On the Frequency of Holy Communion

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A constant complaint among some in Orthodox parishes is the admonition to avoid Holy Communion for all sort of nonsense excuses. The Church, while always recommending against approaching with presumption, teaches a very different lesson. Holy Communion is the easiest way for beginners in the spiritual life to obtain grace, and to begin gaining momentum in the spiritual life. Here are a few Church fathers, and what they have to say about it.

“Look, I entreat you: a royal table is set before you, angels minister at that table, the King Himself is there, and yet, you take no account of it. Are your garments clean? Then fall down and partake! For everyone who does not partake of the mysteries is standing here in shameless falsity. When you behold the curtain drawn, then imagine the heavens are let down from above, and that the angels arc descending! Why stay at liturgy and yet not partake of the table? I am unworthy, you say. Then you are also unworthy of that communion you also have in prayer. Come!”

St. John Chrysostom, +407 AD

“We must not avoid communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful. On the contrary, we must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit, to show our humility and faith, by considering ourselves unworthy and in need … that we desire even more the medicine for our wounds. Otherwise it is impossible to receive communion once a year, as certain people do … considering the sanctification of heavenly Mysteries as available only to saints. It is better to think that by giving us grace, the sacrament makes us pure and holy. Such people who receive less often manifest more pride than humility … for when they receive, they think of themselves as worthy. 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, receiving once or twice yearly, we become worthy of receiving them.”

St John Cassian + 435 AD

“Blessed Are Those Who Commune Each Day! They will be purified of all defilement of soul and body. If you think it is impossible to partake daily of the awesome mysteries, what ignorance! What insensitivity!”

St. Symeon the New Theologian, + 1022 AD

“Some persons say: ‘Look, we fulfill the commandment of the Lord, for we commune two or three times a year, and this is enough to justify us.’ We reply that this is good and beneficial, but to commune more often is much better. For the more one approaches the light, the more Olle is illumined; and the more one approaches fire, the more one is warmed; the more one approaches holiness, the more one is sanctified; similarly, the more one approaches God through Communion, the more one is enlightened, warmed and sanctified. My brother or sister, if you are worthy to commune two or three times a year, you are worthy to commune more often, as St John Chrysostom teaches.”

St. Makarios of Corinth, + 1805 A.D.

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About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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