Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Non-Orthodox Christians Receiving Holy Communion

I have been asked a number of times over the past several months to explain the announcement made prior to Holy Communion each Sunday regarding non-Orthodox Christians and Holy Communion. I will offer a brief explanation of why we as Orthodox Christians do not share “open communion” with other Christians. I pray these words will help rather than hinder others to understand our Holy Orthodox Church.

“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17.11)

Shortly before His passion on the Cross, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ prayed these words that the Church would be united in the same manner as the Holy Trinity – a communion of individuals unique and distinct yet in total harmony as a community of love. The unity of the Church has been expressed throughout the centuries by the sharing of the chalice and the Holy Eucharist. It is true many non-Orthodox Christians like Orthodox Christians believe that in the chalice is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and that by receiving it we commune with God Himself in a mystical way.

But this belief in the contents of the chalice is where the similarity among Churches ends. In fact some Churches don’t even share that belief with the Orthodox Church. In our Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist, the sharing of the cup is itself possible only in unity and is seen as a result of unity rather than an agent to bring unity. In other words, as Orthodox Christians we are able to share the chalice because we are already united rather than sharing the chalice to become united.

All are welcome to attend our Divine Liturgy, but to share the common chalice which is an expression of existing unity when in fact there is no unity would be dishonest and I have yet to meet anyone who, being honest, can claim that Christianity is united with over 25,000 denominations of Christianity in the world today all claiming to be the True Church.

No comments: