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Author Topic: Confession before Communion  (Read 19194 times) Average Rating: 0
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PeterTheAleut
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« on: March 29, 2006, 05:20:23 PM »

I'm mildly familiar with the arguments on both sides of the issue of whether Orthodox should be required to go to Confession before receiving every Communion.  I know that this is the practice in some parishes.  In other parishes, such as my own, one must go to Confession before receiving Communion only if the person has failed to receive from the Holy Mysteries for three consecutive Sunday for no reason worthy of a blessing.

Personally, the one of my objections to requiring Confession before Communion that is closest to the surface of my thinking is the practical challenges that such a requirement would present to such parishes as mine.  We celebrate the Divine Liturgy every Sunday and on major feast days.  In our liturgies, virtually everyone present (with the exception of non-Orthodox visitors, inquirers, and catechumens) receives Communion, so that the majority of parishioners in my church receive Communion weekly.  We also have only one preist serving a congregation of easily over 100 communicants.  It would be almost impossible to require our one priest to hear over 100 confessions the night before every Liturgy or the next morning immediately before the Liturgy and still expect him to fulfill his ritual responsibilities to the preparatory services (Vespers and Matins/Orthros).  The practice of requiring Confession as a preparation for Communion may have been an absolute necessity in 18th and 19th Century Russia where this practice developed in part because laity received Communion only once or twice per year.  But I don't see it being a practical possibility in those parishes where the faithful receive Communion every week.  I have deeper theological reasons for my other objections to this practice, but I need more time than I have at the moment to be able to articulate my thoughts on this issue.

I'm interested to know what your various parish practices are and what reasoning is presented for both sides of this issue.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2006, 05:33:16 PM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2006, 03:25:54 PM »

Peter,

Quote
The practice of requiring Confession as a preparation for Communion may have been an absolute necessity in 18th and 19th Century Russia where this practice developed in part because laity received Communion only once or twice per year.

I think you hit the nail on the head here.  I'm loath to blame this phenomenon totally upon the encounters of the Orthodox with Roman Catholicism, but I do think it had a contributing influence.  While obviously one who receives regularly must do so with discernment and without an unduly burdened conscience, the idea that there is anything wrong or suspect with frequent Holy Communion is a relatively recent and isolated notion - it's not in keeping with the universal beliefs and practices of the Church on this matter.

However, ultimatly this is a matter of pastoral discretion - the Priests ultimately act as guardians of the Holy Mysteries, so who they are allowed to admit to the Chalice and on what basis is fundamentally decided by their Bishops.  We can question whether a given practice is timely or prudent (like so many others - ex. the whole question of how converts from heterodoxy ought to be received), but that's a burden that doesn't really rest on the layman's head, but those of our shepherds.

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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2006, 01:02:08 AM »

Well, in my parish (ROCOR), it is required to take confession before communion. Obviously our one priest could not commune our 300+ parish every Sunday so how we do this is have a Divine Liturgy mostly every Saturday and two or three times during the weekdays. Most people in my parish (including myself) take communion twice a month, while a small minority, including the babas, take it every week. Confession is held before Vespers every night before the Liturgy. It works out quite well, since the newly arrived (from former Soviet Blockade countries) have their ESL class on Friday nights right before Vespers, so they confess then, and take communion on Saturday, while the children have their Church School Saturday afternoon, so they confess then, and then the adults confess Saturday night before Vespers, and the teens show up early Sunday morning and confess then and all the adults, teens, and children commune on Sunday. The babas and the elderly all confess during weekday night Vespers, and commune during the weekday Liturgies.

This works out quite well, since it would be impractical for us to commune 300+ people every Sunday, I believe my knees would buckle and we wouldn't be finished till 2 in the afternoon.

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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2006, 01:07:07 AM »

Quote
the idea that there is anything wrong or suspect with frequent Holy Communion is a relatively recent and isolated notion

I was always under the impression that the concept that there was something suspect or improper with frequently communing came from the old world, and was brought to the west by immigrants. Perhaps this is partly due to the unique confessional clergy system the Greeks have, though Slavs also infrequently communed at various times and places. Wasn't there a battle during the middle of the 20th century in which Fr. Alexander Schmemann and others tried to get this notion (ie. that frequent communion is improper) out of people's heads?
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2006, 01:45:46 AM »

Frequent communion is common and encouraged in the Coptic Orthodox Church. However, it is assumed that the believer confesses regularly; he need not have confessed immediately before partaking of the Eucharist, or even a week before partaking of the Eucharist, but he nonetheless is expected to have maintained a consistent schedule with intervals of reasonable length (I guess this is to be decided by the parish priest - in my parish for example, once a month is considered the norm).

If a priest knows that a particular person has consistently failed to maintain this schedule for unworthy reasons, he can, and most probably will, refuse that person Communion; but they're not generally very "tight" about it. You don't usually see the priest stop every person approaching the Eucharist, in order to ask them when the last time they confessed was.

The Holy Liturgy itself is full of reminders to the congregation, that they must approach worthily: "The holies are for the holy..." (said by the Priest) and "Pray for the worthy Communion of the Immaculate, Heavenly, and Holy Mysteries" (said by the Deacon) etc.

I guess the main reason for frequent Communion, is that the Grace dispensed to the repentent sinner through partaking of the Eucharist, is required to assisst them in their life of repentence, and ultimately their journey to Salvation.
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2006, 12:58:11 PM »

I was always under the impression that the concept that there was something suspect or improper with frequently communing came from the old world, and was brought to the west by immigrants. Perhaps this is partly due to the unique confessional clergy system the Greeks have, though Slavs also infrequently communed at various times and places. Wasn't there a battle during the middle of the 20th century in which Fr. Alexander Schmemann and others tried to get this notion (ie. that frequent communion is improper) out of people's heads?

St. John of Kronstadt celebrated the Divine Liturgy daily and advocated for the faithful in his church to receive Communion frequently.  (Of course, he also received a blessing from his bishop to hear mass Confessions from his congregation--everyone confesses at the same time and St. John reads the prayers of absolution once over the entire congregation--in large part because he didn't have the time in his super-busy life to hear each Confession privately.)

As far as your assessment of Fr. Schmemann's battle for frequent Communion, you are correct.  He did fight very hard to make frequent Communion normative again.
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2006, 01:04:53 PM »

Frequent communion is common and encouraged in the Coptic Orthodox Church. However, it is assumed that the believer confesses regularly; he need not have confessed immediately before partaking of the Eucharist, or even a week before partaking of the Eucharist, but he nonetheless is expected to have maintained a consistent schedule with intervals of reasonable length (I guess this is to be decided by the parish priest - in my parish for example, once a month is considered the norm).

If a priest knows that a particular person has consistently failed to maintain this schedule for unworthy reasons, he can, and most probably will, refuse that person Communion; but they're not generally very "tight" about it. You don't usually see the priest stop every person approaching the Eucharist, in order to ask them when the last time they confessed was.

The Holy Liturgy itself is full of reminders to the congregation, that they must approach worthily: "The holies are for the holy..." (said by the Priest) and "Pray for the worthy Communion of the Immaculate, Heavenly, and Holy Mysteries" (said by the Deacon) etc.

I guess the main reason for frequent Communion, is that the Grace dispensed to the repentent sinner through partaking of the Eucharist, is required to assisst them in their life of repentence, and ultimately their journey to Salvation.


What you describe is identical to my parish's practice.
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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2006, 09:56:07 AM »

I'm a ROCOR person so confession before communion is the norm that I've grown up with. I never approached the chalice without confession the night before, save for a consecutive day communion (liturgy Saturday and Sunday, or Sunday and Monday). Recently one priest blessed us throughout the entire Holy Week to commune w/o a repeat confession. That's the longest stretch I recall.

