Breaking the Bread; Keeping the Unity

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  (Acts 2:42)

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The Orthodox have tended to understand “the breaking of the bread” to refer to Holy Communion. The Christians assembled to celebrate the Eucharist not just as a commemoration of a past historical even, but even more so to celebrate Christ’s living presence in their midst.  People received Holy Communion not so much for their personal salvation as to demonstrate their union with the community of faithful, the Body of Christ, the Church.  We show we are Christian by identifying ourselves with the Body of Christ (see the comments by Sister Vassa Larin, “The Communion Spoon as Icon” in THE WHEEL Issue 23 Fall 2020, especially pp 31-32).

“…Christian liturgy was a celebration of the presence of the living Christ.  It is not a memorial meal commemorating something that happened in the past.”   (Robert Wilken, THE SPIRIT OF EARLY CHRISTIAN THOUGHT, p 31)

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The Eucharist was given to us as part of Christ’s healing us as the Physician of our souls.  As we receive Christ we are being healed of all of our spiritual infirmities by being united to Christ the Lord and to His Body, the Church.

“… sin was understood in terms of illness.  Here the remedy that Christ offered was his own life, and thus he was ‘himself the physician, himself the medicine’ (St Augustine). Or, again, the remedy was the Eucharist, which Ignatius of Antioch memorably referred to as ‘the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death.’  Or, yet again, it was the sentiments that Christ sent us, some soothing and some painful, but all curative, just as medicines usually are.”   (Boniface Ramsey, BEGINNING TO READ THE FATHERS, p 96)

We become one with Christ in and through Baptism and Holy Communion.  We share in the one table, the one cup, the one bread to become one Body with Christ.  “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (I Corinthians 10:16).

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Fr John Meyendorff notes that St Gregory Palamas

 “… when preaching about the Mysteries with the Eucharist specially in mind, developed the conception of St Paul and of the Fathers about the concorporality (syssomoi) of Christians with Christ…  In calling his flock to communion, he reminds them that ‘they must be with Christ not only one Spirit, but also one Body,’ that they are ‘flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone,’ and that ‘such is the union that has been granted to us by this Bread.’ ‘Christ,’ he continues, ‘has become our brother, by sharing our flesh and blood and so becoming assimilated to us.  . . .  He has joined and bound us to himself, as a husband his wife, by becoming one single flesh with us through the communion of his blood; he has also become our father by divine baptism which renders us like unto him, and he nourishes us at his own beast as a tender mother nourishes her babies.  . . .  Come, (Christ) says, eat my Body, drink my Blood . . .  so that you may be not only made after God’s image, but become gods and kings, eternal and heavenly, in me clothing yourselves with me, King and God,’”   (John Meyendorff, A STUDY OF GREGORY PALAMAS, p 177)

In the life of the parish each of us is responsible for maintaining the unity of the parish community.  The only thing we are to break or fraction is the Bread of Communion, but never are we to break the peace, concord, tranquility and unity of the parish community.

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!