Holy Confession and Holy Eucharist – Sources of joy and eternal life

Message of His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, on the occasion of the International Theological Congress “The meanings and the importance of the Holy Sacraments of Confession and of Communion in the contemporary Orthodox theology, spirituality and mission(Bucharest, Dumitru Stăniloae National Centre for Continuing Education, 5 – 8 October 2014):

The International Theological Congress on the theme The meanings and the importance of the Holy Sacraments of Confession and of Communion in the contemporary Orthodox theology, spirituality and mission, organised by the Romanian Patriarchate in cooperation with “Patriarch Justinian” Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University of Bucharest and with the generous support of the State Secretariat for Religious Denominations, represents an important event within the context of the events dedicated to the Solemn Eucharistic Year (of the Holy Confession and of the Holy Communion). As an event of academic cooperation and spiritual communion, this congress represents a special occasion for hierarchs, priests and professors, specialists from Romania and other countries to give an edifying testimony on the importance of the Holy Confession and of the Holy Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church in today’s world.

Through the structure of the prepared program, the Eucharistic International Congress is not only expressed in its academic dimension, but it also has a significant pastoral perspective. Through the presence of the hierarchs and priests, as shepherds of the communities of believers, the pastoral character of the two Holy Sacraments can be better highlighted and assumed, as well as their relationship with the Divine Liturgy, with the life and mission of the Church. The subject of the Conference is relevant and highly topical for the present time because, against the strong secularising trends, the indifferentism to the sacred realm, the light of resurrection and of spiritual renewal acquired through Confession and the sanctification of the life acquired through the Eucharist, which is a foretaste of the peace and joy of the heavenly Kingdom of the Most Holy Trinity are presented as healing remedies.

The biblical and liturgical exhortation “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalms 34:8) is a calling to the understanding of the sense of life as relation of communion of the human being with God. That is why the Church calls us even during the time of our earthly life to the change and renewal of our life through the Holy Sacrament of Confession and to the communion of eternal love with the crucified and risen Christ. In this regard, Christ the Lord urges us by saying: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. (…) I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:27, 51).

1.While today’s secularised world stopped praying to God and is dominated by a spirit of dissatisfaction, the Eucharist of the Church, as a Sacrament of gratitude towards God the Creator and the Saviour of the world, offers us holy peace and profound joy sprung from humble and fiery prayer. Unfortunately, the secularised human being has lost the peace and the joy of the soul precisely because he lost the practice of prayer as a respiration of the soul in the gracious presence of the merciful love of God.

It is significant that the coming of Christ on earth as a human being begins with the proclamation of joy: “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10), while His ascension to heaven concludes with the joy of Christ’s blessing bestowed upon His disciples and through them to His whole Church: “And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). Nevertheless, this joy cannot be discursively defined and analysed, but rather shared in the communion of life of Christ’s Church, which lives on His gracious presence in the prayerful ecclesial community (see Matthew 28:20).

2.For this reason, we must overcome the individualistic approach towards the Sacraments of Confession and of Eucharist, rediscovering their ecclesial dimension as sources of joy, holiness and spiritual growth of the ecclesial community found in communion. Through the Eucharistic Liturgy we offer the creation (the world) and ourselves to God as our answer to the love of God the Creator, the Saviour and the Sanctifier of the world. We give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity because Her humble and merciful love has been revealed to the world through the love of Jesus Christ, Who was crucified, risen and ascended to heaven. That is why, we say in the prayer of preparation before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ: “We entrust to You, oh Master, Who loves mankind, our whole life and hope”. 3.Since in the Holy Eucharist Christ offers Himself to us in a state of holiness and sacrificial love, we also must approach the Holy Eucharist in a state of humble and sacrificial love; that is in a state of fasting and of purity of the soul and body. For this reason, in a prayer of preparation we ask: “O Saviour, sanctify my mind and soul, heart and body, and grant me uncondemned, O Lord, to approach Your fearful Mysteries”. The purpose of the communion in the Body and Blood of the Saviour is the sanctification of the soul and body and attaining salvation, that is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

In this sense, the Eucharistic communion offers us strength in order to crucify our inner egoism and vanity and to cultivate a humble and merciful love, manifested through prayer and good deeds. In this respect, Father Dumitru Stăniloae asserts: “The Body and the Blood of Christ filled us too with light. Through them we saw light; we saw the sacrifice of love to the very end, experienced in the body for us by the Son of God and we have felt it in ourselves. We saw that the sense and the fullness of life stand in the sacrifice of the Son of God for us out of love, in order to bear fruit in our sacrifice for the others out of love. The sacrifice of the incarnated God opens for us too the ascent towards our perfection in God through sacrifice, once through sacrifice He descended to us and made perfect our humanity that was assumed by Him… We experience the sensible life lived by Him in His Body as ours. We no longer have in ourselves an earthly spirit, but the heavenly Spirit of Christ. Therefore we understand, we see, we feel the true Light, identical with eternal Life” (Prof. Prof. Dr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Spirituality and Communion in the Orthodox Liturgy, Publishing House of the Biblical and Missionary Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Bucharest, 2004, pp. 610-611).

In conclusion, we particularly appreciate the academic and spiritual event organized these days in Bucharest through the International Theological Congress dedicated to the Eucharist and Confession as sources of renewal of the spiritual life today.

In this sense, we warmly congratulate the organisers and we bless the distinguished speakers invited from home and abroad, as well as all the participants in the works of this conference, with the hope that it will be a moment of joy and fraternal communion in the love of Christ.

Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church