To me it makes sense on several levels. The most important is that the two sacraments reinforce each other. It really works very nicely, to be honest. A confession the night before feels more fulfilled when you commune the next morning. Approaching the chalice with a total sense of having cleaned yourself of your sins the night before is good, it's reinforcing you. I've always liked that feeling.

Another issue is that it 'levels the playing field' with the parishioners. Everyone who approaches the chalice the priest has seen for confession the night before or in the morning. If someone walks up to the chalice just like that, they will be stopped by the priest and asked if they confessed. That's for their own benefit, even if it's embarrasing for them at that moment, because communion isn't something to be taken lightly. I think, personally, it's better for a subdeacon or altar boy to ask people further down in line if they confessed and fasted because it lessens the embarrasment factor when someone is in front of the congregation before the chalice and is turned away, but that's a fine point. In any case, there's no case of 'you confessed X amount of times so you're okay, you didn't so..." Either you went the night before or you didn't. Period.

Also, I don't think that very frequent (once a week) communion is something all people can properly accept from a spiritual POV, there are some dangers that can evolve from a careless approach to the chalice and the more often you do it, the more likely you'll be subject to such a temptation.

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« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2006, 12:50:08 PM »

I'm a ROCOR person so confession before communion is the norm that I've grown up with. I never approached the chalice without confession the night before, save for a consecutive day communion (liturgy Saturday and Sunday, or Sunday and Monday). Recently one priest blessed us throughout the entire Holy Week to commune w/o a repeat confession. That's the longest stretch I recall.

To me it makes sense on several levels. The most important is that the two sacraments reinforce each other. It really works very nicely, to be honest. A confession the night before feels more fulfilled when you commune the next morning. Approaching the chalice with a total sense of having cleaned yourself of your sins the night before is good, it's reinforcing you. I've always liked that feeling.

Another issue is that it 'levels the playing field' with the parishioners. Everyone who approaches the chalice the priest has seen for confession the night before or in the morning. If someone walks up to the chalice just like that, they will be stopped by the priest and asked if they confessed. That's for their own benefit, even if it's embarrasing for them at that moment, because communion isn't something to be taken lightly. I think, personally, it's better for a subdeacon or altar boy to ask people further down in line if they confessed and fasted because it lessens the embarrasment factor when someone is in front of the congregation before the chalice and is turned away, but that's a fine point. In any case, there's no case of 'you confessed X amount of times so you're okay, you didn't so..." Either you went the night before or you didn't. Period.

Also, I don't think that very frequent (once a week) communion is something all people can properly accept from a spiritual POV, there are some dangers that can evolve from a careless approach to the chalice and the more often you do it, the more likely you'll be subject to such a temptation.

Kaminentz,
While I understand the your/the ROCOR pov on this, ponder these points though:

1) Have you (or anyone here) REALLY cleansed yourself of ALL sins just because you went to Confession the day/night before?  If so, then I expect you to be well on the path to theosis.

2) What about those who travel frequently and often visit other parishes?

3) What about those who maybe went to services that lasted late, have family responsibilities and just didn't have the time to properly do their prayers?

4) What if someone is going through tough times spiritually and praying is difficult (this is something that was brought up during one of the lectures at the retreat I attended this weekend) - should they not Communion at all?

I think we need be careful of not being to legalistic regarding preparation for Communion, as deliberately withholding from potential Communicants could be as spiritually dangerous as Communing haphazardly or w/o proper preparation.  We all have different circumstances that need to be addressed individually.
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« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2006, 01:12:37 PM »

1) Have you (or anyone here) REALLY cleansed yourself of ALL sins just because you went to Confession the day/night before?  If so, then I expect you to be well on the path to theosis.

Well in that case we can argue, by going to church are we guaranteeing our salvation? Does baptism? Of course not! But we're simply making it more likely. If I go to confession I'm giving myself a push, I've emerged from the sacrament cleaner than I have before I came even if I didn't leave all my sins there.

Quote
2) What about those who travel frequently and often visit other parishes?

I like visiting other parishes, 'pan-Orthodoxing' as I call it, even though I'm not a frequent traveller per sey. I like to keep my sacramental life within my church, however - even though I have no problem going to confession and communion to another church so long as its canonical (and I don't visit non-canonical, schismatic Orthodox churches).

Quote
3) What about those who maybe went to services that lasted late, have family responsibilities and just didn't have the time to properly do their prayers?

I've had instances where I decided to confess at the last minute. I saw a bunch of people in line and I said "Why not, my friends are also going." I had a brief confession, but it was a real confession and a productive one. I really felt differently afterwards. I unloaded a sin I had in myself for over six months just like that.

Quote
4) What if someone is going through tough times spiritually and praying is difficult (this is something that was brought up during one of the lectures at the retreat I attended this weekend) - should they not Communion at all?

I think the first step is to go under the epitrahilion of a priest for confession. To me, that's the number one sacrament in terms of getting yourself to give a spiritual push. That reminds me of that time I went just at the last minute, at a whim. It was in fact God giving me a push. If we just say "well, don't feel like confession? that' okay, just go to the chalice' we're not doing a person a service. The eucharist isn't a magic potion that restores you just by taking it. As it is said when the chalice is bought out, 'with fear of God and faith approach!'. Without those two elements in place, we risk parttaking of the mystery 'in judgement'.

As a matter of fact I find going to the chalice more difficult than going to confession. I've even gone to confession without going to the chalice sometimes, because going up to the chalice is a very public thing. I don't actually like it when people look at me and say 'congradulations' for parttaking in the gift (that's a Russian tradition, don't know if others have it). I like to be left alone and in peace, and that rarely happens. If I had it my way, I'd commune as privately as I'd confess. Also, the fact that people witness that I now have Christ inside of me makes me aware of a great responsibility that I now bear in front of them for my behavior.

Quote
I think we need be careful of not being to legalistic regarding preparation for Communion, as deliberately withholding from potential Communicants could be as spiritually dangerous as Communing haphazardly or w/o proper preparation.  We all have different circumstances that need to be addressed individually.

I agree that there needs to be individual discretion. However, there have to be certain rules and guidelines. Otherwise we run into a descending liberal spiral. Today we'll say confession is unnecessary, tomorrow we'll say fasting is unnecessary, arguing 'What if a person just walks into a church and will get run over by a car in the next two hours, wouldn't it be great if they didn't get turned away from communion, even if they have a greasy omlette and sausages churning in their stomach from their breakfast?" Yes, if he's already lying out in the street dying, that certainly won't matter. But we need to be reasonable about how we bend the rules and for whom.

