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Author Topic: Having trouble understanding the Eucharist  (Read 2249 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 06, 2011, 04:11:25 AM »

I would really appreciate some insight on this. I'm having trouble understanding the Eucharist as anything more than symbolic. I have heard people describe it before but I just don't get it.

Please don't take offense at what I say regarding this. I truly don't mean to insult the Eucharist... whatever exactly it is. It's just that I feel like I'm up against some kind of spiritual/mental wall or something.

It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from or better than prayer?

I am concerned about the physicality of it, because the minute there is something physical that contains Christ, people can withhold it from us. ...but is it right to contain Christ this way, even if only symbolically? ...I am just sooooo confused about this. Please have mercy on me and help me understand.
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2011, 06:22:41 AM »

The Gospel According to St. John is especially helpful in this matter; the sixth chapter, in particular.   angel
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2011, 06:34:15 AM »

Trying to understand the Mysteries of the church intellectually is going to be difficult.  These are faith issues - just as understanding The Trinity is very much a faith issue.  

But, Orthodox first believe it because Christ Himself said He was the Bread from Heaven.  Read John 6, especially verses 26-60

Quote
vs 51I am the living bread that came down out of heaven, if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread which I give for the life of the word is My flesh

Quote
vs53 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.

yes, it does sound a lot like cannibalism and I don't know how to explain that it's not except to say, "it's not."  It is a mystical union and a mystery.
It's important because it imparts Eternal life- I don't claim to understand this myself but it is what Christ said.  One of the pre-communion prayers says it is "provisions for the journey of Eternal Life".   The church gives us many tools for our "journey of eternal life".  Just like when you go on a road trip you take along many tools (maps, GPS, water, food, gas up the car, etc.) the Church gives us tools (gifts) such as fasting, prayer, the Bible - and the Eucharist, which is Christ Himself.  He gives Himself to us at each Liturgy.  He comes to us in the Gospel readings and, most importantly, in the Eucharist.

I don't know if that helps - keep dialoging with us to wrestle with this, but more important pray.  Pray "Lord I believe, help my unbelief!"

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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2011, 06:39:47 AM »

Try listening to these podcasts at Ancient Faith Radio: http://goo.gl/Kj0GW
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2011, 07:16:32 AM »

Also keep read over 1st Corinthians 10:16-21 & 11:23-31. As mentioned above read John 6 & take note of vs. 60.
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2011, 10:03:03 AM »

Thank you all so much!  angel I was really afraid that you all would be too offended to respond kindly. I appreciate your help so much!  Cry  Kiss
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2011, 10:23:24 AM »

The "why" basically has to do with being fully united to God through Jesus Christ in every aspect of His human-divine nature (yes, I stole some OO terminology  Tongue). When we receive the Eucharst, we receive everything that He is and become united to Him in every aspect - including physically.
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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2011, 10:25:42 AM »

Thank you all so much!  angel I was really afraid that you all would be too offended to respond kindly. I appreciate your help so much!  Cry  Kiss
Many of us on this forum had previous affiliations prior to becoming Orthodox and had this or similar faith matters to resolve. May you be truly blessed.
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2011, 10:41:11 AM »

I would really appreciate some insight on this. I'm having trouble understanding the Eucharist as anything more than symbolic. I have heard people describe it before but I just don't get it.

Please don't take offense at what I say regarding this. I truly don't mean to insult the Eucharist... whatever exactly it is. It's just that I feel like I'm up against some kind of spiritual/mental wall or something.

First and foremost remember that the Eucharist, the body of Christ, is a mystery.

Another mystery, is that the Church is also the body of Christ.  It is not the Church that exists for, or "generates," the liturgy, [the  Eucharist,]  it is the Eucharist which, in a very real sense, "generates" the Church, makes her to be what she is.  please read if you want: Theology and Eucharist by Fr Alexander Schmemann



Quote
It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from or better than prayer?

