Sin and Receiving Holy Communion

Hello knowledgeable Eastern Catholics.

Would someone help me with this inquiry. In a old thread, some poster talked about how in the East (or maybe his particular church) there is no definition of mortal and venial sin. Thus all sins must be sacramentally confessed. In the West, we are taught that if one knows of a mortal sin on their person, they cannot receive ordinarily until an honest confession. Does the East require reconciliation in the same way? Is it possible for an Eastern Catholic to receive Holy Communion knowing they have a sin, possibly a non serious one such as lying to our parents about unfinished homework?


Yes, Eastern Catholics must confess serious sins, and receive absolution, and perform penance, to receive the Eucharistic Mystery without condemnation. In Latin or Eastern, it is not required, but best to also confess less serious sins. The word mortal comes from the Bible, from deadly.

1 John 5:16-17 (NAB)
16 If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.

So to reiterate, whether one is Eastern or Latin, one can still receive the Blessed Sacrament with less serious sins on their souls?

Yes. It is also a good idea to confess less serious sins Eastern or Latin. The emphasis is on ammending our lives and detachment from all sin, that is, resolving not to repeat it.

during mass we have the Penitential Rite where we say, “I confess to Almighty God…” and this is enough to receive forgivness for the venial sins

so by the time we get to the Eucharist, we are free from venial sins. assuming your mind doesn’t drift away in the next 30 minutes or so

Baltimore Catechism No. 4

We are bound to confess all our mortal sins, but it is well also to confess our venial sins. “Bound”–obliged in such a way that our confession would be bad if we did not tell them. “Well,” because we should tell all the sins we can remember; but if we did not tell a venial sin after we had told a mortal sin, our confession would not be bad. Or if we committed a little venial sin after confession, that should not keep us from Holy Communion; because the Holy Communion itself would blot out that and any other venial sin we might have upon our souls: so that you should never let anything keep you away, unless you are certain you have committed a mortal sin after the confession, or have broken your fast.

I guess I was just thrown off course when I read that Eastern Catholics must confess all sins because there are the same rules for venial and mortal sins. Maybe I heard wrong. I think I understood the Latin teaching, I was just confused when it comes to Eastern after hearing that.

You did not hear wrong. In the East at least in the Byzantine churches there is no distinction in sins. Sin is sin is sin. All sin must be confessed before communion. Also the idea of a penance being given at confession is very unusual in the East, more of a latinization. Beware of any answers from Vico. Although very knowledgable his theology is pure Latin and not Eastern at all(as can be told by what he quotes as backing up his points ie, latin canon law and the baltimore catacism) not realy Eastern sources!:slight_smile:

This seems like a pretty good explanation…and in agreement with ciero.

As ciero said, you should be wary of me, and I do make mistakes. I have received catechesis in both the Latin and Byzantine Catholic churches. (My parish is Byzantine Catholic.)

The theology and liturgical practice is different in the paticular Churches, yet they share the same dogmas and sacraments. Both the Eastern and Latin Churches teach to confess all sins. (And in Latin parlance, one should confess venial sins, but one MUST confess mortal sins.) The question StillWondering asked was “Is it possible for an Eastern Catholic to receive Holy Communion knowing they have a sin, possibly a non serious one such as lying to our parents about unfinished homework?”

The answer is yes, because of the fact that the sacraments are the same in all particular Chuches, so what is sufficient for Latin Church penance must be sufficient for all. But is may not be the practice, and that is where the objections come from.

Personally I consider lying about homework to be a threefold sin, and would confess it: lying, disrespect for parents, and scandal (bad example) if anyone knows. Is it serious?

Hi Vico…

I wasn’t in any way trying to contradict you. I looked and found that article and suggested stillwondering might find it useful. :slight_smile:

One should never receive communion if they have any sins on their souls, venial or mortal. Hence, in the Apostle’s Creed, “the communion of saints”, which means a person without blemish on their soul. One’s soul must be as ‘clean’ as can be to receive communion. Anyone saying something opposing is not being honest with you and does not really know what they are talking about.

