Approaching the Holy Supper Worthily

Approaching the Holy Supper Worthily

Toronto, Sept. 18, 2005

A Holy Supper Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?

Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

He who walks uprightly,

And works righteousness,

And speaks the truth in his heart;

He who does these things shall never be moved.


(Psalm 15:1,2,6)

We have gathered together once again to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. There are only two sacraments in the New Church, Baptism and the Holy Supper. Baptism and the Holy Supper, considered together, are called the “universal gates” into the church, for they are the means by which every one can be introduced into the life of the church, and conjoined with the angelic heaven. Baptism and the Holy Supper are called “universal” because they are for everyone who wishes to be conjoined to the Lord.

What does it mean to be “conjoined with the Lord” in this sense? Certainly not a mystical union where one’s personality is submerged in some “cosmic oneness” with God, but rather we are thinking here about something much simpler, much more human: the fact that each of us, when faced by difficulties in life, feels better when someone else is near, someone who loves us, supports us, and can listen sympathetically to our troubles. The Holy Supper is a way by which the Lord Himself can approach us as we, through our voluntary approach to His table, invite Him into our spiritual lives. It serves to help us focus our minds on spiritual things, to think about the Lord, and to ask for His help. When we are thus thinking about the Lord, when we are fighting to do what we believe is right, He draws near to support us in our battles against the hells. The Holy Supper is a physical event that serves to support the spiritual event.

There is a passage in the True Christian Religion that talks about the approach to the Holy Supper, and has been misunderstood by many people. The passage speaks of the “regenerate, who approach the Lord’s Supper worthily… Unfortunately, many people have heard this statement, which is quite correct and understandable within its own proper context, and begun to believe that somehow you must be completely regenerated, or nearly so, before you can approach the Lord’s Supper “worthily.” This is an unfortunate misunderstanding, for nothing could be farther from the truth, and it sometimes prevents the very people who need it the most from coming forward because they, in their state of despair over the sins they see within themselves, feel unworthy to approach the Lord.

The Lord is present with every individual who partakes of the Holy Supper. However, we are taught that He is with those who have not prepared themselves before hand in a “universal” sense, and with those who have prepared themselves “particularly.” It does not cause spiritual harm to take the Holy Supper without preparation. However, it is true that the more you have prepared yourself for the sacrament, the more it will mean to you, and the more it will help.

The question then is, what does one need to do to prepare oneself for the Lord’s Supper? There are a number of different ways to go about it, but for today, let us consider three general steps: Love to the Lord, Charity, and Faith.

First, in regard to love to the Lord, the Heavenly Doctrines warn that partaking of the Lord’s Supper only so that you will appear religious and devout to others is an unworthy way approach to the Lord’s table. This sacrament can only be taken worthily and properly if you are ready and willing to admit your heartfelt belief in God and your dependence on Him for life itself. There is no point doing something that signifies a contract with another individual if you deny that that individual exists.

The second point requires the most work because it has to do with charity, and therefore has to do with how we actually live our lives. We are taught in the Word that to approach the Lord’s Supper worthily, we must first take careful stock of the course of our lives, of our actions. We must examine our life as to acts and intentions to see if there is anything contrary to the Lord’s will. For most human beings living in the world, the problem is not discovering evils of life, but rather, deciding which one of the many to shun. Time should be taken to look closely at the selected evil and its affects on self and on others so that we fully appreciate why this evil is a sin against God, and why we should flee from it for the sake of our spiritual lives. Once having appreciated the impact of our sins, we should beg the Lord for forgiveness, and show our good will in the matter by beginning a new life without that evil.

The Holy Supper then takes the place of our signature on the contract with the Lord that we will go and do that particular evil no more. It will help us in those dark moments when the hells attack our intention, when they swarm over us to break our resolve. We remember taking the bread and the wine on our knees and say to ourselves, “I won’t do that again. I promised.”

The final step in approaching the Holy Supper worthily is to spend some time reflecting on what our faith is, that it is our belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is the One God of Heaven and earth that is central to our lives, and that it is faith in Him that is saving faith. Obviously, it is quite difficult to sit down and just start thinking about “faith” in the abstract. It would do us no more good than it does to condemn ourselves as being sinners without taking the time to look for an individual sin. In order for us to think effectively about our faith, it is necessary for us to use something to stimulate and direct our thought. That is the function of daily reading the Word, for when we read the Word the angels of heaven draw near, and their sphere flows into our mind and directs our thoughts to heavenly things. When we are thinking of heavenly things, the Lord Himself draws near, and orders the things in our mind so that we see the truth in a new light, we are “enlightened.” In this way alone does our faith grow.

