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The Eucharist

Holy Communion

In the Orthodox Church the laity as wee as the clergy always receive communion ‘under both kinds’. Communion is given to the laity in a spoon, containing a small piece of the Holy Bread together with a portion of the Wine; it is received standing. Orthodoxy insists on a strict fast before communion, and nothing can be eaten or drunk after waking in the morning.

After the final blessing with which the Liturgy ends, the people come up and receive a little piece of bread, called Antidoron, which is blessed but not consecrated, although taken from the same loaf as the bread used in the consecration. In most Orthodox parishes non-Orthodox present at the Liturgy are permitted – and indeed, encouraged – to receive the Antidoron, as an expression of Christian fellowship and love.

Today the Eucharist is celebrated in the Eastern Church according to one of the four different services:

– The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (the normal liturgy on Sundays and weekdays).
– The liturgy of St Basil the Great (used ten times a year; in structure it closely resembles the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, but the central Eucharistic prayer is much longer).
– The Liturgy of St James, the Brother of the Lord (used once a year, on St James’s Day, 23 October, in Jerusalem and a few other places).
– The Liturgy of the Presanctified (used on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, and on the first three days of Holy Week. There is no consecration in this Liturgy, but communion is given from elements consecrated on the previous Sunday).

The Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Once again we offer to You this spiritual worship without the shedding of blood, and we ask, pray, and entreat You: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here presented. And make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ. (Amen.) And that which is in this cup the precious Blood of Your Christ. (Amen.) Changing them by Your Holy Spirit. (Amen. Amen. Amen.) So that they may be to those who partake of them for vigilance of soul, forgiveness
of sins, communion of Your Holy Spirit, fulfilment of the kingdom of heaven, confidence before You, and not in judgment or condemnation. Again, we offer this spiritual worship for those who repose in the faith, forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith. -The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

As the words of the Epiclesis make abundantly plain, the Orthodox Church believes that after consecration the bread and wine become in very truth the Body and Blood of Christ: they are not mere symbols but the reality.

Bibliography: Kallistos,. 1993. The Orthodox Church. 1st ed. London, England: Penguin Books.