I was reflecting on the issue of worthiness when it comes to receiving Holy Communion. The issue really vexes me because it seems that all I hear these days is that we are all not worthy to receive communion. This to me is really ridiculous. I mean, I know the prayers speak of us being unworthy when we receive, but what exactly does this “worthiness” mean?
Many believe that if we sin, especially when the time for Sunday communion approaches, we should not approach the chalice. This usually involves the failure to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, judging others, etc, etc, etc. We seem to think that only when we are in some kind of pseudo-pure spiritual state can we receive the divine mysteries. I hate to break it to everyone. There is no such reality!
There is only one who is sinless and pure and He gave us Himself for nourishment! It is quite shocking to realize that we, in our arrogance, actually have fooled ourselves into believing that we, at any moment, deserve the Eucharist that our Lord and savior gave us freely. We seem to overlook the reality of the Gospels which tell us that Christ forgave us even when we were nailing Him to the Cross. It is truly a spiritual sickness to think that anything we can do can make us anywhere close to deserving of the free gift of life which Christ gives to us through the Eucharist.
This being said, we continue to live our lives according to somekind of legalistic merit system in which we must perform certain actions to necessitate our entrance into heaven. Really, how selfish is such a lifestyle! Christ taught us to love for the sake of loving and not for the sake of a reward. In the same way He have gave us his Flesh and His Blood freely without expecting anything in return except to love Him and our Neighbour. If we love Him we must believe in Him and attempt to keep His commandments. However, we must remember that in trying to be perfect, like our Father is perfect, it is not our reaching of the goal that makes us holy and worthy of the faith, but the attempt in itself. Christ knows we are fallen and imperfect. All he expects us to do is to try, really try. This is the worthiness that I believe the communion prayers speak of. Do we believe in the teachings of Christ? Do we attempt everday to follow them, no matter how many times we fall? Can we recite the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers? These are the crucial questions we must ask ourselves when approaching the chalice; not whether we failed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Sin is not the obstacle to communion; unbelief and indifference is. It doesn’t matter if we fail in our spiritual endeavours, what matters is that we try. If we are in the state of ascetic struggle, then that means we are moving towards God and not away from Him. If this is the case, then we must be communing every Sunday. If this is not the case, then and only then must we abstain; not because of our unworthiness, but because of our unbelief in the power of God and our unbelief in the miracle of Holy Communion.
It seems to me that in the Gospel accounts Christ did not tell us to take communion whenever we feel worthy or whenever it seems spiritually convenient. He commanded us “DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.” Who are we to deny Christ’s commandment? He commanded us to do this because in doing so we would remember Him and his teachings and keep them in our hearts. It is when we forget Him that we are in serious danger of becoming unworthy of the Kingdom. If we wish to come closer to Christ, we must be willing to embrace Him no matter how evil we think our actions have become. If we saw Christ in person today would we run to embrace Him or would we stay away? How is communion any different? And are we so bold as to make that choice? Didn’t Christ already make it for us?