At the risk of preaching to the choir, I have decided to address a matter that really concerns me as an Orthodox Christian, and as a priest of the Orthodox Church.
I have not written anything for the past few weeks because I was debating how to address this topic. At any rate, I feel that something should be said.
Over the years, the idea that one does not need to be an active member in the Church has evolved. I am not talking about being an active steward, necessarily, although that should be part of the equation (a topic for a future column). I am talking about being active in the life of the Church, in every aspect of it. Of course this presupposes that one is in a position to be active in the life of the Church.
What are the presuppositions to being an active member of the Church? First, and foremost, one must be baptized and chrismated as an Orthodox Christian, by a canonical Orthodox hierarch, or with the hierarch’s approval and blessings, an Orthodox priest. The idea that one just needs to have been born to Greek parents, or even Greek Orthodox parents, and is therefore also an Orthodox Christian (without having been baptized and chrismated) is wrong. Without this first presupposition, one may not participate in the sacramental life of the Church. Therefore, without this first presupposition, one is not capable neither of receiving Holy Communion, nor of acting as a Sponsor in the Sacraments of Baptism and Wedding, and most definitely not an active Orthodox Christian.
The topic of who is qualified to serve as a Sponsor seems to be one often a source of heated discussions. First, one must realize that a Sponsor is not a “best man” or a “maid of honor,” nor just a good friend. The Sponsor in a sacrament must be a dedicated, active and devout Orthodox Christian… one worthy of assisting you and your family in your attempt to become spiritually one with God; someone who you trust your family with. Therefore, one must choose their Sponsor wisely, and not just emotionally.
After one is baptized and chrismated, one receives, usually immediately, the Sacrament par excellence…Holy Communion (also known as the Holy Eucharist). In the early Church, all of the sacraments took place within the context of the Divine Liturgy. Traces of that are still found today, such as in the case of the Sacraments of Ordinations. It is within the Holy Eucharist that we, the faithful, become one with Christ, and one with all of the other faithful Orthodox Christians, throughout the world, and Christ becomes one with us. The reception of Holy Communion is not so much a right, as it is a privilege; it comes with certain obligations.
During the Divine Liturgy, we hear the call to Holy Communion: “With the fear of God, faith and love, draw near.” These are the first of the obligations. One must believe that the Holy Chalice contains the Body and Blood of Christ and nothing less, and that one has respect and awe, in a good sense, of it. Next, one must not have hard feelings for anyone. In addition, it is not enough to simply receive Holy Communion. Rather, one is to continue living the spiritual high point, after the Divine Liturgy.
This brings us to the core question… are we committed to all of the above? That is something we must each ask ourselves.