Azul, while one one finds in the patristic period a diversity of ways of formulating the eucharistic transformation and presence, the fact remains that the Orthodox Church moved away from symbolic construals and dogmatically affirmed the ontological identity of the Holy Gifts with the glorified humanity of the risen Christ. The Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea rejected the position of the Iconoclasts that the Eucharist may be described as an icon of Christ. It is not an icon of the Body and Blood; it is
the Body and Blood. How this is possible is, of course, a mystery. I refer you to John Meyendorff's Byzantine Theology
for further discussion; also Darwell Stone, A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist
, volume one, chap. 6.
I'll close with two quotations from St Ignatius of Antioch. Note how close Ignatius' language is to the language of Scripture. Note his refusal to philosophize away the corporeality of the risen Christ. Many in the Greek world were scandalized by the Church's proclamation that Jesus had been raised from death into a transfigured corporeal
existence. Christ is raised in the flesh. Note also the gift we receive in the Mystical Supper. Many, it appears, were equally scandalized by the Church's claim that in the Eucharist we are given to share in the Flesh and Blood this risen Jesus.
"I desire the Bread of God, the heavenly Bread, the Bread of Life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; I wish the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life" (Epistle to the Romans).
"For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, "Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit." And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors. And after his resurrection He did eat and drink with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father. And I know that He was possessed of a body not only in His being born and crucified, but I also know that He was so after His resurrection, and believe that He is so now. ... Let no man deceive himself. Unless he believes that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and shall confess His cross and passion, and the blood which He shed for the salvation of the world, he shall not obtain eternal life, whether he be a king, or a priest, or a ruler, or a private consequence, incur condemnation. ... But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again" (Epistle to the Smyraeans--the entire letter bears close reading).
St Ignatius expresses the primary and living language of Scripture and liturgy. It is first-level discourse. It is not improper for us to reflect on the meaning of this primary language; but if we find that we have explained away all of its offensive particularities--and that is what I fear you have done--then something is wrong. The truth is compromised.
This is the same feeling that I get when I read St Thomas Aquinas's on transubstantiation. I do not dismiss Aquinas, as many Orthodox do. He was a great theologian and he loved the Holy Eucharist, so beautifully expressed in his hymns. But his theological account of the eucharistic presence, with its clear and precise distinction between accidents and substance, also makes it difficult for us to affirm that we truly eat
of the Savior. The offense and paradox disappears. It's like reading a paraphrase of a poem.
You may find of interest an essay I wrote several years ago, before I became Orthodox: "Eating Christ
." I do not know if there are things I would now want to change. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I think I would want to insist, as strongly as ever on the need for us to retain the physical language of the eucharistic presence, found in Scripture and Liturgy.