St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain was born in 1749 on the island of Naxos. He was baptised Nicolas and received his early education from the local priest. He entered Dionysiou Monastery on Mt Athos in 1775, and soon after was clothed with the Monastic Habit and given the name Nicodemus.
As a monk, he revised and annotated many patristic manuscripts, including the well-known “Concerning Frequent Communion of the Immaculate Mysteries of Christ”. This book had as its purpose to defend the tradition of frequent Communion in the divine Mysteries at a time when many – both monks and laypeople – believed Holy Communion should only be taken three of four times a year.
In response, St Nicodemus writes of the benefits of frequent participation in Holy Communion to both the body and the soul. He states that when Christ dwells within us through frequent Communion, “He pacifies and calms the fierce war of the flesh, ignites piety toward God, and deadens the passions”.
To those who claim frequent Communion leads to a ‘relaxed’ approach to the Sacrament, he persists that the opposite occurs: in preparation for Communion one takes great care and watches over one’s soul to partake with a clean conscience. Afterwards one dares not sin adding “zeal to zeal, self‐control to self‐control, vigilance to vigilance, labours upon labours” struggling as much as possible.
Concerning how often we should partake of Holy Communion, it is imperative that one consults a spiritual father. St Nicodemus writes that while pardonable sins are forgiven in Holy Communion, grave, impure sins require Holy Confession and sometimes a period of abstinence. However, when one has not committed any such sins, abstaining from Holy Communion is a matter for caution, for the devil does not want us to partake of the divine Mysteries, and will try and persuade us otherwise. Let us then put our hope in God’s immeasurable love and draw near, as the priest exclaims in every Divine Liturgy, with “fear of God, faith and love”.
Source: Lychnos August / September 2017