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Close(d) Communion

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  • Christopher Orr
    Some random thoughts I put together once for an Episcopalian friend of mine. A little scattered and with perhaps a bit too much of an attitude, but it at
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 17 9:46 PM
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      Some random thoughts I put together once for an Episcopalian friend of
      mine. A little scattered and with perhaps a bit too much of an attitude,
      but it at least hits some of the major points:

      ON CLOSED COMMUNION IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
      >
      > In the Orthodox Church, not everyone is allowed to commune of the Body and
      > Blood of the Lord. Why?
      > This is often a cause of confusion and even offense to those raised in
      > churches, primarily mainline Protestant, that have initiated the modern
      > practice of �open communion�. Perhaps some background on the topic should
      > be had to better understand the Orthodox position, which, incidentally, is
      > shared by the Roman Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches
      > (Non-Chalcedonian and Nestorian), the confessional Lutheran churches (LCMS,
      > WELS/ELS), some Baptist and Reformed churches, and most Anabaptists.
      >
      > The earliest example touching on the care that the Church has taken in who
      > they allow to commune is that of St. Paul the Apostle, from the first
      > century:
      >
      > For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation
      >> to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak
      >> and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Cor 11:29-30, KJV)
      >>
      >
      > In the same vein, St. Justin Martyr, writing circa 150 AD, states that �No
      > one else is permitted to partake of [the Eucharist], except one who believes
      > our teaching to be true...."
      > As is rightly pointed out:
      >
      > For the first several hundred years of Church history, non-members were
      >> forbidden even to be present at the sacramental ritual; visitors and
      >> catechumens (those still undergoing instruction) were dismissed halfway
      >> through the liturgy, after the Bible readings and sermon but before the
      >> Eucharistic rite.
      >>
      >
      > This fact is still seen in the Divine Liturgies of Sts. John Chrysostom;
      > Basil the Great; Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome (i.e., the Liturgy of the
      > Presanctified Gifts ); and James, the Brother of the Lord where the
      > catechumens are still commanded to �depart�.
      >
      > Access to the Sacrament of Communion is not a right of those who belong to
      > what is deemed to be the correct �club�, whether this is the �religious
      > club� of Orthodoxy, or worse, the �ethnic club� of ones heritage as Greek,
      > Russian, Romanian, etc. turning Orthodoxy into a tribal religion or State
      > Church, of sorts. Even the most pious of Orthodox Christians are not
      > allowed, based simply on their membership in the Church, to approach the
      > Eucharist without proper preparation. Through the guidance of a spiritual
      > father or confessor, this preparation will include the Sacrament of
      > Confession, fasting, and other preparations that could include attendance at
      > the preparatory services the evening or morning before receiving communion-
      > all to greater or lesser degrees of strictness depending on the needs of the
      > person.
      >
      > The most foundational requirement for being allowed to commune of the
      > Sacred Mysteries � that is, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the
      > God-man, Jesus Christ � are the apostolic Sacraments of Baptism and
      > Chrismation, properly performed. Children of pious Orthodox Christians and
      > catechumens are not communed prior to their Baptism and Chrismation, but
      > after the reception of these sacred Mysteries. Is it any wonder that we
      > expect the same of Christians from denominations not in communion with the
      > Orthodox Church? those, in the words of St. Justin, who do not believe �our
      > teaching to be true�?
      >
      > This line of questioning is similar to that concerning the ordination of
      > women. Mainline Protestants often complain that the lack of women�s
      > ordination in the Orthodox Church implies that women are viewed as second
      > class citizens of the Church. This is a misunderstanding of the issue at
      > hand. Simply carrying a Y chromosome does not entitle one to the
      > priesthood, nor does its lack signify a deficiency that makes one somehow
      > unable to perform those tasks required of the priesthood. Far from it. Not
      > all men are allowed to be ordained in the Orthodox Church. Not all men are
      > even allowed in the altar, whereas women in certain situations are.
      >
      > There are, in fact, many requirements and impediments to the Sacrament of
      > Holy Orders for men. First, an Orthodox priest must be an Orthodox
      > Christian having received the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation in an
      > Orthodox manner in the Orthodox Church- or sacraments received via economia,
      > per St. Basil the Great. A chaste, virtuous, and holy life is also
      > required. Having shed blood, either deliberately or accidentally, is an
      > impediment to the priesthood, and is a matter for defrocking even in the
      > case of being involved in a fatal car accident. Hunting is forbidden for
      > similar reasons. There are also other requirements concerning skin
      > diseases, deformities, etc. which point to the true purpose of the
      > priesthood as types similar to those of the Old Testament sacrifices and
      > priesthood- �pure, unblemished�, etc. such as is Christ, the perfect one who
      > offers and is sacrficed at the Eucharistic altar. In addition, this person
      > must be male, and of a certain minimum age to be ordained.
      >
      > Until the 20th Century, this was an unquestioned, uncontested, universal
      > tradition of the entire Church from its earliest days. Even those churches
      > that separated from the Orthodox Catholic Church over the centuries (e.g.,
      > Coptic, Nestorian, Armenian, Assyrian, etc.) retain an all male priesthood.
      > This was never a point of discussion or controversy until very, very
      > recently with the advent of the all-knowing, all-powerful, (arrogant, proud,
      > and godless) Modern Man. Whereas Modern Man knows more than his forebears,
      > we Orthodox, on the other hand, follow the biblical injunction to �Remove
      > not the ancient landmark, which [our] fathers have set� (Prov 22:28).
      >
      > The Protestant understanding of what the Eucharist itself is effects their
      > (open, lax) discipline regarding who may receive the Sacrament.
      >
      > Some open communion communities adhere to a symbolic or spiritual
      >> understanding of the Eucharist, so that they have no fear of sacrilege
      >> against the literal body and blood of Christ if someone receives
      >> inappropriately.
      >
      >
      > In addition, the ecclesiology of these churches is different than that of
      > Orthodoxy. They do not accept a visible Church as the visible, incarnate
      > Body of Christ on earth, with the necessity of properly ordained clerics in
      > continuity with the Apostles in both teaching and �the laying on of hands�
      > (cf. 1 Tim 4:14). They posit an �invisible� or �hidden� Church effected by
      > their sacrament of baptism alone. As stated earlier, the Orthodox Church
      > requires that her own children and catechumens should first receive both the
      > Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation � and these performed in the Orthodox
      > manner, which would (normally) require them to be performed by an ordained
      > priest or bishop, with the properly prepared chrism, and according to the
      > Orthodox rite � and only then are they allowed to commune of the sacred
      > Mysteries. Why would these standards of the Orthodox Church for Orthodox
      > Christians be relaxed for those who choose to remain outside of the Orthodox
      > Church?
      >
      > One may also ask of an �open communion� Protestant why it is that only
      > baptized persons may receive the Eucharist when Christ came to save all
      > humanity. In fact, this baptismal requirement is the same standard that
      > Orthodox Christians apply to both those inside and outside of the Orthodox
      > Church. An improperly performed baptism by an improper minister of the
      > Orthodox Church in an un-Orthodox manner is not accepted as valid even if
      > performed within the Orthodox Chruch by an Orthodox Christian. The form
      > itself is an integral part of the sacrament passed on to us as in the
      > apostolic deposit. It is not as if the words and the element alone
      > constitute the Sacrament, with all else a matter of indifference
      > (adiaphora). Any and all baptisms performed outside of the Orthodox Church
      > are only ever pastorally accepted as valid in that they have retained, at
      > least, the absolute, bare minimum of the Apostolic form � which must then be
      > followed by the Orthodox Sacrament of Chrismation prior to Communion.
      > Different Orthodox at differing times disagree as to what constitutes this
      > �bare minimum� required for a non-Orthodox baptism to be truly considered
      > the Mystery of Baptism. Currently, and unfortunately, it cannot even be
      > assumed that all Protestants retain both the traditional, Trinitarian
      > formula and the element of water itself, much less the apostolic form of
      > triple immersion, the renunciations, the excorcisms, and the recitation of
      > the Creed. Such minimalism is foreign to the mind of the Orthodox Church.
      >
      > Presbyters of the Orthodox Church are ordained with the command to
      > �Receive this Divine Trust, and guard it until the Second Coming of our Lord
      > Jesus Christ, at which time He will demand It from you.� They are not
      > commanded to simply guard what they decide are the most important parts of
      > this Divine Trust. Part of this trust is that which was enunciated in the
      > earliest days of the Christian Faith, bear repeating:
      >
      > For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation
      >> to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
      >>
      >
      > Therefore,
      >
      > No one else is permitted to partake of [the Eucharist], except one who
      >> believes our teaching to be true.�
      >>
      >
      Christopher




