Homily At the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral

© Photo Credit: Kostas Petrakos


Homily by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

At the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy

Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Oakland, California

March 1, 2023


Beloved brother-in-Christ, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco,

Your Grace[s],

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,


I greet all of you at this first Pre-Sanctified Liturgy of our Lenten season, as we embrace contrition and repentance for our lives, and, indeed, for the life of our world.

The purpose of the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy is simple enough – to maintain the possibility of receiving Holy Communion on the weekdays of Great Lent. The early practice of the Church was very frequent Communion, as often as every Wednesday and Friday, and Saturday and Sunday, as Saint Basil the Great describes his own practice.* Indeed, my beloved Christians, even daily Communion was at one time common, and it is still found among some members of the Roman Catholic Church.


It isn’t that hard to understand why frequent Communion is supported throughout the history of our Church. The only prayer that the Lord taught us to pray says: Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον, “Give us this day our daily bread. It would be a vast underestimation of the Lord to believe that “bread” here only applies to earthly nourishment. So, it can be said that daily communion is a practice that comes directly from the Lord’s Prayer. But there is more.

Just as most of us need to eat nourishment every day for the health of our bodies, there is a need to nourish our souls as well with the only true medicine of eternity – the Holy Body and Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who said:

Unless you feed on the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life within. Those who feed on My flesh and drink My blood possess eternal life, and I will raise them up at the Last Day. Indeed, My flesh is truly a food that nourishes and My blood is truly a drink that quenches. Those who feed on My flesh and drink My blood abide in me and I in them.

This very graphic language was a problem for many of the Lord’s followers when He first uttered these words. The Gospel even says that many of His followers abandoned Him after this teaching.

But in the Church, through all the Liturgies, we realize the mystical reality that both embraces the truth of the Lord’s teaching, and our own limited understanding of the miraculous transformation of the Bread and Wine. We are fed with the “Bread of Heaven.” § And we drink of the Cup of Immortality.

So it is that the Church – in Her wisdom – provides for us to feed our souls, even in this time of the privations of Great Lent. The Pre-Sanctified Liturgy is that extra helping of God’s Holy nourishment, of which we are able to partake. If we are conscious of what it means, then we shall experience the growth that results from such sustenance for our souls. Just as you feel robust and strong when you feed your body healthy foods, and you exercise your limbs, so it is with the inner person, too.

And what is the exercise for the person who feeds their heart and soul with the Divine Body and Blood? It is nothing less than to practice the same love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness that led our Lord to give His Sacred Body upon the Cross, and to pour out His Precious Blood for our forgiveness and redemption.

Therefore, my beloved Christians, let us hasten to receive the Bread of Heaven, and build up our inner person through the exercise of holy virtues. In this way, we shall be healthy and whole as Orthodox Christians, nurtured by Holy Communion, and strong in the practice of our Holy Faith.

Amen. Καλή Σαρακοστή, και Καλό Πάσχα!


* Letter 93.
† John 6:53-56.
‡ Cf. John 6:66.
§ Cf. John 6:32-33.
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