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Is the Eucharist harmless?


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#41 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 01:50 PM

Who says I'm having episcopal issues? There are several well-known cases of OCA clergy communing open gays. There are also OCA priests now publicly justifying a communion including open gays. Here's an example that doesn't quite condone gayness but does argue that it's better not to exclude them from communion, as if including them does them no harm. What can we use to make the case that it does?


I think it worth noting that the example given is from a website that has NO official sanction by recognized Church authority. I admit that the rather weasel-worded reasoning put forth by an ordained priest is somewhat disturbing, but I have certainly heard worse things from clerical sources. Let's just say I am not greatly impressed by some of the graduates of either Holy Cross or St. Vladimir Seminaries. But at least, to be honest, things are better now than in years past. For every example like that given by the good deacon, I have seen three examples of more recent priests taking a much more serious interest in the TRADITIONAL (am I allowed to use that word?) Church teachings and the value of asceticism and the dangers of trying to accomodate "modern" cultural mores.

What I find troubling is all this unsubstantiated hearsay being bandied about. AND I don't believe this forum is the proper venue to get into specifics however. We do have ecclesiastic courts and proper procedures to maintain "good order and discipline" in the Church.

#42 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 02:43 PM

But if we assume defiant sin, then I think that Nina and Kosta have more then adequately addressed this above. BUT in these cases nowhere is the admonition given to the priest to stop communing these people, rather the people are warned to stop communing.


If this were true, then we have open communion, turning no one away. But, of course, it's not true. We do turn people away — for not being Orthodox, for not coming to confession, and sometimes for not repenting of known sins.

It seems to me that excommunication is a different issue then God's judgment on those partaking of the Eucharist unworthily.



This view is exactly the problem. People think that excommunication is only about discipline — setting standards, enforcing rules, avoiding scandal, and protecting the community. It is about those things, but it is also (and I believe even more) about the harm done to the unrepentant who commune. The problem is that by failing to appreciate that harm, clergymen are relaxing the discipline out of a mistaken sense of economia. In doing so, they are assisting the unrepentant in their sins and contributing to their damnation.

The other issue is whether and in what manner it is proper to speak of the Eucharist as bad, or destructive. I do not see in the patristic quotes we have looked at so far any mention of this.



It's not the Eucharist that is bad, but partaking of it unworthily. St. Paul says that partaking unworthily leads to "damnation." St. John Chrysostom says, in Nina's contribution above, that partaking unworthily leads to "judgment, condemnation, punishment and vengeance."

To me it sounds like the Eucharist is being viewed kind of like an electrical outlet where if one is in the right spiritual shape then one gets recharged, and if one is in the wrong spiritual state then one gets short-circuited.



Exactly, that's how the Saints speak of it.

As if what one partakes of is not from the personal will of Christ but rather according to impersonal mechanical natural laws. It was to address this issue that I brought up the fact that there are modern elders who have talked about people partaking of nothing but bread and wine.


I believe that elders that "modern" are wrong, but even if they are right, reducing the Body and Blood to bread and wine by partaking unrepentantly is damning according to the Apostle and the Saints, and it should not be allowed if we care for the souls of the unrepentant.

Also it sounds kind of presumptuous to me to think of needing to protect sinners from God's judgment as if God does not know what He is doing.


We, the Church, are the agent of God's will. We act in Him and He acts through us to protect sinners from condemnation. We are our brother's keeper.

There may be reasons to bar people from the Eucharist, either to bring them to repentance, or to protect the community, but worrying about the harm that partaking might cause to the sinner seems to me an issue that is exclusively on the head of the one partaking and soley between them and God.


Again, the thinking is judge not, let everyone commune, it's not our business, it's all between him and God. Such thinking is the problem. Such thinking ignores the plain words of the Apostle and Saints that partaking unworthily is bad for you. It also ignores the Church's merciful practice of denying communion to those deemed unworthy.

I've tried to explain why partaking unworthily is bad for you in my post above using an example of miraculous healing, but no one addressed that post. To speak now in plainer words, by knowingly communing people who sin shamelessly in public, we are saying to them, "Don't repent. You don't have to. Your wickedness is worthiness." What effect could that possibly have, other than to encourage people to sin even more?