I am concerned about the physicality of it, because the minute there is something physical that contains Christ, people can withhold it from us. ...but is it right to contain Christ this way, even if only symbolically? ...I am just sooooo confused about this. Please have mercy on me and help me understand.


Reading this may also be helpfull:  Holy Eucharist by V. Rev. Thomas Hopko
and The Sacraments by V. Rev. Thomas Hopko
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2011, 10:43:57 AM »

I too struggle with this.  How do we know he wasn't speaking in parable again?

"Unless you eat my flesh & drink my blood"....  Jews freaked out.
"Destroy this temple and I'll rebuild it in 3 days".... Jews freaked out.

The question I have is if Jesus didn't mean this symbolically, then whey didn't he cleave off some of his flesh for the apostles?

Thanks.
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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2011, 11:22:38 AM »

I too struggle with this.  How do we know he wasn't speaking in parable again?

"Unless you eat my flesh & drink my blood"....  Jews freaked out.
"Destroy this temple and I'll rebuild it in 3 days".... Jews freaked out.

The question I have is if Jesus didn't mean this symbolically, then whey didn't he cleave off some of his flesh for the apostles?

Thanks.

I have got to correct you; many Jews did freak out but some did not. Of course, I would imagine even more would have freaked out if He had cleaved off some of his flesh for them to eat. The problem many folks have is thinking that the only reality is a material reality. For such folks, true faith and true relationship with God is impossible. In any case, does it really matter that we must explain the Real Presence in scientific terms? Symbolic or not, the Real Presence is the one Mystery (or sacrament) that forces us to lift our materialistic blinders and see another kind of reality. It is a good thing that we struggle with this because the end result can be good beyond words.
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2011, 11:59:11 AM »

is it right to contain Christ this way, even if only symbolically?
I believe it was St. Athanasius who said (and I paraphrase) that while Christ the Logos was incarnate in the Theotokos, living His life, and on the Cross, in the grave, etc, the Logos did not cease to uphold and cause all things in the universe. This may be a paradox to us finite beings, but it is nonetheless true. The same can be applied to the Eucharist on this point.

It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from or better than prayer?

Because our salvation is physical as well as spiritual. We humans are psycho-spiritual-biological unities, and Christ came down to enter into that reality Himself. That is why the post-Eucharistic prayer says "...Consume me not, O my Creator, but instead enter into my members, my veins, my heart...as from a fire as I become Your tabernacle through Communion."

And St. Paul who says "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."
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« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2011, 12:19:49 PM »

Christos anesti!
I would really appreciate some insight on this. I'm having trouble understanding the Eucharist as anything more than symbolic. I have heard people describe it before but I just don't get it.

Please don't take offense at what I say regarding this. I truly don't mean to insult the Eucharist... whatever exactly it is. It's just that I feel like I'm up against some kind of spiritual/mental wall or something.

It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from or better than prayer?

I am concerned about the physicality of it, because the minute there is something physical that contains Christ, people can withhold it from us. ...but is it right to contain Christ this way, even if only symbolically? ...I am just sooooo confused about this. Please have mercy on me and help me understand.
Using proof of contradiction, let's see an analogy with the transmission of disease.

Diseases relatively rarely transmit from one species to another.  It was a big deal, for instance, when the aviary virus jumped from chickens and infected humans, and that meant that now whole human populations formerly relatively safe behind the wall between the species were now exposed now that that wall had been breached.  That is why many scientists question the use of human genetic material being used in animals, because, for instance, human tissue raised out of pigs will make humans more vulnerable to diseasses among pigs (which is already possible).

Angels do not share a nature like humans do, which is why Lucifer's fall didn't lead to ancestral sin among the angels. Each angel fell individually, as it was created individually. They have nothing linking them by their nature. So they do not eat, marry, beget, etc.  Other than association, they have no connection with any other creation.  They are each a universe in themselves. Which is one reason how they are not, unlike man, created in the image and likeness of God, Who is the unity of three Persons of one nature.

