Re: Rules for Receiving Communion
- Dear friends,
His Grace Meletius Thirumeni has given us very explicit guidelines on what one's approach to the communion ought to be.
As a late comer to the Orthodox Fold, I was advised to receive communion with due preparation as often as possible and I did so every Wednesday and Sunday in the beginning. Previous evening I used to read the prayers, write down the things I knew I had done wrong and decide how best I could try to right the wrong. I would pray privately, go for previous evening prayers at the Church, obtain absolution, and receive communion the next day. I was given only three strict orders:
2. Bathing before going to church & wearing washed clothes
I would like to say that people look on those who regularly go for communion as rather extreme. I was told by a well meaning relative not to be so involved-she told me that the best attitude should be an in-between one. But I can vouchsafe for the fact that the initial devotion made me what I am today.
Now that I am nearly 55 and in a cooler place, washing my head in cold mornings sets me off sneezing without stopping. So I keep away from receiving communion on many Sundays when it is either cold or when Saturdays were too busy with the week's chores. This is because I feel I am not clean enough, either inside or out. I work on 6 days-Saturday is a half day but mostly it would be after 4 when I reach home. Then I do a marthon cooking and cleaning and fall into bed too tired.
As we have two services most Sundays and the first is from 6.30 and gets over by 8.30, fasting is not a problem. However, on special Sundays such as a saint's memorial day, I am unable to fast because I take diabetic medication and I am afraid of fainting in church or causing some kind of unseemly occurrence. I have never had such an experience, but it is a kind of phobia. What if ? I would trouble all. So I keep away on all such days as I come after a cup of tea and a couple of slices of bread.
All this may seem entirely subjective.But these are some of the vague, tenuous and intangible factors that keep people away from the Eucharist. Every Sunday when I come away from Church without receiving communion I hope and pray that this would not be the last chance for receiving- life is so uncertain. When offered we reject. Who knows whether we would be able to receive another offer?
If I am offered a gold ring every Sunday, in place of the Eucharist, I am sure that I would jump at the offer, obeying all the norms.I would never miss one. We are very peculiar creatures. Life is offered and we take it casually, me included. My excuses are my weaknesses.
Some days I rush out after the final blessing as there are guests to prepare for. Life is one big blur of hurry.
I was told by the priest who taught me about preparing for Eucharist that it is wrong to reject physical relationship on the previous day in case your husband/wife desires it, on the grounds that you plan to partake of the Eucharist the next day because the spouse has a right to such a relationship. This should not keep the young away from receiving the Eucharist.
This I think is a healthy attitude.
Individually receiving absolution is necessary in India, but I have heard that this is not considered essential in our churches in other countries. Probably there is the distance factor and man other constraints that make it difficult for people and the priest, All said and done we in India enjoy a lot of privileges.
Susan Eapen, Bangalore
- Dear All,
Thank you Melitius Thrumeni for restating in no uncertain terms the teachings of the early fathers that receiving the Holy Qurbono is the right of a believer who has received baptism. Thirumeni has also raised a very important question on the theology of absolution(I understand it as individual Hoosoyo)without confession. It is not clear when and how this practice got introduced into our tradition. I do not think the individual absolution existed about 50 years ago.
As Thirumeni said, we can make rules, but they should not take us back in time.
As said before in this forum, the restatements by Melitius Thirumeni (not opinions) on the Holy Qurbono must be subjected to deep deliberations by the Holy Synod and the Holy Church's position made clear to the believers.
I must also thank Mr. Ronnie Daniel for his post. By no means, I was belittling the effort of my brother in Christ. My only concern was whether these rules would take us back in time.
Love in Christ
Jacob Varghese, Muscat
- Thank you beloved Tiriumeni, for this wonderful explanation, this does gives lot more clarity on the subject. Pls also advise from where One can get a copy of Didache.
Sanjay R Verghese
St Johns Church, New Delhi
- Hello Susan
You have raised some very serious issues in your mail.
