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THE TEACHING OF BLESSED MATTHEW OF BRESTHENA REGARDING FREQUENT RECEPTION OF COMMUNION Written in 1933 by Archimandrite Matthew [Carpathaces] of Great Laura, the future Bishop of Bresthena (1937‐1949), and Metropolitan of Athens (1949‐1950), of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece (+14 May, 1950). Is it possible, you ask me, to receive Communion? Why, don’t we have to become saints in order to be worthy, as Blessed Chrysostom calls out in his liturgy, “The Holies for the holy?” And who can become a saint? You’re not able? Then, are the Holy Scriptures false? “And ye shall be holy men unto me (Exodus 22:31);” “I said ye are gods (Psalms 81:6).” This is what God says about us. So, who is able? As many as desire this, cleanse yourselves from every bodily and spiritual sin, and you will immediately become saints. I do not tell you this myself, God says it through the Apostle. “So clean yourselves, brethren, from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).” But is it difficult? I do not deny it. But it is probably not as difficult as you think. Consider this… An infant or even a very sinful old man, upon leaving the baptismal font, is he not worthy to commune of the Holy Mysteries? Yes, and who can doubt this? Baptism is a divine bath, it is a purification of sins, it is a spiritual rebirth. In the baptismal font we bury the old person of sin, and we put on the new man, Jesus Christ. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27),” says he who ascended to the third heaven. So, what if it was possible to multiply the Mystery of Holy Baptism? What I am trying to say is, if it was possible for us to be baptized every time we wished, then you would no longer have any doubt that we worthily commune of the Mystery of the Frightful Eucharist. So if I prove to you that every time you wish, it is possible to enter the baptismal font and to get baptized, then you would no longer be able to leave [i.e., shun the Mystery of Holy Communion]. You must conclude then, that it is possible to become worthy of the Mystery of Holy Communion. And is not Repentance, my brethren, a second baptismal font, into which it is possible to enter every time we wish and as many times as we wish, and nobody can prevent us? Is not Repentance a font equivalent to the font of Holy Baptism? “Tears dropped are equivalent to the font.” Yes, the tear, whenever it drops from our eyes for our sins, has the power of Holy Baptism. “And toilsome lamentation brings back the grace which departed for some time.” A lamentation from the heart ascends to heaven, and brings down that grace, which we have lost because of the multitude of our sins. It is not my opinion, but that of Gregory of Nyssa and the moral teachers of the Church. See now, upon what that which seemed impossible and most difficult to you depends? Upon one tear, one lamentation! “Tears dropped are equivalent to the font, and toilsome lamentation brings back the grace which departed for some time.” (Gregory of Nyssa, Words Concerning Repentance). What is this? I knew it! In the midst you bring to me the canons of St. Basil, the revealer of heavenly things, to St. Amphilochius, in order to oppose me. And you tell me, “Does not St. Basil, the revealer of heavenly things, define in his canons that for those who steal to not receive Communion for two years; for those who murder, twenty; for those who commit adultery, fifteen years; and so forth? For nearly all sins he appoints many years for us to abstain from Communion.” And what is concluded from this? Is it concluded that it is not possible for us to become worthy to receive Communion? Or rather that Repentance does not have the same power that Baptism has? Both conclusions are erroneous. They are erroneous because from these same canons of St. Basil, it is concluded that it is possible for us to become worthy to receive Communion, since he himself appoints that after so many years, depending upon the sin, we may receive Communion. So the revealer of heavenly things himself says that it is possible for us to become worthy. Basil also believed that Repentance is equivalent to Baptism and that there is no other difference between Baptism and Repentance, except that Repentance only blots out the voluntary sins, while Baptism also blots out the ancestral sin. But because he was most exact and perfect in everything, he desired a sure and true Repentance. And because he knew how