Holy Communion is the GREATEST GIFT and both the Source and Summit of our Life.

Bestower of mercy, grant that I may come to You with orthodox faith, with good works and by the Communion of Your Holy Body and Blood. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

St Nerses Shnorhali (The Grace-Filled) from With Faith I Confess (Stanza 19)

What the Armenian Orthodox Church believes and confesses about Communion helps to understand why it is essential to encourage and oblige the faithful to frequent Communion. Very simply, we believe in the “Real Presence” and that it is in fact, the very real and life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus Christ which He gave to us for the forgiveness of our sins and for the assurance of eternal life. Simple logic therefore dictates that without Communion, we have no forgiveness and no promise, and like a tree cut from its nourishing roots, only to wither and waste away. In the Johannine discourse about the “real presence” Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:53-58

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a central tenet of the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and so we believe that, in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is truly though mysteriously present.

This naturally speaks to the Christian responsibility of both parents with young children and God parents who have pledged to encourage faith formation and church attendance, ideally by setting the example. Our church does not impose rigorous expectations but I truly believe that it should, not to make life difficult but to do everything to achieve the glorious conclusion which is the Life IN Christ. Recently, studies show that no more than half of people who identify as Catholics believe in the Real Presence. I wonder what statistics for Armenians would show? By the frequency of the reception of Communion, I would say we are in a very deep and catastrophic spiritual collapse. This is not only speaking of Rhode Island but for most of the Armenian Nation worldwide. Have you ever wondered what percentage of children being baptized in the church are actually brought up in the church and consistently nurtured with faith formation, and prayer, not to mention regular Communion?

I want to encourage you all to feel the urge, obligation, necessity and privilege of frequent reception of Holy Communion in a worthy and faithful manner. This will mean preparation, fasting (if health allows) and a sincere confession with examination. This is nothing unusual but was the norm from the earliest times universally and only got disjointed and broken with Ottoman oppression and persecutions.

We must take our responsibility to set the example to our children, grandchildren and fellow baptized by our serious approach to the Life in Christ. We are not saved by historical knowledge, church membership, attendance at functions. We are saved by our faith, flowing with right and proper conduct as we are led by the Holy Spirit and regularly refreshed in the sacramental life. As a caution, verse 66 of the above passage shows that many of the disciples rejected Jesus’ invitation to eat and drink His body and Blood and no longer followed Him. Jesus did not call them back or force them in line and into “communion”, but asked those remaining, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 53:67)

Beloved in Christ, once again, let us meditate and pray on the words of our Father, St. Nerses Shnorhali.

Bestower of mercy, grant that I may come to You with orthodox faith, with good works and by the Communion of Your Holy Body and Blood. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

St Nerses Shnorhali (The Grace-Filled)

Fr. Shnork Souin, Pastor

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Fr. Shnork Souin

Priest of the Armenian Orthodox Church

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