We thank You, Lord, our God, for the communion of Your holy, most pure, immortal, and heavenly Mysteries which You have granted us for the benefit, sanctification, and healing of our souls and bodies. Grant, Master of all, that the communion of the holy Body and Blood of Your Christ may become for us faith unashamed, love unfeigned, fullness of wisdom, healing of soul and body, repelling of every hostile adversary, observance of Your commandments, and an acceptable defense at the dread judgment seat of Your Christ. For You are our sanctification and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
(Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, p. 46)
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all Thy wonderful deeds.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may praise Thee and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever.
The distribution of Holy Communion is identical in both the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. The call to receive: “With the fear of God, with faith and with love draw near,” and the conclusion: “Save, O God, Your people and bless Your inheritance,” are the same. The Gifts are then taken back to the Prothesis table while petitions of thanksgiving are offered.
The difference in this section of the Divine Liturgy is a prayer of thanksgiving which is usually offered inaudibly. We reflect on that prayer here. The prayer offers quick words of gratitude to the Lord “for the communion of Your holy, most pure, immortal and heavenly Mysteries,” before turning its attention back to us with several reminders of why we receive Holy Communion and what to do now that we have received. Even if we received Holy Communion every day, it takes only seconds to receive. Even if we celebrated the Divine Liturgy each day, that only takes an hour or so. The vast majority of our lives are spent outside of the church and outside of worship. This prayer gives us some insight in how to pass that time.
We are reminded in the prayer that the Lord has permitted us to receive the Eucharist for the “benefit, sanctification and healing of our souls and bodies.” Holy Communion is not intended to benefit our pocketbooks, our reputations or our egos. The benefit is sanctification and healing. Sanctification, as we have already discussed, is God’s desire to make us holy, and our desire for God to make us holy. As for healing, Holy Communion has power to heal wounds. While it will not necessarily cure a disease like cancer (though there have been instances where miracles have happened directly related to Holy Communion), anytime there is a wound of the body, there will be a corresponding wound to the soul. Holy Communion gives strength to us, both our souls and bodies. There is something unquantifiable that happens when Christ enters into us, especially when our souls are working in concert with His presence. Yes, Holy Communion can be rather meaningless if we do not receive it with intention and attention. However, when we receive attentively, as we are invited with fear of God, with faith and with love, there is something mystical, powerful and beautiful that happens to us, and that’s the power of God’s grace coming into us.
With Holy Communion having been received and with the faithful about to reenter the world, this prayer reminds us of several things to work on as we reengage in life following the conclusion of the service. First, it is the hope that the Eucharist “may become for us faith unashamed.” This means that faith doesn’t fit into a compartment. We don’t “do faith” at the Divine Liturgy and then forget about it afterwards. We have some pride (not sinful pride) in who we are as Christians and as children of God, and we are not afraid to express that to others. We don’t hide it. That doesn’t mean we proclaim it from the housetops or stand on street corners waving signs. It means, however, that faith leads our life each day, and when faith leads, others will notice.
“Love unfeigned” means love that is genuine and sincere. The world is becoming less genuine and sincere by the day, it seems. Everything seems fake and contrived. If God loves us so much that in our ordinary sinfulness, we receive His extraordinary Body and Blood, then we shouldn’t leave the church feeling ordinary but extraordinary, and then our actions should be extraordinary to reflect the blessing we’ve just received. To be genuine and sincere is extraordinary in the world today. Our expressions of love should be extraordinary.
In order to express love in a way that is genuine and sincere, we need “fullness of wisdom.” We need to be discerning, thoughtful, purposeful and intentional. Wisdom doesn’t just happen to people. It is acquired and expressed with thought and purpose.
“Healing of soul and body” is so important as it relates to Holy Communion that the phrase is repeated almost identically twice in this short prayer. Holy Communion is supposed to form a barrier of protection around our lives and especially our souls. When you wax a car, the next time a rainstorm comes, the water is repelled off of the car. And when we are sealed by God’s grace, we are better equipped to repel sin and temptation. We are tempted both by the devil and by other people. Holy Communion, and the grace we receive through it will help us to repel “every hostile adversary.”
Observing the commandments is part of our daily life, as well as our daily struggle as Christians. We pray that Holy Communion is an aid in this struggle, that it gives us strength as we go through life. And of course, the journey of life will end before the “dread judgment seat of Christ,” where we hope to make an “acceptable defense” of our lives. If this is the ultimate destination, then Holy Communion is the ultimate preparation for that destination.
The prayer concludes with the ekphonesis which is common to both Divine Liturgies, “For You are our sanctification, and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.” There is no other means to sanctification outside of God. Despite the efforts of the world, politics, popular culture, etc. to suggest other means to holiness, other “saviors” and other goals, the goal for the Christian life is sanctification, and this comes only through Jesus Christ.