easy it is for man to fall into evil, especially after he has fallen once, for this reason he appointed the years so that everybody be informed, and for us ourselves to be informed, that our Repentance is sure and true. So whenever Repentance is perfect and true, what then remains? Then everything remains to the judgment of the corrector of our souls and spiritual father, as St. Basil himself, the revealer of heavenly things, clearly appoints in his second canon, and informs us, how he agrees with all the other fathers: “To also define the therapy of Repentance not based on time but on manner.” And behold how Repentance is equivalent to Baptism even according to St. Basil, if you interpret his opinion correctly. And behold how you no longer have any reply to a truth so evident. Tell me, my Christians, after Pascha, which will be in a few days, what will you do? Do you celebrate Pascha? What a ridiculous question! Yet, this is what I ask you. Do you celebrate Pascha as all Christians have the obligation to do? Do we celebrate Pascha? Indeed, all of us with such eagerness await Pascha. The Lord grant! [i.e., God willing!] But I am afraid that few of us celebrate Pascha. Pascha, O Christians, is not that which is commonly called pascha, to wit, the partaking of meat and the rest of the foods. That is called eating; that is called nourishment. Pascha, however, is the Communion of the Mysteries! This is Pascha, as God told Moses, “and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Pascha (Exodus 12:11).” Know therefore, all of you who do not wish to commune of this mystical Pascha, that you will not have any reply; you will not be able to find any excuse when you appear before the judgment of the fearful God. —“And why did you not condescend,” the God‐man will tell you then, “when I was crying out to you to come eat my bread, and drink my wine, which I have treated to you? Why such contempt for me, when I have showed you so much love? You see this Cross? You see these wounds? Out of love for you I endured them.” —“Lord we were not worthy.” Is this what you have to respond to Him? —“And you do not know how to cleanse yourselves with Repentance, to wash yourselves with tears, to bathe yourselves with Confession?” —“But it was difficult for us to stop sinning.” —“So you preferred your passions and your sins above me? Therefore, since you desired to be separated from me while you were living on earth, separated from my word you must also be in heaven. Is this really so, O wretched and unfortunate ones, as many of you as are wounded by your passions, and full of your uncleanness and sins?” O my Lord, I am the first [among sinners], and what will become of me then during so many frightful censures? And what will become of all of you who are similar to me? It would have been better if we were never born. —“Such contempt for my blood? Such contempt for my body?” the Judge will cry, “Are your hands filthy and have you sacrificed me and cut me to pieces, and touched me, as did the Jews? Are your lips foul and have you kissed me, as did Judas? Is your heart dirty and have you partaken of me? Is your soul sinful, and have you been insolent?” And what will I say, what will I reply, when, after the censures, Hades immediately swallows me up? My Christian brethren, please listen to me carefully. We cannot remain without Holy Communion: “If we do not eat of the body of the Son of Man and drink His blood, we have no life in us.” And we cannot receive Communion unworthily: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” If we do not receive Communion: despair. If we receive Communion unworthily: hell. Therefore, we must receive Communion worthily (which, as I have shown you, is possible) in order to inherit eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and power unto the ages of ages. Amen. Thus in the above homily by Blessed Matthew Carpathaces, we see that the worthiness of a communicant is obtained by the Mystery of Repentance, which is equal to Baptism, and is sealed by receiving Holy Communion itself.
Repentance means to no longer set your mind on earthly things, but on the kingdom of God.
I de- and then the process of sanctification begins...” livered a message that said though we are saved through Jesus’ blood on the cross, the condition of salvation is As soon as I heard these words, I knew in my spirit repentance and faith.
4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Reconciliation to God begins with repentance.
