Surely monks being generally purer and leading a Christian life would need less preparation and be entitled to Commune more frequently?
Wow - I know many monks who would completely disagree with you! Monks are generally not purer
but rather more strongly tempted, and many monks are actually sources of great temptation for the few Holy Elders that exist. Your line of thinking in the above statement does not match up with reality - monasticism is a hard road to walk on, and only a very small percentage of those who do tread upon it actually succeed. I've split off the discussion spurred by my above comment:
Monasticism and Salvation
- Cleveland, Global Moderator
Anyway Father Elia's comments on this subject should shed some light on this question.
"The real reason for the change in practice was the change in the character of the communicants. In the first 4 centuries, and later in some places, infant baptism was rare; only adults of proven commitment were baptized, as for example Constantine the Great on his deathbed. Most of the Cappadocian Fathers and St. Ambrose were only baptized late in life. Back then, Christianity was serious. Christians dressed very modestly, as Moslems do now. The Christians didn't go the public amusements. Actors and actresses were forbidden baptism. However during the 5th century, first the Imperial Court itself became Christian, nominally, and there evolved a situation where non-Christians were not socially acceptable, and later discriminated against legally. When everybody was nominally Christian, the levels of practice quickly deteriorated, (but not so much as between the 19th century and today!) Frequent confession was not practiced, except by monks, and when people came for absolution, they had to do really serious penances for their sins, standing outside the nave, wearing special penitential (hair shirts and sackcloth) clothing, making many prostrations, etc. Fewer and fewer Christians maintained the piety of their grandparents. The inevitable reaction of the clergy was to point out that if one was not living the Christian Life of their grandparents, and of the monastics who still preserved piety, they should not be receiving the
Mysteries as if they were. Private Confession had not yet developed, and spread from Egypt, to Ireland and then from
West to East, in reaction to lowered standards. Even if we look at 19th Century Russia, or read the Old Ritualist texts of Confession and Absolution we see a very different world than here and now. In Russia, drunkeness was the rule rather than the exception. The aristocracy was quite Westernized, and farthest from the Church. The frequent communion of the 5th Century was obviously inappropriate to the 19th, where for example, even the Czar smoked, and attended the ballet. Under Ottoman rule, Christians felt (and still feel) that they should be as different from Moslems as possible. Prostrations became very rare. Christians thought that Modesty was Moslem. Christians education, and books disappeared. Monasteries
decreased to almost nothing. The ideas of the educated kolyvades were considered heresy. > And then the whole world was scrambled by immigration and the transfer of populations. Thousands of strongholds and remnants of early Christianity vanished between 1915 and 1925. People who moved to America were those least attached to Christian Tradition. The introduction of electricity, cinema and then television introduced a kind of mind control. Anyone who lived in rural Greece or Syria before television experienced a different world, now gone with the wind. In 50 years, not to mention a hundred,
Christian standards have changed beyond recognition. How the Church will adjust (if it can) remains to be seen. Early
Christians lived more strictly than monastics today. Frequent Communion was natural. Today, consciences have been seared, and what shall we do?"
Of all your statement, this is the most relevant (I think).
Quite frankly, you're right, there has been a radical change in Orthodox fronema
from our ancestors to the present day, and there is no clear road laid out for how to adapt. How should we adapt to it? Well, for starters, I don't think frequent communion should mean every week. Maybe 2-3 times per month (including major feasts and weekdays). Frequent confession should also be included in this (at least 4-6 times per year). I also think, though, that we need to begin living our lives as if we don't have forever - maybe the extension of our lifespan over the last three hundred years has impacted our fronema
more than some of these other factors; we're not afraid of the Eschaton coming so soon, not because we don't have a doomsday circled on our calendar, but because we've become less aware of our own impending death. In some ways, our modern fear of death has led to this: we've been so attuned to extending our lives that we've failed to maintain the spiritual quality within them.