This is what I call the 'ramp effect'. Sometimes we try to make a ramp to make climbing the spiritual ladder easier for people besieged by this anti-spiritual day and age. But just as a ramp can make it easier to go up, it can make it easier to go down, too.
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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2006, 02:13:59 PM »

In the Serbian church it is common to confess before communion.  each time.  Most people just go up to the priest and when he says "do you have anything to confess" they say "no"  (this is from the priests, its not like i'm listening in or anything  Wink)

I'll reserve my comments about this for later when i have more time...
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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2006, 02:25:14 PM »

Kaminetz,
I understand, but my main point is the old "middle road" reference.  I think there are many clergy and laity who are both unnecessarily restrictive and lax about access to Communion and appropriate prior preparation (Confession/fasting/prayers).
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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2006, 02:37:15 PM »

From Fr. Alexander Schmemann's Report to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, Sunday of the Prodigal Son, 1972
(link to the full report: http://www.oca.org/DOCencyclical.asp?SID=12&ID=3):

Eucharistic Decay and Renewal

It is impossible, and even unnecessary to present in this short report the questions of lay communion in all its dogmatical and historical aspects. What is essential can be summarized as follows:

It is a well-known and undisputed fact that in the early Church the communion of all the faithful, of the entire ecclesia, at each Liturgy was a self-evident norm. What must be stressed, however, is that this corporate communion was understood not only as an act of personal piety and personal sanctification but, first of all, as an act stemming primarily from one's very membership in the Church, as the fulfillment and actualization of that membership. The Eucharist was both defined and experienced as the "sacrament of the Church," the "sacrament of the assembly," the "sacrament of unity." "He mixed Himself with us," writes St. John Chrysostom, "and dissolved His body in us so that we may constitute a wholeness, be a body united to the Head." The early Church simply knew no other sign or criterion of membership but the participation in the sacrament. The excommunication from the Church was the excommunication from the eucharistic assembly in which the Church fulfilled and manifested herself as the Body of Christ. Communion to the Body and Blood of Christ was a direct consequence of Baptism, the sacrament of entrance into the Church, and there existed no other "condition" for that communion. The member of the Church is the one who is in communion with the Church in and through sacramental communion, and one early liturgical formula dismissed from the gathering, together with the catechumens and the penitents, all those who are not to receive communion. This understanding of communion, as fulfilling membership in the Church, can be termed ecclesiological. However obscured or complicated it became later, it has never been discarded; it remains forever the essential norm of Tradition.

One must ask therefore not about this norm, but about what happened to it. Why did we leave it so far behind us that a mere mention of it appears to some, and especially clergy, an unheard-of novelty, a shaking of the foundations? Why is it that for centuries nine out of ten Liturgies are being celebrated without communicants? - and this provokes no amazement, no frustration, whereas the desire to communicate more frequently, on the contrary, raises a real fear? How could the doctrine of a once-a-year communion develop within the Church, the Body of Christ, as an accepted norm, a departure from which can be but an exception? How, in other words, did the understanding of communion become so deeply individualistic, so detached from the Church, so alien to the eucharistic prayer itself: "and all of us partaking of the same Bread and Chalice unite one to another for the communion of the one Spirit..."? The reason for all this, however complex historically, is spiritually a simple one: it is the fear of profaning the Mystery, the fear of unworthy communion, of the desacralization of holy things. It is a fear which is, of course, spiritually justified, for "the one who eats and drinks unworthily drinks and eats his condemnation." This fear appeared soon after the victory of the Church over the pagan Empire, a victory which transformed Christianity into a mass religion, a state Church and a popular cult. If during the era of persecution the very belonging to the Church compelled each of her members to follow a "narrow path" and set between the Christian and "this world" a self-evident dividing line, now, with the entrance of the entire "world" into the Church, that line was abolished and there appeared a very real danger of a nominal, superficial, lukewarm and minimalistic understanding of Christian life. If before the very entrance into the Church was difficult, now, with obligatory inclusion of virtually everyone into the Church, it became necessary to establish internal checks and controls; it was around the sacrament that such controls developed.

One must stress, however, that neither the Fathers nor the liturgical texts can supply us with any encouragement for non-partaking of the Mysteries, nor do they even hint at such a practice. Emphasizing the holiness of communion and its "awful" nature, calling to a worthy preparation for it, the Fathers never endorsed nor approved the idea that since the Mystery is holy and awful, one must not approach it too often. To the Fathers, the view of the Eucharist as the sacrament of the Church, of her unity, fulfillment and growth, was still self-evident.

"We must not," writes St. John Cassian, "avoid communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful. We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit, but with such humility and faith that considering ourselves unworthy... we would desire even more the medicine for our wounds. Otherwise it is impossible to receive communion once a year, as certain people do... considering the sanctification of heavenly Mysteries as available only to saints. It is better to think that by giving us grace, the sacrament makes us pure and holy. Such people manifest more pride than humility... for when they receive, they think of themselves as worthy. It is much better if, in humility of heart, knowing that we are never worthy of the Holy Mysteries we would receive them every Sunday for the healing of our diseases, rather than, blinded by pride, think that after one year we become worthy of receiving them."

With regard to an equally wide-spread theory, according to which there is a difference between the clergy and laity in approaching communion, so that the former are to receive it at each Liturgy, whereas the latter are discouraged from doing so, it is fitting to quote St. John Chrysostom, who more than anyone else, insisted on worthy preparation for communion: "There are cases," writes the great pastor, "when a priest does not differ from a layman, notably when one approaches the Holy Mysteries. We are all equally given them, not as in the Old Testament, when one food was for the priests and another for the people and when it was not permitted to the people to partake of that which was for the priest. Now it is not so: but to all is offered the same Body and the same Chalice..."

Let me repeat once more that it is simply impossible to find in Tradition a basis and justification for our present practice of extremely infrequent, if not yearly, communion of laity; all those who seriously and responsibly have studied our Tradition, all the best Russian liturgiologists and theologians, have seen in this practice a decay in Church life, a deviation from Tradition and the genuine foundations of the Church. And the most dreadful aspect of this decay is that it is justified and explained in terms of respect for the holiness of the sacrament, in terms of piety and reverence. For if it were so, the non-communicants would experience at least some sadness during the Liturgy, a frustration, a feeling of lacking fullness. In reality, however, this is simply not true. Generation after generation of Orthodox "attend" the Liturgy totally convinced that nothing more than attendance is required from them, that communion is simply not for them. And then, once a year, they fulfill their "obligation" and receive communion after a two-minute confession to a tired and exhausted priest. To see in all this a triumph of reverence, a protection of holiness, more than that - a norm, and not a downfall and a tragedy, is indeed incredible.

In some of our parishes those who expressed the desire to receive communion more frequently were subjected to a real persecution, were asked not to do it "for the sake of peace," were accused of deviation from Orthodoxy! I could quote parish bulletins explaining that since communion is for penitents, one ought not to receive it at Easter, for it "obscures" paschal joy. And the most tragic thing is that all this provokes no mystical horror, that apparently the Church herself becomes an obstacle on man's path to Christ! Truly - "when you shall see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place..." (Matthew 24:15).

Finally, it would not be difficult to show that whenever and wherever a genuine renewal of the life of the Church has taken place it has always originated with what has been termed "eucharistic hunger," In the twentieth century there began a great crisis of Orthodoxy. There began an unheard of, unprecedented persecution of the Church and the apostasy of millions of people. And whenever this crisis was understood and perceived, there was a return to communion as the "focus of Christian life." This happened in communist Russia, as is attested by hundreds of witnesses; this happened in other centers of Orthodoxy and the diaspora. The movements of Orthodox youth in Greece, Lebanon, France have all grown out of a renewal of liturgical life. All that is genuine, living, churchly has been born from a humble and joyful response to the words of the Lord: "He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood, dwells in Me and I in him" (John 6:56).

Now, by a great mercy of God, this eucharistic revival, this thirst for a more frequent, more regular, communion, and thus, the return to a more genuine life within the Church, has made its appearance in America. I am convinced that nothing would give a greater joy to the pastors and especially Bishops than this renewal, pulling us away from the spiritually dead controversies about "properties" and "rights," from the idea of the Church as a social-ethnic club with picnics and entertainment, from youth organizations in which religious life and interests are kept at a bare minimum. For, as I already said, no other foundation exists for the regeneration of the Church as a whole, and none can exist. The ethnic, national foundation is fading away. All that which is only custom, only form, an addition to life but not life itself, is disappearing. People are seeking the genuine, the true and the living. Therefore, if we are to live and grow, it is obviously only on the basis of the very essence of the Church, and this essence is the Body of Christ, that mystical unity into which we are integrated through partaking "of the one Bread and Chalice in the communion of the same Spirit..."

