John of Damascus and the Eucharist
- Dear Scholers / members
I have been reading Constantine Tsirpanlis's Introduction to Eastern
Patristic Thought and Orthodox Theology. He offers a very interesting
interpretation of St. John Damascene's understanding of the Eucharistic
transformation. He describes it as a kind of impanation. He writes:
"Through the epiclesis, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine
(and water) are changed into the body and blood of Christ, in a supernatural
manner, 'hyperfyos metapoiounte.' Not the body of Christ which ascended into
heaven descends, but bread and wine itself are changed into the body and
blood of Christ. And as the Holy Spirit once had formed Christ's body in the
womb of the Virgin, so now, continuously, He forms Him by the changing of
the Eucharistic elements....
"Just as God unites His grace to the water and oil of Baptism, so, in the
Eucharist, He has joined, "synezfksen," His divinity to the elements, making
them His body and blood. Just as charcoal is wood joined to fire, 'in like
manner also the bread of the Communion is not bread only, but (bread) united
with the divinity, 'Henomenos theoteti.'
"Accordingly, the Orthodox Church maintains the real presence (hypostatic
and substantial) of Christ in the Holy Eucharist as consequence of the
change of Eucharistic elements, bread and wine, into the body and blood of
"This Body, created by the Holy Spirit through the change of bread and wine,
is assumed hypostically by the Logos, just as He once had assumed
hypostatically the body formed in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. But
since there is but one hypostasis of the Incarnated Logos, it follows that
the Eucharistic body on earth and the glorified body in heaven are one,
owing to the one hypostasis to which they belong.
"The Eucharistic body of Christ is identified with the pre-resurrected one.
So the question: Why had Christ instituted Holy Eucharist before and not
after his resurrection takes its answer. Moreover, the resurrected body is
incorruptible and cannot therefore be subject to breaking, eating and
drinking." (pp. 134-138)
This is the first time I have encountered this interpretation of St. John.
Is this accurate?
Tsirpanlis relies heavily it appears on a work, presumably by John, titled
"On the holy body of communion." I have never seen this cited anywhere else.
Is this an authentic work of John of Damascus? Is an English translation
Thanks for your help
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