Come, Receive, Take Action ~ A Lenten Invitation, RSVP to Jesus ASAP
Lent & Pascha are quickly approaching and so is the moment when we hear the invitation from Christ with the words chanted every year at the Anastasi service; “Come Receive the Light.” We will light our candles which symbolizes the Light of Christ and sing Christos Anesti to celebrate His victory over sin and death. To some peoples’ surprise, this moment happens just before we begin the Divine Liturgy, where we will receive once again. This time we receive Holy Communion. All our preparation during lent should be followed by the action of taking Holy Communion that night. Yes, we are all tired and have the urge to go back to our cars with our lit candles instead of going back into the Church for the Paschal Liturgy. We need to remind ourselves that Christ offers us His body and blood that night as His gift to us. The Apostles themselves came together for a service that went till midnight as they celebrated the Sabbath on a Sunday, which signified honoring the Sabbath on a new day (Sunday) focusing on Christ’s Resurrection and the New Covenant that He established on the day of His Resurrection. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” (Acts 20:7). I’m sure The Apostles were tired too that night. Yet, they were with the family of believers, receiving the Eucharist with one another and hearing St. Paul preach the word of God. They must have been inspired to stay up late that night to fill their souls with spiritual nourishment that Paul was called to deliver to them.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion (the Eucharist) which literally means "Thanksgiving," is the Mystery whereby the bread and wine offering is changed, actually and not symbolically, into the very Body and Blood of Christ by the works of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is at the very center of the Church's life, and from it flows the prayer of believers in a sacrifice of prayer for the peace of the world, for those who ask for help, and for all men and women. The Eucharist unites us; it nourishes our souls and bodies, and it strengthens our spiritual life. According to the promise of the Gospel, “He that eats this bread will live forever.” (The Gospel of John 6:58)
The chalice which holds the blood of Christ is the cup of salvation. Every Liturgy, we pray with the priest that the Holy Spirit may change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. This means that when we receive Holy Communion, Jesus comes to live in us. How do we prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus? We pray! We should have love in our hearts for all people. We should ask forgiveness from God and from anyone we may have hurt. Once we have received Holy Communion, we must remember that we have become one with Christ and with all those who received Holy Communion with us. Christ now lives in all of us.
We are all living icons of Jesus. It is by loving and forgiving one another that we love Jesus and act as Christians. The theme for the first half of Great Lent is forgiveness. First, asking God to forgive us and then the act of forgiving others. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
I became close with Metropolitan Isiah from Denver during my senior year at Holy Cross Seminary. He was the president of the school back then, and I the class president. During our many talks in his office, he would often say to me and my other classmates “Don’t tell me what you believe, I’ll know by your actions.” He often reminded us that belief is an action, not only a proclamation. “Going to Liturgy is the first step” he would tell us. He would finish by saying, “And, then living the Liturgy according to what you received when you were in Church is the second.”
After receiving Communion our bodies become like the holy chalice. God lives in us. Christ asks us to use our hearts and reach out and love and forgive one another as He has done to us. Jesus also wants to use our hands, which have now become His hands, to help those in need. When we receive Communion, we become members of Christ's Body, the living Church. This means that Jesus has no eyes but our eyes, no feet but our feet to do His work in the world today. How should we respond to the knowledge that we are commissioned to do his works and take care of His ministry. There is only one response …. We take action! If we are truly going to “Receive the Light” we will truly live the message we hear in the Divine Liturgy of repentance, forgiveness, love towards others and then do the good works as faithful apostles of Christ. St. Peter wrote the Church in Asia Minor to inspire them to be apostles of Light; “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 1:9)
Rev. Fr. Bill Tragus
Sources: “Let’s Take a Walk Though our Orthodox Church” Fr. Anthony Coniaris; The Holy Bible, New King James Version.