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 14 July 2011 - 03:12 PM.


#43 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 03:09 PM

Anna Stickles wrote: . . .

I think that this is a very good point. It is after all Christ Whom we approach in the Eucharist. This is like the Christ of the Gospels except that we can see from there that not everyone could or did approach Him worthily. Some indeed 'walked with Him no more' (Jn 6:66). So we already see from the Gospels themselves that not mere physical approach allows one to partake of Christ.

This is also what the priest is specifically asked to guard as an essential part of his ministry. He may be a poor preacher or lacking in other skills. But all across the board when priests are ordained, the sacred Lamb is placed into their hands by the bishop and they are told to guard this precious treasury of Life for the people with their own lives. This guarding though also extends to the word of the priest to his people. Again priests are allowed to be slow of word, or awkward in word. But to not guard the Lamb by word- well, again this guarding of the Eucharist is an essential part of the priest's very calling.

Of course though how this is done is only through discernment and as a measure of care for his people.


Father, you talk of guarding the Eucharist by both word and deed. A very good point. But what we sometimes see is priests not guarding the Eucharist either way. They give it away freely, without regard for someone's blatant unworthiness, and they don't preach against those blatant sins for fear of offending that same someone. They justify this with the hope that by not offending the blatant sinner, he will keep coming to church and maybe someday absorb some holiness, and perhaps then turn from his sins on his own without any chastizement.

The problem with this justification and this hope — besides causing others to stumble in various ways — is that it ignores the teaching of the Apostle and Saints that partaking unworthily is self-damning and therefore cannot lead to repentance. It cannot lead to repentance because it is in essence unrepentance.

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 14 July 2011 - 03:34 PM.


#44 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 05:46 PM

But to not guard the Lamb by word- well, again this guarding of the Eucharist is an essential part of the priest's very calling.


What does this guarding involve? What exactly is being guarded and why? What you seem to be implying here is a care that goes beyond simply pastoral care for the people involved as far as the day to day guidance toward repentance and our life in Christ. Something more on the level of the Church as a whole. And you say by word, but what about deed? Obviously the two need to go together, but at what point does word become deed?

I can see that a priest is not doing his duty if he is allowing aggressive, and defiant sinners to commune, particularly if politics are involved. In fact I know of a case in an OCA parish where a substitute priest came in and gave a sermon advocating open communion for all faiths. So this is only word, not deed. There was a stir because of this, people protested, and with the full support and backing of the regular parish priest an official protest was made. This substitute priest then was asked to step down, I think asked to "retire" early, but I don't quite remember. But it wasn't soley because of this incident. There had been a long history of this problem, but never quite the chance before to get the official wheels moving in the right way.

#45 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 06:27 PM

Exactly, that's how the Saints speak of it.


All I can say is that if your view of Christ is that He is an impersonal force operating by nothing more then mechanical laws, then maybe this is just as much a sin against Christ's Body and Blood as that which your are condemning here.

#46 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 07:27 PM

All I can say is that if your view of Christ is that He is an impersonal force operating by nothing more then mechanical laws, then maybe this is just as much a sin against Christ's Body and Blood as that which your are condemning here.


My "exactly" was not applied to your "impersonal force" and "mechanical laws." It was applied to your analogy of the electric socket that shocks some and recharges others. That is pretty much how the Apostle and the Saints view Holy Communion, which though personal is also still a thing — or rather two things: Body and Blood — affecting the worthy and the unworthy in opposite ways.

Your point about the personhood of Christ only seems to say, relativistically, "We all encounter Christ differently, so who is to say what happens when we partake?" This blurs St. Paul's distinction between worthy and unworthy, making it impossible for us to say who should be denied communion and thus opening our communion up to everyone.

