Confession and Communion


#1

The early Church withheld Communion from those who committed and then confessed serious sins. The terms of this deprivation were commonly 8, 12, 18, or 25 years, and some even for life.

Why is Communion now given, immediately upon confession, no matter what [almost] sin has been committed and confessed?

Arsenios


#2

I don’t know the answer to the question, so I’m going to offer my opinion.

I suspect that over time, the church came to realize that the grace received in the sacrament is exactly what we need to sin less frequently in the future.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


#3

Oh, you are at it again… :smiley: I knew you wouldn’t give up easily!

Good luck with your thread. I don’t promise I will post here, I think I have quite exhausted my artillery in the other thread. But I hope you will have a great conversation with more qualified people here.


#4

(:slight_smile: Moderator in action.)

I think you are right, that the understanding of grace received in the Sacrament [of Confession] is now different from what it was then. In the early Church, salvation was seen to be served by the withdrawal from Communion, and today, by the giving of it, in the same circumstances…

How did that change?

Arsenios


#5

In the world of apologetics, never ask a question that you do not know the answer to. :stuck_out_tongue:

Where are you going with this and what is your point?


#6

:stuck_out_tongue: that’s the very question I asked the OP in his former thread…

:slight_smile: have fun!


#7

Spoken like a true legalist!

Where are you going with this and what is your point?

There is a difference in understanding regarding the nature of the grace received in the Sacraments of Confession and Communion, between the Eastern and the Western Church, and I am interested in finding out how that came to be, to see if there is a way to get the two Churches back on track.

Either Rome knows more than the early Church, or not, for Her doctrine has clearly changed on this issue. She now seems to think that confession and the giving of Communion HELP the sinner, whereas She used to think that confession and the withholding of Communion were helpful…

And who knows, my Brother - On a “Find-Out” like this, perhaps we may even penetrate into other, more profound [or not!], understandings… All we have here is one little string - from a largish ball, whereby Communion is seen as helpful today for the committer and confessor of serious sins, whereas during the first thousand years of the Faith, it was seen as positively dangerous, and penitents were withdrawn from its Holy Fire, and placed in the Narthex, where they would beseech the truely faithful with tears and supplications from a prolonged and full prostration to forgive them their having burdened them all with their sin, and ask that they pray for them in the Service of the Divine Liturgy…

Orthodoxy STILL, you see, understands the Communing of a person who has just committed and confessed a serious sin to be most decidedly NOT beneficial for his soul, but destructive, as Paul indicated in a pastoral epistle…

So what do you think? [And I ask open questions ALL the time!]

Arsenios


#8

I cannot find such a teaching of the early church. Follows is a statement taken from Catholic Answers which appears to disprove the idea that people were denied communion.

Second, you must have been to confession since your last mortal sin. The Didache witnesses to this practice of the early Church. “But first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14).

It would be helpful if you would give the resource that states that the people were denied communion.


#9

Good grief! I thought it was common knowledge…

Well, so much for that theory [eg the theory of common knowledge.]

I mean, the standards were very strict and lengthly, and then were relaxed somewhat by the imposition of penances that were to be zealously kept… OK - I suppose you want it on-line? Do you remember the relevant Pauline text, where to receive unworthily brings sickness and even death [eg ‘falling asleep’]? [It was in 1 Cor 11:27-30 - I just looked it up.]

And the idea was that in the early Church, when someone committed a grave sin, they needed healing of soul in order to become well enough to receive Communion - They would most certainly receive forgiveness, but the healing took longer, at least on the serious ones…

I will see what I can come up with…


#10

I do agree that penances were more severe in former times…perhaps there was some development in pastoral understanding that brought about a change.

Are you suggesting that such change impugns the Church’s claim to infallibility by chance?


#11

Hey, Margita - Thank-you for checking in… I simply had the thread in the wrong forum… This is a great forum, because the mod here corrects things for miscreants such as myself… Like spelling, and double-threading…

The idea that Holy Communion is a Divine Fire, consuming the unworthy, seems to have been lost here, where the mere confession and absolution are seen as conferring worthiness… Yet it was not so in the Church of the first thousand years… Nor is it today in Orthodoxy…

Arsenios


#12

It was, I suppose, a matter of severity of penances, in part anyway, for they were far more strict in the requirements for the praxis of the Faith… But this seems much more to be a whole reversal of principle, where before, the withholding of Communion was proper, and now, the giving is proper…

I mean, the relaxing of standards is one thing, because there are changes in the level of ability of different peoples in different times… But what I am calling into question is this whole idea that the GIVING of Communion in the face of grave and serious sins [the mortal ones, I think is the term], is beneficial, and helps the person to overcome their sinfulness… Whereas before, it was the withholding that was beneficial…

Are you suggesting that such a change impugns the Church’s claim to infallibility by chance?

Rome’s claim to infallibility is not at all a part of this inquiry… I am simply questioning the efficacy of giving immediate Communion after absolution for serious sins… By early Church standards, it was exactly the reverse, as it is by Orthodox standards today… I really would like to find out how it came about…

Arsenios


#13

Spoken like a true legalist!

