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Eucharistic Gestures

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  • Issac K Joseph
    http://www.oca.org/CHRIST-life-article.asp?SID=6&ID=133&MONTH=June&YEAR=2007 June 2007, Article #2 Eucharistic Gestures Written by the Very Rev. John Breck
    Message 1 of 1469 , Jul 3, 2007

      June 2007, Article #2
      Eucharistic Gestures
      Written by the Very Rev. John Breck

      Christ's gestures are as important as His words in signaling
      allusions to Eucharistic celebration throughout the Gospels. Like
      His words, those gestures serve to actualize within the community
      of faith both the original Lord's Supper and the eternal Banquet in
      the Kingdom of heaven.

      To Orthodox Christians the Eucharist or Holy Communion is the very
      culmination of our life in Christ. It gives direction and meaning to
      our entire cycle of liturgical services, all of which ultimately
      serve to prepare us to receive the life-giving Body and Blood of our
      risen and glorified Lord. The Eucharist is Christ Himself, "the
      Bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6:41), who nourishes His
      followers throughout the pilgrimage that will lead them beyond death
      to eternal life and eternal communion in the Holy Trinity.

      These kinds of statements are difficult for some non-Orthodox,
      particularly Protestant Christians, to hear. A lingering (and often
      unconscious) reaction against Roman Catholic "sacramentalism" leads
      some, at least, to minimize or simply deny Eucharistic references
      that appear throughout the New Testament. To many Protestant biblical
      scholars, for example, the "bread from heaven" that Jesus embodies
      is to be identified with His Word, His announcement of the coming of
      salvation. Accordingly, they tend to read the passage John 6:51-58,
      which identifies that bread with Jesus' flesh, as a
      secondary "sacramental" addition to the Gospel, made by a
      later "ecclesiastical redactor." This view became a
      staple of liberal Protestant exegesis toward the middle of the last
      century under the influence of German theologians such as Rudolf
      Bultmann and Günther Bornkamm. Literary analysis of the Gospel of
      John, and particularly of the passage 6:47-58, shows conclusively,
      however, that the so-called sacramental addition of verses 51c-58 is
      in fact an original and integral part of the "bread of life
      discourse" that spans 6:22-65.[1] That entire passage conveys the
      message that Jesus Christ, the "bread from heaven," offers life to
      His followers by means of Eucharistic communion.

      Other passages in the four Gospels make the same point. The most
      obvious and important is the "institution" of the Lord's Supper on
      the evening before Christ's Passion. Whether the meal Jesus shared
      with His disciples was an actual Passover meal (Mt, Mc and Lk) or
      the previous night's meal of preparation (Jn),the entire ritual was
      infused with Passover significance. It celebrated Israel's
      liberation from slavery in Egypt by God's mighty hand, a prophetic
      image of the Christian's salvation from the slavery of sin and
      liberation from death and corruption. This is a ritual Jesus had
      performed from childhood. Yet here, just before His death and
      resurrection, He modified the traditional Jewish pattern of
      celebration by transforming it into a rite of communion. Taking
      bread, He blessed God with words of thanksgiving. Then He
      broke the bread and gave it to His disciples, while He identified it
      with His own being: "This is my Body, given for you!"

      He took, blessed, broke and gave the bread to His disciples. Four
      gestures that taken together would recall to those with Him similar
      prophetic gestures Jesus had earlier performed in the wilderness.
      There too, in order to feed the multitudes, He took bread and
      blessed it, offering thanks to God. Then He broke
      the bread and distributed it to the people (Mt 14:14-21 and
      parallels). [2] Significantly, this is the only miracle Jesus
      performed that is recorded in all four Gospels. Its Eucharistic
      overtones are unmistakable.

      According to St Luke's Gospel (ch 24), the risen Christ repeated
      these same gestures in the house at Emmaus. This entire account is
      suffused with Eucharistic significance. The Emmaus story, in fact,
      offers us a remarkable image of the entire unfolding of the
      Eucharistic Divine Liturgy, beginning with proclamation of the Word
      and ending with communion in Christ's Body and Blood.

      The first part of the story reflects the "Liturgy of the Word," as
      the disciples encounter on the roadway the risen Lord, who appears
      incognito. Plunged into a state of distress and incomprehension, the
      two disciples, Cleopas and his companion (traditionally identified
      with the evangelist Luke), are discussing the tragic fate of their
      crucified Master. Jesus approaches them, unrecognized, and inquires
      about their conversation. In reply, they describe the tragic
      condemnation and death of the one they hoped would "redeem Israel."
      Then they speak of the women who reported finding the empty tomb and
      how they themselves went and found Him missing. Then
      Jesus, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets…interpreted to
      them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Lk
      24:27). Still, although their "hearts burned within them," they did
      not recognize Him.