#47 Eric Peterson

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 08:41 PM

I guess, if I focused more on my own sins and unworthiness, I would not worry about the state of anyone else, since I am in worse shape than anyone. I don't think of it as an "either/or" thing. We have references in holy texts to reproving sinners, but we also have holy people who say, "Even if you see someone sinning openly in public, do not believe it." So, in my mind, it is a matter for the communicant, the one distributing communion, the spiritual father, and the bishop. If I tell someone, "No, you should not take communion because of your sin," it seems to me that I invite my own sins to be scrutinized by God. I'm not saying that the Holy Gifts should be given/received willy-nilly, but the responsibility for them rests with very few persons. Ultimately, the "condemnation" I do not think is some automatic thing. This isn't magic, it's Christ Himself and His grace and His will to save everyone by His means, which are often mysterious. The priest has chosen in this anecdotal situation, ISTM, to err on the side of leniency, hoping that the person will come around with God's help. It's not just because he doesn't want to offend anyone, though, I think. He's dealing with people who are extremely weak in faith. Do you want him to act harshly, and then have the person apostasize? I have seen that in three separate cases with this passion. That is also a scandal. Many people are already mentally unstable, not knowing their left from their right, unable to receive counsel, viewing exhortations as if they were condemnations. The spiritual father has to take into account all types of people. I do not hold the chalice nor do I have responsibility for souls they way a priest does. One needs here extreme care and discretion. What sort of thoughts do we have toward those in or outside the church who sin openly, or sin in this manner? Are they good thoughts--do we ask God to help them? Do we view them as better than ourselves, more worthy of God's mercy? If the behavior of others scandalizes us, it may be a good idea to look more closely at ourselves.

#48 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 11:46 PM

Your point about the personhood of Christ only seems to say, relativistically, "We all encounter Christ differently, so who is to say what happens when we partake?" This blurs St. Paul's distinction between worthy and unworthy, making it impossible for us to say who should be denied communion and thus opening our communion up to everyone.


Is the Apostle Paul so clear about worthy and unworthy reception of the Body and Blood of Christ? I have read and re-read 1 Cor 11 several times since this thread began, and I simply do not find in this text everything that you seem to find in it. Paul, of course, has no problem ordering the excommunication of a notorious sinner, as 1 Cor 5 demonstrates; but he does not justify this excommunication on the grounds of protecting the sinner from the judgment of God but rather of maintaining the purity of the Church. Paul is scandalized by the Corinthians' tolerance within their fellowship of a man guilty of a sin "that is not found even among pagans." He is hopeful that by delivering the man "to Satan for the destruction of the flesh" he will ultimately be "saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"; but his primary concern here seems to be the moral integrity of the Church's mission and corporate life.

When we turn to 1 Corinthians 11 we find Paul exhorting the Corinthians to discern the body and blood of Christ. Why? Because the divisions of the Church in Corinth, coupled with the disregard of the more affluent members of the needs of the poorer members--both are sins against charity--have made it impossible for the Corinthians to authentically celebrate the Supper of the Lord. "When you meet together," he tells them, "it is not the Lord's supper that you eat." What does Paul mean when he says that? At least by orthodox teaching, it cannot mean that the Corinthians are not celebrating a valid or real Eucharist; hence it must meant something more along the lines that the immoral behavior of the Corinthians has so profoundly compromised the the meaning of the Eucharist as to make it functionally non-Eucharist. Hence, his charge to the Corinthians:

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.



It's important not to immediately jump to generalizations but to interpret these verses within their historical context. At this time, the Eucharist was celebrated within a meal, as a meal--Eucharist and Agape were one event: "For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk." The Corinthians (at least many of them) had forgotten the significance of the Eucharist. The Corinthians did not discern the Body and Blood; they did not recognize that the eucharistic meal that they shared was nothing less than the eschatological banquet of the Lord in which all divisions are overcome and love is all. And this failure to discern the Body and Blood, which is simultaneously a failure to practice the love and generosity of Christ, is nothing less than judgment and damnation.

But since St Paul wrote these words, Eucharist and Agape have been separated. There is no possibility of confusing the sacred meal of Christ with an ordinary meal. This change must be taken into account when we attempt to apply the teaching of St Paul to our present situation.