Without going in to each of these issues in detail, I would suggest
that it is absolutely essential that we must be
spiritually and bodily clean before receiving the Holy Communion.
"2 Corinthians 7 :1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates our body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God"
Cleanliness of the body is as important as cleanliness of the spirit.
These are summer time in the west and people tend to come to Church
in casual dress. Earlier there was a discussion on dress code
where many of you were of the opinion that going to church in casual dress is OK.
But, one thing we often forget is that the Church is the bride of
That bride is each one of us.
And every Holy Qurbono is renewal of our wedding to Jesus Christ.
So, I think we should come well prepared as we prepare for our
That should resolve all our qeustions whether to wash our hair?? Should we wear casual dress?? Should we be there on time?? Should we be clean?? Should we have physical relationship the previous night?? Should we prepare ourselves etc.. etc
And finally should we leave the Church without particpating in the
wedding feast our Lord has prepared for us?
- Dear All,
Thank you Thirumeni for sharing your insights and referencing the teachings of our early Church Fathers in clarifying important aspects pertaining to Communion.
Many times in this forum, I have read a person's question on the foundations or sacraments of our faith being dealt with in either a harsh or condescending manner.
I have strongly felt that if the church does not place true value on a person's questioning, then we are effectively absolving ourselves of any responsibility to that person. At the same time, if the skeptic's questions are not honest, we have to address them in ways that expose his or her honesty.
It is so refreshing to read Thirumeni's excellent response that teaches us the value of using references and facts to strengthen our core beliefs and principles.
Thirumeni, on your request for a quotation from our early Church Fathers, I suggest a couple of online resources that you may be already aware of.
The Christian Classics Ethereal Library is a digital library that contains hundreds of writings of our early Church Fathers and Christian classics.
The best thing about this site is that all documents can be searched online free of charge.
The site contains an entire section devoted to the Church Fathers (incl. the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers).
2) The Imitation of Christ By Thomas Kempis.
This old classic contains an entire section devoted to rules for Communion called "An Invitation to the Holy Communion", and nowadays can be easily read or down-loaded from the web.
Finally, as I read about the discussion on Communion, I take great comfort in the words of C.S. Lewis "I am grateful that Our Lord's command was just "Take.., Eat..", and NOT "Take, Understand" !
Jiji Alex, Virginia, USA
- Dear All,
Our holy Church, in line with the old testament church,insists that the faithful who comes for Worship should abstain from conjugal relation.namely on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This is meant just to inculcate a sense of seriousness with regard to the Worship.We read in Exodus 19:10f that Moses telling the people of Israel to purify themselves for worship at Mount Sinai. Then they got ready by washing their clothes and abstaining theselves from indulging in sexual intercourse for 3 days. Further, 1 Samuel 21:4-6 points to the need for ritual purity. When asked by David for bread, the priest Ahimelech said," I haven't any ordinary bread, only sacred bread; you can have it if your men haven't had sexual relations recently". Then David replied thus: "Of course they haven't . My men always keep themselves ritually pure even when we go out on an ordinary mission; how much more this time when we are on a special
mission" So the priest gave David the sacred bread, because the only bread he had was the loaves offered to God, which had been removed from the sacred table and replaced by fresh bread.
This insistence on the part of the church has the support of the new testament verses as well. "Do not deny yourselves to each other,unless you first agree to do so for a while in order to spend your time in PRAYER; but then resume normal marital relations."(I Corinthians 7:5a). St. Peter also warns us that nothing would interfere with our prayers.(I Peter 3:7). Please bear in mind that this kind of insistence from the church is not an imposition but a composition.
God bless us.
George Achen Ireland.
