Thursday, July 29, 2010

Communion in the Church: What is It?

The other night at dinner with David and Julia, as we were discussing the difficulties Demetrios and I have been having making friends at the church in Liverpool, Julia observed that public worship is supposed to be all about communion, "and if one isn't in communion with the rest of the people, it all falls apart,doesn't it? One may as well stay home to worship!"

My unspoken, instant reaction was, "I'm not out of communion; they are!" which attitude, of course, immediately knocked me right out of communion.

That's when it dawned upon me what a great spiritual opportunity lies before me. Here is a perfect chance to learn that all-important virtue of being non-judgmental, for starters. I could also stop being as self-conscious as I have been here, paying attention to how I appear in others' eyes. I could return my attention to God, for example! I could pray more instead of noticing what Presbytera does, or anyone else, and on and on and on. Oh, yes, there is much spiritual profit to be had here, for the price of time and effort.

But Julia's astute comment started me thinking, because what she said, while perfectly true in her context (I suppose), is not entirely true in an Orthodox context. Everybody including Julia knows that 'communion', as used in church, means something deeper than happy socializing; yet if there is no social intercourse, what's to make us think anything deeper exists? If there is some sort, any sort, of spiritual communion, shouldn't it be showing up at the social level as well, filtering down to that level, as it were?

I remembered the words of Christ: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I, in the midst of them." Two or three? Well, yes, we have that many and perhaps many more; how could I count them, who aspire to cease judging my fellow man?

And for those two or three, or two or three dozen, or however many there are, their communion is with Christ, and through and in Him, with one another. And this is true even if they live in different places or in different centuries, and whether or not they have even met each other. It's true in spite of their sins and weaknesses, among which lack of friendliness is only one, and not necessarily the worst.

My concern must only be with my own sins and weaknesses, and whether I am and remain one of that number.

I need your prayers.  Thank you.


GretchenJoanna said...

Well said, all of it. Glory to God for His great love that brings us together in spite of our sins. Lord, have mercy!

Bb said...

You're quite right, of course. Fr Andrew Phillips, (one of our more prolific priests here in Britain, just in case his fame hasn't crossed the Atlantic), wrote about this once, not directly but in terms of reasons people give for not going to a certain church or being reluctant about confessing to a particular priest: 'I don't warm to him', 'I don't find him "approachable"', 'I don't think he likes me'. None of these things, perceived or real, negates the communion that exists among us and the priest's place within that. We are to be known by our fruit, yet among the Saints who bore the most spritual fruit, who were seen as most Christ-like, were those who did not socialise, who retreated from the world, or were completely devoid of social skills by the standards of the world, which thought them quite mad.

Yet we are also to be known to be Christian by our love. While church life as an ongoing bake sale/social function may not be our cup of tea, if this makes for discomfort for anybody, or a sense of rejection or difficulty becoming part of the parish community, then we are failing in that love and need to reassess how we are with people.

I either get overfamiliar too soon or, in an attempt to avoid this, end up seeming aloof. I never get it right.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Michael, your comment warms my heart because I never get it right, either, except when my getting it wrong is what the other person(s) end up liking. As when I'm over-familair right away, but so are they. Or I'm shy and stand-offish for a while, but they like it better that way because they are, too.