Dear Fr Christopher,
Thank you so much for your detailed answer to my query.
The question occurred to me when I came across an article in an orthodox
news website (
From the first moment I read it I realized that some of the views
expressed by the priest who wrote it are extremely problematic. And
thatís when I started reading the references he uses to support his
argument that Christians did not partake frequently and to imply that
this is the correct practice. I knew that something was wrong with this
idea because all the books and commentaries I have read explicitly state
that frequent and worthy communion is the ideal.
Thank you for your comprehensive answer, which helped me understand the
true meaning of Chrysostomís words.
As a follow up question, I would like to provide two more extracts from
Homily III - Against the Jews: 4.
Why, then, do we fast for forty days? In the past,
and especially at the time when Christ entrusted to us these sacred
mysteries, many a man approached the sacrificial banquet without thought
or preparation. Since the Fathers realized that it was harmful for a
person to approach the mysteries in this heedless fashion, they came
together and marked out forty days for people to fast, pray, and gather
together to hear the word of God. Their purpose was that we might all
scrupulously purify ourselves during this time by our prayers,
almsgiving, fasting, vigils, tears, confessions, and all the other pious
practices, so that we might approach the mysteries with our consciences
made as clean as we could make them.
So if a Jew or pagan ask you why you are fasting, do not tell him that
it is because of the Pasch or because of the mystery of the cross. If
you tell him that, you give him an ample grip upon you. Tell him we fast
because of our sins and because we are going to approach the mysteries.
In the first extract the Holy Father states that the reason why Lenten
fast was established is the fact that many approached the holy mysteries
unprepared. So at first reading thereís a connection between fasting and
communion. The same applies to the second one. How could we address
these two extracts having in mind your previous reply?
Thank you so much for your help.
Have a great Lent, too, full of Godís grace and help.
Kissing your hand,
Answer to Question 94.
I read the text from the Romfea site and have to agree with you that the
archimandrites view's are not in line with what is generally accepted as
church history even though he is referring only to the church of
We know from the Acts of the Apostles and from Corinthians that the
early church assembled on the first day of the week to celebrate the
Eucharist, through which they proclaimed the Lord's death and confessed
his resurrection. Eventually they gave this day a Christian name, the
Day of the Lord, Kyriaki Hmera (Rev 1:10). We do not know much else
about the practices of the first century church but from the second
century we have a letter from St. Irenaeus to Pope Victor where he makes
mention of the fasting practices that were being observed in his time by
various local churches. He wrote concerning the Pascal fast that some
thought that they should fast for one day, others for two, other for
three days; others fasted by counting forty hours. Irenaeus observes
that this variety did not begin in his time but was traditionally handed
down by their ancestors. By the third century the fast was extended to
include the whole week before Pascha and by the fourth century this was
the universal practice and the week became known as Holy and Great week.
The Lenten fast of forty days was something completely separate and
distinct from Pascha. Various opinions are available as to its origin,
the most prevalent being the Alexandrian explanation that it began
immediately after the feast of Theophany in imitation of the forty day
fast of the Lord in the wilderness after his baptism. In the fourth
century this fast was moved and joined to the Pascal fast, but separated
by the two day festival of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. Thus the
Lenten fast ended with the Friday before Lazarus Saturday and the fast
of Holy Week began on Holy and Great Monday. These two fasts are still
separate today even thought it seems like one continuous fast for almost
fifty days. The separation of the two is seen in that we eat fish on
Now let's see the text in question. In the first paragraph Chrysostom is
not saying that people should not commune during Lent. He approaches the
problem of people coming for communion without proper preparation and I
would say that he is again referring to the majority of the faithful who
only partake once a year or on the Great Feasts. They have become
consumed with their daily preoccupations and the cares of this world and
have forgotten the true meaning of life, sinking into a world void of
Christ. Without any spiritual preparation they partake only out of a
duty and for the namesake of being a Christian. The fathers,
understanding that approaching the mysteries in this careless fashion
can cause them more harm than good and also understanding that the
individual cannot undertake the difficult journey to spiritually return
on his own, decided to establish the period of Lent, where with the help
of the church through fasting, prayer and readings, repentance,
confession and almsgiving, the person is given the strength and support
to help him safely reach the desired destination. In other words,
Chrysostom says that Lent is a period for purifying ourselves from the
passions and elements of this world, which darken our understanding of
spiritual matters and having accomplished this, we can then approach the
mysteries with a clear conscious that we have done all that is in our
power to not take the Body and Blood of our Lord in a casual manner.
He does not say this only for the Pascha communion, but for every
Liturgy. Before the said paragraph he says that: Our Pascha and Lent are
not one and the same thing; Pascha he says is one thing and Lent
another. Lent comes once each year, but Pascha is celebrated three or
four times a week or whenever we wish, meaning that every Liturgy is the
celebration of Pascha. Pascha he says is not the fast, but the offering
and sacrifice which is celebrated at each religious service, and he
continues: as often as we approach the sacrificial banquet with a clean
conscience we celebrate Pascha. In other words we do not fast for Pascha,
but so that we can approach with a clear conscience the divine mysteries
at whatever liturgy we desire.
So that we understand what he means he repeats the message: You
celebrate Pascha not when you fast but when you share in that sacrifice.
"For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this cup, you
proclaim the death of the Lord." Our Pascha is the proclamation of the
Lord's death. The sacrifice which we offer today, that which was offered
yesterday, and each day's sacrifice is alike and the same as the
sacrifice offered on that Sabbath day; the sacrifice offered on that
Sabbath is no more solemn than today's, nor is today's of less value
than that; they are one and the same, alike filled with awe and
I do not know if I have misunderstood what Chrysostom is saying but
nowhere in the text can I deduce that he implies that we fast during
Lent to partake only once a year at Pascha.
The next paragraph only verifies this understanding of Lent. If a Jew or
a Pagan asks you why you are fasting don't tell him that it is because
of Pascha or because of the mystery of the Cross. Tell him we fast
because of our sins and because we are going to approach the mysteries.
He has already said that Pascha and Lent are two separate things and
that Pascha is celebrated at every Liturgy. We do not fast for the feast
but so that we can cleanse ourselves to be able to approach the
mysteries with a clean conscience. We do not fast for Pascha he says
because fasting has a mournful character and Pascha is not a reason for
fasting or grief; it is a reason for cheerfulness and joy. Also the
Cross has taken away sin, it was an expiation for the world, a
reconciliation for the ancient enmity. It opened the gates of heaven,
changed those who hated into friends; it took our human nature, led it
up to heaven, and seated it at the right hand of God's throne. And it
brought to us ten thousand other blessings.
With love in Christ