I do not disagree, Fr Patrick, with your insistence that the Church cannot practice "open communion," as that is popularly understood in popular American Christianity. We may disagree where one draws the line, but I see that as a tactical decision. I know first-hand how insidious and destructive the ideology of inclusivity can be. I hope that Orthodoxy can lean from the painful lessons of the Episcopal Church. But I would remind you that excommunication is always the final option, the nuclear option, if you will. In my many years as a parish priest, I only excommunicated one person, for reasons of adultery. In retrospect I believe I was wrong to do so. I was a young priest and did not understand all the ramifications of my decision. I should have handled things differently. I do not believe I acted with the love and compassion of Christ. I acted too hastily, too judgmentally. I acted as a Pharisee. By my action I may have driven the sinner away from Christ rather than toward him in repentance. God forgive me. Life is hard, complex, difficult. Not everything is black and white. We are sinners, you and me. We are accountable to God for the salvation of our flock. It's not a matter of following the rules. If we could be saved by following the law, then Christ died for nothing. We are brittle and fragile and weak. What matters is love. The Pharisee followed all the rules, proclaimed all the rules ... but the publican went home justified. Pastoral care is not easy. Life in Christ is not easy. I suggest that you cut your bishop and priest a little slack. What you perceive to excessive tolerance on their part may well be sound pastoral discernment.

Too much is made of "worthy" communion. Are you worthy? Am I worthy? We do not need to either protect the Eucharist from the unworthy, nor do we need to protect sinners from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The eternal Son of God died for the unworthy! The One who will judge us on the last day is the very One who gave his body to be broken for us, the very One who shed his blood for us. The judge is the Crucified! I attended an Orthodox congregation for two years before my reception into Orthodoxy and never heard this proclaimed! If Orthodox internet forums are any indication, this is not an aberration. I suggest that this is a more serious failure than the failure of your bishop to excommunicate practicing homosexuals.

Sin leads to death. You and I both know this. We all know this. And the Church needs to remind us of this. But in the end it's all about the infinite love and mercy of God.

Where is the gospel of Jesus Christ?!

Yours in Christ,
Fr Aidan

#49 Nina

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 02:27 AM

If this were true, then we have open communion, turning no one away. But, of course, it's not true. We do turn people away — for not being Orthodox, for not coming to confession, and sometimes for not repenting of known sins.


I would add here also for arriving to Church after the Gospel is being read. When I was pregnant I was very tired 24/7 (so tired that when I would wake up in the morning I felt like I had built our entire city during the night). My SF knew this, but one Sunday he turned me away from Holy Communion for arriving at Church after the Gospel was read. I was so sad because I wanted Baby not to miss Holy Communion each Sunday - and my ego got very inflamed and cried for days about it. lol Blame it on the soul of the Mother who wants the Best (Christ) for her Baby. :) However thank God after some time I realized that my SF was so right about it and thank God for teaching me the lesson and for helping me understand. That was actually the last Sunday before my Baby died in my womb. So I feel so guilty for being so tired and not making it before the Gospel was read that Sunday... but at least I am comforted by the thought that I did receive Holy Communion several times while I had that Baby in my womb so Baby communed Christ too and is a little angel now somewhere there with Christ.

I am just trying to say that of course our Church has lots of compassion (and my SF is one of the most compassionate priests ever) but we should thank God when our priests are telling us what we are doing wrong. So we can correct ourselves (well I could not make myself untired when pregnant... that happened when I was not pregnant any longer) and hope that God grants us a greater mercy for our sins. Many Fathers I have read (can't think of references now) say that if we think our SF is too lenient we ourselves should ask him for stricter penance. I always ask my SF at the end of Holy Confession if I have his blessing to receive Holy Communion. I also tell him that I feel that I am not worthy. But my SF says we are all unworthy. Still learning from all the Fathers how dreadful it is to approach the Lord in the Holy Communion when we are not prepared and worthy is very eye opening. Even when we are worthily partaking is not the same effect of the Gifts. Let's say even if you consider me worthy for a second, I do not receive the same blessing as let's say Elder Paisios did. Because our ways of leading life are totally different. Imagine when I am not worthy!

