Seven Steps to Prepare for Holy Communion
Adapted from a sermon delivered by Fr. Hector on Sunday, September 11, 2016
1. Pray Every Day
Establishing a daily routine of prayer is central to our preparation for receiving Holy Communion.
Our daily prayers may include specific prayers of preparation for Holy Communion which may be found in most Orthodox prayer books and online sources.
The fasting guidelines of the Church help us to learn self-control and humility while also restoring balance within our lives. Fasting also helps us to prepare our souls and bodies before receiving Holy Communion. Typically, this means fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays and Sunday morning before Liturgy, but there are always exceptions (economia) due to age or health issues, or even stricter rules, which can be discussed with a spiritual father.
3. Forgiveness & Love
It is spiritually detrimental to harbor hatred, bitterness, a judgmental spirit, or unforgiveness in our hearts, especially when we receive communion.
The Greek word for forgive is συνχωρώ – which means "to make room." As such, we must "make room" in our hearts even for those who hate us, and with this spirit of forgiveness we can approach the chalice with greater peace and confidence.
In addition, we must make room in our hearts for the poor and needy with active philanthropy, so that the love we show to others will increase (or make us more receptive to) the grace we receive during Holy Communion.
Along with forgiveness, a pure heart is a prerequisite for receiving Holy Communion.
This includes striving to live a life of purity according to the teachings of the Church. Co-habitation outside of marriage, living a promiscuous lifestyle, addictive behaviors, or any other lifestyle that is contrary to the teachings of the Church should preclude us from receiving Holy Communion until we are ready to make a change in our lives through repentance.
We can prepare for Holy Communion by going to confession at least once or twice a year.
If you're not comfortable going to one of the clergy in our parish for confession, I can help you get connected with one of the wonderful priests in Camp Hill, York, Reading, Bethlehem, Easton, or the nearby monasteries to set up an appointment for confession.
6. Be on Time
The Church is not a fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru window, so we must make every effort to be on time for Liturgy, especially when planning to receive Holy Communion.
As a general rule, if we arrive at Liturgy after the Gospel reading, it’s advisable to refrain from receiving Holy Communion on that day...unless of course we have a blessing from a priest or spiritual father due to a unique circumstance in our lives (i.e. an illness or young/disruptive children).
7. Orthodox Faith
Not so much a preparation, but a reminder: Holy Communion is for Orthodox Christians who have been baptized or chrismated into the Orthodox Church.
Having said all that, it is always helpful to remember the words of St. John Chrysostom: "The Church is a hospital, and not a courtroom." We prepare for Holy Communion not out of fear, but because we love Christ and each other, and desire to be united with God and one another in a spirit of love and harmony.