Paul writes, “For the tradition I received from the Lord and also handed on to you is that on the night Christ was betrayed, He took a loaf of bread, and after He have given thanks, He broke the bread, saying, ‘This is my body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way after supper, Jesus took the cup of wine, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant now given as my sacrifice for your sake. Whenever you drink from this cup, do this in remembrance of Me.’ Paul then continues … Whenever you eat from this loaf of bread or dink from this cup of wine, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until the Lord does come.” – I Corinthians 11:23-26
The Eucharist – a Greek transliteration from the Latin which means …“the thanksgiving”. The Eucharist refers to the moment of holy consecration that Jesus first offered in the Upper Room just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. More specifically, the Eucharist refers to the bread and the wine. Orthodox Christians almost always use the word Eucharist; Roman Catholic Christians often refer to the service that includes the Eucharist as the Mass. Some Protestants prefer to use terms such as Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper, but the understanding of the Eucharist is present in each of these traditions. Oh, there are subtle shades of difference in the theological explanations of the Eucharist, but, for the most part, the heart of the experience is much the same. “This loaf of bread is my body broken for you … this cup of wine is my life poured out for you.”
Last night, a most frail and elderly Greek Orthodox priest, Father Matthew, officiated the Service of the Eucharist for the brothers, novices, and guests here at St. Gregory Palamas. Father Mathew is 97 years old, moves about by means of a wheel chair, his body now giving way to leukemia. I suspect that this was Father Matthew’s last turn at leading the service. The Eucharist took rustic in the most rustic Hermitage Chapel, a place that is little more than a cavern hewed from the rocky hillside, the seats made of logs and stones. Here the monks who live in the solitary hermitages gather for communal prayer, away from the clamor of the communal cloister. We gathered by candlelight for the hour was late, only a quarter moon that night but the sky was very full of stars. I was expecting the liturgy to very high church … as Orthodox monks and priests are much in love with the theatre of worship … and besides this old, old priest surely was deeply set in the ancient ways. But my expectations were far off the mark.
The old priest … when he came to the words at the center of the Eucharist … he spoke from a place deep, deep within his soul … with a timbre of voice and a choice of words that were both oh so very human and yet oh so very holy … from his wheelchair he reached up to the stone table and took the loaf of bread and said …
“Then Jesus took the loaf of bread and said to His disciples … ‘My Brothers, as I now break this one loaf of bread into many broken pieces, know that soon my body will be broken but still I will be with each of you. And when you gather, you will gather together the many broken pieces to once again the loaf. So when you eat this bread, remember Me and know that I am gathered in your midst.’ ”
Then this frail, old priest named Father Matthew reached for the tall, golden chalice that seemed so out of place in this chapel of rough stone and wooden logs. And as he lifted the chalice, it appeared so heavy in his frail hands. Then he said …“My Brothers, as I now share the wine from this one cup with you, know that soon I will willingly sacrifice my own life for your sake. I shall die so that you may live. But then I shall rise once more so that you may live forever, though one day too you will also have to die. So when you share this one cup of wine, this blood of My life, know that My life will now flow through your own living, and We shall be One, living together forever.”
And as we shared the Eucharist in the flickering candlelight with that old man whose own life was flickering, who would soon be journeying on … I cried as I prayed … and as I looked around me, I was not alone.
My Loved Ones, when you share in the Eucharist … remember … really remember …
May the Lord Bless Thee,
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).