Where are you going with this and what is your point?

There is a difference in understanding regarding the nature of the grace received in the Sacraments of Confession and Communion, between the Eastern and the Western Church, and I am interested in finding out how that came to be, to see if there is a way to get the two Churches back on track.

Either Rome knows more than the early Church, or not, for Her doctrine has clearly changed on this issue. She now seems to think that confession and the giving of Communion HELP the sinner, whereas She used to think that confession and the withholding of Communion were helpful…

And who knows, my Brother - On a “Find-Out” like this, perhaps we may even penetrate into other, more profound [or not!], understandings… All we have here is one little string - from a largish ball, whereby Communion is seen as helpful today for the committer and confessor of serious sins, whereas during the first thousand years of the Faith, it was seen as positively dangerous, and penitents were withdrawn from its Holy Fire, and placed in the Narthex, where they would beseech the truely faithful with tears and supplications from a prolonged and full prostration to forgive them their having burdened them all with their sin, and ask that they pray for them in the Service of the Divine Liturgy…

Orthodoxy STILL, you see, understands the Communing of a person who has just committed and confessed a serious sin to be most decidedly NOT beneficial for his soul, but destructive, as Paul indicated in a pastoral epistle…

So what do you think? [And I ask open questions ALL the time!]

Arsenios


#14

OK, so I go against my promise not to be a nosey parker here, but Arsenios may find it useful to check out the canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Here is a passage (not from a canon, but from a case brought up at the council itself) to get you started:

“Theophilus was informed, that the priest in Geminus, a village, had repelled Kyradium (a woman) from the communion: Theophilus approves of it, because she had done wrong, and was unwilling to make satisfaction; but orders her to be admitted to communion upon repentance.”

A handy link to the whole book on the councils (disclaimer: an old edition, but still useable):

ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.toc.html

Happy reading :wink:


#15

Aha, and there’s the link to the passage on the four classes of penitents, and the various sins for which they had to undergo a certain type and length of penitence.

ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.vi.xvii.html?highlight=penitent#highlight


#16

Thank-you, Margita! -

I think that this establishes the praxis of the early Church as being not all that concerned with secrecy - And the focus was upon the reconciliation of the sinner to the Body of Christ through penances that were spiritually beneficial, and that first among these, in all the “classes”, was the withholding of Communion… And according to the severity of the sin, so also was the DISTANCE they were required to keep from the Altar…

Am I getting it right??

Yet now, Rome communes serious and mortal sins immediately upon confession and absolution…

And THAT is what I want to understand - HOW that came to be…

Arsenios


#17

This is consistant with my “common knowledge” understanding.
Its not a change in belief about the efficy of Reconcilliation or Eucharist. Its a change in view on the effectiveness of severe and lengthy penances as a deterent to further sin not just for the penetint but for the comunity.

I’m guessing what happened instead is that it drove folks away from reconcilliation

Chuck


#18

Hey-ho, Arsenios, long hours of reading are before you if you want to go through all the councils and changes in practice since then…
I guess the “how” is somewhere in the well of the past, it will be tough to dig it out. That is my constant problem with the “back to the old ways” attitude: people just don’t realise how long a journey they would have to travel to get back to the old ways. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. So very, very long. People then and today - so very, very distant and different.


#19

‘Mere’ confession and absolution? ‘Mere’ confession and absolution were sufficient to get the Good Thief into Paradise with Christ - as you were told on the other thread and obstinately choose not to believe.

We don’t ‘earn’ forgiveness by the length or severity of our penance - it is a freely given gracious gift of God the moment one sincerely feels sorrow for their sin. Like the father of the Prodigal Son who forgave the son the moment he expressed sorrow. Perhaps that’s why the practice was altered - people became unnecessarily concerned that their penance hadn’t been long enough for them to ‘earn’ forgiveness :hmm:

As for Communion ‘consuming the unworthy’ - are you daring to say that ANYONE is genuinely worthy to receive Communion? We all, even the most grace-filled, proclaim our unworthiness in ritual fashion at every single Mass!


#20

Hi, Chuck
I appreciate your guess-work, and I would agree with you if you were to argue that the penances have been made less for serious sins. But this is not the case…

You see, it is not that the penances have been reduced, but that they have been REVERSED… So that now, a mortal sin is given Communion immediately upon confession AS THE CURE for the wounding of the soul that it caused… And before, communion was withdrawn from someone so mortally wounded, that they might heal enough to then receive Communion…

iow - As with Baptism, it is not given until someone entering the Church is prepared for it, and they are not baptized so as to BECOME prepared, but instead prepare so that they can BE baptized… And likewise in the early Church, when someone who has been baptized commits a grave sin, then that person is withdrawn from Communion until he is again prepared, through penance, to receive Communion… And it is not the case that he is GIVEN Communion that he should be more ABLE to prepare, because of the NATURE of Communion, for the Holy Mysteries are a Holy Fire consuming the unworthy…

I don’t see a way around the REVERSAL that has occurred in the Roman confession… It is not just a letting up of standards that may be too stringent, but is instead a reversal of the whole approach to the Eucharist…

Arsenios


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