Wednesday, March 16, 2016

General Confession and Communion Theodore Saturday and the Sunday of Orthodoxy

It is a very strong tradition in the Russian Orthodox Church for each and every person that can possibly do so to confess during the first week of Great Lent and to partake of Holy Communion on the first Saturday (Theodore Saturday) or Sunday (the Sunday of Orthodoxy) of the Great Fast. In doing so we accomplish several important things that I think are worth calling out clearly.

The first of these is that we begin our Lenten journey spiritually strengthened by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ. We are seeking a closer relationship with God during Great Lent, and partaking of Holy Communion is the most intimate way in which we experience God, and partaking worthily we partake “...unto the remission of sins and life everlasting.” As we are all aware, this is part of the prayer that the priest reads at the moment we partake of Holy Communion. But of course, as we also know, partaking unworthily is unto our condemnation. We often over think this, and that is logical on one hand, since we most certainly do not want to partake of Holy Communion unworthily. What we must understand is that the moment we leave the confessional we begin to sin again. To partake worthily does not mean that we partake without having committed any sin since our last confession. Partaking worthily means that we have made a sincere effort to prepare ourselves for Holy Communion: we have attended as many of the Divine Services in preparation for the Liturgy that we are able to, we have read our prayer rule, we have fasted, we have confessed without consciously withholding any sins, we have forgiven all and asked forgiveness of any we have wronged, etc. You can learn more about how to prepare for Holy Communion at the special page on our web site specifically covering this topic. This page is available in English and Russian.

The second of the important things that we do when we all partake of Holy Communion together is that we express openly and through our actions (not just our words) that we are a family. This is important. As you have heard me say many times, we perish alone and we are saved together. There are rare exceptions to that rule, but as those living in the world this is the usual order of things. Spiritual isolation is unhealthy – living in community as a family is healthy. Running from problems and struggles is unhealthy (rest assured that the problems will follow you) – dealing with them with the support of family is healthy. When we all prepare for and partake of Holy Communion together we clearly state for the world (and for ourselves) that we are a family – that we are in this effort together. And that this is a good, spiritually healthy, way to live in the world for Orthodox Christians. As with all families there can be tensions, there is the crazy uncle and the cat lady aunt (metaphorically of course). But these issues – the people we don't really get along with swimmingly, or the people that sort of rub us the wrong way, or whatever (fill in the blank for yourself here) – give us the opportunity to exercise the virtues and exorcise the vices. When we all work towards a shared goal together we grow closer, we are more tolerant of the foibles of our parish family members, and there is more room for God's love in our hearts and between us. Please recall our parish mission statement:

“The mission of St. Vladimir Orthodox Church is to gather Orthodox Christians of all nationalities and backgrounds, as well as all those desiring to embrace the Orthodox Christian Faith, as a parish family for mutual spiritual support and the salvation of our souls. We strive to emulate in our lives, and especially in our parish family, the relationship between the persons of the Holy Trinity as the highest and most profound example of love.”

Note the love of the Holy Trinity mentioned there. That is not a mistake, that is not hyperbole, that is a goal (so perhaps this is both a mission and a vision statement) that we all must strive for if we will be an example. Not an example of pride, but an example for the sake of those seeking Christ's love. An example for our children of how a Christian should live.

I hope you will all take the time, if you are able, to prepare yourself and to partake of Holy Communion this weekend. Please use this space to post comments, questions, or share thoughts. Your participation is welcome!

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