An essential aspect in Christian worship, it helps those interested to take important steps towards communion with Jesus Christ…
In order to have efficiency, some interior conditions and a serious energy training are required.
Otherwise, as we know, few people can say that they are truly living this Christian mystery, and the lack of preparation and inner attitude can make a mockery of the practitioner’s approach. In most cases, just going to church is not enough to achieve important results.
«Take food, this is My Body. drink of this all, this is My blood of the new law, which for you and for many is poured out for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:26-28)
“He who eats My Body and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54)
The word “Eucharist” comes from Greek and means “thanksgiving.”
It is the Holy Mystery through which, in the form of bread and wine, the believer communes with the Body and Blood of the Lord, really present through the transformation of the elements in the Divine Liturgy.
It is the most important of the Holy Mysteries, in the sense that, if through the other Mysteries the Christian receives divine grace in a limited sense, through Holy Communion he receives the very Source of grace, which is Christ.
This Holy Sacrament has several names: Eucharist, Communion, Communion, Communion, Lord’s Supper, Breaking of Bread.
The perpetrator is the bishop or priest, as followers of St. Apostles who received permission and command to do it, through the words: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
The recipients are members of the Church who have prepared, gone through the sacrament of confession, and received absolution from the confessor. Non-Orthodox Christians, even confessed, cannot receive Holy Communion, because receiving the Eucharist is identical to the complete confession of faith preached by the Orthodox Church. The practice of intercommunion, that is, the communion of Christians of other confessions, is not allowed in our Church, because Communion is the summit and expression of completeness, integrity of faith.
For the spiritual growth of the believer, the Church recommends frequent communion (always observing the necessary preparation) and requires minimum communion in the four fasts of the year.
The effects of sharing are:
Real union with Christ, according to His promise: “He who eats My Body and drinks My Blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56).
cleansing from sins and progress in the spiritual life, according to the formula of communion: “The servant of God communes … for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life” (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).
The promise of resurrection and eternal life: “He who eats of this bread (Eucharist) will not die forever” (John 6:51).
For those who partake unworthily, the effect is damnation, according to the words of St. Paul: “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks unworthily, damning eats and drinks, disregarding the body of the Lord” (I Corinthians 11:28-29).
The transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Last Supper and in every Divine Liturgy is an incomprehensible mystery in its meaning and manner; for mystery is not only God’s way of being, but also His every work on creation.
The breaking of bread or the Eucharist or the Divine Liturgy, for Christians, is the central ritual of worship, having a double meaning: on the one hand, communion with the Eucharistic elements, representing a holy mystery, and, on the other hand, the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in which Christians solemnly proclaim texts from the Bible and receive the mystery itself.
The Eucharist is a sacrament introduced into religious practice on the basis of what Jesus affirmed during the “Last Supper” in Jerusalem (Matthew 26:17-20, 26-30; Mark 14:12-25; John 22:7-20). The Eucharist, celebrated by priests at the altar, repeats the “Last Supper” on the day before Jesus’ condemnation and crucifixion, recalling Jesus’ supreme sacrifice for the salvation of the world. Catholics and Orthodox maintain that during the celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist, priests would effectively transform wine and bread into the blood and body of Jesus, even if the external form of wine and bread did not change. Some Reformed believe that Jesus’ blood and body are only symbolically represented. Other Reformed people practice the Eucharist only to memorize the “Last Supper” and Jesus’ sacrifice.
The oldest name is breaking bread, and it seems to have been the only one used in the first two centuries. There are three texts in the New Testament that use this expression: Luke 24:35, Acts 20:7, and Acts 2:42-46, but the latter is the most significant:
They persisted in the teaching of the apostles, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. All together they attended the temple every day, broke bread in their homes, and took food with joy and purity of heart.
In the second and third centuries, another term begins to be used in parallel: the Eucharist. It has its origin both in the texts concerning the Last Supper of the Second Covenant:
For from the Lord I have received what I have given you; namely, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was sold, took bread, and giving thanks (ευχαιστήσας – euxharistêsas), broke it, and said, ‘Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you; Do this in remembrance of me.» I Corinthians 11:23-24.
The word liturgy, meaning “public ministry,” also has its origins in the second law, Philippians 2. In the West, the Latin term missa was imposed in the first millennium, but in the Romanian language the word «massa» has a completely different designation. Since the late Middle Ages, Protestant communities are still used, but nowadays less and less, the expressions: the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Supper, alluding to the Last Supper. The word cuminecare (from Latin communicari) originates from the writings of the apostle Paul, but designates more the act of “mystery” than the service itself, although not exclusively.