I am confident, therefore, that our Bishops, to whom God has entrusted above all care for the spiritual essence of the Church, will find the words proper to bless and to encourage this spiritual and sacramental renewal, proper to remind the Church of the immeasurably rich and immeasurably joyful content of her teaching about the Divine Mysteries.

All this, however, raises - with a new acuteness and depth - the question of the preparation for holy communion, and, first of all, of the place in that preparation for the Sacrament of Penance.


To be continued in my next post:

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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2006, 02:37:56 PM »

continued from the previous post:


Penance and Holy Communion

When the communion of the entire congregation at each Liturgy, as an act expressing their very participation, in the Liturgy, ceased to be a self-evident norm and was replaced by the practice of a very infrequent, usually once-a-year, communion, it became natural for the latter to be preceded by the Sacrament of Penance i.e., confession and reconciliation with the Church through the prayer of absolution.

This practice, natural and self-evident in the case of infrequent, once-a-year, communion, led to the appearance in the Church of a theory according to which the communion of laity, different in this from the communion of clergy, is impossible without the Sacrament of Penance, so that confession is an obligatory condition - always and in all cases - for communion. I dare to affirm that this theory (which spread mainly in the Russian Church) not only has no foundation in Tradition, but openly contradicts the Orthodox doctrine of the Church, of the Sacrament of Communion and of that of Penance.

To be convinced of that, one has to recall, be it very briefly, the essence of the Sacrament of Penance. From the very beginning this sacrament was, in the consciousness and teaching of the Church, the sacrament of reconciliation with the Church of those excommunicated from her and this means of those excluded from the eucharistic assembly. We know that, at first, the very strict ecclesiastical discipline allowed for only one such reconciliation in one's lifetime, but that later, especially after the entrance into the Church of the entire population, this discipline was somewhat relaxed. In its essence, the Sacrament of Penance, as the sacrament of reconciliation with the Church, was for those only who were excommunicated from the Church for definite sins and acts clearly defined in the canonical tradition of the Church. This is still clearly stated in the prayer of absolution: "reconcile him with Thy Holy Church in Christ Jesus Our Lord..." (This, incidentally, is the prayer of absolution, used universally. As to the second one, unknown to the Eastern Orthodox Churches - "I, unworthy priest, by the power given unto me, absolve. . ." - is of Latin origin and was adopted in our liturgical books at the time of the domination of Orthodox theology by Western theology.)

All this, however, does not mean that the "faithful," i.e., the "non-excommunicated," were considered by the Church to be sinless. In the first place, according to the Church's teaching, no human being is sinless, with the exception of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Theotokos. In the second place, a prayer for forgiveness and remission of sins is an integral part of the Liturgy itself (cf. the Prayer of the Trisagion and the two prayers "of the faithful"). Finally, the Church always considered Holy Communion itself as given "for the remission of sins." Therefore, the issue here is not sinlessness, which no absolution can achieve, but the distinction always made by the Church between, on the one hand, the sins excommunicating a man from the Church's life of grace and, on the other hand, the "sinfulness" which is the inescapable fate of every man "living in the world and bearing flesh." The latter is, so to speak, "dissolved" in the Church's liturgy, and it is this sinfulness that the Church confesses in the "prayers of the faithful" before the offering of the Holy Gifts. Before the Holy Chalice itself, at the moment of receiving the Mysteries, we ask for forgiveness of "sins voluntary and involuntary, those in word and in deed, committed knowingly or unknowingly," and we believe that, in the measure of our repentance, we receive this forgiveness.

All this means, of course, and no one really denies it, that the only real condition for partaking of the Divine Mysteries is membership in the Church and, conversely, that membership in the Church is fulfilled in the partaking of the sacrament of the Church. Communion is given 'for the remission of sins, "'for the healing of the soul and body," and it implies, therefore, repentance, the awareness of our total unworthiness, and the understanding of communion as a heavenly gift which never can be "deserved" by an earthly being. The whole meaning of preparation for communion, as established by the Church ("The Rule for Holy Communion") is not, of course, in making man feel "worthy" but, on the contrary, in revealing to him the abyss of God's mercy and love ("I am not worthy, Master and Lord... yet since Thou in Thy love... dost wish to dwell in me, in boldness I come. Thou commandest, open the gates... and Thou wilt come in love... and enlighten my darkened reasoning. I believe that Thou wilt do this..."). Before the Lord's table the only "worthiness" of the communicant is that he has realized his bottomless "unworthiness." This, indeed, is the beginning of salvation.

It is therefore of paramount importance for us to understand that the transformation of the Sacrament of Penance into an obligatory condition for communion not only contradicts Tradition, but obviously mutilates it. It mutilates, in the first place, the doctrine of the Church by creating in her two categories of members, one of which is, in fact, excommunicated from the Eucharist, as the very content and fulfillment of membership, as its spiritual source. But then it is no longer surprising that those whom the Apostle called "fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19) become again "worldly" (kosmiki, miriane), are "secularized" and their membership in the Church is measured and defined in terms of money ("dues") and "rights." But also mutilated is the doctrine of communion, which is understood then as the sacrament for a few "worthy ones" and no longer as the sacrament of the Church: of sinners who, by the infinite mercy of Christ, are always transformed into His Body. And finally, equally mutilated is the doctrine of penance. Transformed into a formal condition for communion, it begins more and more obviously to replace the real preparation for communion, that genuine inner repentance, which inspires all the prayers before communion. After a three-minute confession and absolution a man feels "entitled" to communion, "worthy" and even "sinless," feels, in other terms, that which is in fact the very opposite of true repentance.

But how then could such a practice have appeared and become a norm, defended today by many as truly Orthodox? To answer this question one must consider three factors. We have already mentioned one of them: that nominal and lukewarm approach to faith and piety of Christian society itself which led, at first, to an infrequent communion and, finally, reduced it to a once-a-year "obligation." It is clear that a person approaching the Divine Mysteries once a year must be really "reconciled" with the Church by means of an examination of his conscience and life in the Sacrament of Penance. The second factor is the influence on the Church of monasticism, which from the very beginning knew the practice of the "opening of thoughts," of the spiritual guidance by an experienced monk of a less-experienced one. But, and this is essential, such a spiritual father or "elder" was not necessarily a priest, for this type of spiritual guidance is connected with spiritual experience and not priesthood.

In the Byzantine monastic typika of the 12th-13th centuries, a monk is forbidden both to approach the Chalice and to abstain from it by himself, of his own will, without the permission of his spiritual father, for "to exclude oneself from communion is to follow one's own will." In women's monasteries the same power belongs to the abbess. Thus we have here a confession of a non-sacramental type, confession based upon spiritual experience and permanent guidance. But this type of confession had a strong impact on sacramental confession. At a time of spiritual decadence (which can be seen in its true scope and meaning in the canons of the so-called Council in Trullo, 6th century A.D.) monasteries became centers of spiritual care and guidance for the laity. In Greece, even today, not every priest has the right to hear confessions but only those who are especially authorized by the Bishop. Yet for the laity this spiritual counseling naturally led to sacramental confession. We must stress, however, that not every parish priest is capable of such spiritual counseling, which implies and presupposes a deep spiritual experience, for without that experience "counseling" may lead, and in fact often leads, to genuine spiritual tragedies. What is important here is that the sacramental penance became somehow connected with the idea of spiritual guidance, solution of "difficulties" and "problems," and that all this in the present conditions of our parish life, of "mass" confessions concentrated during some evening of Great Lent and reduced to a few minutes, is hardly possible and does more harm than good. Spiritual guidance, especially in our time of deep spiritual crisis, is necessary, but to be genuine, deep, useful, it must be disconnected from sacramental confession, although the latter must obviously be its ultimate goal.