      That recognition came only with the shared meal in the house at
      Emmaus. There Jesus assumed the role not of guest, but of pater
      familias, the Host who presides at table. By His gestures He
      revealed to the disciples His true identity as the Risen Lord.
      Again, "taking bread, He blessed (God), and breaking, He gave to
      them." In the Greek text, only the verbs are expressed (labôn
      ton arton eulogêsen kai klasas epedidou autois), to stress once more
      the significance of those Eucharistic gestures.

      The Liturgy of the Word is thus fulfilled in the Liturgy of the
      Eucharist. Thanks to this account, future readers and hearers of St
      Luke's Gospel will know that their most intimate encounter, their
      deepest communion, with the risen Christ occurs through celebration
      of this unique, sacramental meal. The apostle
      Paul declares of this celebration that "as often as you eat this
      Bread and drink the Cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He
      comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). His coming at the "last day," however, is
      proclaimed and made present "proleptically," by a living
      anticipation, each time the community of the faithful gathers around
      the Lord's Table, in order to participate in His Eucharistic self-

      If the Holy Eucharist has primal importance for Orthodox Christians,
      it is because this ritual combination of words and gestures offers a
      real sharing, here and now, in the very Life of the Resurrected
      Lord. Although those words and gestures are repeated by the priest
      in the name of the community of faithful, the true celebrant of the
      Eucharistic mystery is Christ Himself. He is the true Host of our
      celebration, just as He is both Priest and Sacrifice, "the One who
      offers and is offered," for our life and for the life of the world.

      Through that Eucharistic ritual, Christ unites us with the Twelve in
      the Upper Room and with the Church throughout the ages. At the same
      time, He offers us a foretaste, real but anticipatory, of the
      heavenly banquet, the Bread of eternal Life, that will be ours in
      the age to come.

      [1] Evidence for this is given in P.F. Ellis, The Genius of John
      (Liturgical Press, 1984) and J. Breck, The Shape of Biblical
      Language (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1994, p. 204-213).

      [2] In St John's Gospel, Jesus does not break the bread. Thereby He
      associates the bread with His own crucified body, which, because of
      His rapid death, was left intact: the soldiers did not break His leg
      bones, "so that Scripture might be fulfilled" (Jn 19:36). As the
      true Paschal Lamb, Jesus thus fulfills the Hebrew Passover (Exod.
      12:46; cf 1 Cor. 5:7).

      Posted by
      Issac K Joseph
      Mar Thoman Church
      # 0917
    • SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com
      Dear All in Christ Barekmore / Shlomo We, Malankara Jacobite Internet Platform (http://www.socmnet.org), Syriac Orthodox Resources (http://www.sor.cua.edu) and
      Message 1469 of 1469 , Nov 18, 2007
        Dear All in Christ
        Barekmore / Shlomo

        We, Malankara Jacobite Internet Platform (http://www.socmnet.org), Syriac
        Orthodox Resources (http://www.sor.cua.edu) and Malankara Syriac Christian
        Resource (http://www.syrianchurch.org/) together are compiling the following
        informations to publish an online directory of Syriac orthodox Clergy.

        Please note that this project is not based on any official church directives.

        We request each and every one of our forum members to request all clergy you
        know, to provide the informations on the following format along with a
        photograph of the clergy, to soc.clergylist@... . If you are a third
        party providing these informations, then you must have clear consent from

        First Name:-
        Middle Name:-
        Last Name:-
        Family Name:-

        Place of Birth:-
        Date of Birth & Age:-
        Present Diocese:-
        Home parish:-
        Present parish:-

        Ordination date:
        Ordained by:
        Present Clergy Status:-
        (Mzamrono / Qoruyo / Apodiakno / Mshamshono / Archdeacon/ Qashisho /
        Sharwoyo /Dayroyo / Rabban / Cor episcopos)

        Do you have Professional and/or Decorative titles? Yes or No:-
        If yes, what is the Profession? (Dr. / Eng. / Prof. etc):-

        Email Id:-
        Contact Tel. number:-
        Postal address:-

        Any additional information to be published on line:-

        Be with us and be part of us

        In HIS Love
        Webmasters & Moderators
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