GRATITUDE AND THE EUCHARIST
GRATITUDE AND THE EUCHARIST
Character Trait Theme: Gratitude
(Presbytera Faith and Father Luke preached this together)
This week, I am joining Father Luke to talk about our next Character Trait- Gratitude. This is a good character trait to talk about since we are preparing for what American holiday that is coming up in a few weeks…That’s right Thanksgiving. What do you think about when you hear Thanksgiving? Family, Food, Football…
How many of you look forward to the Feast of Thanksgiving–the turkey, stuffing, side dishes, pumpkin pie, and other desserts. Truly, it is a feast and those who have cooked and baked have put in a lot of time to prepare this feast. Imagine preparing such a feast, inviting your family and friends and then guests decide at the last minute not to attend making different excuses. That would be sad and not polite and not showing gratitude and thanksgiving.
There is even another wonderful feast in our church that we celebrate every Sunday at the Divine Liturgy and during the week on special feast days–it is the Feast of the Eucharist–Holy Communion. Does anyone know what the word eucharist means? It means thanksgiving.
Yes, when we participate in holy communion-the eucharistic gifts -we are thanking God for giving us His sacrificial gifts of His body and blood, in the mystical form of wine and bread consecrated for holy communion. Consecrated is a big word - it means we believe as Orthodox Christians the Holy Spirit comes down and mystically changes the bread into the Body of Christ and the wine into the Blood of Christ. It is a Mystery how this happens! The bread and the wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus when we kneel and Fr. Luke asks the Holy Spirit to come upon us and upon these gifts!
We have been teaching our Sunday School students about the Divine Liturgy this year and we have reached the climax of the liturgy this week as we discuss preparing for and receiving Holy Communion. We have discussed with our students how Jesus Christ first started Holy Communion - The Eucharist - as a mystical supper, a sacrament to remember His Last Supper and ultimately his sacrifice of body and blood on the Cross for our eternal life with him.
Jesus was the Host of the Last Supper. He shared bread and wine with his most beloved disciples and instructed them to continue this tradition by remembering Him and his sacrifice. “This is my body which is broken for you. This is my blood for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.” These are the words of Christ himself. This icon of the Last Supper reveals his most beloved followers participating in this Great Feast to remember the love and sacrifice of our Lord.
Now imagine what the Last Supper would look like if the disciples of Jesus chose not to attend. What if they chose to make excuses why they couldn’t participate in the Last Supper. Fast forward 2000 years later to today and what does the Last Supper look like in our churches today? How do we as Christ’s disciples value Sunday mornings and prepare for Holy Communion?
Sunday morning worship should be the most holy and sacred time of the week because Christ taught us, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” This is the Day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. Imagine how Jesus would feel if we choose not to attend His Great Thanksgiving Banquet every Sunday morning. Imagine how Christ feels when his Christian followers make all kinds of excuses why they can’t attend the Lord’s Day - His Heavenly Feast.
What are some of those excuses. Let’s call up our Sunday School kids and hear some things people too often say:
- Sorry Lord, my friends are in town for the weekend and I’m sure you won’t mind if I miss this time. I am having a sleepover with them.
- I was up kinda late last night. It’s my only day to sleep in. I just need to rest today. I really need some ME time this morning. I needed to give myself a break.
- I was there last week. I don’t think it really matters if I come every Sunday. Two Sundays a month is better than most of my friends who don’t go to church at all. I can just say my prayers at home.
- Finally, I have a sunny day to go for a hike or to the beach.. I’m sure I can meet with God in nature and don't need to be at the feast.
- I had brunch scheduled with my extended relatives. This time with family is really special and I didn’t want to miss it. And my dad said we can go golfing after breakfast.
- I needed a rest day. I have been running around all week long with soccer, dance, football, hockey, and basketball. I had a lot of work to catch up on so I need to do that this morning.
- Honestly, it’s kind of boring. I’m getting tired of hearing the same old message all the time.
Hmm. Did you hear a lot of I’s in those excuses. Our Christian faith should not be self-centered or necessary family centered. It should be Christ-centered and church community centered.
- Going to Church on Sundays is not about checking off a religious box to fulfll my religious duty.
- It’s about setting aside the first day of the week to worship our Creator.
- It’s about uniting with God through partaking of the Mystery of Holy Communion and receiving His Body and Blood.
- It’s about gathering together as the people of God in fellowship and love.
- It’s about starting each week with the blessing of our Lord.
- It’s about being filled with God’s Presence so that we can then carry His Presence into the world throughout the week–we refer to this as the Liturgy after the Liturgy.
- It’s about God’s love to us through His sacrifice and us accepting His Love through our presence and participation.
Following Jesus was never meant to be a solo experience. Christ reminds us that where two or three are gathered in His name, he is there among us. The word liturgy means the “work of God through the people.” At Saints Constantine and Helen we are a family - worshiping, praying, encouraging, and supporting one another.
Let’s remember Christ’s words at the Last Supper and in our Divine Liturgy-Do this in remembrance of me. This is the Day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice, and be glad in it. Let us also give thanks and have an attitude of gratitude for the Lord’s Day and the Great Banquet of Holy Communion that Jesus invites us to every Sunday.
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith
The Church: Procedures for Becoming a Member of the Orthodox Christian Church