On Holy Communion
Metropolitan Anthony Sourozh
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Through living the whole life of the church, and pre-eminently by Communion in the Holy Mysteries, we seek participation in the common life with Christ the Saviour. Living in the church, being the body of Christ in the midst of the world, being the presence of the living Christ incarnate through us, being the lodging place of the Holy Spirit, His Temple, being children of the heavenly Father in the most literal and unconditional sense, this is precisely what we seek, to make our life one with Christ.
What does this mean? When we come to Holy Communion we ask and we dream that eternal life, with its light, its joy, and its solemn victory should be actualised in us. And we often forget that on earth Christ’s victory was concealed. Yes, the whole fullness of the Godhead dwelt among us physically, but how hidden it was! How much grief of body and soul Christ as a man lived through, how many times people went past Him not seeing God in Him, and only hearing words – for them frighteningly incomprehensible and unacceptable, about such love as we wish for ourselves, but which we are so rarely prepared to give to others. And so, when we partake of the Holy Mysteries, when we wish to live the life of the church, we should remember that we are asking for communion to the whole life of Christ and to His mysterious, deep relationship with the Father; to the breath of the Holy Spirit, and to that eternal, unconquerable purity.
But together with this, we should be prepared to share the fate of the Saviour on earth. He came to His own, and His own did not recognise Him; He preached love, and people ran away from this love in terror, because love demanded the rejection of self. Each of His words was both life and temptation, and therefore a judgement on each man and on the world. And in answer to love, and in answer to the truth, and in answer to the fact that in boundless love God had wished to dwell amidst His people and share all with them, Christ was rejected. But in Him love did not falter. He gave up His life; people thought they were taking it away, but He freely gave it up. We too are called to do the same thing by partaking of the Holy Mysteries, by our communion with the church, by reason of our love towards Christ, feeble though, it may be. And when we shall seek not only heaven, joy and protection, but a fully common life and full communion with Him, and when like Him we shall be ready to carry the cross together with Him – not just what we call our cross, the troubles of life, our personal sorrows, our illnesses,- but His cross which means suffering with all who suffer, with each and all who are perishing in sin: only then will the Saviour’s prayer be fulfilled that His joy should be fully realised in us.
If we so long for communion with Christ that we are prepared to share His cross on earth, then on earth we shall already have shared in His sonhood and in the victory of love. May the Lord give us courage, may He make us understand that Christ called us to live upon earth as He lived. He did not come to suffer torment for our sake in order that we might live according to our own senseless sinful will. And then our Communion with Him must be full. But we must begin with this, to acquire the mind of Christ on earth. When His disciples asked, begged, prayed that He should grant them to sit on His right hand and on His left hand in the Kingdom of Heaven, He said: “Are you ready to drink of the cup which I shall drink, are you prepared to be plunged into that horror into which I shall be plunged?” And they answered; “Yes, we are.” And then the Saviour said these words to them which He still repeats to us when we share the cup of life with Him, He told them. “You shall indeed drink of the cup which I shall drink. You shall indeed be baptised with the baptism wherewith I am baptised, but to judge who shall sit on my right hand and on my left is not given to Me but to the Father.”
If our love is real, if we love Him, if we have learned from Him how to love, if we could only truly share with Him His whole life beginning with the cross, should we not then understand that it is too soon to begin to think about where we shall sit, whether on His right or His left, whether far or near? And should we not then be able to entrust ourselves with complete confidence in the love of the Lord? Amen.