One of those Persons, becoming incarnate, breaches the seperation between the divine and the created, shaing human nature, and thereby making all those who share that nature susceptable to infection, in this case by divinity.  It is this bridge between the uncreated and created at work in the Eucharist-i.e. in the divine-human Person of Christ-that allows human nature to be filled with divinity.  Without this, prayer is no different from two angels associating with each other, two parrallel universes not overlapping or meeting in any sort of union.  Like a person not susceptible to the contagen of an animal sick with a non-human disease, man would not be susceptible to theosis.

I seem to remember in grade school chemistry something about the differences between chemical compounds and mixtures and things like that, but I can't recall the particulars. Maybe I'll ask my son, the school chemistry champ.  Cheesy
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« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2011, 12:22:21 PM »

I too struggle with this.  How do we know he wasn't speaking in parable again?

Because we have context outside of the text to frame our understanding. Every single ancient church recognizes this reality, albeit sometimes couched in different terms. Every ancient church (even heretical Valentinian Gnostics and Arians) all affirmed that a miracle happens during the liturgy and the bread and wine really become Him, and that we ingest Him for our salvation.
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« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2011, 12:27:50 PM »

Christ is risen!
I too struggle with this.  How do we know he wasn't speaking in parable again?

Because we have context outside of the text to frame our understanding. Every single ancient church recognizes this reality, albeit sometimes couched in different terms. Every ancient church (even heretical Valentinian Gnostics and Arians) all affirmed that a miracle happens during the liturgy and the bread and wine really become Him, and that we ingest Him for our salvation.
and someone who knew the Evangelist John, Patriarch St. Ignatius, tells us so: "The Eucharist is the self-same Body Which hung upon the Cross for our salvation."
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« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2011, 01:47:32 PM »

If you are having trouble understanding Eucharist, I would suggest considering the following:

1.  As Scripture says, the promises were not made to "seeds" of Abraham but to one Seed (the Messiah), and to all those that are of one flesh and blood with Him. 
2.  Our whole person is saved by Christ:  our body, and our soul.   If our whole person is saved, and will be resurrected, and we shall not participate in the Resurrection unto life without being completely at one (body and soul) with the Messiah, then how can it possibly be symbolic.  The Lord did not come to give us empty symbols (i.e. "more things to do"), but to be one with Him in every sense, to participate in His Incarnation.   God became man that man might become God.  This is not possible if "symbol" means mere supplementary "representation," but rather complete and whole RE-PRESENTATION, i.e. the full presence in humanity and divinity and full union of His humanity with our humanity, and full energetic participation in the Divinity. 
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« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2011, 01:51:51 PM »

The question I have is if Jesus didn't mean this symbolically, then whey didn't he cleave off some of his flesh for the apostles?

Because it would have been repulsive?
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« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2011, 01:59:09 PM »

The question I have is if Jesus didn't mean this symbolically, then whey didn't he cleave off some of his flesh for the apostles?

Why would he, if he could turn bread into his flesh?

Why send a scapegoat into the wilderness? Couldn't God forgive the Hebrews' sins without condemning a goat to death?

God has reasons for these things that we probably can't understand. Questions like "Why didn't Jesus..." are ultimately unhelpful and unanswerable. The Church preserves for us all the revelation we are likely to get on the subject.
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« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2011, 02:17:05 PM »

Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us?

Christ needs to be made physically available for us so that we can participate in Him physically.
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« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2011, 02:19:23 PM »

in every aspect of His human-divine nature (yes, I stole some OO terminology  Tongue)

This shouldn't be regarded as particularly OO terminology since it was utilized by Ephesus I and Constantinople II.
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« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2011, 02:21:17 PM »

The question I have is if Jesus didn't mean this symbolically, then whey didn't he cleave off some of his flesh for the apostles?

