Source: Holy Apostles Orthodox Mission, OCA
Adapted from an Advent Sermon by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
In these days of fasting as we approach the festival of the Incarnation, the Church gives us in the words of Christ Himself, a stern and clear warning. Are we going to be like the guests called to the bridal feast of the king’s son? One refused to come because he had acquired a plot of land. He wanted to possess the earth and instead became a slave to it. The others could not come because they were too busy—there was no time for God. The one who had taken a wife could not share in the joy of the Bridegroom because his heart was already too full. This parable will be read on December 14, just two Sundays before the Winter Pascha. How do we respond to the invitation?
Advent is a time when we should stand face to face before the judgment of God and listen to the voice of our conscience. Every time we come to communion we must have made our peace with those with whom we are at variance. We must have made our peace with the thoughts of our mind and heart that accuse us of disloyalty to God and to one another. We must have made our peace with the living God so that it cannot be said that He died in vain for us. It is a matter of pondering deeply within ourselves, of passing a severe judgment upon ourselves and coming to Communion through repentance and Confession, after a searching examination of our lives so as to not be condemned for coming lightly to the holy meal. This implies a certain number of simple things, but things that must be done.
No one should come to communion who is deliberately late for the liturgy through laziness or carelessness.
No one should come to communion who has not prepared himself in the course of the whole week by praying, by examining his conscience, and by reading prayers before communion. If they are too long to be read on Saturday after the evening service or on Sunday morning, they can be distribut throughout the week and be part of our morning and evening prayers. This is a discipline which is required of us always, but in these days particularly.
The Orthodox Church has always taught that those who wish to receive communion should strive to do everything in their power to be present on Saturday evening at the service, so as to be prepared to meet the Lord on Sunday, the day of His Resurrection.
These are guidelines which are not simply rules of formal discipline; these are calls for us to be guided into a deeper spiritual life and to meet the Lord more worthily, or rather less unworthily.
So let us continue to enter into this period of fasting, preparing ourselves by a rigorous mental discipline, by being attentive to movements of our heart, by the ways in which we treat others, and ourselves and God, to the way in which we learn from the Church to pray, to worship and to obey the Lord’s commandments. And then also let us pay attention more seriously than we do habitually to the fasting rules. The fasting rules are meant to shake our physical complacency, to help us stir ourselves into a condition of liveliness, to prevent ourselves from being heavy and incapable of soaring Godwards. Pay attention to them, prepare yourselves throughout the rest of this period of Advent, waiting for the Lord to come, but waiting not passively for Him to come, but in the way in which a sentry waits for his queen or king to appear. And let us remember that being in the presence of God is the greatest privilege, the holiest thing that can occur; it is not our right, it is the greatest privilege that He can confer on us, and let us behave accordingly. Amen.