ANCIENT AND CONTEMPORARY FATHERS REGARDING SO‐CALLED “WORTHINESS” OF THE HOLY MYSTERIES St. John Cassian (+29 February, 435) totally disagrees with the notion of Bp. Kirykos that the early Christians communed frequently supposedly because “they fasted in the fine and broader sense, that is, they were worthy to commune.” Blessed Cassian does not approve of Christians shunning communion because they think of themselves as unworthy, and supposedly different to the early Christians. Thus whichever side one takes in this supposed dispute of Semipelagianism, be it the side of Blessed Augustine or that of Blessed Cassian, the truth is that both of these Holy Fathers condemn the notions held by Bp. Kirykos. Blessed Cassian writes: “We must not avoid communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful. We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit, but with such humility and faith that considering ourselves unworthy, we would desire even more the medicine for our wounds. Otherwise it is impossible to receive communion once a year, as certain people do, considering the sanctification of heavenly Mysteries as available only to saints. It is better to think that by giving us grace, the sacrament makes us pure and holy. Such people [who commune rarely] manifest more pride than humility, for when they receive, they think of themselves as worthy. It is much better if, in humility of heart, knowing that we are never worthy of the Holy Mysteries we would receive them every Sunday for the healing of our diseases, rather than, blinded by pride, think that after one year we become worthy of receiving them.” (John Cassian, Conference 23, Chapter 21) Now, as for those who may think the above notion is only applicable for the Christians living at the time of St. John Cassian (5th century), and that the people at that time were justified in confessing their sins frequently and also communing frequently, throughout the year, while that supposedly this does not apply to contemporary Orthodox Christians, such a notion does not hold any validity, because contemporary Holy Fathers, among them the Hesychastic Fathers and Kollyvades Fathers, have taught exactly the same thing as we have read above in the writings of Blessed Cassian. Thus St. Gregory Palamas, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Macarius Notaras of Corinth, St. Nicodemus of Athos, St. Arsenius of Paros, St. Pachomius of Chios, St. Nectarius of Aegina, St. Matthew of Bresthena, St. Moses of Athikia, and so many other contemporary Orthodox Saints agree with the positions of the Blessed Cassian. The various quotes from these Holy Fathers are to be provided in another study regarding the letter of Bp. Kirykos to Fr. Pedro. In any case, not only contemporary Greek Fathers, but even contemporary Syrian, Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian Fathers concur. St. Arsenius the Russian of Stavronikita (+24 March, 1846), for example, writes: “One can sometimes hear people say that they avoid approaching the Holy Mysteries because they consider themselves unworthy. But who is worthy of it? No one on earth is worthy of it, but whoever confesses his sins with heartfelt contrition and approaches the Chalice of Christ with consciousness of his unworthiness the Lord will not reject, in accordance with His words, Him that cometh to Me I shall in no wise cast out (John 6:37).” (Athonite Monastery of St. Panteleimon, Athonite Leaflets, No. 105, published in 1905) St. John Chrysostom (+14 September, 407), Archbishop of the Imperial City of Constantinople New Rome, speaks very much against the idea of making fasting and communing a mere custom. He instead insists on making true repentance of tears and communion with God a daily ritual. For no one passes a single day without sinning at least in thought if not also in word and deed. Likewise, no one can live a true life in Christ without daily repentance and frequent Communion. But in fact, the greatest method to abstain from sins is by the fear of communing unworthily. Thus, through frequent Communion one is guided towards abstinence from sins. Of course, the grace of the Mysteries themselves are essential in this process of cleansing the brain, heart and bowel of the body, as well as cleansing the mind, spirit and word of the soul. But the fear of hellfire as experienced in the partaking of communion unworthily is most definitely a means of preventing sins. But if one thinks that fasting for seven days without meat, five days without dairy, three days without oil, and one day without anything but xerophagy, is a means to make one “worthy” of Communion, whereas the communicant then returns to his life of sin until the next year when he decides to commune again, then not only was this one week of fasting worthless, not only would 40 days of lent be unprofitable, but even an entire lifetime of fasting will be useless. For such a person makes fasting and Communion a mere custom, rather than a way of Life in Christ. Blessed Chrysostom writes: “But since I have mentioned this sacrifice, I wish to say a little in reference to you who have been