- Dear Mr. Jiji Alex,
�Gnosism indicates direct spiritual experiential knowledge and special
knowledge, which is mystic in nature rather than from rational or
reasoned thinking.Using rationality and reasoned thinking to explain Christianity is precisely what made C.S. Lewis famous. He did not create any cult nordid he ever claim to be even a lay theologian. �
Today, Lewis (former Head of English Dept. at Oxford) is considered as
one of the most widely read and influential Christian writers of the
20th century. He showed that, far from involving an irrational leap in the dark, our faith in Christ was a commitment based on "hard
evidence that was accessible to all".�
We are now discussing the rules for receiving communion. But C.S.Lewis is neither a theologian nor a Church Father. There are atheists, agnostics, pagans, fanatics, humanists, Gnostics, occultists, and many other parapsychologists. Everyone, dealing or concerned with the same God is not a visible entity. Bertrand Russell, Bernard Shaw, C.S.Lewis, Anne Bezants and many other intellectual elites are there to give rational interpretations of religion and God. Whether those who belong to different schools of thought or not, their approach to the true faith of the Orthodox Church will have to be weighed upon seriously. A mystical analysis of life is inevitable for understanding the many-sidedness of life, particularly spirituality that penetrates into the celestial realm that deals with the city of God. A Gnostic analysis that focuses on the mysteries is highly praiseworthy, but such a study should not alienate the apostolic faith that is not rooted on the intellectual side. It is the vista of 12 fishermen�s ocean of fishing men. St.Paul deals with this sea of approach very meticulously. 1. Cor.1: 17-25. �22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God�s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God�s weakness is stronger than human strength.�. Many star war intellectuals like Bishop Leadbeater, an Anglican Bishop who became a theosophist and wrote many volumes of books, Anne Bezant, Krishnamurthy, and the like have portrayed the life at the other side of the grave in a very picturesque way. Leadbeater and many others like him had associations and dialogue with the dead people; reading such metaphysical narrations force us to believe that every religion is the same that identifies with the Essene community of the antiquity, and these supernaturalists claim that Jesus was a member of that community till the age of 30, the reason for His wisdom and the victory of the art of repartee. It is a question whether these metaphysicists had communion with the departed in the Ariel realm, oyar, of the Devil or in the celestial planes of God. It is called the astral science or �occultism� that many of our mystics and intellectual giants have been slaved into. They make astral travels and penetrate into the world of the devil and mislead the true followers of Christ by their intellectual gymnastics. Listen to St.Paul again,2.Cor.11. �13For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds.� This is how the dark angels dupe us by disguising as angels of light. The modern psychiatry, the mother of which is the world famous Elizabeth Kubler Ross has dynamited the faith of our Fathers�. The pure simple faith that beat the intellectual dynamism is the simple message of Christianity, the reason again to defeat Hellenism and Oriental Mysticism by our church Fathers. The sages who experienced Christian faith have been transported to the celestial planes, not to the astral planes of Ariel domain. One needn�t have to chew the Body of Christ to get the starch digested; it has the transforming power in itself because it is the crumb of the fire that prophet Isaiah experienced. A real follower of Christ doesn�t have to listen to C.S.Lewis whether the Holy Body is to be chewed or swallowed. The ignorant that misleads the ignorant of modern theology has taken us into the realm of paganism. But this false knowledge-addicted theology is an eye opener to the one who pursue the real ecclesia of Christ.
- Dear Jiji Alex, E.S.John and fellow ICONians,
Jiji has graciously introduced the thoughts of Thomas A Kempis, C.S.Lewis and other Christians in our study on the Rules of Receiving Holy Communion. Dear Mr. John, would it be right to throw out the Imitation of Christ of Thomas a Kempis(the original book did omit even the author's name) as explanation of the Holy communion of the Roman church and does not illumine us in our study about the Qurbono rules of the Orthodox concept? I procured the Modern reading of this book by Bernard Bangley after I lost my original copy of this Great Christian classic. He quotes Will Durant " There is a gentle eloquence in The Imitation the that echoes the profound simplicity of Christ's sermons and parables.It is an everneeded check on the intellectual pride of frail reason and shallow sophistication. When we are weary of facing our responsibilities in life we shall find no better refuge than Thomas a Kempis's Fifth Gospel. "His teachings were radically opposed to the 14th Century Roman Catholic Church values. John Wesley who produced the abridged version for protestants in the 18h century said " A person wil never be satisfied with The Imitation, though it were read a thousand times over; for those general principles are the seeds of meditation, and the stores they contain are never exhausted."