Anna: Of course in the NT the responsibility is not placed upon the priest because it is told to us all not to approach unworthily - since it is aimed at us the flock and the work we do with our conscience. But there are other rules and penances which place the responsibility on the priest - there is another book: The Rudder - which has all these rules and it is to be known by priests and be used together with their discernment for guiding to salvation each soul. The tassels of the epitrachelion are there as a symbol which represents the souls of his flock for whom the priest is responsible in front of God. He is a shepherd and we are the flock because he is there appointed by the Archpriest (Christ) to care for His flock. There is a great responsibility for the priest. But maybe the priests here lack their right hand and very strong help! The Grandmothers! LOL Usually in traditionally Orthodox countries grandmothers (not even your own) would walk up to teens and young people and tell them: "Are you sure you are prepared? You can not receive Holy Communion like this!" lol there was nothing wrong from the outside, but just because one is young they assume that we give in fleshy passions more than an older person does. :) So they were pulling us away from the line. lol Also my grandmothers were always telling us: "Be mindful and very cautious! You are not approaching water!!! You are approaching Fire and that Fire is very dangerous to play with! You are approaching a Mystery and a dreadful one so be careful! Do not go! You are not worthy to approach Christ!" (Mind you, I was an angel back then) - If you think Saint Chrysostomos is hurting your feelings with his straightforward words in this case, you should have met our grandmothers. lol

So there is a very great responsibility for the priest as Father Raphael said too, the priest is to guard the Holy Communion from many things. It is our Lord's Body and Blood! Do you know that Fathers say that when we receive Holy Communion angels (besides our Guardian Angel) are sent to watch over us because we have the Body and Blood of Christ in us. And this is one of the reasons why many people pray to God to take them only when they have partaken Holy Communion because the soul will have several angels to accompany him/her during that great mystery of the transition of the soul.

And Mr. Paul. K is very right when he says, if we confess regularly, our Spiritual Father will know our spiritual state so it will be up to him to give us blessing and penance and forgiveness.

Edited by Nina, 15 July 2011 - 02:47 AM.


#50 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 01:41 PM

It's obvious from Fr. Aidan's comment #48 and Nina's comment #49 that excommunication means different things to different people. For Fr. Aidan, it is a last resort, a "nuclear option," a final cutting off and casting out of a scandalous reprobate for the good of the Church, but for Nina and many other Orthodox it is a much more milder discipline more for the sake of the soul being disciplined than for the decency and order of the community.

In fact, the canons of the Church specify excommunication (denial of communion) for a variety of sins. Soldiers, for example, who had slain enemies in battle were at times denied communion for two or three years. They weren't cast out of the Church as reprobates on account of scandal; they were, rather, deemed to be in spiritual danger from the unseemly juxtaposition in their lives of Holy Communion and manslaughter. Penance for many other sins included temporary excommunication, during which the excommunicated were not cast out but were classed as penitents, allowed to worship with the Church but not to commune.

This is still the practice in many Orthodox churches, but there is also an increasing tendency in America in particular toward thinking that denying someone communion is especially harmful to them and should never or almost never be done. Lost in this thinking is the apostolic and patristic understanding that partaking unworthily is especially harmful and that being justly denied communion is not punishment but a severe mercy.

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 15 July 2011 - 02:21 PM.


#51 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 02:37 PM

I should add that very rarely denying communion naturally tends toward open communion, since the less we do it the harder it is to do. When often done, it's not such a big deal. Monastics often do not commune, at the direction of their spiritual fathers.

For the past several months, we had at St. Nicholas Cathedral a community of nuns. Very often, though four or five would be there for the Divine Liturgy, only one or two would commune, always with the approval of their spiritual father.

#52 Anna Stickles

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 02:39 PM

Whether denial of communion is a nuclear option or a mild discipline has a lot to do with how the communicant sees it. A priest will usually be sensitive to this. But again part of how the communicant sees it will be formed by how they have been taught by the priest and the parish culture in general, not just personal inclinations or past teaching. So the right beliefs of the priest are important.

#53 Theodora E.

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 03:06 PM

But I would remind you that excommunication is always the final option, the nuclear option, if you will. In my many years as a parish priest, I only excommunicated one person, for reasons of adultery. In retrospect I believe I was wrong to do so. I was a young priest and did not understand all the ramifications of my decision. I should have handled things differently. I do not believe I acted with the love and compassion of Christ. I acted too hastily, too judgmentally. I acted as a Pharisee. By my action I may have driven the sinner away from Christ rather than toward him in repentance. God forgive me. Life is hard, complex, difficult. Not everything is black and white. We are sinners, you and me. We are accountable to God for the salvation of our flock. It's not a matter of following the rules. If we could be saved by following the law, then Christ died for nothing. We are brittle and fragile and weak. What matters is love. The Pharisee followed all the rules, proclaimed all the rules ... but the publican went home justified. Pastoral care is not easy. Life in Christ is not easy. I suggest that you cut your bishop and priest a little slack. What you perceive to excessive tolerance on their part may well be sound pastoral discernment.


