Only Baptized and Chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer, and recent confession may receive communion at Sts. Theodore Orthodox Church. You should also make every effort to attend the Vigil service the evening prior, and should be on time for the Liturgy.
Receiving communion is a very serious matter, as both Scripture and Tradition make clear. We believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, and that by partaking of communion we are united with Christ, and with one another in a unity of Faith. Speaking of the seriousness with which we should approach the Eucharist, St. Paul says:
Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30
St. John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage in his Homily on Holy Thursday says:
I give counsel to everyone among you, whether man or woman, whether great or small, to anyone of you that may be guilty of sin, convicted by your own counsels, that first you must repent and confess your sins, that you may dare, considering yourself unworthy, to approach and touch the Divine Fire Itself. For our God is a consuming Fire, and they, therefore, who with faith and fear draw near to the God and King and Judge of us all, shall burn and scorch their sins; and It shall enlighten and sanctify their souls. But It shall burn and scorch with shame, the souls and bodies of them that draw near with unbelief. Therefore, many among you are ill and sleep in sickness, that is, many are dying unconfessed and unrepentant.
On the one hand, we must approach communion with fear and trembling, but on the other, we should desire it with all our hearts, and not refrain long from communion, so that (as we hear in the pre-communion prayers) we “may not by long abstaining from Thy communion become the prey of the spiritual wolf.”
Normally, one should have kept the appointed fasts during the previous week, and should not eat or drink anything from the midnight prior to receiving communion. Exceptions are made for small children, the elderly, and those with a physical infirmity. If someone has a health problem that prevents them from fasting, this is something that they should discuss with their spiritual father or confessor, but no one should endanger their health by fasting if this prevents them from taking necessary medications, or if fasting makes their condition worse. If, however, someone has failed to keep the fasts during the week or from midnight onwards for reasons other than health, they should not approach the chalice without discussing this with the priest and receiving a blessing or being told to abstain this time.
The pre-communion prayers are found in most Orthodox prayer books. The order of prayer in preparation for Holy Communion consists of the following: in the evening before receiving communion, the faithful recite the supplicatory canons to the Savior, the Theotokos, the Guardian Angel with an Akathist to the Savior or the Theotokos; then in the morning, before coming to Church, the faith read the Canon and other prayers in preparation for Holy Communion. All of these help to form in the faithful a spirit of repentance and humility which is necessary for proper reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. After receiving Communion, the Christian should remain in the Church to listen to the prayers of thanksgiving or, alternatively, read these on his or her own from the Prayer Book. The canons read in the evening before receiving Communion can be found here: click here. The Canon and other prayers read in the morning in preparation for Holy Communion can be found here: click here. The prayers of thanksgiving after Communion can be found here: click here.
Confessions are normally heard before and after the Saturday evening Vigil and occasionally during the Vigil itself (typically during the reading of the canons and the First Hour), however, if you need to go to confession at some other time, speak to the priest so that arrangements can be made.
Since the Liturgy is the summit of the whole liturgical cycle, the attendance at the services that precede the Liturgy – primarily, Vespers and Matins (or the Vigil) – is an important part of preparation for the partaking of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Parents with small children who cannot stay for the entire Vigil should still make an effort to come for part of the service, typically the Vespers, as this is beneficially for the parents’ own preparation for receiving communion and help acclimate the children to the liturgical life of the Church even at an early age. Persons should not simply come to confession before Vigil and leave after making confession unless some pressing circumstances arise. If someone cannot attend the Vigil, because of distance, health issues, employment, or transportation issues, they should still pray at home, using the selections from the Vespers and Matins found in the Prayer Book or simply the Jesus Prayer. (The basic text of the Vigil can be found here: click here.) However, if you can be at the Vigil, you should put forth the effort.
Having prepared themselves for the reception of the Holy Mysteries of Christ at the Divine Liturgy, the faithful should gather in the church temple before the service begins. To come late for the Divine Liturgy, especially when the faithful arrive after the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel demonstrates neglect toward the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ. One should be on time for the Divine Liturgy, but if you arrive after the Gospel reading, you should not approach the chalice, because at the very least you should have been illumined by hearing the Gospel reading of the day (this is a rule laid down by our bishops). Exceptions can be made for people with limited physical capabilities, nursing mothers, small children, and the adults who accompany them.
If you are visiting our parish, are Orthodox, and wish to receive communion, it is best to let the priest know in advance so that questions do not have to be asked when you approach the chalice. In a best case scenario, you will provide a letter from your own parish priest indicating that you are a communicant in good standing with your home parish. If you know you will be visiting ahead of time, it is best to contact the priest by email at email@example.com or by phone at 716-634-6712. The priest may inquire about what church you typically attend and the contact information for your parish priest if there are any concerns to be addressed. You can also let the parish warden (Marcus Bursik) know that you wish to commune, and he can let the priest know – and if you ask just about anyone you see in the parish who the warden is, they can point him out to you.
For further information on this matter, please consult the document entitled On the Participation of the Faithful in the Eucharist issued by the Hierarchal Consultation of the Russian Orthodox Church: click here. Also, please feel free to address any questions not answered by these materials to the parish priest, Fr. Andrew Hammond.