Because that would involve mutilation of the body, whereas the Eucharist does not.
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« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2011, 02:31:46 PM »



It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from or better than prayer?

When cannibalism is in question, it is impossible to eat a living man's body. Consuming the flesh means killing that person. In the Eucharist, however, we receive the body of the living Christ, and He never dies.

Second, in cannibalism a person's body turns into food whereas in the sacrament of the Eucharist food turns into Lord's body.
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« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2011, 05:03:29 PM »

I too struggle with this.  How do we know he wasn't speaking in parable again?

Because we have context outside of the text to frame our understanding. Every single ancient church recognizes this reality, albeit sometimes couched in different terms. Every ancient church (even heretical Valentinian Gnostics and Arians) all affirmed that a miracle happens during the liturgy and the bread and wine really become Him, and that we ingest Him for our salvation.

Yes. it has to do with who interprets... the Church Fathers or John Calvin?  With things like this we have to look at how the church has historically interpreted it...and not go down the path of new beliefs.
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« Reply #23 on: May 06, 2011, 05:35:44 PM »

He is "eaten yet never consumed." 



It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from or better than prayer?

When cannibalism is in question, it is impossible to eat a living man's body. Consuming the flesh means killing that person. In the Eucharist, however, we receive the body of the living Christ, and He never dies.

Second, in cannibalism a person's body turns into food whereas in the sacrament of the Eucharist food turns into Lord's body.
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« Reply #24 on: May 06, 2011, 08:24:14 PM »

He is "eaten yet never consumed." 



It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from
or better than prayer?

When cannibalism is in question, it is impossible to eat a living man's body. Consuming the flesh means killing that person. In the Eucharist, however, we receive the body of the living Christ, and He never dies.

Second, in cannibalism a person's body turns into food whereas in the sacrament of the Eucharist food turns into Lord's body.

Agreed.

I do feel that many are not considering the massive amount of lessons taught in parable, that are symbolic, yet meaningful and fully symbolic.

"I am the living bread" - ie -  no baking, symbolic.
"Eat my flesh & drink my blood" - No cleaving.

Matt 26:26 - While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."   - he took the BREAD, gave thanks for himself (Eucharist) to himself (Trinity as an example to us), and said "take eat this is my body". 

Matt 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave [it] to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
Matt 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins


Matt 26:29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.

He still called it "fruit of the vine" - which is exactly what grapes are that make wine.

Anyway, that's one of the many reasons people are confused on the Eucharist.   Was it symbolic to Jesus ie- representation?  Or was it him?

Could the Eucharist be his symbolic bread in representation of his body, just as the prodigal son represents people who fall from God?
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« Reply #25 on: May 06, 2011, 09:41:58 PM »

One problem with that analysis: no-one, anywhere believed the Eucharist was symbolic in the early church.

I am not saying this to be dismissive, I just think it's a huge problem for your analysis and one I had to get over myself!
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« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2011, 10:29:40 PM »

One problem with that analysis: no-one, anywhere believed the Eucharist was symbolic in the early church.

I am not saying this to be dismissive, I just think it's a huge problem for your analysis and one I had to get over myself!

I'm very curious to read EARLY church fathers on this subject (pre Nicean not that they were not early, but they were 325 years....)

Do anybody have any suggestions on things I could read that the early church fathers wrote about the Eucharist being the ACTUAL body & blood of Christ? Perhaps something by Cyprian, Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus (Lyons)...

Even Origen I'd love to read (sorry his writing is fascinating and complex and I'd love to see his take).  Side question, isn't he kind of considered a "heretic" or "distant" in some ways to the EO?  Thanks.
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« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2011, 10:50:12 PM »

I'll try to dig something up for you, but before I do, I'd like to also offer this:

1 Corinthians 11 (as early as 60 AD -- the earliest extant account of the Mystical Supper):

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

I have never, ever heard a half-decent explanation of what it means to "not discern the Lord's body" from a Zwinglian it's-only-symbolic protestant. How can not discerning a symbol cause you to become weak and sickly and "sleep" (ie: die)?

