WHO MAY RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH?
Orthodox Christians fully participate in the celebration of the Liturgy when they receive the body and blood of the Lord Jesus in the sacrament of holy communion, as the Lord commands (John 6:53). To receive communion in the Orthodox Church, one must be a practicing Orthodox Christian. This means that you must be baptized and/or chrismated in the Orthodox Church and that your beliefs and lifestyle are in accordance with the teachings of the Church.
In order to be properly prepared for this encounter with Christ, those seeking to receive communion should not be conscious of grave sin in their lives, having opened their hearts with prayer, fasted appropriately and lived with charity and love towards their neighbors. Because, as the apostle Paul teaches, it is possible to receive the body and blood of the Lord "in an unworthy manner" and actually be "sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27-30), those who are aware of grave sin in their lives should participate in the sacrament of confession - confess their sins and be reconciled to Christ and His Church - before approaching the chalice to receive communion. (Read 1 John 1:8-10; James 5:16; and John 20:19-23.) Frequent reception of the body and blood of Christ - at every Liturgy, if possible - is encouraged for all Orthodox Christians. This is in keeping with the ancient practice of the Church and the teaching of the saints. St. Basil the Great, for example, writing to the Roman patrician Caesarius in 372AD, says that "to take communion every day, ie to participate in the body and blood of Christ, is good and beneficial. For who can doubt that sharing in this Life is nothing else than living in many ways? We receive communion four times each week - on Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday - and on the other days when there is the remembrance of a saint" (Letter 90).
We welcome those Christians not fully united with us in faith and life to our celebration of the Liturgy. Unfortunately, the guidelines offered above exclude those who are not of the Orthodox faith from the reception of communion. This is a sad and painful consequence of the painful divisions that exist within Christianity. Because we believe the reception of communion to be an action of the celebrating community that signifies a complete unity in matters of faith, life and worship, the reception of communion by Christians not fully united with us in faith would imply a unity that does not yet exist in reality. We pray that these divisions among Christians in fundamental beliefs and practices will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for His disciples "that they may all be one" (John 17:21).
We also welcome to the celebration of the Liturgy those who do not share our faith in Jesus as Christ and Lord. While we cannot extend an invitation to receive communion, we invite those visiting our parish to pray with us for peace and unity within the human family and hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
THE SCRIPTURAL TEACHING ON THE MEANING OF HOLY COMMUNION
The Lord Jesus said: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, they will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. Amen, amen, I say to you: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me." - John 6:35,51,53-57
The apostle Paul said: "The cup of blessing which we bless: is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break: is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the same loaf.
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper, he also took the cup, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread of drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink in an unworthy manner, without discerning the Lord's body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason, many of you are weak and ill and some have died. - 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:23-30
Also, read the accounts of the Last Supper given at Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:14-23.