Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Euthymios

“The fathers relate to us that, besides other divine gifts, there was also bestowed by God upon Saint Euthymios the following: to perceive, from the external appearance, the internal activities of the souls of people, as though seeing them in mirror images; and to know in detail the thoughts with which each one battled, and, indeed, which among these thoughts he was defeating and by which, through the operation of the devil, he was being defeated.

“It is further said of him that sometimes he confided to certain brothers, who went to visit him on their own, that many times he would see angels plainly in front of him, liturgizing and drawing near the Holy Gifts. At the time of the communion of the Master’s Body, he saw some of the communicants as though they were shining, while others darkened in appearance – namely those who were not worthy of that light and of the brightness of Holy Communion.

“Thus taking the occasion of these supernatural visions, he warned the brothers against participation in the communion of the Divine Gifts without proper preparation, and counseled them excellently, relying on the Apostle, saying that every Christian should take care to examine himself with exactness to see if he is worthy, thereby, of communicating the Holy Bread and the Holy Chalice with shuddering fear.

“The communicant – Euthymios the Great continually taught – must know well that whoever approaches unworthily to communicate “eats and drinks” censure and condemnation unto himself.

“So if anyone has been overcome by rancor or hate or envy, by pride, abusiveness, obscenity in expression, or indecent desires, or is in any way taken by any other passion whatsoever, let him not participate in Divine Communion, if first he has not cleansed his soul from all of these noxious things through repentance. Because, as the spirit of God says through the Liturgist, the Holy Things are not fitting to those who are profane, but only to the holy.

“To the extent, then, that you have a clean conscience and it inspires in you the boldness to approach the Lord, “draw near to Him and be enlightened by Him, being also certain that you will not be chastened.”

I suspect the Apostle referred to is Matthew who wrote “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,” in Matthew 5:23.

Euthymios applied this verse to a readiness to take communion when the monks gathered for it. How many of us take this into consideration?  Seems to me that what Euthymios says cannot possibly be made more clear by anything I might say.  He challenges us to approach the table thoughtfully and with reverence, and not merely out of habit. 

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