The third and decisive factor was, of course, the influence of the Western Scholastic and juridical understanding of penance. Much has been written about the "western captivity" of Orthodox theology but few people realize the depth and the real meaning of the distortions to which Western influence led in the life of the Church and, above all, in the understanding of sacraments. This is especially obvious in the Sacrament of Penance. Here the distortion consisted in that the whole meaning of the sacrament was shifted from repentance and confession to "absolution" understood juridically. Western Scholastic theology transposed into juridical categories the very concept of sin and, accordingly, the concept of absolution, as dependent not so much on the reality of repentance, but on the power of the priest. If in the initial Orthodox understanding of the Sacrament of Penance the priest is the witness of repentance and, therefore the witness of the fulfilled "reconciliation with the Church in Christ Jesus. . .," the Latin legalism puts the emphasis on the power of the priest to absolve. Hence the practice, totally alien to Orthodox doctrine, yet quite popular today, of "absolutions" without confession. The initial distinction between sins (which because they excommunicate from the Church require a sacramental reconciliation with her) and sinfulness (not leading to excommunication) was rationalized by Western Scholasticism in the distinction between the so-called mortal sins and the so-called venial sins. The first ones, by depriving man of the "state of grace" require sacramental confession and absolution; the others require only an inner repentance and contrition. In the Orthodox East, however, and especially in Russia (under the influence of the Latinizing theology of Peter Moghila and his followers), this theory resulted in a simple, compulsory and juridical connection between confession and communion.

And it is ironic indeed that the most obvious of all Latin "infiltrations" is viewed by so many Orthodox as an Orthodox norm while a mere attempt to re-evaluate it in the light of the genuine Orthodox doctrine of Church and sacraments is denounced as "Roman Catholic."
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« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2006, 03:00:40 PM »

I'm not going to go into debating what Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote, he's certainly a very bright clergyman - although I don't by far agree with his outlook on many things.

If you told me tomorrow that I can come up to the sacrament of communion without confession, and I could do this for weeks at a time, I don't see myself feeling right about it. For some of you such a sacramental life is normal, and I'm fine with that personally too. I'm not about to jump in front of you during liturgy and scream 'stop this apostasy!' Besides, the priest is the guardian of the chalice and it is his responsibility to know what is spiritually beneficial for his flock.

I like the ROCOR tradition that I was raised in, and I've seen plenty of people live that way including converts to Orthodoxy, without any problem. Enough of these people have a fairly regular sacramental life.

What I don't generally like is this idea of liberalizing the sacrament to encourage participation in numbers. Flexibility is okay, as in being lax about placing a epetimya on someone, and it's absolutely necessary for being flexibile with the elderly/infirm. But there's a limit at which point we begin lowering the gates to get people 'in', when in fact we're not doing them any spiritual benefit. That is just as dangerous, in my view, as having a prelest' influenced, Phariseeic attitude towards everything - and believe you me, I have enough harsh words to reserve for the Pharisees I've seen in Orthodox churches, too!
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« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2006, 03:29:42 PM »


http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=8315.75


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« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2006, 04:04:48 PM »


Thank you for posting this link on this thread.  I found the linked post very informative and uplifting.
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« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2006, 07:30:04 PM »

I concur.  It would have been a pain to rewrite everything or to find all the posts, etc.  

Thanks!  
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« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2006, 06:32:51 PM »

My pleasure!  I'm glad it was helpful.   Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2006, 06:56:16 PM »

I would advise for all people reading that thread to back it up to page 2 so you can see all of my original thoughts as well.

Once again, I respect the idea of trying to commune frequently, but it's important to be mindful and I really see nothing wrong with going to confession before each communion. Just as we keep our stomach clear to receive communion, so we should do the best to clear our souls. Any person who goes to confession is always emerging somehow cleaner than before they came, and that in my view is an appropriate and respectful way to prepare for the sacrament of communion.

The sacrament of communion in itself needs discretion. If it is viewed as something to do for 'good luck', like taking a vitamin suppliment, that is dangerous. With a high level of frequency this risk becomes greater.

To bring up a point from the earlier thread, the Church is the same as it always was, but the TIMES WE LIVE IN are different, attitudes of people towards spirituality are tainted with different dangers and temptations than in the times of the early church.

In the early church we had public confession, everyone confessed their sins publicly. Can you imagine offering such an opportunity today? How many would have the fortitude to do something like that? That's what I meant when I said that the early Christians were people of immense spiritual fortitude, people who could properly handle a high frequency of communion.

Another example, back in the Byzantine era we had such rules that gave a person 7 years (!) without communion for premarital intercourse. Imagine applying that epitemya to someone today, it would almost guarantee that they would never come back to church and continue living in sin.

A person living outside the Orthodox church in Byzantium was an exception, a person living outside of the Orthodox church in America is the rule. Go to any metropolitan area from 10 am to 12 pm on Sunday morning and see how many people are walking and driving around, and how many more are in their beds sleeping or watching TV. Doesn't that tell us where we are living today?

Sure we all have the same opportunity for holiness as did the early members of the church. We will have this same opportunity when the last times come. But to believe that frequency of communion is the way to do it - I disagree. I've seen kids who've frequently communed (where confession was optional) and no longer even attend church. It's more than one person, too. To them communion became little more than a snack tied to a pretty ritual, which they got sick of as soon as they gave up their Sunday morning for more sleep or other activities.
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« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2006, 07:59:49 PM »

I'm not going to go into debating what Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote, he's certainly a very bright clergyman - although I don't by far agree with his outlook on many things.

If you told me tomorrow that I can come up to the sacrament of communion without confession, and I could do this for weeks at a time, I don't see myself feeling right about it. For some of you such a sacramental life is normal, and I'm fine with that personally too. I'm not about to jump in front of you during liturgy and scream 'stop this apostasy!' Besides, the priest is the guardian of the chalice and it is his responsibility to know what is spiritually beneficial for his flock.


I like this tradition too as I also attend an ROCOR parish.  While if your priest encourages frequent communion without so much confession, I personally couldn't go through with it either.  Confession helps me prepare more for Communion - the fact that we're truly taking in Christ's body and blood.  I mean, I also find confession easier than having Communion (not in a bad way) ... I go up to the chalice literally shaking, praying "Lord Jesus please accept me an unworthy communicant."  I know I'm unworthy even having been to Confession.  It must be the whole holy fear thing.  Nevertheless, I try, if I can to have Communion at least once a month and always go to confession beforehand.
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« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2006, 11:56:53 PM »

Nothing I do will ever make me worthy to receive Holy Communion, not even Confession, although this is an absolutely necessary sacrament, nonetheless.  For me, a proper preparation for Communion is to remind myself--the prayers of preparation for Holy Communion are ideal for this--how unworthy I am to receive and how awesome Christ's mercy is that He offers me His Body and Blood to me, unworthy sinner though I am, for my spiritual health and salvation.

The Holy Mysteries can be trivialized just as easily when they are received once a month as when they are received once a week or more often.