initiated; little in quantity, but possessing great force and profit, for it is not our own, but the words of Divine Spirit. What then is it? Many partake of this sacrifice once in the whole year; others twice; others many times. Our word then is to all; not to those only who are here, but to those also who are settled in the desert. For they partake once in the year, and often indeed at intervals of two years. What then? Which shall we approve? Those [who receive] once [in the year]? Those who [receive] many times? Those who [receive] few times? Neither those [who receive] once, nor those [who receive] often, nor those [who receive] seldom, but those [who come] with a pure conscience, from a pure heart, with an irreproachable life. Let such draw near continually; but those who are not such, not even once. Why, you will ask? Because they receive to themselves judgment, yea and condemnation, and punishment, and vengeance. And do not wonder. For as food, nourishing by nature, if received by a person without appetite, ruins and corrupts all [the system], and becomes an occasion of disease, so surely is it also with respect to the awful mysteries. Do you feast at a spiritual table, a royal table, and again pollute your mouth with mire? Do you anoint yourself with sweet ointment, and again fill yourself with ill savors? Tell me, I beseech you, when after a year you partake of the Communion, do you think that the Forty Days are sufficient for you for the purifying of the sins of all that time? And again, when a week has passed, do you give yourself up to the former things? Tell me now, if when you have been well for forty days after a long illness, you should again give yourself up to the food which caused the sickness, have you not lost your former labor too? For if natural things are changed, much more those which depend on choice. As for instance, by nature we see, and naturally we have healthy eyes; but oftentimes from a bad habit [of body] our power of vision is injured. If then natural things are changed, much more those of choice. Thou assignest forty days for the health of the soul, or perhaps not even forty, and do you expect to propitiate God? Tell me, are you in sport? These things I say, not as forbidding you the one and annual coming, but as wishing you to draw near continually.” (John Chrysostom, Homily 17, on Hebrews 10:2‐9) The Holy Fathers also stress the importance of confession of sins as the ultimate prerequisite for Holy Communion, while remaining completely silent about any specific fast that is somehow generally applicable to all laymen equally. It is true that the spiritual father (who hears the confession of the penitent Orthodox Christian layman) does have the authority to require his spiritual son to fulfill a fast of repentance before communion. But the local bishop (who is not the layman’s spiritual father but only a distant observer) most certainly does not have the authority to demand the priests to enforce a single method of preparation common to all laymen without distinction, such as what Bp. Kirykos does in his letter to Fr. Pedro. For man cannot be made “worthy” due to such a pharisaic fast that is conducted for mere custom’s sake rather than serving as a true form of repentance. Indeed it is possible for mankind to become worthy of Holy Communion. But this worthiness is derived from the grace of God which directs the soul away from sins, and it is derived from the Mysteries themselves, particularly the Mystery of Repentance (also called Confession or Absolution) and the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ (also called the Eucharist or Holy Communion). St. Nicholas Cabasilas (+20 June, 1391), Archbishop of Thessalonica, writes: “The Bread which truly strengthens the heart of man will obtain this for us; it will enkindle in us ardor for contemplation, destroying the torpor that weighs down our soul; it is the Bread which has come down from heaven to bring Life; it is the Bread that we must seek in every way. We must be continually occupied with this Eucharistic banquet lest we suffer famine. We must guard against allowing our soul to grow anemic and sickly, keeping away from this food under the pretext of reverence for the sacrament. On the contrary, after telling our sins to the priest, we must drink of the expiating Blood.” (St. Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ). St. Matthew Carpathaces (+14 May, 1950), Archbishop of Athens, while still an Archimandrite, published a book in 1933 in which he wrote five pages regarding the Mystery of Holy Communion. In these five pages he addresses the issue of Holy Communion, worthiness and preparation. Nowhere in it does he speak of any particular pre‐communion fast. On the contrary, in the rest of the book he speaks only about the fasts of Wednesday and Friday throughout the year, and the four Lenten seasons of Nativity, Pascha, Apostles and Dormition. He also mentions that married couples should avoid marital relations on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Aside from these fasts and abstaining, he mentions no such thing about a