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Nativity (Christmas) and the Eucharist

November 29, 2010
Eastern Orthodox church in Sanok

Image via Wikipedia

I am on a streak of not posting topics that consist of an Orthodox reflection using a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit analogy. I hope that any of you who read this blog regularly don’t mind. Since the overall theme of the blog is to share my reflections on my journey to the Orthodox Church, maybe I’m not to far off the mark.

I have been thinking about the upcoming celebration of the Incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. As I have stated in other posts, in the Life of the Church (Its Traditions, Teaching, Doctrine, Hymns and Prayers) the Incarnation is central to its spirituality. Indeed, the Incarnation is central to our salvation. He joined Himself to us and His entire creation by  becoming man. That union is fully realized because of His death and resurrection.

The Church experiences that fullness every time the faithful receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. In fact, every Liturgy includes the experience of the Incarnation, Earthly life, Death, Resurrection and Second Coming of Christ. I have mentioned before that someone has pointed out that the icons on either side of the gate of the Sanctuary represent the Incarnation (Mary holding the Christ Child) on the left, and the Second Coming (Christ) on the right. In the midst of these the faithful receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We don’t receive bread and wine (though the Gifts are that), we receive the True Body and True Blood.

I was listening to a podcast in which the person speaking stated that to deny the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is to deny the Incarnation in a sense. I never would have thought of it this way, but to deny the mystery of the Eucharist is to deny the mystery of the Incarnation. This seems like a harsh statement. But if you think about what he’s trying to say, if the Bread and Wine are merely symbols and not the Body and Blood of Christ, then how can we believe that Christ the Eternal Son of God became fully human, while still being God? The Church confesses that the second person of the Holy Trinity became man, but remained unchanged as God. It is precisely this mystery that allows us to say that though the bread and wine are exactly that, they are more than that by the power of the Holy Spirit; they are simultaneously the Body and Blood of our Lord.

The Orthodox Church doesn’t try to explain this, it simply rejoices in the wonder of the mystery of our great salvation. Actually, we rejoice in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has wrought this great salvation of His creation. This is the faith of the Orthodox Church. And though I am not yet Orthodox, I can rejoice in this upcoming celebration of the birth of the One who gives of Himself to His Church; the One who is, “Divide, but never disunited. Eaten, but never consumed.” Someday I will be among the faithful who experiences this. Until then, I prepare for that day…

Those readers who are Orthodox, is there anything you would add to this reflection?

P.S. The point of the podcast speaker (and this blog post) is not to disparage those who take a symbolic view of the Eucharist. The point is the wondrous connection that exists between the Eucharist celebrated in the Church and the Incarnation of our Lord. It’s not meant as a refutation, but instead a celebration. O great Wonder!

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Darlene permalink
    January 1, 2011 10:05 am

    Jeremiah,
    Can you point me to the podcast to which you are referring? The Church’s teaching on the Eucharist has been and continues to be the stumbling block for my husband, preventing him from becoming Orthodox.

    • January 1, 2011 12:56 pm

      The podcast was from Our Life In Christ, and was from their 9-part series on the Divine Liturgy. In the Series they go through every step of the Liturgy, from the pre-liturgy prayers and duties of the Priest and Deacon, to the dismissal. The part on the Eucharist is somewhere in the middle of the series. I’m sorry I couldn’t remember the exact one.
      As you probably know, you can access Our Life in Christ on the Ancient Faith Radio page of the iTunes Store, or the AFR website.

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