CHURCH RULES FOR CONFESSION & HOLY COMMUNION
by Protopriest Gregory Naumenko
"If thou desirest, O man, to eat the Body of the Master, approach with fear
lest thou be burnt, for It is fire."
"Behold, I approach the Divine Communion. O Creator, let me not be burnt by
communicating, for Thou art Fire consuming the unworthy." (From the Prayers
Before Holy Communion)
Those who desire to have Confession and to commune of the Holy Mysteries
must prepare properly, according to the rules instituted by the Holy
Orthodox Church. Namely:
Those who desire to commune on Sunday must begin preparation from the
previous Monday by at least being continually conscious of the fact that
they are preparing to partake of the Most precious Body and Blood of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
Explanation: In the 32nd chapter of the Typicon (book of church rules) we
read: "When one desires to commune of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, it is
most proper for him/her to keep properly the entire previous week; to
remain in fasting, prayer and complete sobriety from the previous Monday;
and then, with fear and great reverence, to receive the Most precious
Fast according to the rules of the Church.
Explanation: During the entire Great Lent and Dormition Fast, we do not
partake of meat, eggs, milk and fish (Fish is allowed only on the days of
Annunciation and Palm Sunday, and, during the Dormition Fast, on
Transfiguration. During the entire Nativity Fast and Apostles; Fast, we do
not partake of meat, eggs or milk. It is allowable to lessen the fast only
in the case of severe illness, for small children, the feeble and elderly,
and for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Be present at and attentively participate in the evening services before
the day of Holy Communion.
Explanation: Communion of the most pure Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus
Christ is the highest form of communion with the Lord God. Communing is the
completion, the culmination of our communion with God. If a person comes to
the chalice without having gone through the struggle of prayer, through
which he comes nearer to God, if he does not go through a process of
ever-increasing interaction with God, then this leap, as it were, from
noncommunion to the ultimate level of communion (i.e., Holy Communion) is
too drastic. That person is unworthy at that point for the acceptance of
the Body and Blood of the Lord, and for that person the Gifts become "fire,
consuming the unworthy." In other words, for such a person, Communion
brings not healing, but harm. This is why it is necessary to be at the
Divine Services preceding Holy Communion, for they are one of the most
important forms of interaction with God available to us, and thus an
important component of our preparation.
Those preparing for Communion must have Confession before or following the
service on the eve before Holy Communion. Confession before Liturgy is
permissible only as an exception for those who cannot come in the evening
because of the condition of their health or for some other justifiable
Explanation: Since we must be in church on the eve of receiving Holy
Communion, it is wise for us to have Confession at that time. In the
evening there is no hurry; one can calmly and thoughtfully lay out one's
thoughts. In the morning the priest is busy with the Proskomedia, and there
is little time. Confession becomes hurried, incomplete. Only extreme need
is cause enough to pull the priest away from the Proskomedia for morning
Read at home all the prescribed preparatory prayers out of the prayer book.
Explanation: One must definitely read "The Order of Preparation for Holy
Communion" (found in the Jordanville Prayer Book).* Those who have not read
these prayers should not partake of Holy Communion. The following should
also be read before Holy Communion: 1) Supplicatory Canon to our Lord Jesus
Christ 2) Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos 3) Canon to the
Guardian Angel 4) Akathist to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ or Akathist to
our Most Holy Lady Theotokos.
Ask forgiveness and reconcile yourself with everyone with whom you have had
an argument, misunderstanding or any deterioration in relationship. By
taking Communion without full reconciliation with everyone we do ourselves
Explanation: The Church exhorts us to be in peace with everyone through the
following words which are written in the prayers preparing us for Holy
Communion: "If thou desirest, O man, to eat the Body of the Mastery,
approach with fear, lest thou be burnt; for It is fire. And when thou
drinkest the Divine Blood unto communion, first be reconciled to them that
have grieved thee, then dare to eat the Mystical Food."
One must approach the Mysteries without having eaten or drunk anything from
Explanation: We prepare ourselves with fasting for the partaking of the
Holy Gifts. The final period before Communion we intensify our abstention,
and eat and drink nothing. Those who cannot do without certain medication
may take it with Holy Water that morning. Small children may eat before
Communion in the morning. The sick (for example, diabetics) and those who
are weak can receive a blessing from their spiritual father (priest) to eat
a small amount the morning of Communion.
In the morning, one must come before the beginning of the service,
respectfully venerate the icons, light candles, find a spot to stand and be
prepared for the beginning of the reading of the Hours. One must listen
attentively to the Hours and then to the Divine Liturgy.
Explanation: The Hours are part of the cycle of services. They are also an
important part of the process of preparation for Holy Communion for the
same reason outlined above.
Men are forbidden to come to Communion with their heads covered, according
to the strict edict of the holy Apostle Paul. Women are forbidden to come
to Communion with their heads uncovered, according to the same Apostle.
(These rules apply not only when receiving the Holy Mysteries but at all
times inside the temple.)
Explanation: The Church follows the instruction of the Apostle Paul, who
says in his first epistle to the Corinthians (II:4-5): Every man praying or
prophesying having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. But every woman
that prayeth and prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head.
No one should take Holy Communion (or even come to church) with lipstick
Explanation: Besides the fact that such a practice is not becoming for
God's House, how many pages of our churches' Holy Gospels have been ruined
by kissing with painted lips. How many church vessels, crosses, spoons,
have been treated the same way. Look at our icons at the end of a service.
They are covered with lipstick smears. Even the Holy Shroud, the Body of
Christ, Who suffered for us, has been marred with lipstick.
After receiving Holy Communion, one must stay and listen attentively to the
thanksgiving prayers or diligently read them at home from the prayer book.
Explanation: In Holy Communion we receive a great gift from God. We express
our gratitude for God's great act of mercy through these thanksgiving
At the end of the service, those who communed listen to the thanksgiving
prayers and do not come up to venerate the Cross with everyone else. When
the thanksgiving prayers are over, the Cross is brought out to the
communicants for veneration.
Explanation: The people who have not taken Holy Communion come up to the
Cross immediately and receive a piece of antidoron, as a consolation that
they were unable to take Holy Communion at this Liturgy. The communicants,
without interruption, listen to the thanksgiving prayers and then venerate
the Cross, since they have partaken of the True Gifts and have no need to
receive the antidoron (which means "in place of the Gifts").
Following Holy Communion, we piously return home, retain a prayerful and
peaceful disposition, do good works, and exert all our efforts not to
return to the sins from which we have been cleansed.
(Fr. Gregory, a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary, is rector of Holy
Protection Russian Orthodox Church in Rochester, NY)
taken from Orthodox America