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October 13, 2014

St. Pachomios of Chios on the Frequent Reception of Holy Communion

The Frequent Reception of Holy Communion

By Saint Pachomios of Chios 
(1839 - 10/14/1905)

Founder of the Skete of the Holy Fathers in Chios
and Spiritual Guide of St. Nektarios of Aegina

Who will not lament the ignorance, and pity the state of our priests today? Where has it ever been heard for Christians to go to church, ask to receive Communion, and the priests to prevent them, saying that "Communion is not tomato soup"? They say: "It hasn't even been forty days since you last communed, yet you come to receive again?" Even during the first week of Great Lent, I know many men and women who uphold the three-day fast, and on Wednesday they go to the Presanctified to commune, yet they are prevented by the priests who say: "You were eating meat until yesterday, and today you come to commune?" And secondly they say: "The Presanctified is for the priests, and not for the laity." Alas! our ignorance and folly! Although you, O clergyman, eat meat in the evening, and often happen to be drunk, yet you go and liturgize, but the one who fasts with such reverence you prevent? And you deny them such benefit and sanctification.

Do you see the ignorance of our priests? "This Presanctified," they say, "is for the priests, and not for secular people." Basil the Great says: "I commune my parishioners four times a week," just like Chrysostom and the entire Church of Christ did. They had this habit to commune four times a week, and because during Great Lent the Liturgy could not take place during the week, the Holy Fathers decided to issue a Presanctified, for the sole purpose of communing Christians during the course of the week, and you say Presanctified is for the clergymen?

And behold, O reader, that as long as this practice of frequent Communion was done by Christians, their hearts were inflamed by the grace of Holy Communion, and they would run to their martyrdom, like sheep. Therefore, whichever priest prevents Christians from receiving the Immaculate Communion, let them know well, that they are greatly sinning. However, I am not saying that we should commune simply at will, but with proper preparation.

I have also heard certain priests say: "I am a priest and I frequently liturgize and commune, but the lay person does not have the license." In this, my brother priest, you are greatly in error, because Communion does not distinguish at all between a priest and a lay person; for you, priest, are a servant of the Mystery and do not have a license to frequently commune while a lay person does not. Concerning this I have many proofs from the saints, that it has been agreed that the Communion of the Immaculate Mysteries should be received frequently by all, without distinction, whether they be hierarchs, priests or individuals, both men and women, except those who have been married three times; whoever has taken three spouses, they can only receive Communion three times a year.

I have a myriad of proofs regarding this, but which shall I write to you first? From Chrysostom, Clement, Symeon of Thessaloniki, David? Which, I say to you, shall I first tell you? Regarding this I have so many proofs, that I would need to fill an entire book. For this reason I am cutting short my words and I tell you with immediacy only the following: if you do not want to frequently commune Christians, why do you hold the Holy Chalice and show it to the Christians and cry out from the Holy Altar, "With the fear of God, faith and love, come forth" and approach the Mysteries to commune? And then you yourselves prevent them, being openly deceitful? Thus on the one hand you invite them and on the other hand you send them away.

Source: From the book Elder Pachomios - Founder of the Sacred Skete of the Holy Fathers in Chios, by Antonios N. Harokopos, pp. 141-142, Athens, 2003 (Greek). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.