This is why in the Penitential Rite of the mass, when we proclaim, “I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers…”. This removes (with a penitent heart) any venial sin that is within our souls.

But then again, this prayer is said at the beginning of Mass, and if you’re anything like me, a sinner, there’s time and occasions to sin before communion comes around. I.e. laziness during mass, judgment upon others demeanor during mass, etc. These and more are some of the things that I am completely guilty of. This is why, as close as it is possible to receive communion, I say my act of contrition to be sure that my soul is cleansed to receive Christ. Of course I must atone for my sins and regret them fully and completely before receiving communion. Sometimes I feel unworthy of receiving Christ because of my own behavior at Church! This is how serious some of us feel about the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I must work on this, I know… as a fellow Catholic, it is hard to see the desecration of our Lord in the Eucharist and I must pray and offer up my trials and sufferings for the redemption of souls.

This is why I am saddened at the fact that in some States, reconciliation is only offered once a week at a time where not everyone can attend, or by appointment. I didn’t know it was a job to be a priest and not a vocation! Of course I speak of the particular city I live in. One cannot even receive reconciliation before a week day Mass. This is sad and not good for the salvation of souls.

We are called, when we go to confession, to say ALL our mortal sins, AS WELL AS all our venial sins. It helps one to humble him/herself to Christ through reconciliation.

I hope this helps. God bless you on your journey! :gopray:



The Church needs more priests! The Roman parish nearest my home has 2 priests (One retired and very old & not well at all) and 2,000 people (minimum). Contrast that with my parish of 200 people & 2 priests (One of whom is in the same shape as the older retired priest at the Roman parish) & (now) 1 deacon, and you’ll see what I mean.

You need more priests and more deacons. I’ve seen what the kids do when Confessors are available at Catholic Underground - They line up for Confession - ON SATURDAY NIGHT!

Your Brother in Christ, Michael

We must expiate our venial sins in some way:

Dogma: “Venial sins by which we are not deprived of the grace of God and into which we very frequently fall are rightly and usefully declared in confession; but mention of them may, without any fault, be omitted and they can be expiated by many other remedies” (Council of Trent, Sess. XIV, c. 3).

Catholic Encyclopedia Comment: “Thus, an act of contrition suffices to obtain forgiveness of venial sin, and the same effect is produced by the worthy reception of sacraments other than penance, e.g., by Holy Communion.”

In the Byzantine Catholic, Divine Liturgy, prayer before communion is:

O Lord, I believe and profess that you are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the first.
Accept me today as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God, for I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like a thief I profess you:

  • Remember me, O Lord, when you come in your kingdom.
  • Remember me, O Master, when you come in your kingdom.
  • Remember me, O Holy One, when you come in your kingdom.

May the partaking of your holy mysteries, O Lord, be not for my judgment or condemnation but for the healing of soul and body. O Lord, I also believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly your most precious body and your life-giving blood, which, I pray, make me worthy to receive for the remission of all my sins and for life everlasting. Amen.

  • O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
  • O God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.
  • O Lord, forgive me for I have sinned without number.

You are ABSOLUTELY right! We DO need more priests and deacons! But that doesn’t change the fact that in the State in which I reside, confession is not offered every time a Mass is said. If a priest cannot take an extra half hour (15 minutes before and after Mass) to hear confessions, then they honestly need to rethink their vocation! Why is a person even a priest if they do not care enough for the salvation of his parishioner’s souls? I understand that the priest doesn’t want to ‘assume’ that everyone has mortal sins, but the BEST way to receive graces is through a penitent heart, cleansed of sin and AFTER that, receive communion to receive more grace. There are other ways to receive grace, don’t get me wrong.

That’s NOT emphasized enough at Mass, and whether we admit it or not, the Eucharist is a joke to MANY Catholics out there. I’ve seen it and heard it first hand. Catholics who KNOW they are stained with mortal sins still go to communion because it’s not preached in our parish, it’s not emphasized enough at Mass, making the Eucharist a JOKE! I know this because I’ve told my Catholic friends, not pointing out their sins, but explaining to them, the difference. They KNOW the difference between right and wrong, and of course, it’s their choice to desecrate our Lord or not. They need to hear it from our Priests!

