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Holy Communion is the most essential sacrament of the Christian Church. Established by Christ Himself, at His Last Supper with His disciples He took the bread and wine, gave thanks and distributed it to them while saying, "Take, eat; this is my body…drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt. 26:26-28). We are told by St. Paul that the Lord also uttered a particular command: “Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:23), thus obligating His followers to keep the memory of His Last Supper alive. In the early church, the followers of Christ, under the supervision of the Lord’s disciples, would come together for a meal, during which they would repeat the words of Jesus, give thanks to God, bless the bread and the wine and share together the life-giving body and blood of the Lord Christ.
Christians throughout the centuries not only have kept alive the memory of Christ and His life giving command, but Holy Communion has become a means by which they keep their constant inner relationship with the Lord. The resurrected Son of God, through Holy Communion, becomes united with man, purifying and sanctifying his soul and body, cleansing him from all sin and granting him unutterable heavenly joy. Through Holy Communion, man gains a personal fellowship with Christ.
Even before His Last Supper, Christ spoke about the great mystery of this sacrament saying, "it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."…. "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."…. "This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die” (John 6:32-50).
This passage from the gospel of John, with certainty, depicts the importance of Holy Communion, without which man would experience a spiritual death and would not inherit God’s kingdom.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion takes place in the Church during the Divine Liturgy. With the beautiful hymns and magnificent prayers the priest blesses the bread and wine, which, through the Holy Spirit, becomes the true body and blood of Christ.
St. Paul firmly warns us to examine ourselves before we partake of the bread and wine. Those who approach the Lord in an unworthy manner bring judgment against themselves (1 Cor. 11:27-32). That is why it is required in the Armenian Church to prepare oneself, even the night before the Divine Liturgy, with fasting, prayers and biblical readings. On the day of the Divine Liturgy, the faithful who are prepared to partake from the Life Giving Body and Blood of the Lord, are required to do so after they go through the sacrament of Penance, during which they confess their sins and receive absolution from the priest.