GOSPEL MESSAGE & RECORDING
In the Gospel Reading today (on the first Sunday after New Sunday) the Disciples of Christ go fishing; but their attempt came up empty. They didn’t catch any fish, not even one. In the morning, the resurrected Christ appears on the shores of the sea. Christ instructs his disciples to go fishing. They step into the boat and cast their nets on the right side of the boat. This time, they catch an abundant amount of fish and the net did not burst. When the disciples bring their catch to shore, Jesus had already prepared hot coals and on it fish and bread. The fish and bread, here, are practical, in that it was prepared for the sustenance of the disciples. Additionally, there is a symbolic meaning. First, fish represents the “kingdom of God” and how many will be brought in by way of the Gospel message. In the early church, the symbol of Christianity was a fish. Secondly, the bread represents “eternal life,” that is, salvation, hence, the use of bread by Christ as his real body.
Here, what I would like to concentrate on is the fact that Christ had already prepared the fish and bread on hot coals for the disciples to eat; but then, asked his disciples to join him by bringing the fish that they had caught. Before the distribution of the Body and Blood of Christ the Priest says, “The live coal Body of Christ is given to the believer for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life.” The “coals” that are spoken about in the Gospel reading and the “coals” that the Priest speaks about before distribution are the same. Christ prepares the coals and places the fish and bread as a meal to give to his disciples. In the same way, the Priest prepares the bread and the wine, as the Body and Blood of Christ to given to his people. (Furthermore, we can go back to the OT where the angel placed the live coal on the lips of Isaiah. (Isaiah 6:6)
Coals represent “life.” Because when hot, that is “live,” it provides heat to prepare food. Just as Christ provided sustenance to his disciples by way of the heat of the coals, so also the Priest provides sustenance to all who approach the Holy Mysteries. But as stated earlier, Christ also ask his disciples to bring fish that they had caught. This means that it is not enough that the disciples eat what Christ provides, but they have to bring their contribution (the fish they caught). Likewise, it is not enough to attend church and partake with what the Priest provides. What must the participants (the faithful of the church) bring as contribution to the “table of communion”?
1) Repentant Heart: we must repent for our sins committed during the week. This takes place by doing the evening prayer and midnight prayers, either individually or with our family. At some point we have to ask God for forgiveness. We should feel remorse and sorrow when we come toward the “live-coals” of the Holy Mysteries. Simply receive doesn’t mean anything, unless we have a heart that is truly repentant of our sinful behaviors. It’s hard to eat with someone who has done wrong to you. Likewise, if we have done wrong against God, then we need to repent before eating at His table.
2) Prayer and Fasting: the evening prayer in addition the midnight prayers should be completed as best as possible before receiving the Holy Mysteries. In addition, we should not eat after 12-midnight. Further, we should not be drinking or eating anything in the morning, unless for medical reasons, or for any reason where there has been given a special dispensation by the Priest. Our prayer and fasting must be brought to the table of communion. It would be considered impolite to not bring anything when invited to eat at someone’s house. Likewise, for the Orthodox, it is impolite to go empty handed, that is, without prayer and fasting, to the Qurbana.
3) Intimacy: Can you imagine going to someone’s house to eat—and then eat and leave? How would the host feel? Do we receive the Body and Blood of Christ wanting an intimate relationship with Him? Or do we eat and leave? Our intimacy, or the desire for it, is what makes the bread and wine into Christ Body and Blood, along with the Priest and his intimacy, and of course the “coming down” of the Holy Spirit.