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Communion to non-Orthodox


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#41 Loucas

Loucas

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Posted 11 October 2014 - 03:09 PM

As I did elswhere, please allow me to submit a portion of the Greek Orthodox Website goarch.org  I realize we are discussing these matters here and as I had done in a similar topic, I thought it may be useful to go to the source before a vigorous dibate.


 




The Holy Eucharist


        

 Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald



In the latter
part of the tenth century, Vladimir the Prince of Kiev sent envoys to
various Christian centers to study their form of worship. These are the
words the envoys uttered when they reported their presence at the
celebration of the Eucharist in the Great Church of Holy Wisdom in
Constantinople. The profound experience expressed by the Russian envoys
has been one shared by many throughout the centuries who have witnessed
for the first time the beautiful and inspiring Divine Liturgy of the
Orthodox Church.

The Holy Eucharist is the oldest experience of
Christian Worship as well as the most distinctive. Eucharist comes from
the Greek word which means thanksgiving. In a particular sense, the word
describes the most important form of the Church's attitude toward all
of life. The origin of the Eucharist is traced to the Last Supper at
which Christ instructed His disciples to offer bread and wine in His
memory. The Eucharist is the most distinctive event of Orthodox worship
because in it the Church gathers to remember and celebrate the Life,
Death, and Resurrection of Christ and, thereby, to participate in the
mystery of Salvation.

In the Orthodox Church, the Eucharist is
also known as the Divine Liturgy. The word liturgy means people's work;
this description serves to emphasize the corporate character of the
Eucharist. When an Orthodox attends the Divine Liturgy, it is not as an
isolated person who comes simply to hear a sermon.

Rather, he
comes as a member of the Community of Faith who participates in the very
purpose of the Church, which is the Worship of the Holy Trinity.
Therefore, the Eucharist is truly the center of the life of the Church
and the principal means of spiritual development, both for the
individual Christian and the Church as a whole. Not only does the
Eucharist embody and express the Christian faith in a unique way, but it
also enhances and deepens our faith in the Trinity. This
sacrament-mystery is the experience toward which all the other
activities of the Church are directed and from which they receive their
direction.

The Eucharist, the principal sacrament mystery of the
Orthodox Church, is not so much a text to be studied, but rather an
experience of communion with the Living God in which prayer , music,
gestures, the material creation, art and architecture come into full
orchestration. The Eucharist is a celebration of faith which touches not
only the mind but also the emotions and the senses.

Throughout
the centuries, Christians have seen many dimensions in the Eucharist.
The various titles which have come to describe the rite bear witness to
the richness of its meaning. The Eucharist has been known as the Holy
offering, the Holy Mysteries, the Mystic Supper, and the Holy Communion.
The Orthodox Church recognizes the many facets of the Eucharist and
wisely refuses to over-emphasize one element to the detirement of the
others. In so doing, Orthodoxy has clearly avoided reducing the
Eucharist to a simple memorial of the Last Supper which is only
occasionally observed. Following the teachings of both Scripture and
Tradition, the Orthodox Church believes that Christ is truly present
with His people in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The
Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine become for us His Body and His
Blood. We affirm that these Holy Gifts are transfigured into the first
fruits of the New Creation in which ultimately God will be "all in all".

THREE LITURGIES
As it is
celebrated today, the Divine Liturgy is a product of historical
development. The fundamental core of the liturgy dates from the time of
Christ and the Apostles. To this, prayers, hymns, and gestures have been
added throughout the centuries. The liturgy achieved a basic framework
by the ninth century.

There are three forms of the Eucharist presently in use in the Orthodox Church:


  1. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which is the most frequently celebrated.
     
  2. The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which is celebrated only ten times a year.
     
  3. The Liturgy of St. James which is celebrated on October 23, the
    feastday of the Saint. While these saints did not compose the entire
    liturgy which bears their names, it is probable that they did author
    many of the prayers. The structure and basic elements of the three
    liturgies are similar, although there are differences in some hymns and
    prayers.

In addition to these Liturgies, there is
also the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts. This is not truly a
eucharistic liturgy but rather an evening Vesper Service followed by the
distribution of Holy Communion reserved from the previous Sunday. This
liturgy is celebrated only on weekday mornings or evenings during Lent,
and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, when the full
Eucharist is not permitted because of its Resurrection spirit. The
Eucharist expresses the deep joy which is so central to the Gospel.

