Question relating to Eastern Orthodox Church

I was reading a bit about it, how is separated from Rome and how relations have been over the hundreds of years since the separation.

I read the following

Although both sides accept the validity of each one’s orders and sacraments, no inter-Communion exists. That means that normally speaking, Catholics aren’t allowed to receive Holy Communion in Orthodox Churches, and conversely, Orthodox shouldn’t receive Holy Communion in Catholic Churches.

Is this correct? If so, it confuses me. If both sides accept the validity of each others orders and sacraments then why can one not receive Holy Communion in the other’s Church?

Recognizing the “facts” - mutual recognition that each other’s sacraments are valid - is indeed on of the first steps to restoring active communion between our churches.

Healing the hurts and bad habits of both churches that have come from being separated for a thousand years are more challenging and sadly will be slower to resolve.

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So one side not being able to receive communion in the other’s church is only because of relationship friction?

The administration of Holy Communion in such cases can provide a false witness to a unity that does not exist, since this sacrament is a sign of such unity. Because they are valid, the Catholic Church does allow the faithful to receive from an Orthodox priest or an Orthodox person to receive from a Catholic priest when there is some good reason, there is no danger of the false witness, and the person is otherwise properly disposed. But as a rule, we do not until we are reconciled.

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Okay but if a ‘western’ Catholic attended an Eastern mass and received communion, the sacrament itself would be valid.

I assume even if the priest somehow realised the person they were about to give communion to were not Eastern Orthodox, they wouldn’t deny them the communion, or might they?

To be clear, a “western” Catholic can receive communion at an Eastern Catholic church who are in full communion with the Roman church, no problem.

I’m pretty sure the separated EOs would deny communion to a Catholic as a rule. From what I understand, many will not give the sacrament to strangers unless they are assured the person is EO. In any event, you should respect both the Catholic rule, that would forbid you from doing so without an extraordinary cause, and the EO rule which would also forbid you for not being EO.

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The way I heard it, if the priest doesn’t know you, he will say “are you Orthodox?”, and if you say yes, he will then ask “who is your bishop?”.

I wouldn’t even attempt it. If I were in a part of the world, for an extended time, where the only available sacraments were administered by Orthodox, I would attend Divine Liturgy and privately ask the priest, before the fact, if he could receive me to the sacraments.

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That is correct. If an Orthodox Christian is on vacation and goes to Divine Liturgy, for example, it’s normal to go to the priest beforehand to introduce oneself and get the priest’s blessing to commune.

In our church, the faithful attend the same church every Sunday (your home parish) - so the priest already recognizes and knows everyone who is approaching him for communion. He wouldn’t give communion to a stranger he didn’t know - we believe priests will have to answer for every time they wrongly communed someone at the Last Judgment.

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These issues differ from region to region, and from Church to Church, and from circumstance to circumstance.

Generally speaking, most Orthodox clergy will not commune Catholics . . . generally.

In all cases, Catholic clergy are happy to commune Orthodox; but we do encourage Orthodox Christians to listen to their own hierarchs, which generally tell them not to.

Exceptions occur, here’s a couple of examples:

  • A Catholic is stranded for a long time in an Orthodox area with no Catholic parish
  • Antiochian Orthodox and Melkites often share actual temples in the near middle east, and inter-commune regularly, share clergy regularly, etc.

Your mileage may vary,
Fr. Deacon Christopher

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I am not sure if that’s the case, though I’ve heard it from time to time. It’s my understanding that intercommunion doesn’t actually happen:

Antiochian Orthodox authorities have as yet released no statement of their own in response to the Melkite move. “ Communicatio in sacris [‘common worship’] is not a means to union, but the sign of a union achieved,”cautioned Father Joseph Allen, New Jersey-based director of theological education for the Antiochian Orthodox diocese in the United States. “Until all the issues which divide us in terms of our faith understanding are clarified, there can be no intercommunion between Melikites and Antiochian Orthodox. This has always been our view,” Father Allen declared, “and I can’t see how the Antiochian bishops in the Middle East can take a different tack.”
(Source: NCR)

Some things are done quietly and informally, and with as little public comment and acknowledgement as possible . . .

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It is interesting to contemplate how such a rule would play out in Roman Catholicism, but in our case, I have to think the consequences would fall far more squarely on the unworthy communicant, than on the priest.

It would be nice if the Catholic and Orthodox churches in the rest of the world could have such a close relationship.