I don't shun the Holy Mysteries because I am unworthy and receive only after making Confession as if the prayers of absolution and/or the cleansing of conscience somehow make(s) me worthy.  Rather, I receive the Holy Mysteries because Christ says "O taste and see that I am good" even to me, the first of sinners.
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« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2006, 12:12:18 AM »

Let's take a case example, one that might be more common than you think...

Someone goes to church on a regular basis. Friday night they hang out at a party. They get a little carried away with the drinking, and the liquor starts encouraging that person do stupid things, such as getting sexually involved with someone. Then this person simply reads communal prayers and says "I know no matter what I'm not worthy to receive the sacrament, so I should take it anyway". Tell me, how much respect does THAT show for communion?

In that case, why fast before communion? We should say "we're not worthy even if we fast", so let's just skip out on that. Why make it obligatory? Go ahead and let the flesh and blood of Christ mix up with your cereal and orange juice, for even if our stomach is clean we are still not worthy to receive Christ...

Do you catch the logic here? Yes, we are unworthy all the same, but let us make the best effort to come to the chalice as clean as we can. We clean out our stomach, why not clean out our hearts too?
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« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2006, 12:24:14 AM »

Let's take a case example, one that might be more common than you think...

Someone goes to church on a regular basis. Friday night they hang out at a party. They get a little carried away with the drinking, and the liquor starts encouraging that person do stupid things, such as getting sexually involved with someone. Then this person simply reads communal prayers and says "I know no matter what I'm not worthy to receive the sacrament, so I should take it anyway". Tell me, how much respect does THAT show for communion?

In that case, why fast before communion? We should say "we're not worthy even if we fast", so let's just skip out on that. Why make it obligatory? Go ahead and let the flesh and blood of Christ mix up with your cereal and orange juice, for even if our stomach is clean we are still not worthy to receive Christ...

Do you catch the logic here? Yes, we are unworthy all the same, but let us make the best effort to come to the chalice as clean as we can. We clean out our stomach, why not clean out our hearts too?

I think you misunderstand me, and if so, this is my fault for not making myself as clear as I should have.  I do not in any way advocate the logic you just attached to my earlier statements, for the behavior you describe is not at all appropriate at any time for Orthodox Christians.  (You are right in saying that anyone who commits such serious sins as you describe should not receive Communion without first going to Confession.)

I had hoped that my statements would be understood within the context of an ongoing commitment to a repentant, Eucharistic lifestyle of which regular Confession is a necessary component.  I had hoped that I would be understood as speaking of a continuous preparation for Communion through a virtuous life, a life that gives context to specific preparations for Communion such as fasting and the prayers of preparation.



(Coming back to this post after calming down a bit):

Holy Communion is meaningful only for the life committed to constant repentance and obedience to Christ's commandments.  No one who is not committed to this life or falls out of this life into serious sin should be allowed to receive Communion without first repenting of his/her sins, this through Confession.  But within the context of a life devoted to Jesus Christ and His Church, the fasting and prayers of preparation for Communion are intended to reveal to me the depth of the abyss between my unworthiness and Christ's love for me, the chief of sinners.  Regular Confession is indeed necessary to keep me on the path of repentance, but keeping this repentance ongoing is the key.  Confession is not necessary to prepare me for each and every Holy Communion (as if Confession will somehow make me worthy to receive) so much as it is to work together with Holy Communion to bring me to theosis.

Christ intends to work through Holy Communion and through Confession to cleanse and sanctify every believer.  Connecting the two Sacraments so tightly by requiring Confession before every Communion actually works to separate the sacraments from the larger context of this life of theosis by placing too much emphasis on the Sacraments in isolation from the rest of the Christian life.  It is the ongoing work of Christ in the process of theosis that gives meaning to Confession and Communion, and isolating the Sacraments from this context only strips them of their ultimate meaning, IMHO.
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« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2006, 12:50:20 AM »

In our Romanian Church one is expected to confess always before  Communion; but, from my experience, I think that this might be due to the fact that the norm in our Church is to recieve the Holy Communion very rarely: at Easter or during Lent, at Christmas or during Advent,
and on the Feast of Dormition. The Feast of the Holy Apostles might be another occasion, too. Back in my home parish, on most of the  Sundays , only the priests recieve the Eucharist; nevertheless, the text of the Liturgy is not skipped, and the priest comes out of the altar, with the chalice in his hands saying: "With fear of God and love, draw ye near." We even sing the hymn "Let our mouths be filled...", even if nobody, in fact, recieved the Holy Communion. Things might be different in larger towns and cities, but in our little town, and the whole surrounding region, they are, as I've said.
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« Reply #25 on: April 06, 2006, 01:50:47 AM »

Once again, I respect the idea of trying to commune frequently, but it's important to be mindful and I really see nothing wrong with going to confession before each communion.

Who said there was anything wrong with it?  If you want to go to communion every week and confession before it every time, and both you and your spiritual father think it's beneficial for you, then who is anyone else to judge you for this?  I used to know a baba who did this all the time, and it worked for her.
I totally respect that if you want to do that.  

Quote
The sacrament of communion in itself needs discretion. If it is viewed as something to do for 'good luck', like taking a vitamin suppliment, that is dangerous. With a high level of frequency this risk becomes greater.

Ummm.....this is what, about the 17th time you've made this point on this thread and the last one?  I think you've made your point.  

Quote
To bring up a point from the earlier thread, the Church is the same as it always was, but the TIMES WE LIVE IN are different, attitudes of people towards spirituality are tainted with different dangers and temptations than in the times of the early church.

Then all the more reason to go to frequent communion when you are properly prepared.  If you are not prepared, then it should be made clear that you shouldn't go, as I have mentioned at least once over the course of this discussion (if you count the previous thread).

Quote
A person living outside the Orthodox church in Byzantium was an exception, a person living outside of the Orthodox church in America is the rule. Go to any metropolitan area from 10 am to 12 pm on Sunday morning and see how many people are walking and driving around, and how many more are in their beds sleeping or watching TV. Doesn't that tell us where we are living today?

So what? St. John Chrysostom used to rail against huge numbers of  people who came to church to hear his sermon, and who would then promptly take off for the horse races for the rest of the day(!)  And when it comes to adherence to a moral way of living, I'm not sure which century I would pick, the 4th or the 21st!  The fourth century was notorious for its unmitigated outbursts of hedonism and lechery.  Or how about 10th or 11th century Constantinople, in which St.Symeon the New Theologian accused an archbishop of being unfit to be a layman, let alone a bishop, and also  lamented that church positions were bought and that church life was totally stagnant and bureaucratized......I could go on and on with more examples.....just what is the point you are trying to make?  Because if it's that somehow living in an  "Orthodox" culture gives you a better chance at holiness, my response would have to be "maybe...maybe not."

Quote
Sure we all have the same opportunity for holiness as did the early members of the church. We will have this same opportunity when the last times come. But to believe that frequency of communion is the way to do it - I disagree.

I choose to disagree with you and agree instead with the Fathers,  St. John of Kronstadt,
and other saints of the Church.

Quote
I've seen kids who've frequently communed (where confession was optional) and no longer even attend church. It's more than one person, too. To them communion became little more than a snack tied to a pretty ritual, which they got sick of as soon as they gave up their Sunday morning for more sleep or other activities.