Fr. Aidan, would you commune a habitual adulterer - or fornicator? If an otherwise practicing Orthodox was "living with" someone outside of (heterosexual) marriage? I've known people in such situations who were forbidden to commune and not readmitted to communion until the living arrangement stopped or the couple was married.

#54 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 03:20 PM

Is there anyone here who would say that a priest exceeded his authority if he should tell someone they should not receive communion? I think not. Might there be cases where a priest has the responsibility to do so? I don't see anyone here saying different.

Does each and every priest or even bishop uphold this responsibility equally? That is a different question entirely. Is there, perhaps, a certain laxity in living up to that responsibility in certain places by certain clerics? Many of us do not feel we are in a position to say. If this is, indeed, true, then what should be done about it?

Has the Church never encountered this sort of thing before in its entire history? Are there not established procedures to preserve good order and discipline within the Church? Is going outside the established procedures meant to preserve order and disclipline going to preserve that order? There are many things to consider. But there are procedures. Have they been followed and exhausted? Is the bishop aware? If so, is the synod aware that there is a problem? If the synod will Not act, what then?

These are not easy questions to answer. Is God's will being done? Unless the Lord build the house, those who labor, build in vain. I am not a prophet, that is not my ministry. If one IS called to that most holy and difficult of ministries, to God be the glory and grant that person strength to endure the hardship it brings. It is not a role I would wish upon anyone, but it is, from time to time, a necessary role nonetheless.

There are many forces at work. We are still being perfected.

THIS CHRISTIAN IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
PLEASE EXCUSE THE MESS.
YOUR HOLY SPIRIT AT WORK!
(HARD HAT AREA)


Herman the Pooh still under construction

#55 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 08:55 PM

It's obvious from Fr. Aidan's comment #48 and Nina's comment #49 that excommunication means different things to different people. For Fr. Aidan, it is a last resort, a "nuclear option," a final cutting off and casting out of a scandalous reprobate for the good of the Church, but for Nina and many other Orthodox it is a much more milder discipline more for the sake of the soul being disciplined than for the decency and order of the community.

In fact, the canons of the Church specify excommunication (denial of communion) for a variety of sins. Soldiers, for example, who had slain enemies in battle were at times denied communion for two or three years. They weren't cast out of the Church as reprobates on account of scandal; they were, rather, deemed to be in spiritual danger from the unseemly juxtaposition in their lives of Holy Communion and manslaughter. Penance for many other sins included temporary excommunication, during which the excommunicated were not cast out but were classed as penitents, allowed to worship with the Church but not to commune.


I confess (how appropriate!) that I do not know how to apply the early Church's practice of canonical or public penance to the life of the contemporary Church. One thing it had going for it--it publicly emphasized the severity of grave sin. It was no light matter. Those who were excommunicated and enrolled as penitents were basically treated as catechumens. They too were dismissed from the assembly before the offering of the eucharistic sacrifice. The penances assigned were often severe; the period of excommunication was long. And canonical penance was only offered once in the sinner's lifetime. Can we to return to this practice? Do we want to return to this practice? I suspect I am not the only one on this forum who finds it difficult to reconcile the rigors of canonical penance with the parables of the prodigal son and the lost coin. It is not surprising that canonical penance eventually disappeared and was replaced by the practice of auricular confession.

As stated in my first comment to this thread, in my opinion we cannot think rightly about any of this until we understand the ecclesiological and corporate significance of the Eucharist: the Eucharist makes the Church. This is why the very early Church understood that reception of the Eucharist was necessary and obligatory, not optional. By the Eucharist the Church is made one body, united to the eternal sacrifice of Christ, and drawn into the inner life of the Holy Trinity. It is the foundation of our discipleship and precondition of all prayer and asceticism. One of the great tragedies of Church history was the loss of this eucharistic ecclesiology and with it the loss of the communal "necessity" of communion. Again I refer to Affanasiev's essay "The Lord's Supper," as well as the works of Met John Zizioulas and Fr Alexander Schmemann. Also: Paul McPartlan, The Eucharist Makes the Church and J.-M.-R. Tillard, Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ. Debates about who is worthy to receive the Eucharist seem to miss the critical corporate and eschatological dimensions of the Eucharist. Communion, whether frequent or infrequent, becomes but one element of the individual's devotional and ascetical life, a private affair between the believer and his spiritual father. In my judgment there is something wrong about this, yet it seems to characterize the second millennium Church in both the East and the West. Those who disagree with me can certainly find plenty of authorities to support their views.

