Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Self-examination and Holy Communion

But let a man examine himself,
and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

I Corinthians 11:28

I have known a few Pharisees who say, “I cannot take holy communion because I am not worthy.” What ignorance! What arrogance! The worthiness of communion derives not from the communicant, but from the One with Whom we commune; His flesh and blood, not ours, make us worthy of communion with a Holy God and the holy saints. He who abstains from communion denigrates the infinite efficiency and glorious efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice, and silently testifies that he clings to abiding sin. Paul allows no exception; he commands self-examination, not that we should abstain from communion, but that we should forthwith “eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” Paul’s exhortation is no feeble suggestion but an apostolic imperative, the negligence of which grieves the Holy Ghost and thus sins against Christ and His church.

Paul’s word for “examine” is dokimezato, a term applied to the examination of precious metals whereby one tries the gold to determine its genuineness. Who is that refiner who sees the dross and then throws away the gold? “Art thou a foolish man?” Heaven asks. “Discard not the gold but kindle the fire and blow the billows by which the fire consumes the dross and purifies the gold.” That fire is holiness, its billows repentance, and the dross, sin.

Anticipating Holy Communion, the obedient saint, like a wise refiner, examines his soul’s gold, scrutinizing his mettle for dross, whether sin against man or God. He who rightly examines himself says, “I shall not pollute the bread with soiled hands, and I shall not stain the cup with wicked lips. Give me bread unleavened, and wine undiluted. By heaven’s graces I shalI examine myself, purging every speck of dross from my repentant soul, and I shall indeed eat of that bread, and drink of that cup, testifying to the glorious death of the Lord, Jesus Christ, until He comes.”

Saint of God, if, at the altar of communion, you remember that God or man hath ought against thee, leave thy sacrifice at the altar and first be reconciled; then offer thyself in communion to God and to His holy church. Negligence of this holy duty wrought havoc at Corinth: weakness, sickness, and even death. Woe to that Pharisee who does not “examine himself and drink of that cup,” and woe to that careless profligate who examines himself yet does not repent of his sin, for neither man is worthy of communion, and both “eat and drink damnation” unto themselves, “not discerning the Lord’s body!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“Self –examination” Socrates once implied “an unexamined life is not worth living” but in today’s churches self-examination much less Holy Communion is shamefully trampled underfoot.