THE EUCHARIST – HOLY COMMUNION
APOSTOLIC INSIGHT ~ What can the Apostles and Church Fathers tell us about our times? What advice do they have for our problems? Here are some of their thoughts—
The central act of worship in the first church was what Jesus prescribed in the Gospels. The Eucharist (meaning the Great Thanksgiving) was observed in virtually every service because it was considered the apex of worship. In the earliest church, it was sometimes referred to as the Agape Feast. As the Gospels tell us, participation meant experiencing the risen Christ and participating in his life. As the church came into existence in Egypt, Antioch, Rome, large cities and small villages, the believers gathered around the bread and the cup.
We do well to remember and emulate their example. Here is what the Church Fathers said:
St. Bail the Great of Caesarea
Daily Communion and participation in the holy Body and Blood of Christ is a good and helpful practice. Christ clearly says, “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life.” Who doubts that to partake of life continually is really to have life in abundance? For myself, I communicate four times a week … on the Lord’s Day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on Saturday, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of a martyr.
St. John Chrysostom
Moses raised his hands to heaven and brought down manna, the bread of angels; the new Moses raises His hands to heaven and gives us the food of eternal life. Moses struck the rock and brought forth streams of water; Christ touches his table, strikes the spiritual rock of the new covenant, and draws forth streams of living water of the Spirit. This rock is like a fountain in the midst of Christ’s table, so that on all sides the flocks may draw near to this living spring and refresh themselves in the waters of salvation.
It is wonderful that God rained manna on our fathers and they were fed with daily food from heaven. An so it is written: Man ate the bread of angels. Yet those who ate that bread all died in the desert. But the food that you receive, that living breach which came down from heaven, supplies the very substance of eternal life, and whoever will eat it will never die, for it is the Body of Christ.
As long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the Body and the cup the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ …. The word descends on the bread and cup and it becomes His Body and Blood.
St. Justin Martyr
The Bread is not ordinary bread, nor the Wine ordinary wine, but … through the word of prayer…. they are the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ.
St. Cyprian of Carthage
“Give us this day our daily bread.” We ask that this bread be given us daily so that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation may not, by falling into some more grievous sin, and then in abstaining from communication be withheld from the heavenly Bread and be separated from Christ’s Body … He himself warns us saying, “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you.” Therefore we do ask that our Bread, which is Christ, be given to us daily, so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body.