Christ, invisible to the bodily eye, manifests Himself on earth clearly through His Church just as the unseen human spirit manifests itself through its body. The Church is the Body of Christ both because its parts are united to Christ through His divine mysteries and because through her Christ works in the world. We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, in the holy Mysteries, so that we ourselves may be members of Christ’s Body: the Church.

This is not accomplished instantly. Fully abiding in the Church is already victory over sin and complete purification therefrom. To some degree everything sinful estranges us from the Church and keeps us out of the Church; this is why in the prayer read at confession over every penitent we have the phrase: “reconcile, and unite unto Thy Holy Church. ” Through repentance a Christian is cleansed and united closely to Christ in partaking of the Holy Mysteries, but later the grime of sin again settles upon him and estranges him from Christ and the Church, and therefore repentance and communion are again necessary. As long as the earthly life of a man endures, up to the very departure of the soul from the body, the struggle between sin and righteousness goes on within him. However high a spiritual and moral state one might achieve, a gradual, or even headlong and deep fall into the abyss of sin is always possible. Therefore, communion of the holy Body and Blood of Christ, which strengthens our contact with Him and refreshes us with the living streams of the grace of the Holy Spirit flowing through the Body of the Church, is necessary for everyone. How very important communion of the Holy Mysteries is we see from the life of St. Onuphrius the Great to whom, as well as to other hermits dwelling in the same desert, angels brought Holy Communion; and in the life of St. Mary of Egypt we read that her final wish after many years of desert life was the reception of the Holy Mysteries. The lives of St. Sabbatius of Solovki and a multitude of others tell us similar things. Not in vain did the Lord speak and say: “Amen, amen, I say unto you, except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you.”

St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco

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