Author Topic: Specific Question Regarding the Relationship between Fasting, Sin, and Communion  (Read 1197 times)

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Offline swimming_rock

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Hey, I'm new though I've been lurking here for quite a while now. Thought I'd start off with some fairly specific questions regarding fasting and communion as I haven't found the answers as of yet. I am Greek Orthodox by the way. If these questions have been answered, I apologize! I was baptized as a baby but I have only been trying to take the Faith seriously for the last few years so these questions may seem silly or pedantic.

1.) In the Orthodox Church, are we able to approach communion with unconfessed sins? I know there is no distinction between venial and mortal as in the RCC, and so we must confess all of our sins, voluntary or not. At the same time, it seems that if we must confess every single sin we commit before taking communion that we would never be able to approach the chalice. My priest says we should commune frequently, but every time I sin in between confession and the Divine Liturgy, I feel like I shouldn't approach.

2.) If we do not do not fast on Wednesday and Friday, are to abstain from communion? I come from a fairly irreligious family (though nominally Orthodox) and while I've heard of fasting on Saturday night, I actually haven't heard of the Wednesday and Friday fast being important until recently. I've also taken communion before without fasting on Wednesday and Friday and now I feel bad.

3.) I know fasting is important but I've also heard it said that though we fast from food the real fast is from sin. So the question I have is what the relationship between the two is? How does exercising one lead to the conquering of the other? I'm not doubting its efficacy, but some Protestants say we don't need to fast, though I'm sure there is a good reason.



Offline SolEX01

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Welcome to the forum, swimming_rock.   :)

Offline Mor Ephrem

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1.) In the Orthodox Church, are we able to approach communion with unconfessed sins? I know there is no distinction between venial and mortal as in the RCC, and so we must confess all of our sins, voluntary or not. At the same time, it seems that if we must confess every single sin we commit before taking communion that we would never be able to approach the chalice. My priest says we should commune frequently, but every time I sin in between confession and the Divine Liturgy, I feel like I shouldn't approach.

Strictly speaking, the only sins that would prohibit someone from receiving Communion without having first confessed are particularly grievous sins which "automatically excommunicate".  I'm not sure what the lower threshold of this category is, but murder, adultery, apostasy, fornication, and the like are some of these.  Ask your priest/confessor.  I tried asking in another thread, but there were no takers.  :P

So, presuming that the sins in question are not of this level of seriousness, it would be acceptable, even desirable (required?) to commune at the Liturgy, if otherwise prepared. 

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2.) If we do not do not fast on Wednesday and Friday, are to abstain from communion? I come from a fairly irreligious family (though nominally Orthodox) and while I've heard of fasting on Saturday night, I actually haven't heard of the Wednesday and Friday fast being important until recently. I've also taken communion before without fasting on Wednesday and Friday and now I feel bad.

Don't feel bad about the past.

Generally, I would say yes, the Wednesday and Friday fasts are "required" and are part of our preparation for Communion in a broad sense.  But I don't recall having ever seen anyone turned away from the chalice for this reason because a) there are no "Fasting Police" spying on communicants during the week, and b) the origin and reason for the W/F fast has nothing really to do with Communion.     

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3.) I know fasting is important but I've also heard it said that though we fast from food the real fast is from sin. So the question I have is what the relationship between the two is? How does exercising one lead to the conquering of the other? I'm not doubting its efficacy, but some Protestants say we don't need to fast, though I'm sure there is a good reason.

This has been discussed before, so I'd encourage you to search the old threads.  To be very brief, we sin in the body as well as in the soul/spirit, so we repent in the body as well as in the soul/spirit. 

As for the Protestants who say we don't need to fast, their argument is with the Lord, not with us. 
"Do not tempt the Mor thy Mod."

Mor no longer posts on OCNet.  He follows threads, posts his responses daily, occasionally starts threads, and responds to private messages when and as he wants.  But he really isn't around anymore.


Offline TheTrisagion

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I'm not sure why Protestants feel that fasting is not necessary.  Scripture certainly talks about it quite a bit. I've asked family members who are Protestants and they just tell me that fasting is "legalistic".  I'm not sure how doing something that Christ advocated and did Himself is legalistic. I've never gotten a good explanation for that.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2014, 10:15:39 AM by TheTrisagion »
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Offline genesisone

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I'm not sure why Protestants feel that fasting is not necessary.  Scripture certainly talks about it quite a bit. I've asked family members who are Protestants and they just tell me that fasting is "legalistic".  I'm not sure how doing something that Christ advocated and did Himself is legalistic. I've never gotten a good explanation for that.
Let's be careful about painting all Protestants with the same brush. Those with whom I have been familiar would say that fasting is necessary. However, they do not hold to a regular disciplined fasting routine as we are called to do in Orthodoxy. They will fast (and usually that means doing without food for whatever period of time: maybe just a meal, maybe a day, or three days, whatever) in order to get something from God. It seems to be an effort to show God that they are serious about their prayers. It's really hit and miss, and rather ambiguous in its purpose and practice.