pre‐communion fast anywhere in the book, and the book is over 300 pages long. In the section where he speaks specifically regarding Holy Communion, Blessed Matthew speaks only of confession of sins as a prerequisite to Holy Communion, and he mentions the importance of abstaining from sins. Nowhere does he suggest that partaking of foods on the days the Orthodox Church permits is supposedly a sin. For to claim such a thing is a product of Manicheanism and is anathematized by several councils. But Blessed Matthew of Bresthena was no Manichean, he was a Genuine Orthodox Christian, a preserver of Orthodoxy in its fullness. The fact he had 600 nuns and 200 monks flock around him during his episcopate in Greece is proof of his spiritual heights and that he was an Orthodox Christian not only in thought and word, but also in deed. Yet Bp. Kirykos, who in his thirty years as a pastor has not managed to produce a single spiritual offspring, dares to claim that Blessed Matthew of Bresthena is the source of his corrupt and heretical views. But nothing could be further from the truth. In Blessed Matthew’s written works, which are manifold and well‐ preserved, nowhere does he suggest that clergy can simply follow the common fasting rules of the Orthodox Church and commune several times per week, while if laymen follow the same Orthodox rules of fasting just as do the priests, they are supposedly not free to commune but must undergo some kind of extra fast. Nowhere does he demand this fast that is not as a punishment for laymen’s sins, but is implemented merely because they are laymen, since this fast is being demanded irrespective of the outcome of their confession to the priest. Yet despite all of this, Bp. Kirykos arbitrarily uses the name of Bishop Matthew as supposedly agreeing with his positions. The following quote from the works of Blessed Matthew will shatter Kirykos’s notion that “fasting in the finer and broader sense” can make a Christian “worthy to commune,” without mentioning the Holy Mysteries of Confession and Communion themselves as the source of that worthiness. The following quote will shatter Bp. Kirykos’ attempt to misrepresent the positions of Blessed Matthew, which is something that Bp. Kirykos is guilty of doing for the past 30 years, tarnishing the name of Blessed Matthew, and causing division and self‐destruction within the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece, while at the same time boasting of somehow being Bishop Matthew’s only real follower. It is time for Bp. Kirykos’ three‐decades‐long façade to be shattered. This shattering shall not only apply to the façade regarding the pharisaic‐style fast, but even the façade regarding the post‐1976 ecclesiology held by Bp. Kirykos and his associate, Mr. Gkoutzidis—an ecclesiology which is found nowhere in the encyclicals of the Genuine Orthodox Church from 1935 until the 1970s. That was the time that Mr. Gkoutzidis and the then layman Mr. Kontogiannis (now Bp. Kirykos) began controlling the Matthewite Synod. On the contrary, many historic encyclicals of the Genuine Orthodox Church contradict this post‐1976 Gkoutzidian‐ Kontogiannian ecclesiology, for which reason the duo has kept these documents hidden in the Synodal archives for three decades. But let us begin the shattering of the façade with the position of Blessed Matthew regarding frequent Communion. For God has willed that this be the first article by Bishop Matthew to be translated into English that is not of an ecclesiological nature, but a work in regards to Orthopraxia, something rarely spoken and seldom found in the endlessly repetitive periodicals of the Kirykite faction.
If God has put a curse on someone, and you'd come around and take that off without repentance of that soul, you see, you've done like Moses did when he smote the rock instead of speaking to it.
CAN FASTING MAKE ONE “WORTHY” TO COMMUNE? In the first paragraph of his first letter to Fr. Pedro, Bp. Kirykos writes: “... according to the tradition of our Fathers (and that of Bishop Matthew of Bresthena), all Christians, who approach to receive Holy Communion, must be suitably prepared, in order to worthily receive the body and blood of the Lord. This preparation indispensably includes fasting according to one’s strength.” To further prove that he interprets this worthiness as being based on fasting, Metropolitan Kirykos continues further down in reference to his unhistorical understanding about the early Christians: “They fasted in the fine and broader sense, that is, they were worthy to commune.” Here Bp. Kirykos tries to fool the reader by stating the absolutely false notion that the Holy Fathers (among them St. Matthew of Bresthena) supposedly agree with his unorthodox views. The truth is that not one single Holy Father of the Orthodox Church agrees with Bp. Kirykosʹs views, but in fact, many of them condemn these views as heretical. And as for referring to St. Matthew of Bresthena, this is extremely misleading, which is why Bp. Kirykos was unable to provide a quote. In reality, St. Matthew’s five‐page‐ long treatise on Holy Communion, published in 1933, repeatedly