Hope this helps for now. I will dig up some pre-Nicene patristic sources shortly!
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« Reply #28 on: May 06, 2011, 10:55:49 PM »

Even Origen I'd love to read (sorry his writing is fascinating and complex and I'd love to see his take).  Side question, isn't he kind of considered a "heretic" or "distant" in some ways to the EO?  Thanks.

Yes, Origen and Origenism have been condemned by one of the councils.

I also like Origen a lot and think his condemnation was a bit unfair. I think he was unfairly tainted by the teachings of his later followers. In any case, reading Origen is useful because he was such a powerful influence on later fathers of unassailable orthodoxy.
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« Reply #29 on: May 06, 2011, 11:46:37 PM »

Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 AD:

I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his Blood, which is love incorruptible. (Letter to the Romans 7:3)

They [i.e. the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. (Letter to the Smyrnians 7:1)

Justin, the Martyr and Philosopher, c. 100 AD - 165 AD:

For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus. (First Apology 66)

Irenaeus of Lyons, c. 140 AD - 200 AD:

But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of their Lord, and the cup His Blood, if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator? [...] How can they say that the flesh which has been nourished by the Body of the Lord and by His Blood gives way to corruption and does not partake of life? [...] For as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, consisting of two elements, earthly and heavenly [...] (Against Heresies 4:18:4-5)

When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life -- flesh which is nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord [...] receiving the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ [...] (Against Heresies 5:2:2-3)

Tertullian, c. 155 AD - 250 AD:

The flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, so that the soul, too, may fatten on God. (Resurrection of the Dead 8:3)

We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground […] (The Crown 3:3-4)

Origen, c. 185 AD - 255 AD:

We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a Sacred Body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it. (Against Celsus 8:33)

You see how the altars are no longer sprinkled with the blood of oxen, but consecrated by the Precious Blood of Christ.

You are accustomed to take part in the Divine Mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish [...] how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body? (Homilies on Exodus 13:3)

Now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as He Himself says: "My flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink”. (Homilies on Numbers 7:2)

Cyprian of Carthage, c. 200 AD -- 260 AD:

He Himself warns us, saying, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you shall not have life in you". Therefore do we ask that our Bread, which is Christ, be given to us so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body. (The Lord's Prayer 18)

If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is Himself the High Priest of God the Father; and if He offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if He commanded that this be done in commemoration of Himself – then certainly the priest, who imitates [at the altar] that which Christ did, truly functions in the place of Christ. (Letters 63:14)
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« Reply #30 on: May 06, 2011, 11:53:46 PM »

Justin, the Martyr and Philosopher, c. 100 AD:

For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus. (First Apology 66)
Justin's First Apology is c.a. 150 AD, not 100.
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« Reply #31 on: May 07, 2011, 12:00:12 AM »

I must confess, in an effort to save myself time, I stole the dates from a Catholic apologetics website, so will take correction from anyone with a superior level of knowledge!

Edit: I added some better date ranges to the original post but still stand to be corrected.
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« Reply #32 on: May 07, 2011, 12:57:15 AM »

Wow, thanks again for all of the input, everyone. This has been very helpful for me. I think I have just a few remaining questions.

If the Eucharist is necessary for theosis, what does it mean when people try their best to practice theosis but for whatever reason never get to take communion? And what about people who have never heard of Orthodoxy but are nevertheless practicing something similar to theosis? Also, why is it necessary to take communion repeatedly, rather than just once?

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« Reply #33 on: May 07, 2011, 01:55:00 AM »

Christ is risen!
Wow, thanks again for all of the input, everyone. This has been very helpful for me. I think I have just a few remaining questions.

If the Eucharist is necessary for theosis, what does it mean when people try their best to practice theosis but for whatever reason never get to take communion?
It is like the Fathers who predated Christ.  The Lord's hand is not shortened that He cannot save.