In any case, I certainly do not dispute the necessity for the Church to separate from holy communion those who bring scandal upon the Church and her mission. But I do see it as a last resort, to be employed only when all other avenues have been exhausted. I do not think the Church goes wrong by erring on the side of mercy. The gospel is, after all, good news, and it is this good news that makes repentance possible.

#56 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 12:35 PM

I do not think the Church goes wrong by erring on the side of mercy.


Nor do I, but if partaking unworthily is actually damning for the unrepentant, then knowingly allowing them to partake is not merciful. Partaking unworthily IS unrepentance. Why should we encourage and assist in its practice?

#57 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 01:23 PM

As stated in my first comment to this thread, in my opinion we cannot think rightly about any of this until we understand the ecclesiological and corporate significance of the Eucharist: the Eucharist makes the Church. This is why the very early Church understood that reception of the Eucharist was necessary and obligatory, not optional. By the Eucharist the Church is made one body, united to the eternal sacrifice of Christ, and drawn into the inner life of the Holy Trinity. It is the foundation of our discipleship and precondition of all prayer and asceticism. One of the great tragedies of Church history was the loss of this eucharistic ecclesiology and with it the loss of the communal "necessity" of communion. Again I refer to Affanasiev's essay "The Lord's Supper," as well as the works of Met John Zizioulas and Fr Alexander Schmemann. Also: Paul McPartlan, The Eucharist Makes the Church and J.-M.-R. Tillard, Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ. Debates about who is worthy to receive the Eucharist seem to miss the critical corporate and eschatological dimensions of the Eucharist. Communion, whether frequent or infrequent, becomes but one element of the individual's devotional and ascetical life, a private affair between the believer and his spiritual father. In my judgment there is something wrong about this, yet it seems to characterize the second millennium Church in both the East and the West. Those who disagree with me can certainly find plenty of authorities to support their views.


Dear Father,

From what you have written you acknowledge that there is plenty of disagreement concerning the view that the Eucharist makes the Church. As you perhaps know the way in which this is often put is that the Eucharist makes the Liturgy (and because the Liturgy stands at the center of the life of the Church then the Eucharist makes the Church).

I would certainly though take exception that these views as expressed by so many recent writers is an accurate reflection of the Patristic view of the Liturgy or the Eucharist in its fullness- precisely that is, as the Eucharist stands at the center of the life of the Church. For it was never the view of the Fathers that straight forward reception of the Eucharist at every Liturgy is what creates the life of the faithful.

Instead what we see from Apostolic times and attested to already in the New Testament is worthy reception of the sacrament. Which does not mean that one feels oneself worthy to receive in terms of being less sinful either in approaching the Cup or in having received. Rather in Orthodox terms the word 'worthy' denotes having made a proper preparation in fear & veneration of the Eucharist which one is about to receive.

Thus certain serious sins, from apostolic times did bar one from the Cup and from the Body of the Church itself if persisted in- heresy, adultery, murder, etc. Of course in pastoral terms much of this has seen a lightening (economia) in terms of how the Church approaches such sins. But confession and often penance is still the constant these many centuries later. So adequate preparation is inseparably part of the Church's life I would say, however much the actual disciplines of preparation have varied over the centuries.

The reason for such preparation I would say is also straight forward and not difficult to understand in terms of the life of the Church. To be a member of the Church means to be actively grafted into Christ's Body; ie the life of the Church. But our life must be transformed or be in the process of being transformed in order for this to occur. We must confront sin. Yes perhaps the mortal sins have not been committed by us- but mortal sin certainly has; and in these deeper terms we too like the Good Thief acknowledge that we have betrayed the Faith; have become sensual at heart; and hated or not forgiven our brother countless times. So we are not so separated from those who have committed mortal sins- we are not different at all and likely are worse.