So the purpose of the Holy Supper is to turn our attention to the Lord, towards our behaviour towards others, and to view our behaviour from the perspective of the teachings of the Word. And when, having examined ourselves, we find some evil, we must approach the Lord for His help in removing it. This is something that faces every adult from time to time. Therefore, it is the policy of the General Church, that any adult, that is, any person of about 20 years of age or older, who is struggling from conscience against their own inclinations to do what is evil, is both welcomed and encouraged to come forward and take part in the Lord’s Supper and receive the signs of the Lord’s promise to do His part in our battle against the hells. There is no other requirement than an adult’s heartfelt desire to have the Lord’s help in shunning their evils.

The purpose of the sacrament is to make that conjunction with the Lord something that seems more real by associating it with a physical act. In the world of business, when two people reach an agreement they naturally seal that agreement by a ultimate, physical sign: they shake hands, or perhaps sign a contract. The physical action gives a “reality” to the agreement between them. For the same reason, the Lord has asked us to come to the Holy Supper, so that we can share with Him a physical ultimate of His promise to save us if we will try to change our own lives, if we approach the Holy Supper worthily.

We often talk about salvation, of going to heaven, but every one of us harbours the question deep in our hearts, we wonder if we would “make it,” we wonder if we are really prepared for a life in heaven. Of course, we cannot know for sure, and in fact we would not be spiritually free if we did know for sure, for then we would loose our freedom. However, the Lord does not desire for us to be left completely in the dark in regard to this important matter. There are many places in the Word where the Lord speaks to us, to give us help in finding our perspective, to help us judge how we measure up. The fifteenth Psalm in particular can help us see where we stand, to help us see our relationships with our fellow man, to see if we are prepared for the Lord’s Kingdom.

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?

Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

He who walks uprightly,

And works righteousness,

And speaks the truth in his heart;

He who does not backbite with his tongue,

Nor does evil to his neighbour,

Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;

In whose eyes a vile person is despised,

But he honoris those who fear the LORD;

He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

He who does not put out his money at usury,

Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

(Psalm 15)


First Lesson: MAT 7:7-23

{7} “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. {8} “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. {9} “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? {10} “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? {11} “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! {12} “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. {13} “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. {14} “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. {15} “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. {16} “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? {17} “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. {18} “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. {19} “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. {20} “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. {21} “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. {22} “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ {23} “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Amen.

Second Lesson: TCR 719


With both the worthy and the unworthy the Lord is present, because He is omnipresent both in heaven and in hell, and also in the world, consequently with the evil as well as with the good. But with the good, that is, with the regenerate, He is present both universally and individually; for the Lord is in them and they are in Him, and where He is there is heaven. Moreover, heaven constitutes the body of the Lord; consequently to be in His body is also to be in heaven.

[2] But the Lord’s presence with those who come to the holy supper unworthily is His universal and not His individual presence, or what is the same, His external and not also His internal presence. His universal or external presence is what causes a man to live as a man, to enjoy the ability to know, to understand, and to speak rationally from the understanding; for man is born for heaven, and is therefore not merely natural, like a beast, but also spiritual. He also enjoys the ability to will and to do the things that from his understanding he is able to know about, to understand, and thereby rationally speak about. But if the will rejects the truly rational things of the understanding, which are also intrinsically spiritual, the man becomes external.

[3] Consequently with those who only understand what is true, and good, the Lord’s presence is universal or external, while with those who also will and do what is true and good, the Lord’s presence is both universal and individual, or both internal and external. Amen.

 Bible Meanings Home




A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinFebruary 5, 1995


And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. (LK 22:19)

Every individual is created to become an image of God. We have the capabilities to manifest the Lord’s love and wisdom. However, before we can display the Lord’s divinity, we must accept His influence. In other words, we must be conjoined with the Lord. This principle has been true since the very beginning of the human race. Even the angels confess their need for the Lord’s guidance in order to live an angelic life in heaven. We are the Lord’s image when we receive Him. If we do not, we only have the potential of being in His image.

During Old Testament times, the Israelites were conjoined with the Lord primarily through the Law. They were in communication with the angels, when they complied with all the Old Testament regulations. This communication was maintained by the correspondences of the rituals that were commanded to the Israelites. The communication was not dependent upon the people’s attitudes, nor their intentions. The conjunction was in the external acts, not within the people’s hearts.

However, when the Lord came to the earth, He made a fundamental change in how the human race could be conjoined with Divine love and with the heavens. He formed a new Church in which the association with the heavens would depend upon the person’s affections, not merely upon his or her external deeds. One of the ways in which the Lord established a more internal communication was by establishing the Holy Supper. We are taught that all of the Old Testament laws are contained in the Sacrament of the Holy Supper. When we perform the act of the Holy Supper in sincerity, we are allowing the Lord to establish a personal communication with the heavens.