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The problem for many Latin parishes is that a single priest may pastor hundreds to thousands of faithful…even if they’re all there every Sunday its not possible to know them all. How do areas with large Orthodox populations, such as in Russia or Greece, deal with this?

I know of Latin parishes with 7 Masses on a Sunday all packed…sometimes spilling into standing room only (pre-Covid reality ;)). I know the Orthodox forbid more than one liturgy per altar per day…and forbid liturgies past a limited window in the morning…so again, just out of curiosity, when you have huge Orthodox populations in those regions, how do they manage? I think of one local parish which is predominantly Filipino…7 Masses on Sunday with only 3-4 priests…they are communing thousands of people… (there’s also always lines for confession - and confessions, pre-Covid, were held about 13-14 times during Sunday from early morning to late evening - again only 3-4 priests handling it all).

I’m getting off topic here…but I asked my cousin, who is Orthodox, and he didn’t have a clue how large Orthodox communities deal with these practical issues…

In all ignorance I ask — are Orthodox churches ever all that large? Or in areas such as that, would there be many small churches, each served by an individual priest? I do know that their dioceses run smaller, in that they will have a small diocese with one bishop, whereas Catholics would have a very large diocese with one or more auxiliary bishops. In Orthodoxy, that same diocese would be three or four smaller ones.

It’s also worth noting that receiving communion is not an every-week occurrence for Orthodox in general. There are fasting and penitential expectations that don’t normally exist among Catholics who seek to receive communion.

I was thinking in Russia or Greece where, at least nominally, the majority of the population are Orthodox. But maybe there its like pre-Quiet Revolution Quebec where there was a priest for every hundred lay people and a nun for every 30… (yeah it was really like that a hundred years ago there…). You raise some good points.

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Exactly. Additionally, the EO church in our has this on receiving communion:

FASTING PRIOR TO RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION
(Throughout the year)
Sunday Morning
Divine Liturgy

Complete fast from all food and drink from bedtime or midnight on Saturday evening. Saturday evening should be a quiet time of prayer and preparation for Communion.

Evening Liturgies

Complete fast from all food and drink after lunch. Any (very light) breakfast or lunch meal taken should include only fasting foods.

It is understood that those desiring to partake of the Mystery of the Eucharist frequently and
regularly, must also keep the Wednesday and Friday discipline.

Most Westerners would not be familiar with Byzantine discipline re Holy Communion. Prior to 1950s Roman Catholics fasted from midnight before receiving Holy Communion. Now the Eucharistic Fast has been reduced in the West so much so that sadly many Orthodox are scandalized.

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To be honest, I don’t know either - never lived there. But in a place like Greece where literally 90% of the population is Orthodox (3% Muslim, 4% unaffiliated, 3% other), it wouldn’t be sensible for a Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness to present himself for communion (and he wouldn’t know all the crosses and bows either, nor would he be willing to do them). Also, even in cities there are several parishes, so hopefully the priest knows nearly everyone and is questioning anyone who hasn’t introduced himself first / anyone who’s suspicious.

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From the Orthodox Church of America website:

Concerning Roman Catholic orders: Within the OCA Roman Catholic clergy generally are received into the Orthodox Church through “vesting”; that is, they are not ordained anew. While there are some Orthodox Christians today who would not follow this practice, there is evidence that this was in fact the practice in Russia several centuries ago. One must also keep in mind that the practice of the Orthodox Church on this issue has been subject to change from time to time and place to place, often depending on situations appropriate to the setting.

Concerning the Eucharist: Many Orthodox Christians do view the Roman Catholic Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ; others today would not subscribe to this. The answer is linked to whether one believes that Roman Catholicism is “with grace” or “devoid of grace.”

… the Orthodox definition of grace is quite distinct from “grace” as defined in Roman Catholic circles.

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In Russia, it would be more or less mandatory to confess before communion. In Greece or Romania for example, the Priest would probably ask if he had some reason to believe that are not Orthodox. Most parishes are not that big though…

I usually commune several times per month, but rarely when I attend a Liturgy outside my home parish. I have seen Priests asking newcomers who approach communion if they are Orthodox and how they prepared for the occasion in terms of fasting and prayer etc.

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With so many millions of faithful, how do you keep the parishes small? Are there just such an abundance of priests
That’s our problem. In some countries, there are 10 000 Catholics per priest…

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