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:: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 ::

Orthodoxy: Not Taking the Eucharist Seriously Enough? -- Part II:

Part I certainly drew some great comments! Keep 'em coming! In the original dialogue, Felix continued:

"We cannot say that we are allowing people to experience the life of the Church, all apart from Communion. If they are not joining us in that or experiencing it for themselves, they are *not* experiencing anything like the life of the Church. This is like me inviting you to join my family, but asking you to live in the back garden in a tent! Maybe EO need to be *more* organically integrated in this?!"

This analogy doesn't quite capture the nature of the relationship between those who have been united to the Church through the sacraments and those who are yet to. It also doesn't begin to explain why, if closed communion is wrong, why the Church was and is so protective of its mysteries.

For now consider this: You invite me over for a nice dinner with you and your wife and, when it's getting late and time for me to depart, I proceed to the bedroom with the two of you with my PJ's and toothbrush--fully expecting to sleep with you in your bed!

The revulsion one would (or should!) feel if someone demanded to sleep with his wife simply on the basis that they "have a relationship" with her is the same we feel when non-Orthodox demand we accept "open communion." It is here that we see closed communion as being precisely that which both maintains and furthers an integrated ecclesiology and sacramental vision.

He who takes the Eucharist seriously is he who freely offers it to those who would wish to be *fully* united with him AND, because of this love and compassion, guards and protects this wondrous gift from being abused and taken out of its proper and life-giving context. As I've written before, "family privileges come with family responsibilities." And for us they are hard to separate.

In the comments of Part I James of KY and James of the NW brought up a point that I've made before to friends--the interesting link between the EO understanding of our participation in the sacraments and our view of marriage. Here is something I once wrote to a friend:

St. Paul uses marriage as his prime analogy of the union between God and mankind (Eph 5:21-33). Just as sex is not merely a means to unity but the expression of a unity already existing, so with the sacraments and the life of the Church. That is why it is a sin to have sex outside of marriage--because premarital sex proclaims a union that is not complete.

So why has God created man and woman to be united in a sacramental and committed union, set apart from the couples' other relationships? Because He desires to unite them fully and completely in life, fullness of truth and in love to one another, and through that union, to all of the world. This is the same as our relationship in Christ, who is the Head of His Body, the Church.

If we desire to be united fully with Him, we will naturally want to be united to His Body as well. Just as a couple who isn't married can't claim they have the fullness of a love relationship, neither can those who are outside the Church claim they have the *fullness* of a love relationship with God.

Now, just because two people are married doesn't mean that they will display this unity. Two people can be married for years and never talk, and have never really learned to love each other with total self-denial and humility. In the same way, just because a person is a baptized Orthodox doesn't mean that they necessarily will come to be perfectly united to God. We need to "synergize" or cooperate with God to reach full union with Him. And sadly, many Orthodox don't.

It is also true that two people who are dating or engaged may have developed a deep and abiding love that is, in a sense, more "real" than another couple who is married. If they are responding to the call of love and are living, as best as they know how, God will work through that.

Yet most of us would consider an engaged couple not fully united as God intended until they are married. Not being joined fully to God by being united to His Church in the sacraments will leave us lacking the fullness of the love and grace God wishes to bestow on us. And why?

Because just as there is no such thing as a "married couple" without two members and their whole family connected to them in a union of mutual commitment to the truth and in love, so there is no such thing as an "individual" Christian without the Church to nurture them.

I have another interesting explanation of this from other sources....but I'll save it for another day.

:: Karl :: 8:44:00 AM [Link] ::

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