As I shared in the last issue of this article, the Eastern Church’s unique approach to the observance of the Great Fast is to refrain from serving the Divine Liturgy during week days, which are “fast days”. I then raised a question which Western Catholics have frequently asked, namely, why do we distribute presanctified communion then during week days? Does this not contradict the liturgical principle that I enunciated?
To answer this question, I must share the Eastern Church’s thoughts on the second meaning of Communion. It is considered the source and sustaining power of any spiritual effort. Holy Communion is the fulfillment of all our efforts, the goal toward which we strive, the ultimate joy of our Christian life. Communion is also the source and beginning of our spiritual effort itself, that which makes it possible for us to know, to desire and to strive for a more perfect communion with our God.
When we take apart the word communion, it truly means union-with our God. This is also why we say that the task of this earthly life is to become more like Jesus. As we become more like Jesus, we enter into deeper UNION with our Triune God. Through the partaking of COMMUNION, we are given the gifts of courage, strength and true determination to enter into a deeper UNION with our God.
Of course we have to understand that Communion is a joining of our hearts and minds with Jesus, Who is God Himself in human form. When we partake of communion, we spiritually and psychologically declare our desire to be one with Jesus and, therefore one with God. We know, however, that to be one with God we must become like Jesus. This requires of any human being a change of heart and mind.
Partaking of Communion also joins us, in a unique way, to God’s Kingdom, albeit, at this present time, not in its fullness. Holy Communion, however, gives us a foretaste of His Kingdom.
So Communion is distributed during the week days of the Great Fast to support us in our efforts of personal change and transformation. As I have shared with my readers before, God has given us humans the potential to be like the Person of Jesus. We cannot, however, achieve the actualization of this potential without His help. We must cooperate with Him if we desire to actualize this potential. He supports us in this effort through His presence with us in Holy Communion. We truly believe that He is truly present to us when we partake of the transformed bread and wine which, we believe, are His Body and Blood – are Him!