Monday, January 10, 2011

Unworthy or Worthy?

A common issue within the Armenian Orthodox Church is that we feel unworthy to even approach the Cup of the Eucharist, thus abstaining from partaking of Christ’s Body and Blood. This could be the result of false or authentic humility, or even hopelessness. There is a sense in which we are unworthy to attain union with God, and to receive Him into our body and soul, but our unworthiness should not be the central focus. Like every Sacrament or Mystery of the Church, God’s grace is what is central, and it is because of our unworthiness, and need of healing, that we need to especially partake of this Divine Mystery.

In his book, These are the Sacraments, Anthony Coniaris justifies an un-exaggerated sense of unworthiness when he writes, “Communion is never a reward for holy living but always the gift of God’s grace no matter how much we may have prepared. May we keep our sense of unworthiness so that it may keep leading us to the only One Who can make us worthy. The sense of unworthiness is just the right attitude with which to approach Communion, for it helps us accept the Eucharist as a completely free gift of God’s supreme grace. An exaggerated sense of unworthiness needs to give way to humble gratitude for God’s grace which accepts especially the unworthy to make them worthy.”

Are we unworthy to receive God’s grace through Communion? Yes! Are we made worthy to receive it? Yes! During the Badarak (Divine Liturgy), the priest prays the following: “O Lord our God, you have called us Christians…and you have made us worthy to partake of the holy Body and Blood of your Only-begotten.” (p.44) A few minutes later he prays, “Holy Father, you who have called us by the name of your Only-begotten and have enlightened us through baptism…make us worthy to receive this holy mystery for the remission of our sins.” (p. 45) He goes on further to ask God to not look upon his unworthiness, but to grant His grace through Christ’s Body and Blood.

Our unworthiness should never lead us to abstain from Christ’s Body and Blood, but should drive us toward them. As we prepare for the Eucharist through Penance, let us who are unworthy be made worthy, and freely receive God’s grace by approaching the Cup, and commune with Him and with His people. Glory be to God for this Divine Mystery!