C.S. Lewis who is commemmorated as a saint by the episcopal church is worth a study by the great declaration he made and quoted in the post of Jigi. He was an atheist who turned a great Christian like the thief on the right.
Let us not label such great Christian works as heretic and not subject them to study in our search for the truth. We are truly not discussing whether to chew or swallow,neither is this an intellectual exchange, please consider these as small steps in the quest to better understand our Lord and Master.
Love in Christ
- Dear E.S. John,
You wrote - "A real follower of Christ doesn't have to listen to
whether the Holy Body is to be chewed or swallowed. The ignorant that
the ignorant of modern theology has taken us into the realm of paganism.
this false knowledge-addicted theology is an eye opener to the one who
the real ecclesia of Christ."
It sure sounds like my emails only resulted in creating more aversion in
your mind towards Lewis. I am sad that you were not able to benefit.
There is no need for any veiled personal attacks. Let us agree to
disagree in an amicable manner.
I sent you a response only because it was deeply distressing to hear an
effective proponent of Orthodox Christianity like CS Lewis likened to
leading atheists like Bertrand Russell and GB Shaw who maintained that
religion was little more than superstition.
As I clarified earlier, Lewis was not a theologian, or a gnostic,or head
of some mysterious cult or an expert on Qurbono rules. We have many
Bishops and Achens who can explain Qurbono rules to us and they do this
frequently in our churches.
The value of Lewis is precisely because of what Jacob Varghese
highlighted Lewis was an intellectual version of the prodigal son
before he discovered Christ in the prime of his life. On a personal
level, both he and Kempis have helped me to progress in my faith.
As to your implied disrespect towards writers or theologians just
because of their association with the Roman Catholic Church, would you
extend this to include even saints like Mother Teresa?
- There's a saying from CS Lewis that, although is quite simple, is also arguably one of his most powerful -
"I want God, not my idea of God"
So many of these discussions, debates and arguments on ICON result from the very thing Lewis is pointing out - as humans, we try to change God to be more like us rather than the other way around.
If we were more knowledgeable of the writings of CS Lewis and others, we (the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church) would get a clear understanding that ultimately everything we are doing in Church - fasting, Sacraments, charity, etc - is in order to transform ourselves to be like the One and Only Jesus Christ of Whom only the Orthodox faith has preserved and maintained His teachings unchanged.
That is in fact the core and highest priority in our Orthodoxy faith i.e., Theosis. The "judgment" of how we transform and change is clearly and without doubt individualistic ... just being a subscription paying member of the Orthodox Church and following all the rules is no guarantee of a "ticket into heaven". This is the reason we cry "Kurielieson" numerous times through prayer and Liturgy.
Our hymm during Qurbana "By thy light we see the Light ... " is clearly a reference to this process of Theosis and judgment. Fr James Bernstein of the Antiochian Church nicely summarized:
"The Orthodox say that whether the divine light of God illumines or burns is determined not by the condition of the light or the action of God, but by the condition, nature and perception of THE PERSON receiving the light. To the one who gladly receiving the light, it illumines. To the one who resists the light, it burns.
In contrast to both Roman Catholics and Protestants, the Orthodox teach that hellfire is the presence of God. This fire is not physical but spiritual, because it is uncreated. For those who love God and desire Him, His divine light and presence make heaven."
To truly understand all of this takes several lifetimes ... and again where reading CS Lewis and others clearly helps!
How we partake of the Holy Qurbana or whether we have sexual relations with our spouse the night before is no doubt important, but always needs to be kept with the context of where the INDIVIDUAL is currently in their spiritual journey. Hence the utmost importance in the Orthodox Church of the role of the Priest, Bishop and the local community of believers who together form the Church to minister to the individual rather than enforce misunderstood rules.
Our Church is a hospital for sinners ... not a legal court where those unworthy are locked out!
St Gregorios/Oak Park, IL