The
Divine Liturgy is properly celebrated only once a day. This custom
serves to emphasize and maintain the unity of the local congregation.
The Eucharist is always the principal Service on Sundays and Holy Days
and may be celebrated on other weekdays.

However, the Divine
Liturgy is not celebrated by the priest privately, without a
congregation. The Eucharist is usually celebrated in the morning but,
with the Bishop's blessing, may be offered in the evening. The Greek
Orthodox Archdiocese has recently encouraged the celebration of the
Liturgy in the evening after Vespers, on the vigil of major Feast and
Saints Days.


THE ACTIONS OF THE LITURGY

The Divine Liturgy may be divided into
two major parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the
Faithful, which are preceded by the Service of Preparation.

Although
there are many symbolic interpretations of the Divine Liturgy, the most
fundamental meaning is found in the actions and prayers.


THE SERVICE OF PREPARATION

Prior to the beginning of the Liturgy,
the priest prepares himself with prayer and then precedes to vest
himself. The vestments express his priestly ministry as well as his
office. Next, the priest goes to the Proskomide Table which is on the
left side of the Altar Table in the Sanctuary. There, he prepares the
offering of bread and wine for the Liturgy. Ideally, the leavened loaves
of bread, and the wine from which the offering is taken, are prepared
by members of the congregation. The elements are presented to the priest
before the service, together with the names of those persons, living
and dead, who are to be remembered during the Divine Liturgy. The
offering symbolically represents the entire Church gathered about
Christ, the Lamb of God.


THE LITURGY OF THE CATECHUMENS

The Divine Liturgy begins with the
solemn declaration: "Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit now and for ever more." With these words we
are reminded that in the Divine Liturgy the Church becomes a real
manifestation of God's Kingdom on earth.

Since the first part of
the Liturgy was designed originally for the Catechumens, those being
schooled in the faith, had a very instructive quality. The Eucharist
also has elements which are in common with other Services. We gather as
Christians who share a common faith in the Holy Trinity. We sing and
pray as a people united in Christ, who are not bound by time, space, or
social barriers.

The Little Entrance is the central action of the
first part of the Liturgy. A procession takes place in which the priest
carries the Book of Gospels from the sanctuary into the nave. The
procession directs our attention to the Scripture and to the presence of
Christ in the Gospel. The entrance leads to the Epistle lesson, the
Gospel, and the Sermon.


THE LITURGY OF THE FAITHFUL

In the early Church, only those who were
baptized and not in a state of sin were permitted to remain for this
most solemn part of the Liturgy. With the Great Entrance marking the
beginning of this part of the Liturgy, the offering of bread and wine is
brought by the priest from the Preparation Table, through the nave, and
to the Altar Table. Before the offering can proceed, however, we are
called upon to love one another so that we may perfectly confess our
faith. In the early Church, the Kiss of Peace was exchanged at this
point. After the symbolic kiss of Peace, we join together in professing
our Faith through the words of the Creed.

Only now can we
properly offer our gifts of bread and wine to the Father as our Lord
directed us to do in His memory. This offering is one of great joy, for
through it we remember the mighty actions of God through which we have
received the gift of salvation, and especially the Life, Death, and
Resurrection of Christ. We invoke the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and
upon our offering, asking the Father that they become for us the Body
and Blood of Christ. Through our thanking and remembering the Holy
Spirit reveals the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst.

The
priest comes from the altar with the Holy Gifts, inviting the
congregation to draw near with reverence of God, with faith, and with
love." Our sharing in the Eucharist Gifts not only expresses our
fellowship with one another, but also our unity with the Father in His
Kingdom. Individuals approach the Holy Gifts and receive the Eucharistic
bread and wine from the common chalice. The priest distributes the Holy
Gifts by means of a communion spoon. Since the Holy Communion is an
expression of our Faith, reception of the Holy Gifts is open only to
those who are baptized, chrismated, and practicing members of the
Orthodox Church.

The Liturgy comes to an end with prayer of
Thanksgiving and the Benediction. At the conclusion of the Eucharist,
the congregation comes forward to receive a portion of the liturgical
bread which was not used for the offering.






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