Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Abusing the Eucharist

Happy Feast of Theophany to all (if you're on the New Calendar, that is!). More on the Theophany in another post.

I was reading through a Theophany sermon of St. John Chrysostom. It is given here at the Mystagogy blog. As St. John progresses, he starts to speak about the body and blood of our Lord in the Eucharist. He says, in particular:

I shall also say a little about this, and then the conclusion of the talk. Many now will approach the Holy Table on the occasion of the feast. But some approach not with trembling, but shoving, hitting others, blazing with anger, shouting, cursing, roughing it up with their fellows with great confusion. What, tell me, art thou troubled by, my fellow? What disturbeth thee? Do urgent affairs, for certain, summon thee? At this hour art thou particularly aware, that these affairs of thine that thou particularly rememberest, that thou art situated upon the earth, and dost thou think to mix about with people?

First, I'm not shocked to see that our attitudes today have not really changed from fifth century Constantinople when the Eucharist was offered. People are still people, or as Ecclesiastes tells us "Nothing new under the sun." At my church, most people present themselves for the Eucharist and though there is no pushing and shoving, cursing (at least none that I can hear), etc. there is still a great deal of abuse going on. What is it? The faithful are more concerned from whom they receive the Eucharist!

At my church, usually the priest and the deacon distribute it to the faithful in two lines, one for the left side of the church (the priest), one for the right side (the deacon). Many people who sit on the right side will cross to the left. Many who are in the left refuse to move to the shorter right side line to let things move more slowly even when the usher directs them to do so. Their thoughts are not set upon trembling, it appears! Make no mistake about it: This is abuse of the Sacrament! Because it is given to you from the deacon does NOT make the Eucharist less in efficacy or in healing powers. The only thing that makes the Eucharist powerless is you who persist in your sin assuming that you have to receive it from the priest. Maybe you like the priest. So what? Is liking the priest more important than your soul? Will you receive the mysteries on the day of your death from an Orthodox priest or YOUR Orthodox priest.

I'm sure good intentions are at the forefront in all of this, yet we all know the saying with regards to that. Though I really don't want to discern and judge the intentions of the faithful when they approach, the actions are in need of correction. When the faithful are more concerned with who distributes the Eucharist to them, then they are mocking the gift via the distributor. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the giver of the gift of the Eucharist. The priest and the deacon are as unworthy as you and I to receive the mysteries. God has made us worthy! But when we become more interested in who gives us this gift of God, we have just made ourselves very unworthy and should remove ourselves from receiving. Of course, that would be in a perfect world and we are all imperfect people and sinners.

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