Nevertheless, the key is that the Holy Supper be done in sincerity. Unlike in Old Testament times, where the communication with the heavens was maintained by a strict coherence with the Law regardless of the individual’s spiritual state, now the communication with the heavens is fully dependent upon our internal desires. If they are in agreement with the love from the Lord, the Holy Supper can strengthen the bond between the Lord and ourselves.

We uphold the integrity of the Holy Supper if we heed the Lord’s words, “This do in remembrance of Me”. This statement underscores the purpose for the Holy Supper, namely, to remember the Lord. The Greek word for remembering implies a calling of a person to one’s mind with affection. We are to remember the Lord in an appreciative way, not merely in an intellectual manner. For example, the way we remember a historical person is far different than the way we remember a loving friend. We are to remember the Lord with gratitude and appreciation.

The only way we can remember the Lord with affection is to remove the impurities of our lives. The Holy Supper implores the participant to evaluate his or her personal relationship with the Lord. This personal examination with the Holy Supper or the Communion is generally acknowledged throughout Christian Circles. Most Christians are told to examine their spiritual lives as they partake of the elements of the Holy Supper. This is mainly due to Paul’s statement that a person must examine himself or herself in order for the Holy Supper to be effective.

The Holy Supper can be a means of providing a person, regardless of faith or denomination, a periodic evaluation of his or her’s spiritual condition. We also have more insight in what needs to be corrected in order to have a more open reception of the Lord’s guidance. When we remove evils as sins, we are able to remember the Lord with affection. When we gratefully call the Lord to our minds, we will have a meaningful conjunction with Him.

Specifically, the Writings give three general uses for the Holy Supper: first to have a communication with the Lord; second, to be conjoined with the Lord and have a communion with all other beings who sincerely believe in the Lord; and third, to appropriate to ourselves the Lord’s goodness and wisdom. If we are sincerely active in examining ourselves and removing harmful barriers in our lives, these three uses are being accomplished within us.

Therefore, the Writings for the New Church do speak a great deal about approaching the Holy Supper worthily. If we are worthy as we approach the Holy Supper, it will serve its function. There may be the reaction to fear the Holy Supper, when we notice the teachings about being worthy. We are reminded about our disorders and fear that we are polluting the Holy Supper. However, the Writings do not describe coming before the Holy Supper worthily as being without faults. Instead, we are unworthy when we regard the Holy Supper as a waste of time. If we just think of it as some exercise that has no spiritual value, we are unworthy. But if we regard it as a holy act, we are approaching the Holy Supper worthily. The more we regard the Holy Supper with reverence, the more worthy we are.

When we have a reverent attitude towards the Holy Supper, there will be many blessed results. First, we come as if we are presenting ourselves before the Lord. This implies that we approach the Lord as God, the One Who is the source of all good. In fact, if we only think of the Holy Supper as the holiest act of worship and think of the Lord’s love while we are partaking of it, the Holy Supper will serve its function. The more we have an understanding about the Lord’s love and how we can receive it, the more meaningful the Holy Supper will become in our lives. Second, the idea of repentance is especially prevalent during the Holy Supper. This is because as our thoughts are elevated more into the light of heaven, our selfish tendencies become more visible. Once again, when we see our imperfections during such a holy act, we may be tempted to fear that we are violating the Holy Supper. But the Lord’s holiness does not intend to degrade us nor punish us. The Lord’s holiness is operating to uplift us. And we are uplifted as we confront our selfish and disorderly delights and seek their removal. They can only be removed when they are brought to view. And when we are in a holy environment, where we are able to think on a deeper level of thought, our hidden tendencies towards evil will become more exposed. And when steps are taken to have them removed, we have a stronger conjunction with the Lord.

Third, we have a stronger understanding regarding charity. There will also be a greater resolve to worship the Lord in life and think about the consequences of our actions towards our neighbor. The effects our deeds will have upon others will continually be more dominant in our lives.

Finally, we will have a greater faith in the Lord. When we partake of the Holy Supper, it can increase our confidence and trust in the Lord and in His providence. We are taught that we receive a genuine faith as we are constantly thinking about the Lord and the life we are to lead. In other words, our belief in the Lord will influence every aspect of our lives. We will develop the ability not to think maliciously about others and strive to promote what is fair and beneficial towards all.

When we regularly partake of the Holy Supper, it can be a perpetual reminder about the Lord. It can regularly put the Lord in the forefront of our minds. This is why the Holy Supper is called the most holy act of worship. It provides a stronger conjunction of the church with heaven. And the effects of the Holy Supper can influence our daily lives as we perform our tasks and responsibilities in the natural world. This is the perpetual thought that we all can have and that will make each one of us a part of the body of the church in the name of the Lord. “This do in remembrance of Me”. AMEN