even a year won’t make you worthy. We are not made worthy of Communion by fasting for 40 days or by fasting from the Eucharist for a year. We do not receive Communion because we are worthy but rather because we are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy. We approach the chalice with humility, knowing we are not worthy of it but that we need it for our salvation. There may be reasons that we should abstain from Communion, but that abstinence cannot make us worthy of what God offers us as a free gift.
Receive daily what profits you daily. So live, that each day you may be worthy to receive (the holy Mysteries); he who is not worthy to receive each day is not worthy to receive after a year. The saintly Job each day offered sacrifice for his children, lest they should have sinned in their heart or by word. Let you understand, therefore, that as often as the Sacrifice is offered, the death of the Lord, the Resurrection of the Lord, the Ascension of the Lord is signified, and likewise the forgiveness of sins, and that this Bread which you receive is the Bread of eternal life, not daily bread. He that has a sickness needs medicine. It is a sickness that we are subject to sin. The medicine is the heavenly and venerable Sacrament. (WHAT THE CHURCH FATHERS SAY ABOUT… Vol 2, p 34)
The second quote is from St John Cassian:
We must not avoid Communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful. We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit, but with such humility and faith that considering ourselves unworthy . . . we would desire even more the medicine for our wounds. It is impossible to receive Communion once a year as certain people do . . . considering the sanctification of the heavenly Mysteries as available only to saints. It is better to think that by giving us Grace, the sacrament makes us pure and holy. Such people manifest more pride than humility . . . for when they receive, they think themselves worthy. It is much better if, in humility of heart, knowing that we are never worthy of the Holy Mysteries we would receive them every Sunday for the healing of our diseases, rather than, blinded by pride, think that after one year we become worthy of receiving them! (WHAT THE CHURCH FATHERS SAY ABOUT… Vol 2, p 34)
Fr Alexander Schmemann encouraged us to partake weekly of the Eucharist. He saw our life through the week as first being thankful for the Eucharist we just received on the previous Sunday which nourishes us through the week, and then being preparation for receiving the Eucharist on the coming Sunday. Daily life for a Christian is thus always lived between our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. We receive the Eucharist as a medicine to help us get through the week in dealing with temptations and our passions. And because we are preparing for the next reception of Communion, we keep our eyes on Christ as we continue our spiritual warfare each week.
May you be aware of God’s presence in your life every day in the New Year.