Mystery of Communion | Russian Oldbeliever Church

Main page Publications Theology and culture Mystery of Communion

Subjects of publications

The Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church

The official website of the Moscow Metropolitanate.

Address: Russia, Moscow, Rogozhsky Poselok street, 1A, 5.
Phone: +7 (495) 361-51-91

Mystery of Communion

The greatest of the seven Church Sacraments is Holy Communion, or Eucharist. We can say that all other Sacraments are the preparation of believers for the communion of the Holy Mysteries, that is, of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Lord established the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Last or Mystical Supper: “And taking bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying: ‘This is my Body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Also, the cup after supper, saying: ‘This cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you’” (Luke 22: 19-20). The Eucharist, pursuant to the commandment of the Savior, has been celebrated from the first centuries of Christianity and will continue to be celebrated until the second coming of the Lord, as the Apostle Paul says: “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you announce the death of the Lord until He comes” (1 Cor. 11: 26).

Mystery of Communion
photo by Sergey Trigubenko

In the Liturgy, during the celebration of the Eucharistic canon, the bread and the wine are mysteriously changed in their essence into the Body and Blood of the Lord. Therefore, the Liturgy is called the “prayer of prayers” – this is the main service of the Church, which is preceded by a daily service circle. The main goal of the life of a believer is the salvation of the soul, which is eternal life with Christ. For this, it is necessary to partake of the Holy Mysteries, according to the Lord: “Verily, verily I say unto you, if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you will not have life in yourself. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6: 53–54). Communing the Holy Mysteries, believers are united with Christ. Communion is the central sacrament of the Christian Church.

Priests and infants (up to the age of seven) can receive Communion at each Liturgy, and for the rest, Old Believers have stricter rules in preparation.

Communion of children

Children, like adults, partake of fasting. In the morning, only infants are fed (up to a year) and try to make the child sleep a little before communion. Some parishes require the child to be in the evening in the service, or refuse communion. Experienced priests believe that this is a harmful practice, and it is not feasible for those who live far away and who have many children. It also happens that the baby screams and breaks out when he is brought to the sacrament. This may be due to the fact that he is rarely in the temple and gets scared when he sees a large number of people or from the sound of the choir. But for this reason it is impossible to deprive the child of the sacrament. Many experienced priests believe that the child is all the more necessary to be involved, but with caution so that he does not spit. And sometimes it’s useful to take a break so that the baby gets used to the situation.

Communion of the laity among the followers of the Old-Rite

Most Old Believers commune once a year – during strict Lent and after confession. There is also a pious custom to receive communion five times a year: • In the first and seventh weeks of Great Lent; • In the Apostles’ fast (the fast of Holy Apostles Peter and Paul; • In the Dormition and Nativity Fasts. However, in some parishes more frequent communion is practiced: outside fasting periods, at the discretion of the spiritual father.

Preparation for Holy Communion of Priests

Priests and deacons prepare for the Liturgy as follows: in the evening, the standard Canons [1] are prayed, and in the morning before the service begins, the sacrament hours, canon and prayers for the Holy Communion.

At this time, the Correct Canons and the usual evening service are performed in the temple. Depending on the customs of a parish, the Correct Canons are made before the beginning of the main service or after its completion. Those who have received the blessing of the spiritual father to partake of the Holy Mysteries before the morning service (usually at 5 in the morning) pray for the sacrament hours, the sacrament canon, prayers for Holy Communion; then the priest reads a confession to them.

After this, the service is carried out in the usual manner: midnight office, hours and the Liturgy. It should be remembered that before Communion you can not drink and eat (after midnight), and after Communion you can not spit, kiss or eat something with a bone. For those who do not partake of the communion, the “preparation” is not necessary. However, in order to accept the antidoron[2] or prosphora after the Liturgy, one must go on an empty stomach to the service. During the singing of the verse for Holy Communion, those who are partaking approach the ambon[3].

After the exclamation, “With fear of God and faith draw nigh,” the adults who are being absolved have the prayer of absolution read over them, while they bow their heads toward the ground[4] without making the sign of the cross) and listen to prayer of absolution read over them by the priest. Having risen, they fold their hands crosswise and listen to the prayers read by the priest with attention. Then they bow down to the Holy Mysteries and approach the Holy Chalice in order: ladies with babies, ladies with girls, then men and women.

Kryloshan (singers and reciters standing on the wings [right and left choirs]) usually pass ahead to the front of the line [in order to be able to chant while the others commune]. Approaching the Chalice, the communicant guards himself with the sign of the Cross with the Jesus prayer, folds his hands across his shoulders forming a cross, and is imparted the Holy Gifts – receiving the Body and Blood of Christ with fear of God and reverence.

Then the communicant makes the Sign of the Cross and kisses the base of the Chalice. After Communion, they proceed to a table on which there is warm wine (diluted with boiling water) and prosphora. After the end of the Liturgy, all the participants listen with attention to Prayers of Thanksgiving.

[1]     Правильные каноны: seven Byzantine canons and akathists (eight or nine groups of prayers of praise and petition to Christ or a saint, with a standard refrain repeated after each brief praise or hymn) printed in standard prayerbooks: 1) the Canon to our Lord Jesus Christ; 2) the Canon to the Most Holy Mother of God; 3) the Canon to one’s Guardian Angel; 4) the Akathist to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ; 5) the Akathist to our Most Holy Lady Mother of God; 6) the Canon of Repentance to our Lord Jesus Christ; 7) the Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion {followed by the (immediate) Preparatory Prayers for Holy Communion (Psalms 22,23,115, the 10 Prayers of St Basil, Chrysostom, Damascene, and Symeon, followed by the Pre-Communion Verses of St Symeon)}]

[2]     Antidoron: “In place of the (Holy) Gifts”, portions of blessed bread from the preparation of the Holy Gifts in the altar, considered a participation therein and so requiring fasting.

[3]             The raised platform area outside the Royal or Beautiful Gates of the Altar, where the priest stands when preaching or imparting Holy Communion to the faithful.

[4]             A simple deeply bowed posture, held thus until the completion of the prayer.