Saturday, September 10, 2005

Unworthy? How Dare We Be So Arrogant!

I was recently reflecting on the issue of worthiness when it comes to receiving Holy Communion. The issue really vexes me because it seems that all I hear these days is that we are all not worthy to receive communion. This to me is really ridiculous. I mean, I know the prayers speak of us not being unworthy when we receive, but what exactly does this "worthiness" mean?

Many believe that if we sin, especially when the time for Sunday communion approaches, we should not approach the chalice. This usually involves the failure to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, judging others, etc, etc, etc. we seem to think that only when we are in some kind of pseudo-pure spiritual state are able to receive the divine mysteries. WAKE UP PEOPLE! There is no such reality! There was only one who is sinless and pure and He gave us Himself for nourishment! It is quite shocking to realize that we, in our arrogance and over abundant neurotic guilt, stemming from our committing of sins on a daily basis, actually have fooled ourselves into believing that we, at any moment, deserve the Eucharist that our Lord and savior gave us freely. We seem to overlook the reality of the Gospels which tell us that Christ forgave us even when we were nailing Him to the Cross. It is truly a spiritual sickness to think that anything we can do can make us anywhere close to deserving of the free gift of life which Christ gives to us through the Eucharist.

This being said, we continue to live our lives according to somekind of legalistic merit system in which we must perform certain actions to necessitate our entrance into heaven. Really people, how selfish is such a lifestyle! Christ taught us to love for the sake of loving and not for the sake of a reward. This is clear because He had no need of a reward, having already come down from Heaven, but did what He did anyway. In the same way He have gave us his Flesh and His Blood freely without expecting anything in return except to love Him and our Neighbour. If we love Him we must believe in Him and attempt to keep His commandments. But in trying to be perfect, like our Father is perfect, it is not our reaching of the goal that makes us holy and worthy of the faith, but the attempt in itself. Christ knows we are fallen and imperfect. All he expects us to do is to try, really try. This is the worthiness that I believe the communion prayers speak of. Do we believe in the teachings of Christ? Do we attempt everday to follow them, no matter how many times we fall? CAn we recite the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers? THese are the crucial questions we must ask ourselves; not whether we failed in fasting on friday. Sin is not the obstacle to communion; unbelief and indifference is. It doesn't matter if we fail in our spiritual endeavours, what matters is we try. If we are in the state of ascetic struggle, then that means we are moving towards God and not away from Him. If this is the case, then we must be communing every Sunday. If this is not the case, then and only must we abstain, not because of our unworthiness, but because of our unbelief in the power of God and our unbelief in the miracle of Holy Communion.

It seems to me that in the Gospel accounts Christ did not tell us to take communion whenever we feel worthy or whenever it seems spiritually convenient. He COMMANDED us "DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME" Who are we to deny Christ's commandment? He commanded us to do this because in doing so we would remember Him and his teachings and keep them in our hearts. It is when we forget Him that we are in serious danger of becoming unworthy of the Kingdom. If we wish to come closer to Christ, we must be willing to embrace Him no matter how evil we think our actions have become. If we saw Christ in person today would we run to embrace Him or would we stay away? How is communion any different? And are we so bold as to make that choice? Didn't Christ already make it for us?

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fr. Kosta said...

Ted, I agree with you. I sometimes visit and liturgize in smaller communities that have no priests. Although I encourage the people to receive when I bring out the Holy Communion, very few actually receive. The rest of the people stay away from the chalice, claiming they haven't had time to fast and thus prepare for Holy Communion. I encourage them to receive, especially since I don't visit those communities regularly. They're stuck in that legalistic and guilt-generating mindset which actually draws them away from Christ by keeping them away from the chalice. We need to show the people again what Holy Communion is and what it means to really be "worthy" to receive it.
Just my two cents before I go to sleep.

Roland said...

Although at the same time there is the allusion in both the Epistles and Gospels that indicates
1. Don't take the sacrament without the belief lest it be unto your condemnation

2. You absolutely MUST reconcile with your estranged brothers in the community or else you profane the communion.

#2 is particularly interesting because that is what the Kiss of Peace is basically meant for - it's your chance to make amends and declare one another friends in peace and love. Instead we either just say it (like at seminary) or we have congregations who do stop to do it, but don't realize what a special opportunity it is, so they just kind of give their friends other fives and kisses.

-Ray

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fr. kosta said...

Roland, that's where educating our people comes into play. In short, they have to realize there's a balance in our faith. Yes, people need to approach the Holy Body and Blood, but they need to know how to prepare for it.

On a less serious note, I'd love to see these old Greeks actually reconcile with their brothers/sisters in the community, considering how stubborn they can be. It'd be a sight to see.

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