ARE WE “WORTHY” OF HOLY COMMUNION?
“I believe and confess, Lord, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. I also believe that this is truly Your pure Body and that this is truly Your precious Blood. Therefore, I pray to You, have mercy upon me, and forgive my transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, in word and deed, in knowledge and in ignorance. And make me worthy/proper (ἀξίωσόν με), without condemnation, to partake of Your pure mysteries for the remission of sins and for eternal life...“ (Byzantine Liturgy, Pre-Communion Prayer)
Now, you may disagree with me, but I find the English word “worthy,“ in the context of receiving Holy Communion, utterly confusing, unhelpful, and even unorthodox. It seems to pose a question about my “worth“ in the eyes of a Lord Who has already died for all of us, “while we were still sinners“ (Rom 5: 8); and Who said to each and every one of us, "Drink from it, ALL of you..." (Mt 26: 27). Undoubtedly, He already decided that each and every one of us was “worth“ that.
So, I understand the expression, “make me worthy“ (ἀξίωσόν με, сподоби мя), to mean “make me proper“ or “right“ for this occasion. In other words, make my heart and mind appropriate for communion with You, meaning, at peace with You and others, despite my shortcomings and resulting conflicts, which I must take care to resolve before approaching You (as we are commanded to do in Mt 5: 23-24, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you...“). After all, we translate the same Greek word (ἄξιος) at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, “Ἄξιον καὶ δίκαιον, / Достойно и праведно есть” as, “It is ‘proper’ and right.”
So, when I “examine myself,” as St. Paul instructs us to do, before approaching Holy Communion (1 Cor 11: 28), let me ask the right questions, rather than the false ones. I do not ask myself whether I am “worth” the Self-Offering of the precious Body and Blood of my Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. No. Because He already answered that question, having died for me, and all of us, and having descended into our hell and overcome it, in His resurrection. What I need to ask of myself, and what He asks of me, is that my heart and mind, despite my shortcomings, are “properly” in line with His peace and His mercy, embracing forgiveness of myself and others. Lord, have it Your way; Have “mercy”! And let me have it as well, that I may be “proper” and “right” as I approach communion with You.