The Matter of Mystery
For the Eucharist, wheat bread and grape wine are used.
According to the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus at the Last Supper celebrated Passover on the right day, so with unleavened bread. According to John, however, the Last Supper took place before Passover, so he probably would have used leavened bread.
However, this did not pose a problem for Christians in the first centuries. In general, all rites used leavened bread containing salt. Baked people use leavened but unsalted bread. However, from the very beginning, the Armenian Rite used unleavened and unbaked bread in the oven, on the grounds that at Mass the matter of the Eucharist must be alive, not passed through fire. This custom is also preserved in a legend about Saint Gregory the Illuminator. However, the use of unleavened bread was taken from the Armenians by the Maronite rite in the sixth century, then spread between the eighth and twelfth centuries to the West.
In the eleventh century there is a question of what kind of bread should be used for communion. This gives rise to the famous controversy between the Byzantines and the Latins, which constitutes one of the Florentine points. Following the work of Anselm of Canterbury, the Catholic Church, at the Council of Florence, decides that both kinds of bread are valid, but that each rite must use local custom.
The Anglican Church decided, in the sixteenth century, to return to the original practice of using leavened bread. However, following the work of John Henry Newman, Anglo-Catholics use unleavened bread. The Reformed Church also uses unleavened bread.
Today, at the ecumenical level, the following hypothesis is admitted. Jesus would have celebrated the Passover genuinely, so with unleavened bread, but in advance, the day before the date of Passover. Therefore, the type of bread is no longer theologically a problem.
Normally, the Byzantine, Latin, Ambrosian, Mozarab, Gaelic, Assyrian and modern Anglican rites also put a little water in the wine. The rest of the rites use unmixed wine. A few drops of water in wine symbolize the deity and humanity of Jesus, according to Christian doctrine.
However, even in the Middle Ages, in the Byzantine rite, the chalice was placed on a bucket of burning coals, so that the Eucharistic wine would be warm, the warmth symbolizing life. Today, a few drops of warm water are poured into the chalice. The Armenian Rite, on the contrary, prescribes wine heated by fire as invalid or at least doubtful matter.
The Coptic Rite at some point encountered a change regarding liturgical wine. Theocratic Muslim Arab Egypt banned alcoholic beverages and wine culture. The Coptic Rite found a solution. Raisins were taken, which were dried in water for one night, and the resulting juice was used as liturgical wine.
Usually, the wine used is fermented, but the degree of fermentation has never been a cause for discussion.
Beginning with the Council of Trent, the Latin Rite posed a new problem: believers no longer had the right to partake of the chalice, which was reserved only for clergy. After Vatican II, communion is allowed again under both elements, but it is not an obligation. If liturgical bread no longer poses problems at the interconfessional level, an acute problem at the ecumenical level is the lack of obligation to communion of the faithful in the chalice in the Roman Church.
Until the beginning of the fourth century, the Eucharist took place in city homes, on the night between Saturday and Sunday, but always with the bishop as primate. In Dacia appear horbishops, who serve liturgy in villages.
All Christians communed, then took with them the Eucharistic elements, to communion in the family during the week.
After the end of the persecutions, churches are built and pagan temples are transformed into churches. Thus, the Eucharist is no longer celebrated in homes, but in churches. The first part of the liturgy is attended by all, but only the baptized attend the altar liturgy, without serious impediments (the three deadly sins: apostasy, murder, adultery).
For the first time there is the question of daily communion. The Westerners, as well as the Copts, continue the daily communion, but no one takes communion at home anymore, but Mass is celebrated daily, at church. Easterners, apart from Copts, continue Mass only once a week, but believers are no longer allowed to receive communion at home.
Pope Damascene I, also in the fourth century, built a church on the Catacomb of Domitlia. This is where bishops around the world will draw inspiration to build churches on the tombs of martyrs, or at least to place relics under the altar table.
Since the sixth century, Pope Gregory I the Great has proposed that at Mondays, or even more often, the faithful be commemorated in the liturgy. The logic is as follows. Outside of the liturgy, we pray to the Lord, who is present in spirit, but at Mass he is also physically present, thanks to the Eucharistic bread and wine. Therefore, they must use this opportunity to entrust the living and the dead to the Lord.
Thus, from this period onwards, the moment of transformation, which for Christians means the prayer in which the bread and wine would become the body and blood of Jesus, is felt to be the most important part of the liturgy.
