The goal of every Christian is, and should be to reach unity with God. Regardless of how abstract this may sound; the only reason why human beings were created was because of this unity. Through God’s sheer grace and omnipresence, this unity is not that hard to achieve. The door to this unity is always opened and God who created us and fashioned us in His image, expects that through our desire to be like our Father in heaven and subsequent action, we will reach the unity with God which our souls long for. Let us then explore the ways through which we can achieve our unity with God:
One of the most important aspects of the life of any believer is prayer. The word “prayer” usually reminds people of the morning and evening prayers that we read from our prayer book before our icon corner. However, the concept of prayer is far deeper than this. Prayer does not only involve words, but our actions as well. Whenever we are doing good to someone we are praying, whenever we offer ourselves unselfishly to our spouses and our families we are praying, whenever we are humble in our dealings with God and others we are praying. This is not to say that the prayers should not be read or said, we should absolutely do that. Nonetheless, it is crucial that we should also understand that every good deed is a prayer that cries out to God: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Through prayer, our soul converses with God who whenever we invoke Him makes Himself present so that the unity between Him and us can take place.
Whenever we are fasting, we are offering ourselves freely to God so that he can live within us. Every fasting period is an opportunity for us to strike down our ego and through our sacrifice of not eating food we are used to eating, show to God that for the sake of our unity with Him, we do not shy away even from sacrificing our bodies. When our bodies become lighter through fasting, our souls become more pronounced and the spiritual side of our being. Our spirit then is brighter and senses the presence of the Lord more easily than when it is weighed down with food. Fasting, more than food intake, implies abstinence in words and sinful actions. If we are abstaining from food but swear constantly or slander, we have still not achieved the level of spiritual fasting necessary for our unity with God. Without spiritual and bodily fast, the feeling of our unity with God or the feeling of his presence will never be achieved.
Communion with the body and blood of Christ is the most perfect way of our unity with God. This is why the early Christians communed every day and every time the communion was offered. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, we understand that both prayer and fasting only lead to communion and are in themselves not the fullness of our unity with God. The unity with God is achieved by eating his body and blood. When we stay at homes and skip liturgies (for justified and unjustified reasons) we should always understand that the prayer we said can never replace the living body and blood of the Lord. Whenever we commune with God, he flows through our veins, he becomes closer to us than our blood and he makes our life his life. Separating ourselves from communion without the blessing of the Church, only leads to our personal excommunication with the Lord. Our Sundays should be days of communion so that the week that follows can be blessed by the real presence of God in our lives until we commune with the Lord again and “refresh” the unity with Him and remind him that we truly do care about the greatest gift he gives to us – his body and blood- through which we are united to Him completely.
All these three ways of our communion with God have to be present in our lives as believers always. We should bear in mind though that our personal prayer as well as fasting only lead to the fullness of our communion with God through us partaking of the body and blood of Christ. We should remember that ultimately, our communion with God is something tangible, something real and something offered to us every time the liturgy is served. Through prayer and fasting, let us hasten to the chalice to meet the Lord!