      On Fri, Apr 17, 2009 at 4:01 PM, oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:

      > Thank you so much for your post. I have finally had a chance to read
      > these papers and they are very helpful. It's just as I feared though... I'm
      > completely Orthodox on this matter!!! Some of my other Lutheran Pastor
      > brothers and I have been discussing this issue for some time now
      > (particularly how the Eucharist relates with Lutheran Confirmation), so
      > these posts in this forum really give me another approach to the Spiritual
      > life which is truly wonderful and inspiring.
      >
      > Closely related to this is the subject of Closed Communion. Would anyone
      > care to comment on the Orthodox Practice of "Closed Communion" -
      > particularly as it relates to who may be admitted to the Eucharist in the
      > Orthodox Church? Is it closed to all non-Orthodox (not Baptized &
      > Chrismated, I'm guessing?) Hence, Orthodox infants would be permitted to the
      > sacrament based on their identity in Christ and in the Holy Orthodox Church?
      > Later these requirements change to include confession & repentance?? Any
      > feedback would be helpful. Thanks again for the posts!
      >
      >
      >


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • oruaseht
      Thanks for the post - but just to clarify, it is indeed Baptism and Chrismation (in the Orthodox Church, in the Orthodox manner) that are the standard which
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 18 8:13 AM
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        Thanks for the post - but just to clarify, it is indeed Baptism and Chrismation (in the Orthodox Church, in the Orthodox manner) that are the standard which permit one to receive the Eucharist in the Holy Orthodox Church?
      • Christopher Orr
        Yes. What else would it be? Not sure what you are getting at. Christopher ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 18 2:03 PM
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          Yes. What else would it be? Not sure what you are getting at.

          Christopher



          On Sat, Apr 18, 2009 at 11:13 AM, oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:

          >
          >
          > Thanks for the post - but just to clarify, it is indeed Baptism and
          > Chrismation (in the Orthodox Church, in the Orthodox manner) that are the
          > standard which permit one to receive the Eucharist in the Holy Orthodox
          > Church?
          >
          >
          >


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • oruaseht
          Thanks for you reply. Your previous post was quite lengthy and seemed to simply be saying that admission to the Eucharist is based on Baptism and Chrismation -
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 18 10:07 PM
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            Thanks for you reply. Your previous post was quite lengthy and seemed to simply be saying that admission to the Eucharist is based on Baptism and Chrismation - but in an overly detailed manner. I just wanted to clarify that I have the correct understanding of the Orthodox practice of Closed Communion. Thanks again for your reply.
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