Saturday, June 16, 2012

Full freedom

There is a brand of Orthodoxy where following the rubrics seems to be the major focus, the teaching of doctrines and the pushing of morality the emphasis, where what we do to please God takes the place of what God does to release us. Words are mouthed, actions performed, ostensibly to glorify God and the saints, and everything holy stays in the holy place. Outside the doors, life goes on as always, sometimes even a little worse for wear, and perfectionism and scrupulous rigor replace walking in the spirit. This is not the Orthodoxy I received from the saints. Their lives were, for me, an unwritten rubric that infected my life with the goodness they had received from Christ. Their faith, instilled into me (I hope) the trust in the Spirit who is the one sent by Christ from the Father to be with us always, that we never become orphans. And that faith and trust in love has been the certainty that makes full freedom possible.


Joan of Argghh! said...

I have been a bit torn by the abrupt refusal at Catholic communion I received last Thursday on the occasion of my brother's funeral. I have always taken the host and dipped it in the chalice in my church. I was greeted with a quick hand over the chalice and a solemn, "not in our parish!" admonition. I smiled and complied with her scruples, but not with her spirit.

I love the rites of the Church for their continuity across the ages. But I suppose we're all for upholding ritual and rule until it affronts an innocent supplication with its rigidity. I'm not so immature as to not move past the moment, but it was a harsh moment in a difficult setting.

That's why we need a living Savior, and not a dead ritual, as our ultimate comfort. That is why I am always blessed by your writings; you speak of Him and His standard of Love. It should always be our highest aim.

Thanks for the reassurance.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Some of the saddest moments in Church history have occurred exactly in that place—at the Communion Cup.

It always saddens me when I notice that a priest is refusing the Holy Mysteries to someone who has come forward to receive but is not Orthodox. I know the reasons why.
The priests are custodians of the Mysteries, and we hear prayed, ‘I will not reveal your mysteries to your enemies, nor give you a kiss as did Judas.’

In the days before rubricism took over, as a non-Orthodox Christian I was admitted to the mysteries of Confession and then to the Communion Cup by an Orthodox priest on the word of my testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. That was in the 1970's. That would never happen today.

Communion is not refused to untaught infants who have been duly baptised and chrismated, nor to unconfessed sinners who likewise have obtained the mark of the redeemed, often through no conscious choice of their own, but it is refused to saints who have not been qualified by the protocols of the Church.

This betrays a magical attitude to the Holy Mysteries and denies both priests and ordinary believers the practical experience of faith in Christ and knowledge by the Holy Spirit.

I too was reprimanded, and rightly, for touching the Communion Cup in the wrong way, but the correction seemed brutal in the circumstances, administered by a lavishly attired monk assisting the priest at the Cup.

What is wrong here is not even the forbidding of Cup or of unacceptable custom, but often the manner in which it is administered.

Thinking of an earlier post where I wrote that people seem to divide into two camps, those that believe in the divinity of Christ, and those who believe in His humanity, it seems to me that is what lies behind the attitudes and beliefs Christians have about Holy Communion. The former worship the Holy Mystery as the very Body, the latter partake of it casually not recognizing the Body. But Christ is the God-man. He is both fully divine and fully human. If for no other reason, those who administer the Cup of Salvation must remember that they are the human hands of the Son of God, who feeds us with the Divine Nature, with His Body and Blood, under the forms of bread and wine, and so administer them with the humanity and gentleness that the Pantokrator displays to all who approach Him in faith. Even knowing that His betrayer was among them, He did not refrain from handing that one the bread dipped in the dish at His mystical supper.

If only those who administered the Holy Gifts really did this as He commanded, ‘in remembrance of Me.’