His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great on the Great and Holy Thursday, April 28, at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest. With His Beatitude concelebrated Their Graces the Assistant Bishops to the Patriarch, Varlaam of Ploiești and Ieronim of Sinaia.
In his homily, the Patriarch of Romania spoke about the Lord’s Supper. His Beatitude noted that this Great Mystery, when the Disciples received the bread, which became the Body of the Lord, and the wine, which became the Blood of the Lord, makes the supper to be called not the Last but the Mystical Supper.
Why is it mystical? It is mystical because one can see bread but partakes of the Body of Christ. One can see wine but partakes of the Blood of Christ. And our Saviour notes what is the purpose (of the Eucharist): the remission of sins. When we receive Holy Communion, as we chant, we partake of the Body of Christ and taste the fountain of immortality. Thus, by Holy Communion, we receive remission of sins, but also a pledge of the Resurrection and eternal life. ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day’ (John 6:54). This is the meaning or the purpose for which Christ our Lord shared the Mystical Supper: for the remission of sins and unto life eternal,the Head of the Romanian Orthodox Church said.
His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel noted that by Holy Communion we receive Christ’s life, the life of the Crucified and Risen One, so that we, mortals, prepare ourselves for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Our Saviour, before His crucifixion, burial and resurrection, granted His disciples the crucified, humble and sacrificial love, which carries the guarantee for Resurrection. For this reason, Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae considers that when we consume the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we partake of His humble, holy, pure, enduring love – the love of God obedient unto death, which corrects the sin of disobedience of Adam and Eve. It is the love in which human will follows divine will, and human thought is one with God’s thought.
This humble and sacrificial love of Christ can be observed in the fact that He didn’t answer with hatred to hatred, nor with betrayal to betrayal.
Our Saviour Jesus Christ loved Judas although He knew he was about to betray Him. He didn’t exclude him from His love. Christ prayed for those who were crucifying Him saying ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’. And He died on the cross having this sacrificial and forgiving love, saying ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’. This is the love which is stronger than death. Eucharist is the source of the love which is stronger than death,the Patriarch of Romania explained.
The Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church also explained why, during this special service (Vespers joined to the Divine Liturgy), a second Lamb (Host) is cut from the prosphoron.
On the Great and Holy Thursday we cut a Lamb, we consecrated it (moisten with the Blood of Christ), and then it is allowed to dry. On Bright Tuesday it is allowed to dry even more on a brick and thus it is stored in a tabernacle (artophorion) placed on the Holy Table for the rest of the year. Of the Holy Eucharist prepared on the Great and Holy Thursday are partaking those who receive Holy Baptism, children or adults. It is also destined for the ill and people in emergencies. It is a source of sanctification, purification, joy, and gladness; these are the benefits of Holy Communion that we read about in the prayers before Communion and the prayers of Thanksgiving after Communion. We receive Holy Communion for the remission of sins, unto life eternal, for the vigilance of the soul, for the communion with the Holy Spirit, unto health, joy and gladness.