stresses the importance of receiving Holy Communion frequently and does not mention any such pre‐communion fast at all. He only mentions that one must go to confession, and that confession is like a second baptism which washes the soul and prepares it for communion. If St. Matthew really thought a standard week‐long pre‐communion fast for all laymen was paramount, he certainly would have mentioned it somewhere in his writings. But in the hundreds of pages of writings by St. Matthew that have been collected, no mention is made of such a fast. The reason for this is because St. Matthew was a Kollyvas Father just as was his mentor, St. Nectarius of Aegina. Also, the fact St. Matthew left Athos and preached throughout Greece and Asia Minor during his earlier life, is another example of his imitation of the Kollyvades Fathers. As much as Bp. Kirykos would like us to think that the Holy Fathers preach that a Christian, simply by fasting, can somehow “worthily receive the body and blood of the Lord,” the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church actually teach quite clearly that NO ONE is worthy of Holy Communion, except by the grace of God Himself. Whether someone eats oil on a Saturday or doesnʹt eat oil, cannot be the deciding point of a person’s supposed “worthiness.” In fact, even fasting, confession, prayer, and all other things donʹt come to their fulfillment in the human soul until one actually receives Holy Communion. All of these things such as fasting, prayers, prostrations, repentance, etc, do indeed help one quench his passions, but they by no means make him “worthy.” Yes, we confess our sins to the priest. But the sins aren’t loosened from our soul until the priest reads the prayer of pardon, and the sins are still not utterly crushed until He who conquered death enters inside the human soul through the Mystery of Holy Communion. That is why Christ said that His Body and Blood are shed “for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28). Fasting is there to quench our passions and prevent us from sinning, confession is there so that we can recall our sins and repent of them, but it is the Mysteries of the Church that operate on the soul and grant to it the “worthiness” that the human soul can by no means attain by itself. Thus, the Mystery of Pardon loosens the sins, and the Mystery of Holy Communion remits the sins. For of the many Mysteries of the Church, the seven highest mysteries have this very purpose, namely, to remit the sins of mankind by the Divine Economy. Thus, Baptism washes away the sins from the soul, while Chrism heals anything ailing and fills all voids. Thus, Absolution washes away the sins, while Communion heals the soul and body and fills it with the grace of God. Thus, Unction cures the maladies of soul and body, causing the body and soul to no longer be divided but united towards a life in Christ; while Marriage (or Monasticism) confirms the plurality of persons or sense of community that God desired when he said of old “Be fruitful and multiply” (or in the case of Monasticism, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”). Finally, the Mystery of Priesthood is the authority given by Christ for all of these Mysteries to be administered. Certainly, it is an Apostolic Tradition for mankind to be prepared by fasting before receiving any of the above Mysteries, be it Baptism, Chrism, Absolution, Communion, Unction, Marriage or Priesthood. But this act of fasting itself does not make anyone “worthy!” If someone thinks they are “worthy” before approaching Holy Communion, then the Holy Communion would be of no positive affect to them. In actuality, they will consume fire and punishment. For if anyone thinks that their own works make themselves “worthy” before the eyes of God, then surely Christ would have died in vain. Christ’s suffering, passion, death and Resurrection would have been completely unnecessary. As Christ said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick (Matthew 9:12).” If a person truly thinks that by not partaking of oil/wine on Saturday, in order to commune on Sunday, that this has made them “worthy,” then by merely thinking such a thing they have already proved themselves unworthy of Holy Communion. In fact, they are deniers of Christ, deniers of the Cross of Christ, and deniers of their own salvation in Christ. They rather believe in themselves as their own saviors. They are thus no longer Christians but humanists. But is humanism a modern notion, or has it existed before in the history of the Church? In reality, the devil has hurled so many heresies against the Church that he has run out of creativity. Thus, the traps and snares he sets are but fancy recreations of ancient heresies already condemned by the Church. The humanist notions entertained by Bp. Kirykos are actually an offshoot of an ancient heresy known as Pelagianism.
The TRUE book of the LAW.
They opened the world up to me, from a whole ‘nother perspective – another side that I didn’t know until after I had repented – realizing how many broken hearts they rescued from death and brought to repentance.