Preparation for Holy Communion
The general disciplines for preparing for holy communion are the disciplines of the Orthodox way of life. They are the practices which keep us alive to God, which open our minds, hearts and bodies to the presence of God s grace and power in our lives. They include:
- Regular participation in the Church’s liturgical worship.
- Regular practice of a rule of personal prayer.
- Regular practice of fasting (Wednesdays and Fridays) and abstinence.
- Regular reading of the Bible and spiritual writings.
- Regular confession of sins (and thoughts, feelings, temptations and dreams) to our pastor, or to someone whom our pastor authorizes and blesses for this purpose.
- Regular giving and receiving of forgiveness of sins with all the people in our lives.
- Regular donations of money to the Church, and to those in need.
- Regular sharing of our time, energies, and possessions with others.
- Constant effort to do our daily work as well as we can, to God's glory, for the good of people, and constant striving not to sin in the smallest way in the routine activities of our everyday life and personal relationships.
The words regular and constant are repeated and emphasized because our spiritual practices and activities must be done according to a rule. They must be done constantly and consistently with conscious attention and discipline. They cannot be left to whim, caprice or feeling.
What a person does in regard to liturgical worship, personal prayer, fasting, reading, contributing, working and serving will be shaped according to the conditions of his or her life. It will be different for each person according to age, strength, health, available time, and personal capabilities. The saints say that rules of prayer, reading and fasting should be brief but frequent, simple, pure, uncomplicated and keepable. They should be determined and established with spiritual advice and counsel in ways which permit them to be easily included within the real possibilities of ones actual life.
Specific Preparation for Holy Communion
As Orthodox, we recognize that none of us is worthy of the great Gifts God gives us, and above all other such Gifts are the Gifts of His Body and Blood in the Holy Communion. Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church's Holy Tradition knows and keeps the necessity of preparation for Communion. While we are all unworthy, no one is prevented from communing because of unworthiness. Yet, anyone who is not prepared for the Holy Communion can and must be prevented from placing him or herself in great spiritual and bodily danger by communing. Our Holy Church traditionally considers preparation to be fervent prayer, especially on the eve and morning before Holy Communion; strict fasting, at least from midnight, but preferably from the early evening; taking positive and persistent steps towards reconciliation with all, especially with those with whom one has had a definite falling out.
People with disciplined spiritual lives who partake regularly and frequently of the sacraments will have less specific preparation for holy communion than those with undisciplined spiritual lives who seldom partake of the holy mysteries. The latter will surely have to make extraordinary efforts to read special prayers, keep special fasts, do special good deeds, give special contributions, and make special acts of sacramental confession when these practices are not a regular, constant and consistent part of their lives.