So I suppose you're right about its being legalistic when it is seen as something done in an orderly prescribed fashion. We know better, of course, don't we? Plenty of chaos and conflict about fasting within Orthodoxy, otherwise we'd be missing a lot of threads here on OC.net  :D.

So in response to the original question, I would submit that fasting should be routine in our spiritual practices along with prayer, confession, reception of communion, etc. The specifics of each of those will differ from one person to another. One's own priest is the best guide to help establish and develop those practices.

Offline Cyrus

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https://openlibrary.org/books/OL19664931M/Preparing_to_Receive_Holy_Communion_by_Fr._Tom_Avramis

Is a book I recommend by Fr. Tom Avramis of the GOA.  In it he explains there is absolutely no connection between fasting and being able to take Holy Communion.  He goes into detail on how fasting and being made worthy to partake is an innovation that has caused much harm to the Church through the centuries.   Taking the Holy Mysteries are so important, there is an Apostolic Canon that excommunicates anyone who fails to partake after hearing the Holy Gospel!  As it turns out, the link between the two is reduced to "local tradition/custom". 

If strength permits, all faithful should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays most of the years (there are exceptions, like the week following Pascha, which is fast-free), whether one takes communion or not.

Offline swimming_rock

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Hey thanks for the warm welcome and the informative answers guys! Cyrus, I had no idea that was the case. I will have to read your link.

Offline Cyrus

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Hey thanks for the warm welcome and the informative answers guys! Cyrus, I had no idea that was the case. I will have to read your link.

Canon IX. (X.)

 All the faithful who come in and hear the Scriptures, but do not stay for the prayers and the Holy Communion, are to be excommunicated, as causing disorder in the Church.




Offline Cyrus

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Interpretation.

Both exegetes of the sacred Canons — Zonaras, I mean, and Balsamon — in interpreting the present Apostolical Canon agree in saying that all Christians who enter the church when the divine liturgy is being celebrated, and who listen to the divine Scriptures, but do not remain to the end nor partake, must be excommunicated, as causing a disorder to the church. Thus Zonaras says verbatim: "The present Canon demands that all those who are in the church when the holy sacrifice is being performed shall patiently remain to the end for prayer and holy communion." For even the laity then were required to partake continually. Balsamon says: "The ordainment of the present Canon is very acrid; for it excommunicates those attending church but not staying to the end nor partaking."

Offline SolEX01

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Replies #7 and 8 - why do you think those canons fell out of favor and are not being enforced today?

Offline Cyrus

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today. 

Offline icecreamsandwich

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3.) I know fasting is important but I've also heard it said that though we fast from food the real fast is from sin. So the question I have is what the relationship between the two is? How does exercising one lead to the conquering of the other? I'm not doubting its efficacy, but some Protestants say we don't need to fast, though I'm sure there is a good reason.

Welcome to the forums!

This is something I've been encountering rather often as of late as well. Basically as I understand it (and someone correct me if wrong), the point of fasting isn't to give up something that we like for a time. Rather, it's to give us discipline that we can use to help us fight the passions. If we can abstain from eating meat, and so on (especially now when such seems to be increasingly common in diets) then the discipline learned from abstaining that will build our discipline, and give us the "willpower" (I use that loosely) to fight the sins that we struggle with: "hey if I can not eat meat for a week, maybe I can also not watch so much TV".

Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays is done to commemorate Christ's betrayal, and crucifixion, during part of our week, and bring us to rememberance of Him as well. I've even heard it said that during Great Lent, the hunger one will be feeling is supposed to be a reminder of Christ - bringing to our attention the fact that we cannot live without food, and indeed that Christ is the Bread of Life. That applies especially to Great Lent when there is a lot of attention focused on the fasting and increased spiritual exertion, but I don't see why that explanation can't be applicable to the whole year. Of course, as you know it's not just the point of fasting from the food - the fasting will hopefully coincide with prayer, almsgiving, and a focus on God. It's a tool that is used.  

You may find this helpful.

http://oca.org/questions/dailylife/orthodox-fasting
« Last Edit: May 10, 2014, 01:14:57 AM by icecreamsandwich »
Please correct me if I'm wrong - I'm still learning as I go along.

Offline SolEX01

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today. 

I've seen people who leave when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion and says, "With the fear of God and with love, draw near."  Technically, they are excommunicating themselves; however, no one has taken action against them.

Offline Maria

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today. 

I've seen people who leave when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion and says, "With the fear of God and with love, draw near."  Technically, they are excommunicating themselves; however, no one has taken action against them.

