The Duties Of A Western-Rite Orthodox Christian
All Orthodox Christians have certain duties that they ought fulfill to be considered in "good standing" with the Church. The basic duties are five in number:
1. The Duty Of Worship
Worship Consists of:
Daily Prayer - Orthodox Christians should pray at minimum daily each morning and evening.
Sunday Mass - All Orthodox Christians must participate in Sunday Mass. If they are traveling they ought find another Orthodox Church. If one should miss a Sunday Mass they should have confession before receivng Holy Communion.
Holy Days Of Obligation - There are some days that are considered equal to a Sunday Mass. On these days Christians should be present and assist at Mass without fail. These days are:
1. The Nativity of Our Lord, December 25
2. The Circumcission of Christ, January 1
3. Ascension Day, 40 Days after Pascha (Easter)
4. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15
5. All Saints Day, November 1
6. The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8
Other days that bear the same weight of moral obligation by common observance are the last three days in Holy Week - Maunday Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
3. The Duty Of Confession
Orthodox Christians should take seriously their privilege of maing their confessions of sins for th ehealing of thier souls. Confession is not coerced by the Church, so there are no specific or canonical rules stating when an Orthodox must make his confession, except that the Orhthodox Christian must make confession at least once each year and when in the state of grave sin, and therefore separation from God.
Holy Confession is a medicine for the soul and there are some sins that can only be cured with frequent confession. For some, this may mean that they should make confession weekly or every two weeks. A good rule of thumb is to make a sacramental confession once per month.
5. The Duty Of Almsgiving
Every Orthodox Christian must give alms. This is an essential Christian duty. If one has not tithed before, then one should begin by giving a small amount of their income and incrmentally increasing that amount each year.
Charitable giving is not about percentages it is rather a spiritual discipline. The Christian should give as much as they can joyfully give and then pray for an increase in charitiability. Our tithes support the material needs of the Church and clergy. Not only that, it allows the Church to give to others in need. To fail to give to the support of the Church and her ministry, is to steal from God.
2. The Duty of Fasting and Abstinence
Our Holy Mother, the Church, does not leave her children without guidance and to their own devices, in this important matter.
The Rule Of Abstinence - The rule affets only the kind of food, and has no reference to its quantity. Everyone over 7 years of age is bound to observe the rule of Abstinence. On abstinence days the faithful are obliged to abstain from flesh-meat (i.e., beef, poultry, or pork) and soup or the gravy made from meat. The number of meals and amount of food may be the same as on other days.
Complete abstinence is to be observed on all Fridays, Ash Wednesday, The Vigils of the Assumption and Christmas, and on Holy Saturday morning. Partial abstience is to be observed on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays, and on the Vigils of Pentecost, and All Saint's.
Although not required by rule, it is a laudable ancient custom that Wednesday's are kept as well.
The Rule Of Fasting - All Western-Rite Orthodox from 21-60 years of age are bound to observe the rule of fasting. The days of fasting are the weekdays of Lent, Ember Days, the Vigils of Pentecost, Assumption, All Saint's and Christmas.
On fasting days, only one full meal is permitted, to be taken about noon or later. Besides this full meal a collation is allowed in the evening. Besides the full meal and collation, general custom has made it acceptable to take a light breakfast in the morning as well.
It is permissible to eat meat at the principle meal on a Fast Day except on days which require complete abstinence (i.e., Fridays, Ash Wednesday and the Vigil of Christmas). Solid food between meals is not permitted Liquids, including coffee, tea, milk and fruit juices are allowed.
4. The Duty Regarding Holy Communion
Holy Communion is the most intimate moment in the life of an Orthodox Christian. It is complete union of God and man. The highest ideal would be that one receive the Holy Sacrament every day, but it is rare to have this opportunity.
Prayers of Preparation:
The beginning of preparing to receive Holy Communion is prayer. The Church commends to our use special praiyers to aid our preparation for Holy Communion. These prayers are said in addition to one's daily prayers.
St. Paul admonishes the Corinthians about this saying, "whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profanning the Body and Blood fo the Lord. Let man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and ddrinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself."
Love & Charity:
One must be in love and charity with one's neighbor before approaching the Blessed Sacrament. Our Blessed Lord says, "I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, "You fool!" shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your bother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Mt 5:22-24
We are to reconcile ourselves with others not only if they have offended us, but if we have offended them.
Intend to lead a New Life:
Before receiving Holy Communion, the Orthodox Christian must also have a firm intention to lead a "new life following the commandments of God." To work with God in changing whatever is lacking in his own life. Such a person refrains from making his own plans and judgements, accepting the judgements and will of God.