Due to the increase in the number of penitents, in the ninth century the faithful no longer commiserated but came to Mass only to pray, and eventually to see the Eucharistic elements in the hands of the priest. The only hotbeds where believers feast often remain Egypt, Ethiopia and Mount Athos. For the rest, the Eucharist is no longer perceived as an act (dynamic aspect), but as an object (static aspect); as if there were confusions between baptism and the water of baptism.
The Middle Ages will cause great controversy regarding the Eucharist. Martin Luther uses the notion of impanation: Christ in bread, with bread, and under bread. To fight back, the Catholic Church will use the notion of transubstantiation: the substance of bread and wine becomes the substance of the body and blood of Christ. The Church of England takes the term transubstantiation in the chemical sense, and considers it superstition, but continues to believe in the real—physical—presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic elements. At the Council of Iasi, Orthodox hierarchs continued to use the Greek word metabolê, saying it was the same as transubstantiation. John Calvin believes only in a spiritual presence, while other Protestant currents believe only in symbolism.
For the pre-Reformation Churches, as well as for the Anglican and Swedish Churches, apostolic succession is essential to the validity of the Eucharist.
In 1945, Hieromonk Gregory Dix revealed new aspects of the Eucharist that would influence all Eucharistic theology to this day. These were published in The Shape of the Liturgy.
Gregory Dix remarks the following. The four biblical narratives of the Last Supper, as well as all the ancient anaphora, each use four verbs, which are nothing more than the four important moments of the Eucharistic liturgy. We take the four biblical narratives in turn:
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread; and when he had blessed, he broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat; This is my body.’ (Matthew 26:26).
Jesus took a loaf of bread; and when he had blessed, he broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Take, eat, this is my body.’ (Mark 14:22).
Then he took bread, and after thanking God, he broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
The Lord Jesus, on the night He was sold, took a loaf of bread, and after thanking God, broke it, and said, ‘Take, eat; This is My Body, which breaks for you; do this in remembrance of me.» (I Cor 11:23-24).
So the Eucharistic liturgy should focus on four moments: taking the offerings of bread and wine, blessing or thanksgiving, breaking and giving. In liturgical language these four moments would be: offering, anaphora, breaking and communion. This structure being the most widely accepted today, we will use it in this article.
The four moments are present in every traditional rite. According to each rite, these four moments combine differently.
The gifts, prepared before the liturgy.
Hippolytus of Rome in his « Apostolic Tradition », as well as Tertullian, describe how the faithful bring bread and wine, and the president of the assembly – the bishop – receives them from their hands to place on the table.
According to each rite, this ceremony is performed differently. In several Eastern rites, the offering was removed from its usual place before the liturgy of the word in a ceremony called proscomidia. In some rites, whole loaves are not used, but due to shortages in the Middle Ages, only a few pieces of bread are cut. In the Latin rite, prefabs are often brought, something with which liturgists disagree. See also the main articles: offering and proscomidia.
The anaphora is a long prayer, uttered by the president of the congregation, in which he thanks God for creation and salvation, also mentioning the death and resurrection of Jesus. Usually, anaphoras contain a Sanctus, the words of institution (“Take, eat… Take, drink…’), an epiclesis, but to this rule there are exceptions. See also main article: anaphora (liturgical).
It can be more or less emphasized. Due to the fact that the breaking of bread is precisely the name of the sacrament, an attempt is made to highlight the breaking of the Eucharistic bread.
The biblical method of communion: drinking from the chalice.
Communion can be done in several ways.
The biblical and traditional way is for believers to receive the Eucharistic bread on their palms crossed, then drink from the chalice. This method is used mostly in the Protestant, Anglican and Coptic churches, and to a small extent in the Roman Catholic Church.
Another method is girding. Whether the servant heats the Eucharistic bread in Eucharistic wine, inserting it into the mouth of the communist, or whether the believer receives the bread on his palms, then heats it himself in the chalice, and thus consumes it. This method is most practiced in traditional churches. In Byzantine rite Orthodox churches, it is used both in Jerusalem and France. In Romania, the Greek Catholic Church uses this same method, except in Maramureş for Ruthenians.
A third method is spoon communion. This method is practiced mainly in most Byzantine Rite Orthodox Churches. The servant places the Eucharistic bread in the chalice, then, with a teaspoon, takes the softened pieces, and deposits it in the mouth of the communist. In some countries, this method is prohibited by civil sanitary measures.