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The Eucharist is Jesus

Eucharistic-BreadI’ve found that it is often surprising to our more mainstream brothers and sisters in Christ that Gnostics would celebrate the Eucharist, much less that we would recognize the Real Presence of Christ in this most glorious Sacrament. After all, Gnostics reject matter as evil, right?

I’ll put aside being an apologist for a moment, and simply say this: No, matter is not evil – but it is imperfect. That’s not to say that there is nothing good about the material world. We know that the world is filled with wonderful things; awe-inspiring beauty that sometimes allows us to see through the veil and catch a glimpse of the Eternal. But as St. Paul says, “Now, we see as through a glass, darkly”. What we see and experience with our physical senses is but a pale reflection compared to the beauty and splendor of the Pleroma.

So what of the Eucharist? If we are, as Gnostics, to try and transcend the limitations of matter, why use physical substances for the Sacraments? For that matter, why have Sacraments at all?

For some insight, let’s consult the Gospel of Philip – a book most likely composed by the Holy Valentinus, and which represents the earliest Sacramental text in Christian history. In this book we read: “The Lord did everything in a Mystery: a Baptism, and Chrism, and a Eucharist, and a Redemption, and a Bride-Chamber. He said, I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like those inside. I came to unite them in one place.” These Mysteries, all of which likely involved physical substances and ritual actions, serve to break down the barrier which separates us from our divine nature, and draws us closer and closer to our Source and the perfection of the Pleroma.

While the exact form of the Mystery of the Bride-Chamber has been lost to history, and the Mysteries of Baptism and Chrism may only be received once, the Mystery of the Eucharist can and should be received as frequently as possible.

The Gospel of Philip states very clearly: “The Eucharist is Jesus.” No other scripture, biblical or otherwise, puts it so bluntly. The ancient Gnostics, or at least the Valentinian sect, clearly believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It is because Christ is present in the Eucharist that this Sacrament helps to strengthen us and the divine spark within, uniting our lower nature more closely to our higher nature, that the Christ within us may be revealed – making the things below like the things above.

As I’ve said, we should frequent the Eucharist. To not take advantage of the great gift would be to scorn the words of Christ: “If you do not eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you will have no life in you.” But how should we prepare for it?

We prepare to receive the Sacrament through prayer and sincere contrition that purifies us of the stain of our faults, weaknesses, and imperfections. Otherwise, as St. Paul said, we eat and drink our own judgment and condemnation.

I would encourage my readers all to frequent the Holy Eucharist – daily, if possible! If you do not have a Gnostic Church nearby, seek out other Sacramental options. Churches of the Independent Sacramental Movement are excellent options, the Liberal Catholic Church shares much in common with us, and many Gnostics have found themselves comfortable within the Episcopalian and Anglo-Catholic traditions. Even Roman Catholicism may work for some! But wherever you choose to go, seek out Christ in the Eucharist. And to help you prepare, here are some Communion prayers to help you both prepare before receiving the Eucharist, and to give thanks afterward.

O Sacred Banquet

Antiphon. O sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.

℣. Thou didst give them bread from heaven.
℟. Containing within itself all sweetness.

Let us pray. O God, Who under a wonderful Sacrament hast left us a memorial of Thy great descent into the limitations of matter; grant us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate the Sacred Mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, that we may ever feel within ourselves the fruit of Thy redemption and be brought to the Gnosis of Life, Liberty, Love, and Light. Through Christ our indwelling Lord. Amen.

Prayer Before the Reception of Holy Communion

Almighty and eternal God, behold, I approach the sacrament of Thine alone-begotten Son, Our Lord the Christ. I approach as one who is sick to the physician of life, as one unclean to the fountain of mercy, as one blind to the light of eternal brightness, as one poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore I beseech Thee, of Thine infinite goodness, to heal my sickness, to wash away my filth, to enlighten my blindness, to enrich my poverty, and to clothe my nakedness, that I may receive the Bread of Angels, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords with such reverence and humility, with such contrition and devotion, with such purity and faith, with such purpose and intention, as may conduce to the salvation of my soul. Grant, I beseech Thee, that I may receive not only the sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord, but also the fruit and virtue of this sacrament.

O most High God, grant me so to receive the Body of Thine alone-begotten Son, our Lord the Christ, that I may be found worthy to be incorporated with His mystical body, numbered among His members. O most loving Father, grant that I may at length be brought to a place of refreshment, a blessed tranquility, and the splendor of Thy Gnosis, that I may enter into the eternal peace of the Fullness with Christ, Thy beloved Son, Whom now on my pilgrimage I am about to receive under the sacramental veils; Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to All the Angels and Saints Before Mass

Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Princedoms, heavenly Virtues, Powers, Cherubim and Seraphim; all Saints of God, holy men and women, and for you especially my patrons _____: deign to intercede for me that I may be worthy to offer this Sacrifice to almighty God, to the praise and glory of His name, for my own welfare and also that of all His holy Church. Amen.

Psalm 50 (Before Mass)

Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: that thou mayest be justified in thy words and mayest overcome when thou art judged. For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me. For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice. Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee. Deliver me from blood, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol thy justice. O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise. For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Deal favorably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.

Prayer After Communion from the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (The Didache)

We thank Thee, Holy Father, for Thy holy Name which Thou hast made to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge, faith, and immortality which Thou hast made known to us through Thy Son, our Lord the Christ; glory to Thee forever.

Thou, O Lord Almighty, hast fashioned and emanated all things for the sake of Thy Name, and hast given food and drink to all for their enjoyment, so that they might return thanks to Thee. Upon us, however, Thou hast bestowed spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Thy Son.

Above all, we give Thee thanks, for Thou art almighty; glory unto Thee forever.

Remember, O Lord, Thy Church. Deliver it from all evil and perfect in Thy love. Gather it from the four winds, sanctified in Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for it, for Thine is the power and the glory forever.

Let grace come and this world pass away. Hosanna to the Son of David. If anyone is holy, let him come. If not, let him be healed. Maranatha! Amen.

Prayer of the Three Youths (After Mass) – Daniel 3

Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord;
Ye heavens, bless the Lord;
All ye waters above the heavens, bless the Lord.
All ye hosts of the Lord; bless the Lord.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
All ye winds, bless the Lord.
Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
Frost and cold, bless the Lord.
Ice and snow, bless the Lord;
Nights and days, bless the Lord.
Light and darkness bless the Lord;
Lightning and clouds, bless the Lord.
Let the earth bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord.
Ye springs, bless the Lord;
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
Ye dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
All ye birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All ye beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Ye sons of men, bless the Lord;
O Israel, bless the Lord.
Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;
Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;
Holy men of humble heart, bless the Lord.
Ananias, Azarias, Misael, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Let us bless the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit;
Praise and exalt God above all forever.
Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven;
Praiseworthy and glorious forever.

Psalm 150 (After Communion)

Praise ye the Lord in his holy places: praise ye him in the firmament of his power. Praise ye him for his mighty acts: praise ye him according to the multitude of his greatness. Praise him with sound of trumpet: praise him with psaltery and harp. Praise him with timbrel and choir: praise him with strings and organs. Praise him on high sounding cymbals: praise him on cymbals of joy: let every spirit praise the Lord. Alleluia.

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