Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Church is a Single Eucharistic Community

The (New Testament) phrase church in the household refers to the assembly of the faithful for the celebration of the Eucharist. If this assembly was called a church, this was because the assembly, epi to auto, for the celebration of the Eucharist was also called a church.

1 Cor 11: 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. 17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

In contrast with the other terms used for the Church, the term church in the household was the most concrete expression of the Church, denoting the assembly of the faithful in a particular place in order to be united in the body of Christ. In consequence, the church in the household was not a third type of Church, different from the "local" or the "universal," but the local Church herself or Church of God, breaking bread at the house of one of her members.

So from an examination of the oldest texts of primitive Christianity, the Epistles of Paul, it transpires that the Eucharistic assembly was identified with the "Church of God" herself.

If we now examine those texts which are already seeing the end of the Apostolic period, such as the Revelation of John, we shall again have no difficulty in establishing the same identification of the Eucharistic assembly with the Church of God. Written characteristically "on the Lord's day," which is to say the day of the Eucharist par excellence, the Book of Revelation moves within the milieu and atmosphere of the Eucharistic assembly to such an extent that scholars studying it are faced with the problem of whether the Eucharist influenced this book or vice versa.  

Rev 1: 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."

However that may be, it should be considered that there is at least a "mutual" influence between the Book of Revelation and Eucharistic worship.  This book transports us from the Eucharist to the throne of God and from the Church on earth to the Church in heaven in such a way that we think it is one and the same reality. Indeed, the mystical identification of the Church in heaven before the throne of God with the Church on earth worshipping before the Table of the Eucharist is such as to call to mind the connection between these two aspects of the Church which only in Orthodoxy has been preserved in such depth.  Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, to which we shall return later, make no sense without the presupposition that the Eucharistic assembly incarnates on earth the very Church of God.

From this is becomes clear that from the first appearance of the term ekklesia there was a most profound connection, even to the point of identity, between this term and the Eucharist celebrated in each city. Each such Eucharist constituted the expression in space and time of the Church of God herself.

Met. Zizioulas, "Eucharist, Bishop, Church"

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