(Dateline, OC.net): As the millers of the OC.net Domain were milling about the courtyard of the OC.net palace, they were surprised and astounded when the balcony doors opened from FrChris' offices/brewpub/library/Skeet Surfing practice range. To the triumphal fanfare of kazoos played by the OC.net Heralds, the Forum Administrator strode to the balcony rail and spoke:
"To close out the year of 2008, we the Moderators, Global Moderators, and other helpers of Orthodoxchristianity.net have the privilege to award the December 2008 Post of the Month to GreekChef, for this wonderful contribution to the discussions presented on this site. Normally posts made in Private Forums are not presented publically, but in this instance it was considered sufficiently erudite to make an exception.
To present the setting, David Young had built upon some arguments made by the poster Cleopas regarding the Eucharist. GreekChef engaged him with the following:
I think Cleopas answered this at great length and in admirable detail earlier in the thread.
It is some while since I read the epistles of Ignatius, but I recall the feeling that with him, and with Clement of Rome, I was breathing a different atmosphere from the pages of the New Testament.
I don't know how widespread was the belief of Ignatius concerning the 'medicine of immortality', as so few writings have been preserved from those early days. Maybe he was unusual, maybe he was representative. So I can't go so far as to say that "from Christ himself onward the Eucharist has been known to be His literal body and blood." Let us rather agree that from Ignatius onward at least some believed this to be the case. Beyond that I don't think we can actually know: it becomes a matter of faith, or if you like of interpretation, of thinking about what Jesus and Paul actually meant when they spoke and wrote: even, one might say, of Tradition.
I have written a little book on the Lord's Supper. I dare say that if you read it, you would agree with all it says; only, if you also wrote a book about it, you would want to add more.
Thank you for your kind reply. It has opened my eyes to something I'm not sure that I saw before, though now that I think about it, I remember Cleopas posting with sort of the same sentiment.
I see in your posts (and Cleopas') a doubt about the beliefs of the early church. There seems to be some doubt in your mind (and his) as to what the early church believed, and whether the fathers (whose teachings we obviously hold to) were in fact correct in their writing. Having been raised in Orthodoxy and been schooled at Hellenic College Holy Cross (the Greek Orthodox seminary in Massachusetts), there has been little doubt in my mind as to the beliefs of the early church and the continuity thereof via the teachings of the saints, the ecumenical councils, the apostolic succession of the Orthodox church, etc. All of these things, which we hold to, are proof for me, that the teachings are correct and, more importantly, that they are imperative to our salvation. And every time I have a question or a doubt, there has ALWAYS been an answer from someone far more learned and Godly than me--- a saint. I am blessed to be married to someone who always knows where to direct me in my search for answers. But it has always been extremely vital to my faith that my faith is not based in my conscience, that I do not make doctrinal decisions based on what I think sounds correct, or what feels right, or where I think my prayers will lead me-- as I think it can be agreed upon that the evil one listens and responds to our prayers too and can lead us disguised as an angel of light. Rather, I turn to the continuity of the faith, the continuity of teachings, where I know the Holy Spirit has preserved the faith and will guide me to the answer.
My point is that where I find answers in the teachings of the fathers and accept them (even though I don't understand them), it seems that you (and Cleopas) doubt whether the very people who were there at the beginning even got it right! Yet you cite Wesley all the time, someone who lived hundreds of years after the apostles and the students of the apostles and the students of the students of the apostles... Other Protestants cite Calvin as Gospel truth, or Zwingli, or Luther, etc. Why rely on these people rather than those closest to the source? Why rely on the ones who (and maybe we disagree here, but it is hard for me to understand where the disagreement is, when you yourself said that the first writings doubting real presence were in the 10th century) obviously CHANGED what was known to be believed? Is it simply because that is what your conscience tells you? And what makes your conscience (or mine, or anyone living today) better and more knowledgeable than Ignatius (to name one) who himself was a disciple of John (and possibly Peter)?
Forgive the crude analogy, but I was a criminal science major for a short time and am a criminal law junkie... I think of it as hearsay. In a court of law in the U.S., Ignatius could be put on the witness stand to say, "I am a disciple of the Apostle John. He told me that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ." But if Wesley, Calvin, etc. were to attempt to testify to their understandings of what John said, the court would not allow it, because they did not hear it directly. Like the court, I am far more inclined to trust a credible primary source (as opposed to not credible-- like the Gnostic gospels), rather than one so far removed. This is my (albeit poor) attempt at an analogy for the importance of primary sources, and keeping those sources in their context. Although context itself can be an entirely different discussion, as "context" in the Orthodox church is kept through "Tradition."
I don't mean to turn this into a conversation about Tradition, but I do think it is part of the discussion (you hit the nail on the head when you said that). I guess I'm giving my reasons for putting my trust in the primary sources, and questioning (sincerely, again, not aggressively or judgmentally) why you put your trust in sources so far removed. So for me, even if we agree that it is "from Ignatius onward" (although I don't agree, I think there is just too much biblical evidence that agrees with the real presence), "from Ignatius onward" is far more trustworthy than "from the 10th century."