Every time, in the parishes I’ve been to, and I hear a priest speak of the Eucharist (which is rare), there is NO mention of reconciliation whatsoever! It’s SAD and appareling in my mind and heart! These go together! One cannot exist without the other! It’s like going up river without a paddle. Futile and only brings you further back from where you need to be.

I’m sorry, I’m WAY too passionate about this. I hope you understand! :):rolleyes:

Thanks for that! MUCH appreciated. Notice the words in red. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but how many of us HONESTLY say all these prayers before communion, first, with a penitent heart, second with our mind in the right place, third with ‘worthy reception’ ? I’m POSITIVE plenty of us. This doesn’t include everyone.

Thank you for the extra prayers! I will take note of them! They are beautiful prayers and I think one should ALWAYS say these prayers before communion. But then it’s hard to pray when you have pop christian music being rung in your ears as you walk up for communion, isn’t it!? Sad reality. :frowning:

I’m sorry for being so negative. I should rejoice in God’s Mercy and Forgiveness rather than dwell on how it is being desecrated by others. :slight_smile:

It seems that when there is music, it is harder to concentrate on private prayer, but one can have the correct disposition. I noticed that when I am a Latin parish Mass, at an early morning Mass, there is no folk music or instruments at all, so it is a more contemplative experience. But there is a hymn being sung during communion.

Those prayers are spoken out loud, not sung, by everyone at every Divine Liturgy and without any music, in the Byzantine Catholic Church (no musical instruments are used in the Byzantine tradition). It is really a contrast that it is spoken, because the Divine Liturgy is chanted using Carpathian Plain-Chant melodies.

After that prayer, communion follows.

DEACON: Approach with fear of God and with faith.
RESPONSE: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. The Lord is God and
has revealed himself to us.

I have recently read that in the early Church the sacrement of confession was reserved for those who had left the Church (formally or informally) and were becoming reunited with it. The modern usage of having our mortal sins forgiven before we are permitted to receive Holy Communion was presented as a legalistic inovation of the west during the early Middle Ages…one that spread into the east during the period of Latinization.

Which leads me to wonder: What do the early Church Fathers (west or east) from the first 6 centuries say in regards to confessing our mortal sins to a priest before receiving Holy Communion?

:wink: thanks in advance for your consideration of this question.

You can read some about that in “Medieval Handbooks of Penance” by John Thomas McNeill, Helena Margaret Gamer.

Per their book, the West was strict, with no repetition of penance before the time of Caesarius, bishop of Arles, 502-42. The list of serious sins was small, but expanded over time.

And repetition of penance began at Antioch and Constantinople, with St. John Chrysostom, who favored repetition and short terms of penance.

Also that book states that fifth century Italy, it was the practice to receive absolution before readmission to communion.

I think the idea of absolution as a formula spoken by the priest came late. The tradition, as I understand it, from at least Byzantium was that the priest was the witness of the confession. An Orthodox writer John Meyendorff write, in “Byzantine theology: historical trends and doctrinal themes” p 196, “… except in the case of mortal sins – murder, apostacy, adultery – followed by formal excommunication, it is nowhere evident that a priest’s absolution is necessary to seal the act of repentence.”

Meyendorff mentions that in Chrysotsom’s nine sermons on repentence only once he states: "Did you commit a sin? Enter the church and repent of your sin. … You are an old man and still you commit sin? Enter [the church], repent; for here is the physician, not the judge; here is one not investigated, one receives remission of sins. " p.195

We have in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Byzantine Catholic version):

May the partaking of your holy mysteries, O Lord, be not for my judgment or condemnation but for the healing of soul and body. O Lord, I also believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly your most precious body and your life-giving blood, which, I pray, make me worthy to receive for the remission of all my sins and for life everlasting. Amen.

O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
O God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.
O Lord, forgive me for I have sinned without number.

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