Once again I will say that you have made this same point almost verbatim earlier.
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« Reply #26 on: April 06, 2006, 02:06:50 AM »

In our Romanian Church one is expected to confess always before  Communion; but, from my experience, I think that this might be due to the fact that the norm in our Church is to recieve the Holy Communion very rarely: at Easter or during Lent, at Christmas or during Advent,
and on the Feast of Dormition. The Feast of the Holy Apostles might be another occasion, too. Back in my home parish, on most of the  Sundays , only the priests recieve the Eucharist; nevertheless, the text of the Liturgy is not skipped, and the priest comes out of the altar, with the chalice in his hands saying: "With fear of God and love, draw ye near." We even sing the hymn "Let our mouths be filled...", even if nobody, in fact, recieved the Holy Communion. Things might be different in larger towns and cities, but in our little town, and the whole surrounding region, they are, as I've said.

I think that there are many, many parishes like your's.  In fact, I would venture to guess that, worldwide, many more parishes are like it than not like it when it comes to Eucharistic discipline.
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« Reply #27 on: April 06, 2006, 09:50:00 AM »

Holy Communion is meaningful only for the life committed to constant repentance and obedience to Christ's commandments.  No one who is not committed to this life or falls out of this life into serious sin should be allowed to receive Communion without first repenting of his/her sins, this through Confession.  But within the context of a life devoted to Jesus Christ and His Church, the fasting and prayers of preparation for Communion are intended to reveal to me the depth of the abyss between my unworthiness and Christ's love for me, the chief of sinners.  Regular Confession is indeed necessary to keep me on the path of repentance, but keeping this repentance ongoing is the key.  Confession is not necessary to prepare me for each and every Holy Communion (as if Confession will somehow make me worthy to receive) so much as it is to work together with Holy Communion to bring me to theosis.

We have a lot of serious sins we commit. Sexual ones for some reason always attract the biggest attention, often at the cost of noticing many other very grave and profound sins. Hence the reason I used it in my example, to attract a greater attention to what is really going on.

I sin EVERY DAY (although not by having extramarital sexual relations,  Grin). Hardly a single day goes by when I don't doubt God's will towards me, or when I don't harbor anger, or when I don't behave in a gluttenous manner at the table, or when I write some angry post on the internet that offends someone else, or when I forget to attend to my loved ones who do so much for me, or when I'm slothful and waste the hours of life that God has so kindly granted to me, or when I'm full of greedy thoughts, or when I am full of want, or when I raise myself egotistically above others, or when I am lazy to pray. All of this shows a disrespect for God and his commandments, and it happens with me ALL THE TIME. I don't for some reason imagine I'm the only one who feels this way, as one priest said 'there are no new sins'.

When I come to the table to eat, I wash my hands. They may be reasonably clean, but I can be sure that if I've been outside of my house I probably got some germs somewhere. Same concerns sins. In a week's time, I know I've accumulated some sins, and what does it cost to wash them away with confession before coming to communion? Why shouldn't I, out of respect to the sacrament, make it a requirement of myself to wash my soul?

If I say to myself that I can come up to the chalice without confession, in a way I'm saying 'I don't need to clean myself before I invite the Lord inside of me, it's really too much of a bother for me to do that and He loves me anyway'.

I don't know about the rest of you but I certainly don't feel like I'm living a committed life to Christ. I would like to think that I am trying, and I know that I am trying by going to church for liturgy, by trying to observe the fast, by trying to go to confession/communion more often. I never woke up one morning and said 'this is it, from now on I will lead an Orthodox life'. I was born and raised Orthodox, this has always been who I am by my faith. I have always been inside the church, I never left. So there was never a point where I said 'from now on...'. The only moment to me that means 'from now on...' is after each confession, where I leave my sins and I say to myself "Christ is coming inside of me tomorrow, and I am receiving this because I have confessed and said to God that I want to make an effort to stop sinning the way I have before I came here".

Btw, totally different and unrelated note - I love Pravoslav Bob's avatar Smiley
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« Reply #28 on: April 06, 2006, 10:02:57 AM »

I could go on and on with more examples.....just what is the point you are trying to make?  Because if it's that somehow living in an  "Orthodox" culture gives you a better chance at holiness, my response would have to be "maybe...maybe not."

I think an Orthodox culture always gives you a greater chance for holiness. We should always be trying to Christify our surroundings, to make them reflect the life in Christ we want everyone to lead. This is why it is important, imho, to support legislation that is Christian, i.e. to suppress the propaganda of homosexuality and so on. By creating a Christian environment (and all the more better if it is Orthodox Christian) we are in a way doing the same as bringing society into a church building. It certainly doesn't guarantee that everyone will choose a life in Christ, but the environment encourages spiritual growth. There is a greater environment of support, sort of like a greenhouse for plants. Christian Byzantium was one such place - it was hardly immune from sin of course, but it was a more positive environment for Christian growth, overall, than the west village is in New York City Smiley Anyway, this is getting off tangent.
 
What I am concerned about is that too often the sacrament of communion is dispensed without discretion, almost haphazardly. I remember as a child, I didn't really understand how holy communion was. I felt it was certainly something important, but the older I got the more I understood what it really meant. I'm afraid, sadly, many people do not even understand what it is. I'm even more afraid that there are a significant amount of people in line for communion who don't even believe it is 'real', who doubt what the gifts are. They simply go out of tradition.

We really don't know what a person's state is when they approach the chalice, but confession on the other hand provides a greater opportunity for a cleric to see and understand what is inside of a person. This can be a great help in preparing someone to receive the gifts, although I'm also afraid that many clerics don't do thorough confessions either.

To sum it up, I think by setting that certain bar of confession we are helping prevent a careless approach on behalf of the less spiritually attuned people that are in church. We are guarding the sacrament for their benefit.

Anyway, this can become a very long and tiresome discussion Smiley


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« Reply #29 on: April 06, 2006, 01:16:55 PM »

Kaminetz,

I hope you don't feel that this discussion is tiring you out.  When I started this thread, I had hoped to engage others in a meaningful discussion of something that is indeed very important to us all as Orthodox Christians, and I think it's been a very good discussion so far.  I really appreciate the insightful posts that you've contributed to this thread, and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Now let me give a brief statement of what I see in this subject.  First off, I see that we hold fundamentally different viewpoints regarding Holy Communion; each side believes it is reverencing the Holy Sacrament appropriately and that the other side's viewpoint doesn't give the Sacrament enough reverence.

My beliefs outlined:

The ultimate goal of the Christian life is theosis.

Confession and Communion are primary and parallel means that Christ has given us to accomplish His goal of theosis.

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  (James 5:16)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."  (John 6:53-58)

Requiring Confession before every Communion isolates both Sacraments from the larger context of the Orthodox process of theosis, transforming both Sacraments into something less than they are within this larger context.

Confession:
  • Once seen as the Sacrament of the repentance necessary for theosis
  • Now seen as the means of cleansing one's conscience so as to make one "worthy" to receive Communion

Communion:
  • Once seen as our participation in the life of Christ, our participation unto salvation
  • Now seen merely as a rite of such holiness that we risk polluting it with our impurity if we don't cleanse ourselves with Confession before receiving of the Sacrament

This transformation of the two Sacraments essentially takes our eyes off the goal of theosis, a goal to which both Sacraments are a means, and turns our focus instead toward Confession and Communion alone, making them an end in and of themselves.  I see in the recent rethinking of the relationship between Confession and Communion an attempt also to reconsider the relationship of the two Sacraments to the whole of the Christian life of theosis.
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« Reply #30 on: April 06, 2006, 01:34:19 PM »

I would argue that no sacrament at all is complete outside of the Eucharist in the Church; to subjugate partaking communion to the need for confession is misleading, for no one is worthy to partake, even if they had confession two minutes before.  Instead, as part of God's Divine Condescension, Mercy, and Love, He allows us to partake with Fear and Awe.
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« Reply #31 on: April 06, 2006, 02:06:05 PM »

Naturally, we have proof that the two are not interdependent, there are instances where people are communed without confession being required. If that wasn't the case I wouldn't be able to commune twice during Easter (once during liturgy on Great Saturday, then again Easter liturgy).

