We become virtuous and blissful like Christ if we make the right use of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The right use of the mystery consists in coming up and partaking of the bread and wine with the fear of God, faith, and love. That is why, before coming up to communion, it is our duty to examine ourselves as to whether we have in our souls the fear of God, faith, and love. As for how we ought to conduct this examination, that is the subject of the present article, and we shall begin with a discussion of the fear of God.
The effective, or creative, cause of fear of God is the penalties and punishments which God inflicts on those who transgress a given law or refuse to listen to His word; the final cause, on the other hand, is obedience and performance of the divine will. The fear of God is implanted in the souls of those who have been guilty of impiety and of violation of God’s law and have suffered punishment as a consequence thereof. This fear renders the soul submissive and obedient to God’s will. By learning from divine and true history what the first-formed pair suffered in Paradise after behaving contrary to the divine commandment; what Cain suffered after killing his brother Abel without cause; what men suffered in the days of Noah by becoming carnal and corrupting the ways of God; what the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah suffered on account of their lechery; what the Pharaoh and the Egyptians suffered when they oppressed the children of Israel cruelly and inhumanly; what the Jews suffered in the wilderness when they refused to obey God, and Moses His servant; what they suffered after being settled in the land of promise as a result of worshiping idols; in a word, by learning and taking cognizance of the fact that every transgression and disobedience was followed by stern retribution, and that, since it is not possible to punish all the sins of all men in this life as they should be, God has a day of universal judgment, in which He will consign the impious and law-breaking to eternal punishment, every man acquires in his own soul the fear of God, and takes care to avoid an act that offends God, and to do gladly and willingly everything that is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. If, therefore, any Christian wishes to examine whether he has the fear of God in his soul, he need merely bear in mind what the impious and law-breaking suffered in this life, and what they shall have to suffer in the day of universal judgment, and then, if he feels horror and aversion at the bare conception of sin and is willing to do whatever is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord and is careful not to anger God by doing the works of the impious and law-breaking, then he has the fear of God in his soul. A man fears God when he takes cognizance of the unlimited might of His power. He fears God when he takes cognizance of His greatness and glory. He fears God when he takes cognizance of the fact that He truly threatens and judges impartially, and that He is able to save and to destroy. Since, when we come to the table of God, we must have the fear of God, it is our duty to meditate upon the law of the Lord both day and night, and to search out His trials and judgments, and to avoid every transgression and disobedience calculated to anger the Lord. The fear of God obliges us not to turn our back upon a call that comes from God, but to go to the communion of the divine and life-giving supper. Every law and every commandment of God must be performed at the time prescribed and by those to whom it is prescribed. The commandment, “Take, eat; drink ye of it all,” and, “Come up with the fear of God, faith, and love,” as a commandment and law of God, must be performed at the time prescribed and by those to whom it is prescribed.
Hence it is to be inferred that all who are standing about at the celebration of the mystery, both clergymen and laymen, are in duty bound to come up to the communion of the mystic supper; for, if they fail to do so, it proves that they have no fear of God in their souls, and that they refuse to listen to the voice of God and to do what is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. This logical inference is confirmed by the ninth and tenth Apostolic Canon, and by both the example of the ancient church and the parable of the supper in the Gospel, both by the prayers and hymns of divine and sacred mass and by countless illustrations in the Holy Bible, whence it appears that to refuse to listen to the voice of the Lord and do what is commanded when it is commanded, is a sin that angers the Lord and one that every man who fears the Lord ought to avoid by all means. When you are called upon to come up with the fear of God, but do not feel gladly willing to come up and perform what God requires, it is evident that you have not the fear of God in your soul. The duty of fearing God is inseparable from the duty of coming to God’s supper, instead of turning the back upon him who extends the invitation. But we of today, when called upon to come forward to communion, turn a deaf ear to the invitation of God, because there is no fear of God in our souls, which, like a bridle, checks every wicked act and leads to the way of God. “Come, children,” says the prophet, “listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who wants life, who wishes to see happy days? Restrain thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking deceit. Turn aside from evil, and do what is good.”(Psalm 34:11-14). From these words we learn that the fear of God induces the following two results: 1) it prevents him that has it from doing and speaking evil; 2) it makes him a worker of good. But it is good to adhere to God, and to come forward and commune with the body and blood of the Lord is a good piece of conduct befitting every Christian soul. Therefore he that really fears God must needs perform this good piece of conduct, and avoid not only the doing but even the speaking of anything evil. “Restrain thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking evil. Turn aside from evil, and do what is good” To shun the company of wicked men, and to keep company with virtuous men, is one of the precepts of ethics. But he that eats the flesh of Christ and drinks His blood, dwells in Christ and Christ in him. Therefore to shun union with Christ and to avoid His mystic company is a sign of utter wickedness; for, just as the wicked shun the company of the virtuous, so a Christian who shuns mystic company with Christ is certainly a bad Christian. For how can a good Christian shun association and communion and company with Christ, who is the highest good?
For a long time it has been a bad custom in the Church for the mystery of the Eucharist to be celebrated and only the priest celebrating it to commune, an not also the people present. This custom arose from the corruption of good manners, from lack of education and forgetfulness in the matter of our duties to God, and from want of teaching the divine law. Being born Christians, without being educated in a Christianly manner and without being taught our duties to God, we necessarily must ignore and transgress them, and thus be deprived of the benefits that accrue from observing our duties to God. But this wretched condition must be eliminated, and the only means thereto is teaching and example. Through teaching and doing there will be developed in the souls of Christians a consciousness of their duties to God which they now ignore; and when many have been taught, and knowledge has increase and spread among the people, order will be restored, and all disorder due to ignorance and lack of education will be abolished. We must become virtuous and blissful like Christ, and to this end we must come to the table of God with the fear of God, faith, and love. In the present article we have taught how to examine ourselves as to whether we have the fear of God in our soul; and such examination conduces to the acquisition of it. In the next article we will teach how to make the examination with regard to faith and love.