I was told by a Greek Orthodox Priest, that many of these people have excommunicated themselves by participating in abortion. They are repentant now, but are allowed to receive Holy Communion at Pascha only.
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Offline SolEX01

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today. 

I've seen people who leave when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion and says, "With the fear of God and with love, draw near."  Technically, they are excommunicating themselves; however, no one has taken action against them.

I was told by a Greek Orthodox Priest, that many of these people have excommunicated themselves by participating in abortion. They are repentant now, but are allowed to receive Holy Communion at Pascha only.

This is an older couple - I've thought they were under some kind of penance except the priest who may have issued the penance is long dead.

Offline Mor Ephrem

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today. 

I've seen people who leave when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion and says, "With the fear of God and with love, draw near."  Technically, they are excommunicating themselves; however, no one has taken action against them.

What action would you suggest?  Should they be taken outside and beaten with rods?
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Offline Maria

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today.  

I've seen people who leave when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion and says, "With the fear of God and with love, draw near."  Technically, they are excommunicating themselves; however, no one has taken action against them.

I was told by a Greek Orthodox Priest, that many of these people have excommunicated themselves by participating in abortion. They are repentant now, but are allowed to receive Holy Communion at Pascha only.

This is an older couple - I've thought they were under some kind of penance except the priest who may have issued the penance is long dead.

I talked with an older couple, and they volunteered that they had divorced and remarried outside the church. They were formerly Catholics, so they did not know that they could go to an ecclesiastical court and get their situation rectified.

They went to the priest, who determined with the Bishop that they could get married.'

Since then, I have met many couples or single people who have been divorced and who never go to communion because they think that they are excommunicated for life like Roman Catholics. I asked the priest if he ever made an announcement regarding this, and he said that they make an annual statement that those who are not married in the Orthodox Church cannot receive Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday. That statement once a year is not enough.

The priest told me that the church usually imposes a penance from three to five years when a marriage falls apart. The Ecclesiastical Court can lessen that time, and can grant a blessing to have a second or even a third marriage, even though it might be a marriage of repentance rather than the Holy Crowning.

« Last Edit: May 10, 2014, 01:30:24 AM by Maria »
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Offline SolEX01

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today. 

I've seen people who leave when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion and says, "With the fear of God and with love, draw near."  Technically, they are excommunicating themselves; however, no one has taken action against them.

What action would you suggest?  Should they be taken outside and beaten with rods?

No action.  At times, this couple comes down for coffee hour.

Offline Cyrus

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I do not believe they fell out of favor, as frequent communion is the norm in church life today.  

I've seen people who leave when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion and says, "With the fear of God and with love, draw near."  Technically, they are excommunicating themselves; however, no one has taken action against them.

there are many instances where people will go contrary to what the Church teaches, but just because some do not approach does not mean they are in violation of the Canons.  Remember, Canons are used as guides or a rule, and are not absolute in all instances.  Like Maria mentions, there are those who have sinned grievously, and are not permitted to receive frequently or for many years, etc..   That's why it is not so great being a priest or bishop, because they will be held accountable for how they distributed (or not) the Body and Blood of our Saviour!  There is a saying that goes something like this:  "its easy to find the pathway to hell, as it is lined with the skulls and bones of priests and bishops"!

 Ultimately, its up to the priest and ruling bishop as to the instances where people should abstain from receiving the holy mysteries, and in those cases are not going against the Canons, etc..
« Last Edit: May 10, 2014, 01:26:22 AM by Cyrus »

Offline hecma925

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I'm not sure why Protestants feel that fasting is not necessary.  Scripture certainly talks about it quite a bit. I've asked family members who are Protestants and they just tell me that fasting is "legalistic".  I'm not sure how doing something that Christ advocated and did Himself is legalistic. I've never gotten a good explanation for that.
Let's be careful about painting all Protestants with the same brush. Those with whom I have been familiar would say that fasting is necessary. However, they do not hold to a regular disciplined fasting routine as we are called to do in Orthodoxy. They will fast (and usually that means doing without food for whatever period of time: maybe just a meal, maybe a day, or three days, whatever) in order to get something from God. It seems to be an effort to show God that they are serious about their prayers. It's really hit and miss, and rather ambiguous in its purpose and practice.

So I suppose you're right about its being legalistic when it is seen as something done in an orderly prescribed fashion. We know better, of course, don't we? Plenty of chaos and conflict about fasting within Orthodoxy, otherwise we'd be missing a lot of threads here on OC.net  :D.

So in response to the original question, I would submit that fasting should be routine in our spiritual practices along with prayer, confession, reception of communion, etc. The specifics of each of those will differ from one person to another. One's own priest is the best guide to help establish and develop those practices.

Growing up in a pentecostal denomination, fasting was seen as good and my family did it regularly on Sundays.  Now, especially with the "Daniel's Fast", it's in vogue with a lot of denominations.
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