CONFESSION AND COMMUNION
by Fr. Michael J. Buben
The Great Lenten season prepares us for a renewal of our spiritual life. We learn that self-denial is not a purpose in itself, but only a means for positive and determined action. In preparation for, and during the season itself, we learn many things that enable us to fight all evil and return to the contrite Christian life.
From the parable of the Publican and Pharisee we learn the power of humble prayer. From the Prodigal Son we learn that for a repentful soul, spiritual happiness is never too late to be found; that the church always welcomes those who sincerely repent evil ways and seek to walk the path of righteousness again.
During the Lenten season it is our Christian duty to partake of the two important sacraments of the Lenten season — Confession and Communion. Let us seek to find why these sacraments were instituted.
Throughout the year we have voluntarily or involuntarily offended others because of prideful boasts; whereby we should have been humble. We have been angry with others; whereby we should be meek and love even our enemies. We have indulged to excess; whereby we should be temperate. We have envied the good fortune of others; whereby we should live and let live.
Our Lord instituted the Sacraments of Confession to enable us to empty our souls of the evil and sin which trouble our hearts. He told his Apostles — "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” (St. Matt. 18). “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (St. John 20:23).
This power to remit sins has passed down to your present day priests through an unbroken line of Apostolic Succession.
Learn to talk sincerely and repentfully of all your sins during confession. Remember that the priest is a sort of telephone between you and the Lord. The Lord will remit your sins and transgressions through the priest only if you sincerely are repentful of them. The priest who is under a sacred oath cannot through human weakness tell your sins to others. To do so would mean his unfrocking.
Before confession make a list of your past mistakes, resolve to improve your future life, have faith in God and his mercy and above all seek His advice and you shall receive it. A good prayer would be the one written by St. Ephrem the Syrian centuries ago —
“O Lord and Master of my life! The spirit of vanity, of idleness, of domination, of idle speech, give me not. But the spirit of chastity, of humility, of patience, of love, do Thou grant unto me Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me that I may perceive my transgressions and not condemn my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
After confession, and only then, are we prepared for the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. It is this Sacrament which forms the central pillar of the church’s foundation. It is this Sacrament that is performed during every liturgy, and it is only through partaking of this Sacrament that we can expect to obtain salvation and eternal life.
Holy Communion was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ at His Last Supper with the Apostles. During the supper our Lord took a loaf of bread — broke it and said — “Take eat: This is my body, which is broken for you for remission of sins.”
Then taking a chalice filled with wine our Lord said — “Drink ye all of it: This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for remission of sins.” “Do this in remembrance of me.”
We Orthodox Christians believe that during Divine Liturgy transubstansiation takes place through the help of the Holy Ghost. (i.e. the bread and wine become the True Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior.) This transubstansiation of bread and wine into Body and Blood is a great mystery, but we have faith that each time we partake of this mystery, we are adding the fuel for eternal life and eternal unity with God in the world to come.
From the Scriptures we learn further about Communion. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of God, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
After you have partaken of these two sacraments, you are again on the path of righteousness. Stay good. Do good. And as Christ trampled down death by His own death and Resurrection, we too can trample down sin and evil and live a good Christian life for the Glory of God.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America