At the same time, we know also that if a person is in a critical condition or otherwise is ill and cannot fast, they are permitted to accept communion without fasting.

But to me, both the confession and the fasting are ways of preparation that we use independently of communion as well.

We are all comfortable with requiring fasting before communion, right? If a priest stops us before the chalice and asks 'have you fasted' we will not be surprised or offended. I view confession in the same way, it is helping prepare ourselves out of respect for the sacrament, just as we clean our stomachs. A priest sets that bar, he says 'this is the condition under which I will administer the sacrament'. To me, confession is a small thing to ask out of respect for communion.

Is communion BOUND to confession? No. But we are bound to show the respect deemed necessary by the cleric for the sacrament. Bp. John of Shanghai for instance would not commune women that wore lipstick, nor would he give them the cross to venerate, because he felt it was disrespectful to leave traces of lipstick on the communal spoon and on crosses/icons.
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« Reply #32 on: April 06, 2006, 02:12:20 PM »

nor would he give them the cross to venerate, because he felt it was disrespectful to leave traces of lipstick on the communal spoon and on crosses/icons.


Not to mention the damage that the chemicals in lipstick can do to the paint in icons.
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« Reply #33 on: April 06, 2006, 06:18:11 PM »

actually, there is a definite sense that some forms of fasting are independent of Communion - the Wed and Fri fast are perfect examples.  The Lent, Advent, Apostle's and Theotokos' fasts are tied to the Eucharist insofar as the EUcharist of those feasts is the pinnacle and ultimate end-goal of the periods.  Where I see a problem with the practice of only communing after these fasting periods, though, is that the practice denies that every Sunday is Pascha - this is the faith of the Church and the practice of its Tradition, that our Church has 51 or so Paschas a year (The Feast, plus every Sunday save Palm Sunday, Thomas Sunday, and Pentecost, but then adding Lazaros Saturday, subtracting Christmas, Epiphany, and Transfiguration if they fall on Sundays).  Does anyone else see this as a problem?
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« Reply #34 on: April 07, 2006, 08:25:47 PM »

Btw, totally different and unrelated note - I love Pravoslav Bob's avatar Smiley

Gee, thanks.  I was going to change it, but I guess it will have to stay for a while longer!   Smiley
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« Reply #35 on: April 07, 2006, 08:44:43 PM »

Gee, thanks. ÂÂ I was going to change it, but I guess it will have to stay for a while longer! ÂÂ  Smiley

I mean, combining that with the name is very effective too, it gives me a sense that a big bear by the name of Bob was made Orthodox and now that bear is kind and relaxed - like he seems in the photo  Grin
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« Reply #36 on: April 07, 2006, 09:02:40 PM »

I think an Orthodox culture always gives you a greater chance for holiness. We should always be trying to Christify our surroundings, to make them reflect the life in Christ we want everyone to lead. This is why it is important, imho, to support legislation that is Christian, i.e. to suppress the propaganda of homosexuality and so on. By creating a Christian environment (and all the more better if it is Orthodox Christian) we are in a way doing the same as bringing society into a church building. It certainly doesn't guarantee that everyone will choose a life in Christ, but the environment encourages spiritual growth. There is a greater environment of support, sort of like a greenhouse for plants. Christian Byzantium was one such place - it was hardly immune from sin of course, but it was a more positive environment for Christian growth, overall, than the west village is in New York City Smiley

I see what you mean.  However, I don't think Christianity really rubbed off on Byzantium until many hundreds of years after its supposed "Chrisitanisation."  And even when it did, many practices continued that you and I would find barbaric.  And degenerate.  I don't wish to denigrate what Byzantium did manage to achieve, which was amazing in many ways,I'm just trying to be realistic.  Russia I find kind of different in this respect.  It seems that in this society, things were wonderful at first, and then deteriorated later.  I think that "Holy Russia" was genuinely there, but so was "Oppressive Degenerate Russia."  Sure, one could always go to a monastery to seek holiness.  I guess a lot of the time one might have found amazing holiness.  Mediocrity  more often than not, as well.  So I'm really not sure if one would have been better off in one of these societies than our own.  Perhaps just not having all the ridiculous distractions that we have nowadays would have made one better off.
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« Reply #37 on: April 07, 2006, 09:07:35 PM »

I mean, combining that with the name is very effective too, it gives me a sense that a big bear by the name of Bob was made Orthodox and now that bear is kind and relaxed - like he seems in the photo  Grin

Well, then this bear will just have to try and restrain his passions and become more kind and relaxed, so that he fits your vision of what an Orthodox bear should be!  Forgive me if I sometimes too strident.
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« Reply #38 on: April 08, 2006, 01:31:07 AM »

Well, then this bear will just have to try and restrain his passions and become more kind and relaxed, so that he fits your vision of what an Orthodox bear should be!  Forgive me if I sometimes too strident.

I once heard a story about an Orthodox man who came upon a hungry bear in the woods.  The hunter dropped to his knees and prayed, "Lord, make this bear an Orthodox bear!"  Immediately afterward, the bear made the sign of the Cross over the man and prayed, "Lord God, bless the food and drink of your servant..."   Grin Grin Grin
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« Reply #39 on: April 08, 2006, 08:40:27 AM »

THAT was truly funny!  Cheesy
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« Reply #40 on: April 08, 2006, 10:01:00 AM »

Here at school, some of the students' children on campus re-enacted it at our talent show - quite a riot, if you ask me!
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« Reply #41 on: April 09, 2006, 12:47:01 AM »

THAT would have been cute!  Roll Eyes
I would have loved to have seen that.
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« Reply #42 on: October 26, 2010, 02:05:45 AM »

In the Serbian church it is common to confess before communion.  each time.  Most people just go up to the priest and when he says "do you have anything to confess" they say "no"  (this is from the priests, its not like i'm listening in or anything  Wink)

I was a Serbian priest for two decades.  I have neither administered nor experienced a shonky Confession such as you describe.   If you visit a Serbian church you will see with your own eyes how much time the priest spends with each penitent.
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« Reply #43 on: October 26, 2010, 02:27:47 AM »

In the Serbian church it is common to confess before communion.  each time.  Most people just go up to the priest and when he says "do you have anything to confess" they say "no"  (this is from the priests, its not like i'm listening in or anything  Wink)

I'll reserve my comments about this for later when i have more time...
I have to say that's is sort of funny....I was taught to fast several days , is that still required ,or did the Serbian Church shorten the Fast requirement...This is How Our mom raised us kids, plus we never communed every Sunday ,but  Give or take 4 Times a year...Or Mostly On Major Feast days.....

Just to clarify a little more ,When Mom Fasted we all Fasted ,She would cook only fasting Food and nothing else...But we learned and Grew to accept it and got use to it.....
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« Reply #44 on: October 26, 2010, 03:54:33 AM »

In the Serbian church it is common to confess before communion.  each time.  Most people just go up to the priest and when he says "do you have anything to confess" they say "no"  (this is from the priests, its not like i'm listening in or anything  Wink)

I was a Serbian priest for two decades.  I have neither administered nor experienced a shonky Confession such as you describe.   If you visit a Serbian church you will see with your own eyes how much time the priest spends with each penitent.
Fr. Ambrose, are you accustomed to make such generalizations from your own personal experience?
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