And what about people who have never heard of Orthodoxy but are nevertheless practicing something similar to theosis? Also, why is it necessary to take communion repeatedly, rather than just once?
Because Theosis is a journey which never ends. You can never have too much God.
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« Reply #34 on: May 07, 2011, 02:00:37 AM »

Christ is risen!
Wow, thanks again for all of the input, everyone. This has been very helpful for me. I think I have just a few remaining questions.

If the Eucharist is necessary for theosis, what does it mean when people try their best to practice theosis but for whatever reason never get to take communion?
It is like the Fathers who predated Christ.  The Lord's hand is not shortened that He cannot save.

And what about people who have never heard of Orthodoxy but are nevertheless practicing something similar to theosis? Also, why is it necessary to take communion repeatedly, rather than just once?
Because Theosis is a journey which never ends. You can never have too much God.

Exactly, the Good Thief who died next to Christ on the Cross was saved by Christ without Baptism or Communion.
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« Reply #35 on: May 07, 2011, 10:02:29 AM »

Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 AD:

I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his Blood, which is love incorruptible. (Letter to the Romans 7:3)

They [i.e. the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. (Letter to the Smyrnians 7:1)

Justin, the Martyr and Philosopher, c. 100 AD - 165 AD:

For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus. (First Apology 66)

Irenaeus of Lyons, c. 140 AD - 200 AD:

But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of their Lord, and the cup His Blood, if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator? [...] How can they say that the flesh which has been nourished by the Body of the Lord and by His Blood gives way to corruption and does not partake of life? [...] For as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, consisting of two elements, earthly and heavenly [...] (Against Heresies 4:18:4-5)

When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life -- flesh which is nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord [...] receiving the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ [...] (Against Heresies 5:2:2-3)

Tertullian, c. 155 AD - 250 AD:

The flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, so that the soul, too, may fatten on God. (Resurrection of the Dead 8:3)

We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground […] (The Crown 3:3-4)

Origen, c. 185 AD - 255 AD:

We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a Sacred Body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it. (Against Celsus 8:33)

You see how the altars are no longer sprinkled with the blood of oxen, but consecrated by the Precious Blood of Christ.

You are accustomed to take part in the Divine Mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish [...] how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body? (Homilies on Exodus 13:3)

Now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as He Himself says: "My flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink”. (Homilies on Numbers 7:2)

Cyprian of Carthage, c. 200 AD -- 260 AD:

He Himself warns us, saying, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you shall not have life in you". Therefore do we ask that our Bread, which is Christ, be given to us so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body. (The Lord's Prayer 18)

If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is Himself the High Priest of God the Father; and if He offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if He commanded that this be done in commemoration of Himself – then certainly the priest, who imitates [at the altar] that which Christ did, truly functions in the place of Christ. (Letters 63:14)


Awesome.  Thank you for this! Seriously I can't thank you enough.
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« Reply #36 on: May 07, 2011, 10:53:45 AM »

Christ is risen!
Wow, thanks again for all of the input, everyone. This has been very helpful for me. I think I have just a few remaining questions.

If the Eucharist is necessary for theosis, what does it mean when people try their best to practice theosis but for whatever reason never get to take communion?
It is like the Fathers who predated Christ.  The Lord's hand is not shortened that He cannot save.

And what about people who have never heard of Orthodoxy but are nevertheless practicing something similar to theosis? Also, why is it necessary to take communion repeatedly, rather than just once?
Because Theosis is a journey which never ends. You can never have too much God.

Exactly, the Good Thief who died next to Christ on the Cross was saved by Christ without Baptism or Communion.

He was baptised in his own blood.
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« Reply #37 on: May 07, 2011, 02:26:09 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I would really appreciate some insight on this. I'm having trouble understanding the Eucharist as anything more than symbolic. I have heard people describe it before but I just don't get it.

