This is a good recent article on preparing for Communion:I appreciate this writer's understanding of the relationship between confession and communion.
Yes, but it is unfortunate that Bishop Pachomy is quoted in this article as saying:
"Thus, these Sacraments were united not by accident, and today it would be wrong to separate them by decree. This would lead to fairly serious consequences, where people could completely forget what confession is. "
In other words, don't try and correct faulty sacramental theology, because people can't be trusted to understand the true meanings of confession and communion, all "heck" will break lose and people will not have sacramental discipline. Apparently, treating people like irresponsible children is the better way to go. To the bishop's credit, he does suggest that someone going frequently to communion should not have to go to confession every time before receiving the gifts.
Is it really helpful to see all these customs as differing "rules"? Obviously, there are things that we really should follow if we want to benefit from receiving the Gifts and not be hurt because of partaking of them irreverently. We should try to be prepared as best as we possibly can. But remember: no one is ever
"worthy" to receive the Gifts. There is never a communion that is not given by or received by a sinner. I don't wish to criticise anyone individually for their sacramental practices, but those bishops and priests who keep people away from the Eucharist because they have not fasted for 3 days or a week or whatever and who are aware that this is not the ancient or patristic approach
to sacramental discipline will answer before the throne of God for their conduct.
In the Early Church, everyone
was expected to commune every
liturgy. Now, this has been watered down to just the clergy who must commune at every liturgy. I realise that it is not by any means an easy task to be a bishop or priest, and that they have to guard the Holy Gifts from abuse. But when parishoners are known to clergy, they should be encouraged to commune regularly (as often as possible!) without having to jump through all these impossible-to-fulfill-on-a-regular-basis hoops in order to do so. And laity have to be more responsible and not take the attitude that all the "spriitual" things in life are for priests, and not for them! In the Orthodox Church, we all have to responsible for our own spiritual life. The idea that clergy are somehow a separate caste is foreign to original and patristic ecclesiology.
Forgive me, this has all the appearances of being a rant. I just don't understand why we have to continue to think that the laity are children in the spiritual world. This is not the patristic understaning at all. We seem to have fallen into copying pre-Vatican II Latin sacramental theology that infantisizes the laity. There are a bunch of "paint-by-number" "rules" for this and that in the Church. This is not what the Faith is about at all. There is no reason for laity not to be educated in theology just like clergy, the reverse is in fact true. In the early Church it was understood that while some of the people of God were set apart to serve in specific ways, they still remained part of the people of God. And this is still the case today. We are all prophets, priests and kings as baptised members of the Body of Christ. We should behave as such: laity need to take responsibility for their spiritual growth, and clergy need to stop treating them like children.
I want to be clear: I don't envy the burden that clergy have to bear, and I don't mean that there isn't a hierarchy (of love!) in the Church, and that the laity shouldn't support and love their clergy.