When Should I Abstain from Holy Communion?

Q: A certain Christ-loving man asked the same Elder: Should one be curious about the Divine Mysteries? And is a sinner who approaches them condemned as unworthy?

A: When coming into the holy temple to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and when receiving Them, pay heed to yourself that you unfailingly believe the truth of this (Sacrament). But as to how this happens, do not be curious, as it has been said “Take, eat, This is My Body and Blood.” The Lord gave them to us for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22). We have hope that he who believes thus will not be condemned, but he who does not believe is already condemned. And thus, do not forbid yourself to approach, condemning yourself as sinner, but recognize that a sinner who approaches the Savior is vouchsafed the remission of sins. (Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance toward Spiritual Life, p. 111)

5 thoughts on “When Should I Abstain from Holy Communion?

  1. Andrew

    Bless Father,

    But what about Orthodox who rarely attend midweek hours and seldom fast, but approach the Mystery anyway? Like all people they are unworthy of it, but they neither care about the attempt to be prepared. They’re entitled? I believe in being more strict.

    1. Fr. Ted

      No one is entitled and no one is worthy even those who prepare strictly. We approach in humility for the forgiveness of our sins, not because we are worthy or prepared. How do you judge their hearts regarding whether they care or are prepared? You might consider Matthew 7:1-5 and Romans 14:1-4.

      1. Andrew

        It’s not that I claim to know what’s in anyone’s heart… I am concerned that if the canons of the church dictate an objective ascetical grounding for the life of the laity (not just clergy and monks) and then in practice it’s economia all day every day, it makes no sense in the end. This is one reason that the times of communion for the laity, at one era, were reduced to only 4 a year: you’re never worthy, but you also insult it if you never confess or fast. Were the Fathers mistaken?

      2. Fr. Ted

        I guess I can ask to what canons specifically do you refer? Who ordered the laity to go to Communion no more than 4 times in a year?

        You ask about the Fathers being mistaken – the original quote in my post is from Saints Barsanuphius and John, highly respected monastic fathers of the 6th Century. You seem to think they were mistaken in their comments on receiving Communion. So, I can ask you the same question, were the Fathers mistaken?

        Maybe the reality is the Fathers held differing teachings, or maybe they didn’t see rules of discipline as universally binding but rather as wisdom,not law, which one must discern how and when and to what extent to apply. They didn’t all see everything as law/rules, they often saw discipline as healing balm and knew that real doctors apply it with wisdom and love.

  2. Gregory

    As Saint John Cassian noted: “It is much better if, in humility of heart, knowing that we are never worthy of the Holy Mysteries we would receive them every Sunday for the healing of our diseases, rather than, blinded by pride, think that after one year we become worthy of receiving them.”

    One can withhold from communing and fast and say dozens of prayers, and still not be in a humble frame of mind, conscious of one’s shortcomings before God and neighbor. Consider how long the Pharisee’s prayer was, and how short the tax collector’s prayer was, in Christ Jesus’ parable — and which of the two found favor in God’s eyes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.