Confession and Communion: A False Problem

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Is it that Confession is obligatory before every Communion or is that you take Communion whenever you want and have Confession whenever you want?

Such is the false question which I first heard over forty years ago, to which any answer must also be false, for false questions can only have false answers. What is the reality?

Confession and Communion are two different Sacraments. Thus, you can have Confession and not take Communion and you can, in some circumstances, take Communion without Confession. In other words, you can have Confession very often and take Communion less often. This is the opposite of the modernism’s apparent hatred of Confession and love of obligatory Communion – which is not part of the Church. The impression given is that modernism does not believe that its adherents any sins and that therefore they have nothing to repent of. If this is so, then it is spiritual pride. Of course, this impression may be quite wrong, but it is the one made. After all, a doctor does not prescribe medicine, if he cannot first make a diagnosis, and Confession is precisely diagnosis.

If we are talking about nominal Orthodox who take Communion only occasionally, perhaps once or twice a year or once or twice every ten or twenty years, then Confession before every Communion is the rule.

What about Communion whenever you want and Confession whenever you want? This statement is a piece of consumerism that treats the Church as a supermarket and has its roots in the anti-sacramental and therefore anti-priestly Protestant mentality that lies behind consumerism: ‘Do whatever you want whenever you want’. Little wonder that this mentality is that of certain unChurched converts, precisely of Protestant origin, who always take Communion without Confession and even scorn cradle Orthodox who do not take Communion at every Liturgy. The result is that cradle Orthodox no longer attend convert services, feeling hostility. And that is a pity because it means that unChurched converts can no longer meet anyone they can learn from, with the result that convert ghettos are only reinforced.

What then is the ideal? It is to take Communion, voluntarily, according to personal spiritual needs, when you spiritually need it (not when you want it – ‘want’ is the word of consumerists) and to have Confession beforehand because we should need Confession before Communion. If we do not feel the need for Confession, it suggests that we do not need Communion. Put simply, if a full dustbin does not know that it needs emptying (Confession), then it does not need filling (Communion).

There are exceptions to this. Firstly, in parish life, for example during Passion Week or Bright Week or at other times as before the Nativity or Theophany, when there may be liturgies on several consecutive days and simply we may feel no need for Confession two or more days running because the faithful are striving to live a quiet and devout life ‘in all godliness and honesty’. The second exception is in monastic life or among those who are living a monastic-style life in the world and may take Communion more regularly but only have Confession every few days or even every few weeks, according to their spiritual father’s directions.

Preparation before Communion assumes not only Confession, but also that the fast days in the week before Communion and due abstinence are observed, together with the fast from midnight, that the faithful attend the vigil service (or vespers and matins) before the Liturgy and that they also read the rule before Communion.

Modernism which has more or less abandoned the sacrament of Confession (if it ever knew it) will say that it does not need Confession frequently because the ‘early Christians’ took Communion every day. This is dangerous spiritual pride. Are modernists seriously claiming that they live on the spiritual level of Orthodox in the first centuries who faced possible martyrdom every single day? Let us face reality. Those in modernist groups who want weekly or even daily Communion (impossible for menstruating girls and women) are simply copying heterodox, for whom, in any case, there is no Body and Blood of Christ, but just biscuit wafers with or without some wine. And what is unconsumed among them, they throw away. Such modernism is not Orthodox and should learn what the Apostle Paul says and tremble:

Wherefore whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep (1 Cor 11:27-30).

Confession and Communion form a virtuous circle, for the benefits of Communion depend directly on our preparation for it. Modernism which superstitiously misbelieves that Communion is a sort of magic, which confers its benefits (listed in the prayers before and after Communion) automatically, without any effort on our part, is sadly and dangerously mistaken. I have often seen the sorrowful consequences of this mistake in the past decades and they always lead to lapsing from the Faith, which is the only thing that Satan wants us to do.

