Tag Archives: communion

The Nourishment I Need

In my daily life I have to be extremely careful about what I eat.  I have to avoid all traces of gluten and soy.  If I am accident-ly exposed to gluten, the consequences are unpleasant and life disrupting.  I have embarrassing gastro-intestinal problems, I am too weak to even climb stairs at times, and I get bad headaches.  This is a consequence of my body not being able to properly absorb nutrients following gluten exposure.  I eat, but what I eat doesn’t make it to my cells.  So, taking vitamins and making sure I get proper nourishment is essential for me to function.

But what about my spiritual nourishment? I have to eat, neglecting food for too long leaves me grumpy and weak.  Too often I forget that neglecting God for too long leaves me grumpy and spiritually weak.  I need daily, hourly, nourishment from Him.  It is easy to brush off prayers in the morning, saying them while doing other things or neglecting them entirely.  It is also easy to be “too tired” in the evening to spend time with God.  But, like my body eventually noticing lack of food, my body eventually notices the lack of God.  In His grace and mercy He is always there, waiting for me with open arms, welcoming me back to His presence.

I take this continuous presence for granted sometimes.  God is always going to be there, to be “out there.” There will be time for Him later, on my terms, when I can sit down and take a break.

But God won’t be there forever.  At some time in the future, maybe even in the next day, (or the next hour!) I will be called before His judgement seat.  What will I say when I get there? Will I have been so busy with the rest of my life that I don’t recognize Him? Will I be ashamed to stand before Him and give an account of myself? Most importantly, will I be able to respond with love to His loving call to me?

This season of Lent is supposed to be a time of increased discipline, of increased prayer.  I have failed.  And in that failing I feel even more keenly the call of My Father.  He’s there, waiting for me with open arms, if only I stop being self-absorbed and un-disciplined, and instead slow down and worship Him.  It’s an easy thing to say, but not an easy thing to do. But God, in His grace and mercy, always calls to His children, the entirety of the human race – even those that do not yet know Him, or those that are too busy for Him.

In a little more than a week we will again hear the Paschal sermon of Saint John Chrysostom:

… If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour. And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.

It’s never too late. I come at the eleventh hour, but my Lord, who is Love, awaits.  If only I take the time to nourish my body and respond to Him.  Glory be to God.

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Preparing for the Incarnation

Into the darkness of winter, into the darkness of this world’s violence, hate, illness, war, and suffering, the Son of God, the Son of Man, comes, bringing us light so that through His light we may become Him.  Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

This is what the Incarnation of the Word of God is all about.  He comes to heal our broken world and unite Himself to us. Sometimes, I feel like we focus on the death of Christ, His atonement for our sins, and miss the Incarnation and the Resurrection.

Without the mystery of the Incarnation, without a sanctified vessel, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and her willing sacrifice for us, the Son of God could not and would not have been born.  All of creation, and all of time was waiting for this woman, this Champion of Christians, this first Christian, to be born, to reside within the temple, so that her body might be made the Temple of God.  That sacrifice, the indwelling of God was granted to a woman, a broken human being just like the rest of us.  She too was subject to the corruption and death of the world that came about through the sin of Adam.  But this woman, the Mother of God, was sanctified and chosen by God to bear Himself; she was chosen from time immaterial to be God’s Mother. No wonder “all generations shall call [her] blessed!”  She carried God in her womb for 9 months.  It wasn’t that the fetus “became” God at some point in development, it wasn’t that God dwelt in a child after the birth of that child, it was that God humbled himself so much that he became that ball of cells, that fetus, that baby.

I still can’t wrap my head around the mystery of the Incarnation, or the mystery of the Theotokos, the Mother of God.  To think that God himself loves His creation so much that He unites His nature to our own through the Incarnation is mind-boggling.  This is God, the creator and sustainer of the universe.  And he chose a perfect vessel, the Theotokos, as the temple in which to make His home here on earth!  And, He chooses each of us as His vessel in which to make His home here on earth, so that we might be sanctified, made holy, and through the working out of our salvation be brought closer and closer to God.  So that at our death, because of the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ, we might be united to Christ, sharing in His energies, united in love.

This is the mystery of our salvation, the Incarnation of God.  The death and resurrection of God was for the cleansing of the world from the corruption wrought by Adam, but it is in the uniting of us creatures to the Creator that we have our salvation.  As St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become gods.”

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This Nativity Fast has been a struggle for me, many times my physical body has been broken, racked by pain and weakness.  My heart has been broken, turning away from God, trusting in my own strengths.  My intellect and all notions of myself have been broken when I’ve had to realize that what I thought were “my dreams” were not God’s plan for me.  But, in God’s grace and mercy, I pray that this brokenness bring me closer to Him, more like Him.

Fasting is hard, fasting is a spiritual and bodily struggle. I fail at fasting.  Like the Publican, sometimes all I can do is cry “Lord have mercy on me!” Like the Pharisee, I strut my stuff, thinking “I’ve got this fasting thing down, look at me being so good.” And then God humbles me, breaks me, so that I might slowly be sanctified.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

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Bread Transformed

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.

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