Chrysostom on Distribution of the Lord’s Supper

These things I say to you that receive, and to you that minister. For it is necessary to address myself to you also, that you may with much care distribute the gifts there. There is no small punishment for you, if being conscious of any wickedness in any man, you allow him to partake of this table. “His blood shall be required at your hands.” Ezekiel 33:8 Though any one be a general, though a deputy, though it be he himself who is invested with the diadem, and come unworthily, forbid him, the authority you have is greater than his. You, if thou were entrusted to keep a spring of water clean for a flock, and then were to see a sheep having much mire on its mouth, you would not suffer it to stoop down unto it and foul the stream: but now being entrusted with a spring not of water, but of blood and of spirit, if you see any having on them sin, which is more grievous than earth and mire, coming unto it, are you not displeased? do you not drive them off? and what excuse can you have?

For this end God has honored you with this honor, that you should discern these things. This is your office, this your safety, this your whole crown, not that you should go about clothed in a white and shining vestment.

And whence know I, you may say, this person, and that person? I speak not of the unknown, but of the notorious.

Shall I say something more fearful. It is not so grievous a thing for the energumens [demon-possessed] to be within, as for such as these, whom Paul affirms to trample Christ under foot, and to account the blood of the covenant unclean, and to do despite to the grace of the Spirit. For he that has fallen into sin and draws nigh, is worse than one possessed with a devil. For they, because they are possessed are not punished, but those, when they draw nigh unworthily, are delivered over to undying punishment. Let us not therefore drive away these only, but all without exception, whomsoever we may see coming unworthily.

Let no one communicate who is not of the disciples. Let no Judas receive, lest he suffer the fate of Judas. This multitude also is Christ’s body. Take heed, therefore, you that ministerest at the mysteries, lest you provoke the Lord, not purging this body. Give not a sword instead of meat.

Nay, though it be from ignorance that he come to communicate, forbid him, be not afraid. Fear God, not man. If you should fear man, you will be laughed to scorn even by him, but if God, you will be an object of respect even to men.

But if you dare not to do it yourself, bring him to me; I will not allow any to dare do these things. I would give up my life rather than impart of the Lord’s blood to the unworthy; and will shed my own blood rather than impart of such awful blood contrary to what is meet.

But if any has not known the bad man, after much inquiry, it is no blame. For these things have been said about the open sinners. For if we amend these, God will speedily discover to us the unknown also; but if we let these alone, wherefore should He then make manifest those that are hidden.

But these things I say, not that we repel them only, nor cut them off, but in order that we may amend them, and bring them back, that we may take care of them. For thus shall we both have God propitious, and shall find many to receive worthily; and for our own diligence, and for our care for others, receive great reward; unto which God grant we may all attain by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory world without end. Amen. [Homilies on Matthew, 82.6]



7 thoughts on “Chrysostom on Distribution of the Lord’s Supper

  1. “Give not a sword instead of meat”

    This says it all. The again, I don’t think most people even most pastors take St. Paul very seriously in 1 Cor. 11 when he warns of the consequences of communing unworthily.

  2. Steven G. – it seems the issue Paul is addressing has to do more with the shameful way those who “have” are behaving in front of those who “have not” (11.22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?…11.33So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment). I believe it is more a question of how we treat those marginalized socially – namely, the “poor” – rather than whether those who are “saved” or not should take communion. With respect…

  3. IMHO, St Paul addresses two things in this passage. The first thing we addresses is what the Corinthians were doing wrong when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. I think you quite accurately stated the problem. They were mistreating the poor among him. The other thing that St. Paul addresses in this passage is why they were doing that. They were doing it because they did not understand what the Lord’s Supper is.

    To read the entire passage the way you seem to read is to forget St. Paul’s admonition that those who do not discern the body eat and drink judgment on themselves. (11:29)

  4. Ryan wrote, “I believe it is more a question of how we treat those marginalized socially – namely, the ‘poor’ – rather than whether those who are ‘saved’ or not should take communion.”

    Ryan, with equal respect, you mistake the symptom for the disease. Yes, this passage does address rich people who scorned poor people during the love feast and before the altar of the Lord. But that is only the “presenting problem,” so to speak. The real problem is divisions at the Lord’s Supper. (Read the beginning of the section: because of the divisions, they are not eating the Lord’s Supper, but a bunch of separate suppers.) The fact that rich people were eating a lot and getting drunk only shows how bad the divisions had gotten.


  5. Are not even the divisions really a symptom of the disease of not recognizing Christ’s very body and blood present in, with, and under the bread and the wine?

  6. I’m not sure which came first. Either they became divided and then they could no longer recognize Christ’s body, or they didn’t recognize His body and so allowed divisions to come among them. I think we see it happen both ways in the Church.

    Good point, though.


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