I would also argue that Ignatius' writings ARE representative of the common belief. Irenaeus of Lyons also writes of the Eucharist being the very body and blood of Christ in his Against Heresies
. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna. Polycarp of Smyrna was a disciple of the Apostle John. Considering that John was young during Christ's ministry, I would say that the jump from John to Irenaeus is also NOT a long one. Is it a coincidence that these two writers were both disciples of John and both learned of the Eucharist as being Christ's body and blood? I don't think so, personally. Is it a coincidence that not one, but two (and I'm sure there are more, but I'm focusing just on these two for tonight) writers from the VERY early church had the SAME belief about the Eucharist and THAT belief was the one that prevailed? If this were not the representative belief, surely the church, in her conciliar nature (which is seen from Acts onward) would have struck it down? But would the church have struck down the very teaching of John and Peter? I would say no. And if that is what John taught, then whether I understand it or not, it's good enough for me--in fact, who am I to doubt what John taught? Further, considering that the Gospels were originally transmitted as oral gospels, is it not likely that Ignatius, being one of John's disciples, was one of the transmitters of John's gospel? Why, then, would we separate John's gospel from one of the transmitters who led to its being written down, who led to Wesley and Calvin and us reading it? Why would we TRUST that Ignatius and the other Christians who transmitted it orally got it correct, but DOUBT that those same people got THE MEANING OF THE GOSPEL correct? Wouldn't that call into question the very trustworthiness of the Bible itself? Pair these things with the (IMHO) overwhelming Biblical evidence (the words of both Christ and the Apostle), and I'm certainly convinced.
I would also say that the assertion that the only difference in our belief is in the "mechanism" is incorrect. I'm going to definitely have to do some research on this, and I'm hoping in the meantime someone more learned in Orthodoxy than myself will fill in the gaps. For now I would say that this is a misunderstanding of Orthodox belief. It is MUCH more than just the "mechanism" that we disagree on. The very nature of the Eucharist itself is in question, not just how God gives us a blessing. For now, I'd like to post what St. John of Damascus said in An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith
. It is a lengthy quote, so please forgive me for that. But I just couldn't bear to cut his words. He says so beautifully what Ozgeorge, ialmisry, and I have been saying. While he may not directly answer the question of "what really hangs on it," he certainly demonstrates how we regard the Eucharist. Could such seriousness, gravity, sacredness, etc. as he demonstrates REALLY be attached to the Eucharist if it is NOT in fact the body and blood of Christ? I would say no, personally. And to the question of "what really hangs on it," my immediate response would be "I may not know the answer to that, but I'm 100% sure that God DOES know. Maybe He doesn't feel the need to share that with me, and maybe I'm not capable of understanding. But I'm okay with that. I trust Him." I will be searching for a more in depth answer from those more enlightened than I (the saints) tomorrow. But even without it, I've gotta say, I'm satisfied with not knowing and just having faith that, for some reason God thinks it's important enough to have been preserved and passed down as He originally instituted it. I'm gonna trust that.
I'll post the quote from St. John of Damascus below.
Before I do, though, I'll say one last thing. Please don't think that we are somehow putting you down in saying that you would not be allowed to receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox church. For us, the chalice is not a symbol of communion with our brothers. Rather, communion is IN the chalice, and there can be no communion without common belief. Beyond that, though, please understand that it is as ozgeorge said, that it is precisely out of love
that those who are not in communion with the church are not allowed to commune. It's not about who belongs to the club. St. John speaks pretty harshly in the quote that follows, but he speaks the truth in love. I don't believe that he is equating the nonOrthodox with dogs and swine. He is trying to emphasize the gravity receiving the sacrament unknowingly and undeservedly.
I look forward to more discussion, as I feel we are just beginning to scratch the surface!
Forgive me a sinner,
If then the Word of God is quick and energising(6), and the Lord did all that He willed(7); if He said, Let there be light and there was light, let there be a firmament and there was a firmament( 8 ); if the heavens were established by the Word of the Lord and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth(9); if the heaven and the earth, water and fire and air and the whole glory of these, and, in sooth, this most noble creature, man, were perfected by the Word of the Lord; if God the Word of His own will became man and the pure and undefiled blood of the holy and ever-virginal One made His flesh without the aid of seed(1), can He not then make the bread His body and the wine and water His blood? He said in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth grass(2), and even until this present day, when the rain comes it brings forth its proper fruits, urged on and strengthened by the divine command. God said, This is My body, and This is My blood, and this do ye in remembrance of Me. And so it is at His omnipotent command until He come: for it was in this sense that He said until He come: and the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit becomes through the invocation the rain to this new tillage(3). For just as God made all that He made by the energy of the Holy Spirit, so also now the energy of the Spirit performs those things that are supernatural and which it is not possible to comprehend unless by faith alone. How shall this be, said the holy Virgin, seeing I know not a man? And the archangel Gabriel answered her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee(4). And now you ask, how the bread became Christ's body and the wine and water Christ's blood. And I say unto thee, "The Holy Spirit is present and does those things which surpass reason and thought."
