The in-laws were out of town for a couple of days this weekend, so we had the house to ourselves for a little while - a very nice preview of what it will be like when we move into our apartment next month (we signed the lease last weekend)! We went out to dinner with them last night after they came home and, surprisingly, my father-in-law started asking questions about Orthodoxy. He's asked a few questions here and there, but that's mostly happened when I wasn't around. Specifically, he asked about their nominally Catholic neighbors who are looking around for a church of any stripe and whether or not they would hear the Gospel if they came to an Orthodox Church. I affirmed that they undoubtedly would, though the emphases would obviously be different. We talked about this pleasantly for a few minutes before the conversation moved to communion.
My father-in-law basically stated that he felt it was a tragedy how we, as humans, had made such a big deal over communion and turned it into a point of division instead of unity. He said something about how we've taken Jesus' words and, I guess, read into them or made them into something they're not - he wasn't real clear on this, so I'm not sure exactly what he was saying. In the interest of maintaining a pleasant dinner I didn't reply to his statements, but I couldn't help but see the inherently Protestant perspective deeply inherent in that kind of thinking. The Protestant, especially the evangelical, understanding of the Lord's Supper is minimalistic, paring the biblical witness down and ignoring the patristic witness almost entirely. It is "mere communion" in line with Lewis' understanding of mere Christianity; the essential points on which all Christian groups can agree. Mere Communion is like that, as the memorial view is a part of the Eucharist, thus it is a small point of commonality. So why can't we all just agree on that and leave those other issues aside? Why do we have to make such a big deal about it and turn those peripheral issues into points of contention? I'm starting to understand why, in fact, this is position is untenable and why the proper understanding of the Eucharist is actually part & parcel of historic Christianity. These Eucharistic variances are important because they point to, and spring from, key differences that cannot be brushed aside so casually.