Beloved in Christ,
We send our Lenten greetings to you with love in Christ and hope that this awesome time of preparation may help you draw nearer to our Christ. Great Lent is a time of spiritual renewal, offering us time to reconnect with our Saviour through the increased prayers and spiritual struggle. The height of this relationship with the Saviour is the Divine Liturgy. Some years ago, His Eminence, Metropolitan Demetrios of America visited his flock and spoke of the Divine Liturgy, referring to it as as a stupendous event.
Fr. Seraphim John, of blessed memory, wrote the following reflection of this visit, and the words of the Metropolitan, to lead us to a deeper appreciation concerning the most sacred event, the Divine Liturgy.
…Of all the events that occur in life at any time or in any place, the Divine Liturgy is the most amazing, the most awe-inspiring, and the most important. When we think of other events that occur, like an inauguration or a visit of a head of state or a wedding or a soccer game or a theatrical production or a special party—nothing can compare with the Divine Liturgy in its relevance to our lives. If we rated events from 1 to 100 in order of importance, the Liturgy would be no. 1, and the next event would be as low as 85 on the list. So when we decide which events to attend, for an Orthodox Christian the Divine Liturgy always takes precedence over everything else. Bishop Demetrius said that among those attending the Divine Liturgy, some have little understanding of what is taking place while others are completely blown away by it. Why is this? Perhaps it is a function of how close one has drawn to our Saviour through prayer and how much one has taken thought concerning the Mystery.
Speaking of our Saviour‟s actual presence in the flesh at the Divine Liturgy, St. John Chrysostom says: “But He gives Himself to you not only to see, but also to touch and eat and receive within yourself. That which when angels behold, they tremble, and dare not so much as look at without awe on account of the brightness that comes from it—with this we are fed, with this we are comingled, and we are made one body and one flesh with Christ. We are joined both with each other and with Christ. . . .desiring to show the love which He has for us, . . .He has mixed Himself with us; He has kneaded His body with ours, that we might be . . . like a body joined to a head. What shepherd feeds his sheep with his own limbs? And why do I say shepherd? There are often mothers that after the travail of birth send out their children to other women to nurse. But He cannot bear to do this, but Himself feeds us with His own Blood, and by all means entwines us with Himself. He allows those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love. . . .but because the former nature of our flesh, which was fashioned out of the earth, had become deadened by sin and destitute of life, He brought in, one might say, another sort of dough and leaven, His own flesh, by nature indeed the same, but free from sin and full of life. And He gave all to partake thereof, that being nourished by this and laying aside the old dead material, we might be blended together into that which is living and eternal . . . ”1[This is love indeed—that He Who is God becomes one flesh with us.]
We cannot progress in the spiritual life without this physical union with our Saviour. St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain2 speaks of the necessity of receiving the Holy Mysteries as follows: “The Lord says imperatively, „Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you‟ (John 6:53) . These words make apparent that divine Communion is just as necessary for the Christian as Holy Baptism. For He used the same expression when speaking both about Baptism and about Communion. Concerning Baptism, He said: „Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God‟ (John 3:5). And concerning divine Communion [He spoke as mentioned earlier]. Therefore, just as without Baptism it is impossible
1 Chrysostom‟s Homily XLVI on St. John. 2 In Concerning Frequent Communion of the Immaculate Mysteries of Christ by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite.
for one to live the spiritual life and be saved, it is impossible for one to live without divine Communion. But since [according to the Canons] these two have this difference, that Baptism is to occur but one time, while divine Communion is to occur frequently and daily, it is right to conclude that there are two requirements respecting divine Communion: one, that it is to be received; and the other that it is to be received frequently.”