Liturgical Commentary: Before Communion

Ambrose Andreano
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood.

What is belief without confession? Just as faith without works is dead,[1] so too is belief without confession, for it is the confession that incarnates the belief.  And this belief that we confess is that the “Lord” is truly “the Christ,” and truly “the Son of the living God,” and that He “came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.” This is a direct quote from the apostle Paul,[2] because the Church is obedient to the commandment to follow him as he follows Christ.[3] We must acknowledge ourselves as being chief of sinners, not merely to suggest that we are first in terms of magnitude, but also in terms of order. We are first not merely because we sin more than our peers, but because we are Adam and Eve. Being first among sinners means we and we alone are to blame for sin, and no one other. To truly think oneself first of sinners, one must understand that there is no one to whom one can shift the blame. Once we have obtained this humility, we can confess the holy mystery of Christ’s presence in the elements, of which He says, “This is my body.”[4] God gives His firstborn for our transgressions, that the fruit of His body could reach the sin of our souls,[5] and that Christ shall be magnified in our bodies by life or by death.[6]

Therefore, I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.

Because it is not enough to ask forgiveness for those sins we voluntarily commit, involuntary is added. And because it is not enough to ask forgiveness of the transgressions we knowingly commit, ignorance is added. But what does it mean to involuntarily sin according to ignorance? I believe it is more than merely the sins that we do not know are sins, but also encompasses that which is beyond our vision. When Scripture says every man will be judged according to his works,[7] this does not merely encompass the works we can see. Every act, positive or negative, is a stone being thrown in the pond of human history, causing a ripple effect across time and space. We will be judged according to the law of love, and love thinks not only of the other, but of that which belongs to the other. To put this in every day terms, when you engage in road rage, shouting at people and stirring up anger, you are not judged only for the damage you caused the one individual on the receiving end of your blows. That man who cut you off will go home angry and perhaps he will treat his wife poorly. His sins are thus imputed to you, because you chose to play the role of Serpent tempting in the garden. Perhaps the wife will treat her kids poorly because she was treated poorly by her husband. Her sins are also imputed to you. Perhaps the children then grow up making poor choices because they were not parented well, as the sins of the parents taint even unto the third and fourth generations.[8] Their sins are now yours as well. All because you lost yourself on the road. Listen to the Lord who says “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”[9] We must remember that we are not judged merely for the stones we throw, but also for the ripples of negative energy we cause. Therefore, when he who is with sin casts the first stone, he unknowingly multiplies his offenses for generations. May the Lord forgive us for the evil we unknowingly caused. May the Lord forgive our transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, committed in knowledge and ignorance, that we may be counted worthy to partake without condemnation.

But how do we live according to life everlasting? Our love may seem like only a little leaven, but we would do well to remember that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”[10] The love we give to one another is a gift from the chalice. We ought to remember how we are all to be priests giving the Bread of Life to one another unto the healing of the soul and body.[11] And on that day, may we hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”[12] Both the sheep and the goats will be surprised to hear the divine assessment of their actions. For the sheep, they will have no clue as to how much good entered the world because of them. But for the goats, being equally surprised at their verdict, they will be blindsided by how much evil in the world happened to be signed in their name. As for us, may the verdict be unto the remission of our sins, and to life everlasting.

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.

We ask the Lord to accept us “today,” because our request is a means to maintain a humble softness of heart. For as the Scripture says, “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.”[13] We must face our own death as we become communicants, and we must face our death daily.[14] We cross our arms to receive Christ, because we, like a seed planted in the earth, must die to ourselves to receive resurrection. We are buried with Him when we approach the chalice, and as the body of Christ rises from the cup to be received unto the purification of the soul, we too are raised from the dead and walk in the newness of life.[15] Though we come to Christ dead in our trespasses and sins, God makes us alive in Christ.[16]

What does it mean when we say, “I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies?” Does God not want to give the mysteries of salvation to all men? The meaning is this: we are not to give that which is holy to dogs, nor throw pearls before swine, “lest they trample them under their feet and turn again to rend you.”[17] It is not that God does not want to save the dogs and the swine, but rather they need a different strategy of approach so we do them good and not harm. Thus, concealing the mysteries for a time is prudent, that we may wait until the time is right for them to be exposed.

When we say, “neither like Judas, will I give thee a kiss, but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.” we must remember the words of the prophet saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”[18] Our faith must be deeper than our lips for them to be deeper than a kiss. If our hearts are far from the Lord, our kiss can only glisten with the treachery of Joab’s blade.[19] However, we should not see Judas as being one who kisses the Lord, for his kiss he stole and replaced it with a hidden dagger. It was the other thief, through the confession of the heart, who truly kissed the Lord. Indeed, since the time Christ came to him, this thief has not ceased to kiss his feet.[20] A confession birthed from this humble contrition is not only what makes a kiss holy, but it is what makes a kiss. Therefore, we ought to greet Christ and one another with a holy kiss,[21] that we might achieve the virtue of a thief.


[1] James 2:17
[2] 1 Timothy 1:15
[3] 1 Corinthians 11:1
[4] Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19
[5] Cf. Micah 6:7
[6] Cf. Philippians 1:20
[7] Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:5-6; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Peter 1:17
[8] Cf. Deuteronomy 5:9; Numbers 14:18
[9] Matthew 18:6
[10] Galatians 5:9
[11] 1 Peter 2:9
[12] Matthew 25:21
[13] Hebrews 3:15
[14] 1 Corinthians 15:31
[15] Cf. Romans 6:4
[16] Colossians 2:13
[17] Matthew 7:6
[18] Isaiah 29:13
[19] Cf. 2 Samuel 20:9-10
[20] Cf. Luke 7:45
[21] Cf. Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14

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