Monday, May 19, 2014

Some Practical Aspects of Receiving Communion

How should we (as adults) prepare to receive Holy Communion?

1. We should actually believe the Orthodox Christian faith. That's why the texts of the Liturgy refer to those receiving Communion as “the faithful,” and that's why we recite the Nicene Creed, a summary of our faith, before receiving. If we don't believe, then we are, in effect, not among the “faithful” but among the catechumens.

2. We should, as far as possible, be at peace with all men. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled with your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24)

3. We should have been to Confession recently. If we have committed a serious sin, we must come to Confession before we receive Communion again. The Orthodox Church in America suggests that those who wish to receive Communion frequently (for example, every Sunday), should go to Confession at least every four to six weeks. Other Orthodox jurisdictions have other policies. Some are more strict, others less so.

4. We observe a “Eucharistic Fast.” We are to fast from all food and drink from midnight before we receive Communion. If we will be receiving Communion in the evening (such as at a Lenten Presanctified Liturgy), then it is suggested that we fast from lunch onward. (For those who cannot keep this fast for some serious reason, speak to your spiritual father, who may reduce the length of the fast, or give a blessing to receive medication.) Married couples also "fast" from relations at least from the evening before Communion.

5. We should prayerfully read the Prayers of Preparation for Holy Communion, which can be found in any Orthodox prayer book. These prayers beautifully express the spirit in which we should receive Communion. If you aren't sure what to read, ask your priest.

6. We should endeavor to arrive on time. A good rule of thumb: If we do not arrive at least in time to hear the reading of the Gospel, then we should not receive Communion at that Liturgy.

7. When should we not receive? – Under normal circumstances, we do not receive Communion if we are bleeding, vomiting, or feel nauseated.

8. How often should we receive Communion? – Unless spiritual father tells you otherwise, it is good to receive Communion as often as you can.

9. How do we receive? – When it is time for Communion, we approach with our hands folded over the chest, right hand over left. If the priest does not know your name, tell him your name as you come up to the Chalice. After you receive, the server will wipe your lips with the cloth. Keep your hands folded against your chest. Do not make the sign of the Cross; this could tip the Chalice. The priest will hold up the base of the Chalice to your lips; kiss it, then carefully withdraw. At the side table we receive the “zapifka,” blessed bread and wine mixed with hot water, to wash down the precious Body and Blood.
GREEK TRADITION: If receiving Communion at a Greek or Antiochian parish, instead of folding the hands over the chest, you will be expected to hold the communion cloth up to your chin when it is time to receive. State your name clearly to the priest. After receiving, wipe your own lips with the cloth. You do not kiss the chalice.
10. If visiting at a parish where the priest does not know you, do not be surprised if he questions you at the Chalice, to be sure that you are an Orthodox Christian and are prepared to receive Holy Communion. He is not being rude, but doing his job, guarding the sacrament and protecting those who come to receive. 

11. We participate in the Divine Liturgy (and other liturgical services)
- by receiving Holy Communion 
- by attentively listening to what is being read or sung
- by praying (our mental and spiritual participation)
- by singing along with the choir for the parts of the service that we know
- by our physical participation – the sign of the Cross and bowing, prostrations, etc.

We make the sign of the Cross when the Holy Trinity is mentioned. We bow our heads when the priest blesses us with his hand or when we are censed.

Minimally, we should be standing (1) when Christ comes out in the Gospel book at the Small Entrance; (2) when Christ is present in our midst as the Gospel is read; (3) when the bread and wine are solemnly carried to the Holy Table at the Great Entrance; (4) when Christ is present in our midst in His precious Body and Blood, even if we are not receiving Communion; (5) whenever the priest is censing us; (6) whenever the priest blesses us.

12. What to wear to church? Church clothes should be reverent. We are participating in the solemn worship of the Holy Trinity, and our clothing should be appropriate to this. We should not wear gym clothes. In general, avoid wearing clothing that will call attention to yourself, or that will distract others or cause scandal.

(Taken from Father's bulletin this week)


  1. #9: Tell the priest your name, as that is part of your offering to God (what He has given you). Also, sometimes your husband is really tired, especially in a large parish.

    1. True. We've only been in tiny places, but certainly in a big place you ought to state your name at the chalice. Also, the priest can forget his own matushka's name (I can't imagine to what I'm referring...).

  2. I'm so glad you posted this... And that you even mentioned that we do not generally receive if we are bleeding. This is something that I believe, what it was told, but I think most people are very unaware of.

  3. The point about not receiving when you are bleeding (i.e. menstruating in women) is not a part of many Orthodox churches now. It is seen as being a "leftover" from the Jewish ritual law that no longer applies to the faithful. So, I would question your own priest about this tradition.

  4. Whatever is the reason of your bleeding (menstruating or a broken nose), it is common sense that you shouldn't be receiving Lord's blood. Just like vomiting should keep you away from His body. The fact that Jews would stay away from menstruating women for health reasons doesn't mean we have to change our tradition...

  5. I don't think this is necessarily a "common sense" issue. It is a theological one with great implications for the spiritual status of women. Women do not become unclean simply because they are menstruating. That would make half of the human race spiritually defective because of a biological issue. And, if the idea behind not taking communion when you are bleeding is that the Lord's body and blood will then leave your body, that is not "common sense" either. Everyone urinates, etc. after communion. Menstruation is just another bodily function.


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