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Chrysostom on Withholding Communion

13 Sep

Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, the famous Bishop of Constantinople at the turn of the fifth century. He was given the title “Chrysostom, which means “golden mouthed,” because of his eloquent sermons. He’s also known as a doctor of the Church because of his timeless, orthodox teaching.

In his book Luminous Mysteries, Scripture scholar Tim Gray quotes at length from St. John Chrysostom’s homily “On the Institution of the Eucharist,” which I reprint below. I think you’ll agree that it’s quite instructive on the controversial subject of the sacred minister’s duty to withhold Communion from a notorious sinner:

“I speak not only to the communicant, but also I say to the priest who ministers the Sacrament: Distribute this gift with much care. There is no small punishment for you, if being conscious of any wickedness in any man, you allow him to partake of the banquet of the table: ‘Shall I not now require his blood at your hand?’ (2 Sam. 4:11). If some public figure, or some wealthy person who is unworthy, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, forbid him. The authority that you have is greater than his. Consider if your task were to guard a clean spring of water for a flock, and you saw a sheep approach with mire on its mouth–you would not allow it to stoop down and pollute the stream. You are now entrusted with a spring, not of water, but of blood and of spirit. If you see someone having sin in his heart (which is far more grievous than earth and mire), coming to receive the Eucharist, are you not concerned? Do you try to prevent him? What excuse can you have, if you do not? Continue reading