...are the ones that make the biggest difference

10.31.2005

Communion vs Eucharist: Much ado about nothing?

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.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your father in law sounds like my father. My Dad is a pastor of a non-denom church in California. He started pastoring about two years ago, about the same time that I started really taking Orthodoxy seriously. For the most part we avoid discussion on issues like this, out of a certain form of respect and love for one another. But this topic has come up a couple times.

This is a huge issue. The minimalist, mere-symbol point of view requires, in the end, that I am an antichrist and an idolator because I say that in the bread and wine I receive Christ own Body and Blood, that I eat God. The Traditional point of view requires that these minimalists are failing to discern the Body and the Blood of Christ and are in danger of eating and drinking condemnation unto themselves.

I don't want to force my Dad into accusing me of something that his heart tells him is not so. But I want him to take the issue with the gravity it deserves. I don't want to set myself up as my father's judge either. I take comfort at least in the fact that it is for God to judge not me, that God is a perfect judge, and He judges the intent of the heart.

-Doug

Nathan said...

"This is a huge issue. The minimalist, mere-symbol point of view requires, in the end, that I am an antichrist and an idolator because I say that in the bread and wine I receive Christ own Body and Blood, that I eat God. The Traditional point of view requires that these minimalists are failing to discern the Body and the Blood of Christ and are in danger of eating and drinking condemnation unto themselves."

This is exactly what I mean - we can't just sweep these differences under the rug in the name of some false unity that fails to take our points of separation seriously. Did you and your wife have any struggles seeing eye to eye on this stuff as you explored Orthodoxy?

Anonymous said...

You bet. It wasn't an easy time in many ways. I'm not even sure exactly when or how it happened, but eventually her questions and hesitations changed into real conviction that she had to become Orthodox. Thank God we were able to take that step together in the end. For my part, I had to learn a lot of patience, and the slower pace ended up being a real blessing for me too. No one should rush into something this big. I also had to learn to give up my desire to become Orthodox, in a way. I had to learn to refrain from praying that my wife would see the truths of Orthodoxy. I had to learn to pray that I would want nothing more than to simply be a Christian and to submit myself to whatever God called us to as a family. Sometime after that, my wife changed her tune. I don't know if it was a case of coincidence, divine intervention, or just that I was a heck of a lot less annoying from that point on. :)

-Doug

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

I think this a fairly fair assessment, though I would love for you to explore the Eucharist more for the benefit of us not engaged in the Orthodox Tradition.

Peace,
Jamie

Anonymous said...

No answers?

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Well, with a new post up, I guess that means no. Oh well. Thanks anyway.