Please don't take offense at what I say regarding this. I truly don't mean to insult the Eucharist... whatever exactly it is. It's just that I feel like I'm up against some kind of spiritual/mental wall or something.

It's not that I don't believe Christ can be present wherever and whenever He wants. But I guess I just don't see why it would be so important for Christ to be present in bread and wine, specifically. The moment I get past the images of cannibalism in my head, I am confronted with the question, "why?" Why is it necessary for us to ingest something physical in order to have Christ within us? How is the Eucharist different from or better than prayer?

I am concerned about the physicality of it, because the minute there is something physical that contains Christ, people can withhold it from us. ...but is it right to contain Christ this way, even if only symbolically? ...I am just sooooo confused about this. Please have mercy on me and help me understand.

The Sacraments and the Eucharist are rightfully called "Divine Mysteries" in the Church as they are beyond comprehension or explanation.  The Mysteries are beyond us and our reach, that through Them we might be brought all the way to the Godhead.  So do not feel discouraged if they seem a bit bewildering or beyond common sense or reason, because that is precisely and entirely the point.

Faith in the Real Presence of the Divine Mystery of the Holy Communion is the exact same faith that Christians in the time of Our Lord had to confront to accept the Salvation of Jesus Christ.  There were those who said the messiah was merely a human being, or that the messiah was a symbol of the power of God's Kingdom on Earth.  There were those who argued that Jesus Christ was an Image only of God (IE not God Himself), or that Jesus Christ did not actually come in the Flesh and Blood but was only an apparition. These folks all stumbled at the most humbling reality of Jesus Christ, that the Holy, Almighty, Immortal Godhead which is beyond physicality could somehow be walking on the earth in the form of a perfectly real human being, clothed in the same corpeal reality of flesh and blood that we all share in this human condition.

This is a powerful statement, heard to grasp, harder to hold onto, but it is the substance and essence of our Faith.  Jesus Christ was not a symbol of God, Jesus Christ IS the fullness and power of God in the Flesh! Jesus Christ IS GOD, period.  This same faith is transmuted into our adoration and worship of the Holy Communion as actual and literal.  Just as it is a stumbling offense to the mind of reason and logic to accept that the Infinite and Immortal God could take on the Finite and Mortality of human beings, so to it has caused many to stumble in trying to understand the Divine Mystery and the Real Presence of the Holy Communion.

All I can say then, is for you to fast and pray continuously regarding the matter, that the Power of Jesus Christ melt away any impediments to your heart, and that the knots binding your heart in apprehension or melted away by His most Sacred and Holy Love for Mankind.  Jesus Christ is a real and operative force in the world, and so to is the Holy Communion.

When we attend a Divine Liturgy, we are not merely commemorating (in the way we commemorate our reposed relatives or the Saints) our Lord and Savior, we are quite LITERALLY coming to meet Him at the Altar, as if we were being transformed in the Holy Spirit into the Kingdom, as if we were going back into 1st century Jerusalem, wandering into the Holy Temple to meet Jesus directly there.  He is as directly at the Altar in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy as He was there in Jerusalem with the Apostles in those days.

Just as in those times, in these only God Himself can explain this to the hearts of we weak and self-seeking human beings.  It is a blatant contradiction to our senses, because honestly we can't believe in ourselves enough to even hope that God could come come down to our level.  However, God does, and not only that, but through the Holy Communion elevates us to His own.

Pray about the matter, it is not one of intellect.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #38 on: May 07, 2011, 03:51:46 PM »

If the Eucharist is necessary for theosis, what does it mean when people try their best to practice theosis but for whatever reason never get to take communion? And what about people who have never heard of Orthodoxy but are nevertheless practicing something similar to theosis? Also, why is it necessary to take communion repeatedly, rather than just once?

They are left up to the perfectly discerning judgment of God and His mercy. God will judge people by their hearts and their willingness to accept Him even if they were never part of the Church.
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