I’m not going to pretend to have any deep thoughts about what happens when we take communion in the Orthodox Church. There are plenty of blogs and books that can explain this mystery much better than I can. But, I do want to describe what it means to me, especially since transitioning to this gluten free lifestyle.
During the liturgy, we believe that we are entering into the presence of God. This is not a symbolic presence. We come into the Presence of the Living God, along with all the saints from ages past, present, and future, the seraphim, and the cherubim. At the height of this worship and celebration is the Eucharist: the receiving of the body and blood of Christ. Through taking the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies, we join with Christ, and we join with all other Christians receiving the life-creating body and blood. This joining is not merely symbolic, an exercise of our intellect, but is a physical and mystical reality. It is “communion” in the greatest sense of the word. We become the body of Christ. As a finger is an integrated part of our body, we are an integrated part of Christ’s body, with Christ as our head. We are joined, united, to Christ and to all others.
As we believe that we are not just symbolic members of Christ’s body, we likewise believe that the Eucharistic sacrifice, the bread and wine, are not just symbolic of Christ’s body and blood. Somehow, during the Eucharist we pray that the Holy Spirit will come down and transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. And we put our faith in God that He will do this. The bread and wine, while remaining bread and wine, is also at the same time so much more than bread and wine. It’s the physical and mystical reality of Christ. It tastes like bread and wine, it feels like bread and wine, it looks like bread and wine, but at the same time that bread and wine is the deifying body and blood of Christ.
Why am I going to such great lengths to describe this? Because I don’t get sick when I take communion. In my normal life, I am sensitive enough to gluten that even a few crumbs of cake or a swallow of beer is enough to cause digestive problems and make me sick. But, somehow, with faith and trust in God, and fear and trembling, I approach the cup, consume the Body and Blood of Christ / bread and wine, and don’t get sick.
I don’t understand why I don’t get sick, but the transforming power of God is at work. Glory to God.