This in any case is the spiritual heritage which we have been given over the centuries to aim at. If we do not truly in our hearts yet feel ourselves the lowest of sinners, we still know that this is what we must with Christ's grace strive for. And so as with everything else in the Church, worthy preparation is part & parcel of our lives: worthy in terms of taking honest account of ourselves and acknowledging this in terms of what the Church puts before us. And so again these many centuries later we have the various disciplines to approach the Cup: a constant routine of confession; reading of prayers to instill a sense of one's sinfulness and a desire for repentance; and an openness of heart to receiving the Sacrament.

This doesn't make one worthy in terms of being suddenly sinless or validated by God. But it does mean that one approaches the sacrament in the fear of God.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#58 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 05:48 PM

Dear all,

As sometimes happens in on-line discussions, there are numerous issues intertwining in these posts that make any real address of the concerns difficult.

There are only a few points I would note:

a) The liturgical, patristic and practical teaching of the Church is that the Eucharist is a fire that illumines those who are prepared, and consumes those who are unworthy; and though it is an obvious point that in a genuine and ultimate sense none are worthy to approach the chalice (a point considered much in the early Church during the conflicts with the Donatists), this fact cannot and must not be used as a way of abrogating the responsibility for right preparation and the sincere living of a life of repentance and the commandments, which the Church clearly and emphatically associates with receiving the Holy Mysteries. The pre-communion prayers make this clear, as do the priestly prayers at the Divine Liturgy. While on the one hand we must acknowledge that we are all sinners and unworthy, we must also realise that this does not allow us to ignore the clear warnings and charges the Church places before those who would approach the chalice. To do so is simply 'to make excuses for our sins'.

b) While the practicalities of the matter vary from tradition to tradition, the practice of excommunication (in this usage, of refusing communion for a time, until repentance for a grave act is brought to life) is not at all uncommon in the Church today. If some parts of the Church neglect this pastoral responsibility out of a desire to 'fit in' with the cultural mores of the world around them, this is to their detriment; but it is far from universal. In my own tradition, we regularly offer the pastoral aid of keeping people from communion until such time as repentance begins to blossom and true preparation is made for this mystery. This is a particular responsibility of the priestly office, for it is the priest who is charged to minister this gift.

c) The act of judging whether a priest (or bishop) is ministering rightly is precisely the sort of question for which the canonical guidelines of the Church exist. If there is some question, the canons describe how to address a concern, raise it in the proper way, etc. There is no fruit whatsoever to be born by discussing such matters on the internet: the canonical structure of the Church exists precisely to give good order to the addressing of such questions or concerns, and they should be followed as such.

INXC, Hieromonk Irenei

#59 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 05:52 PM

As a note, one fairly trustworthy 'rule of thumb' in terms of where sin (in which we all engage) crosses a line into becoming that which ought to bar us from the chalice, is when the act of sin is accepted as a part of the identity of the person, and therefore something to be tolerated and overlooked, rather than actively combatted. It is not spiritually beneficial to keep one who is ailing from the medicine that restores life ('for I have come not to call those who are well, but those who are sick...'); yet applying salve to a wound that one has no desire to cure, is quite a different situation.

#60 Kelil

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 12:03 AM

]Ver. 30-32.Therefore in punishment of the sin of receiving unworthily, many are infirm, visited with infirmities, even that bring death, which is meant by those words, many sleep. But it is a mercy of God, when he only punishes by sickness, or a corporal death, and does not permit us to perish for ever, or be condemned with this wicked world. To avoid this, let a man prove himself, examine the state of his conscience, especially before he receives the holy sacrament, confess his sins, and be absolved by those to whom Christ left the power of forgiving sins in his name, and by his authority. If we judge ourselves in this manner, we shall not be judged, that is, condemned. (Witham)

yes it is a mortal sin to receive The Holy Gifts with mortal sin already on our soul. It is a very serious sin. What you have described Fr Deacon is something so serious that you should not even need to come here and get qoutes from the fathers. Are these things not already set down in Orthodox canons?

I will pray for your parish.

God bless
Kelil

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 17 July 2011 - 02:20 AM.
Extraneous formatting removed.





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