See also
How to Prepare for Holy Communion. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 5 How to Prepare for Holy Communion. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 5 How to Prepare for Holy Communion. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 5 How to Prepare for Holy Communion. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 5
Fr. Alexey Young
The seeds of holiness are planted within us at Baptism and Chrismation, but we must nourish these seeds by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in imitation of Christ and His saints. The spiritual equivalent of the sun is the Holy Spirit—He acts upon us in the Sacraments, especially in Chrismation. In this way, the Church is the seedbed of holiness. We must water the seeds and pull out the weeds and thereby discover that the spiritual path is a tremendous adventure all about going home to God!
How to Make a Good Confession. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 4 How to Make a Good Confession. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 4
Fr. Alexey Young
How to Make a Good Confession. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 4 How to Make a Good Confession. Orthodox Spirituality, Part 4
Fr. Alexey Young
"The holy Fathers give us the antidote for going from vice to virtue. The spiritual life is a science, not an art form. Most of us aren’t so spiritually talented so we need laws and cause and effect in order to learn the spiritual life. St. John Climacus says that the antidote for pride is prayer. Identify where the pride is in your life and ask for strength against it. Human effort can do very little. We must realize that everything depends on God. In prayer we make use of God’s grace, and then we can do almost anything—we can move mountains!"
Conquered by the Mercy of God Conquered by the Mercy of God
Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov
Conquered by the Mercy of God Conquered by the Mercy of God
A Discourse on the Mystery of Repentance and Confession
Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov
Not only in the minute of confession of sins and receiving of forgiveness are we called to carry out the commandment of Christ: Repent ye and believe the Gospel; but before and after Confession the Christian is called to abide in repentance. Repentance is the air that pervades the soul; it is the light that allows us to see the path before us. Repentance is the aspiration to refrain from your confessed sins. It is a battle with sinister desires and passions that are no-nos, and which raise up their serpentine heads in the depths of our heart.
The Power of the Sacraments in the Lives of Orthodox Christians The Power of the Sacraments in the Lives of Orthodox Christians
Presented by Fr. Nikon of Mount Athos at the Academy of Aikaterini, Greece, 2014
The Power of the Sacraments in the Lives of Orthodox Christians The Power of the Sacraments in the Lives of Orthodox Christians
Presented by Fr. Nikon of Mount Athos at the Academy of Aikaterini, Greece, 2014
He also saw a person in the large throng of people who was possessed of a demon. This demon manifested itself as a bird. The bird is very dangerous for him for he is not aware of it. He said the bird looked very smooth like velvet. And the astounding thing about this demon possessed person was that he was the same Zen teacher that Fr. Nikon had met in Thessaloniki. The thing that is of great interest to us here is that before the sacrament of baptism Angelo could not see these things clearly but immediately after his baptism he saw them without a problem. This is the marvelous meaning and power of the Sacrament of Baptism in the Orthodox Church.
Preparation for the Sacrament of Confession Preparation for the Sacrament of Confession
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Preparation for the Sacrament of Confession Preparation for the Sacrament of Confession
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
I will say of them what has already been said of them; I will pronounce the sentence that was already pronounced. I will say it with bitterness of heart, but without mistake, because I am merely repeating the Apostle’s words, the words of God. The widow that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth (1 Tim. 5:5-6). Do not think that these words are directed only at widows according to the flesh! No, they apply even more succinctly to me and you, who have renounced the world to serve Christ.
Confession — not a novel but a battle Confession — not a novel but a battle
Archpriest Valerian Krechetov
Confession — not a novel but a battle Confession — not a novel but a battle
Archpriest Valerian Krechetov
“How should I tell the priest about my sins? Is a feeling of repentance indispensable during confession? After confession, should one expect a feeling of spiritual relief, or lightness of soul? These beginners’ questions often remain troublesome even for very experienced parishioners.
Comments
BG6/22/2017 1:31 pm
Hope my questions will not offend. 1. When one priest looks after a parish of hundreds, how can I, realistically, ask him to receive my confession more than once every few months (at most)? 2. How can I believe that a woman with a flow of blood (healthy or not) is not allowed to touch our Lord? (What is the meaning and the history of this interdiction, in the church?)
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