Further, bread and wine s are employed: for God knoweth man's infirmity: for in general man turns away discontentedly from what is not well-worn by custom: and so with His usual indulgence H e performs His supernatural works through familiar objects: and just as, in the case of baptism, since it is man's custom to wash himself with water and anoint himself with oil, He connected the grace of the Spirit with the oil and the water and made it the water of regeneration, in like manner since it is man's custom to eat and to drink water and wine(6), He connected His divinity with these and made them His body and blood in order that we may rise to what is supernatural through what is familiar and natural.
The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God's body and blood(7). But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out( 8 ). But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not(9) become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the table(1) and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one(2) and the same.
Wherefore to those who partake worthily with faith, it is for the remission of sins and for life everlasting and for the safeguarding of soul and body; but to those who partake unworthily without faith, it is for chastisement and punishment, just as also the death of the Lord became to those who believe life and incorruption for the enjoyment of eternal blessedness, while to those who do not believe and to the murderers of the Lord it is for everlasting chastisement and punishment.
The bread and the wine are not merely figures of the body and blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, "This is My body," not, this is a figure of My body: and "My blood," not, a figure of My blood. And on a previous occasion He had said to the Jews, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. For My flesh is meat indeed and My blood is drink indeed. And again, He that eateth Me, shall live(3)(4).
Wherefore with all fear and a pure conscience and certain faith let us draw near and it will assuredly be to us as we believe, doubting nothing. Let us pay homage to it in all purity both of soul and body: for it is twofold. Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross s let us receive the body of the Crucified One: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal, in order that the fire of the longing, that is in us, with the additional heat derived from the coal may utterly consume our sins and illumine our hearts, and that we may be inflamed and deified by the participation in the divine fire. Isaiah saw the coal(6). But coal is not plain wood but wood united with fire: in like manner also the bread of the communion(7) is not plain bread but bread united with divinity. But a body s which is united with divinity is not one nature, but has one nature belonging to the body and another belonging to the divinity that is united to it, so that the compound is not one nature but two.
With bread and wine Melchisedek, the priest of the most high God, received Abraham on his return from the slaughter of the Gentiles(9). That table pre-imaged this mystical table, just as that priest was a type and image of Christ, the true high-priest(1). For thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek(2). Of this bread the show-bread was an image(3). This surely is that pure and bloodless sacrifice which the Lord through the prophet said is offered to Him from the rising to the setting of the sun(4).
The body and blood of Christ are making for the support of our soul and body, without being consumed or suffering corruption, not making for the draught (God forbid!) but for our being and preservation, a protection against all kinds of injury, a purging from all uncleanness: should one receive base gold, they purify it by the critical burning lest in the future we be condemned with this world. They purify from diseases and all kinds of calamities; according to the words of the divine Apostles(5), For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. This too is what he says, So that he that partaketh of the body and blood of Christ unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself(6). Being purified by this, we are united to the body of Christ and to His Spirit and become the body of Christ.
This bread is the first-fruits(7) of the future bread which is epiou'sios, i.e. necessary for existence. For the word epiou'sion signifies either the future, that is Him Who is for a future age, or else Him of Whom we partake for the preservation of our essence. Whether then it is in this sense or that, it is fitting to speak so of the Lord's body. For the Lord's flesh is life-giving spirit because it was conceived of the life-giving Spirit. For what is born of the Spirit is spirit. But I do not say this to take away the nature of the body, but I wish to make clear its life-giving and divine power( 8 ).
But if some persons called the bread and the wine antitypes(9) of the body and blood of the Lord, as did the divinely inspired Basil, they said so not after the consecration but before the consecration, so calling the offering itself.
Participation is spoken of; for through it we partake of the divinity of Jesus. Communion, too, is spoken of, and it is an actual communion, because through it we have communion with Christ and share in His flesh and His divinity: yea, we have communion and are united with one another through it. For since we partake of one bread, we all become one body of Christ and one blood, and members one of another, being of one body with Christ.
With all our strength, therefore, let us beware lest we receive communion from or grant it to heretics; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, saith the Lord, neither cast ye your pearls before swine(1), lest we become partakers in their dishonour and condemnation. For if trojan is in truth with Christ and with one another, we are assuredly voluntarily united also with all those who partake with us. For this union is effected voluntarily and not against our inclination. For we are all one body because we partake of the one bread, as the divine Apostle says(2).
Further, antitypes of future things are spoken of, not as though they were not in reality Christ's body and blood, but that now through them we partake of Christ's divinity, while then we shall partake mentally(3) through the vision alone.