I wonder whether those with knowledge on this matter may be able to share their thoughts, as well as perhaps give some idea of the development of the understandings that we have in the Orthodox Church about this.
On another forum, a general discussion was being had about the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts, during the course of which, there was a tangent about the differences in Greek and Russian general (but not universal) understandings about the consecration of the wine and the implications of those understandings.
From a combination of reading, discussion, and experience, it seems to me that there are three distinct positions here:
- The unconsecrated wine in the chalice does become the Blood of Christ through simple contact with the Body of Christ. Therefore, Communion is given in both kinds in the usual way, including to infants and deacons.
- The unconsecrated wine in the chalice does not become the Blood of Christ but remains simple wine. Therefore, Communion is given only in the form of the Body - not the Blood - of Christ. Infants who are unable to swallow solids may not be communicated. Also, any deacon who drinks from the chalice will have broken his fast and will be unable to consume the Gifts after Communion.
- The unconsecrated wine in the chalice does not become the Blood of Christ. However, if the Lamb were infused with the Blood of Christ at the previous Sunday Liturgy, then when that Lamb is placed into the chalice of unconsecrated wine, the Holy Blood diffuses into the wine in the chalice, and Communon is given in both kinds in the usual way.
My limited experience of Russian church practice has been position C, so position B is by no means universal Russian practice. It seems that position A is the most ancient and is common in the Greek church but it is also the one with which I have the most trouble.
I have read that St Peter Moghila had similar misgivings but haven't been able to find what he actually wrote on the matter. Meaning no disrespect to centuries of tradition, it seems to my poor understanding to reduce the effecting of the sacraments from their proper liturgical and spiritual context to something that could be perceived as almost magical. Before I was Orthodox, I understood the Eucharistic Rite as having meaning, significance, and purpose, and its constituent elements having similar meaning, significance, and purpose. When I entered the Church, I found this understanding affirmed and expressed in abundance. When the priest prepares the Gifts with prayer and symbolic action, when they are offered to God, when the anamnesis takes place of the salvation work of God throughout time and space, and when the priest asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Son, then all of those events - the Incarnation, the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ - are really and truly made present. The crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Body and Blood of the Saviour are made truly present by God's mercy, through the prayerful, faithful participation of God's people in that eucharistic action.
Everything that I have been led to believe about the nature and purpose of the eucharistic rite seems to me to be negated if it can all be so easily dispensed with and wine can be changed into the Blood of Jesus Christ simply by touching his Holy Body. I know that, going back to the Old Covenant, holiness through contact with the holy was understood and that we in the New Covenant have inherited that in some sense. Yet the conferring of holiness seems different from the effecting of a change of wine into the Blood of the Saviour.
Yet this seems to be the ancient understanding of the Church. I suppose I'm just having a hard time with this and would welcome comment, explanation of the development of thought on this, quotations, and so forth to help me.
Thank you so much.
Edited by Michael Astley, 10 March 2012 - 08:38 AM.
tidied paragraphing to make post more easily readable