Faith and the Eucharist

edited July 2014 in Faith Issues
...a number of years ago a man came to this church loaded with a parcel for one of the parishioners. He was an unbeliever rather impatient, almost aggressive and he had made calculations so as to arrive here when the service was over because he wanted to deliver his parcel but he did not want to have anything to do with what was going on inside these walls but providence has thought of it differently. He arrived before the Vsenoshnaya, the evening service was over. Impatiently he settled at the back of the church with his parcel.

And then something happened to him because when he had delivered his parcel and everyone had gone and I was going round to check everything I found him sitting at the back and I mildly suggested that it was time for him to go home. He said: “No, you must explain something to me: what is happening here? What is it that has affected me, that has impressed me? I am an unbeliever, I am certain that God does not exist and yet something was happening. Is it the effect of the candlelight? Is the mournful singing of your choir? Is it the quiet that is here which one does not meet in the street? What was it?” I shrugged my shoulders and said: “I would say it’s God’s presence but if you believe that there is no God you must look for another explanation”. He said: “Yes, I want to come here some time when no-one is in this church so that the collective hysteria of your people does not affect me. And if I come I want you to make yourself scarce because I don’t want to be influenced by your presence”. I said: “Yes, come again”.

He came several times, sat for a long while and one day he said to me: “You know, when there is no-one, when you have made yourself scarce there is still something in this church which I have not met or found anywhere. Supposing it is God Who lives here and that in His presence people feel well, peaceful, comfortable, warm to one another, what does it really matter? You have provided Him with lodgings, He lives here comfortably, He makes yourself welcome when you come and what then?” I said: “I don’t know, come again and find out”. And he came again and one day he said to me: “You know, I have noticed something: when people come to the church there is worry in their faces, there is tension in their behaviour, when they go they are still. One can have a feeling that they are at peace with themselves and with one another. And then there is another thing which I simply can’t understand. People who come in a morning service to the steps that are now behind me and receive something from a cup with a spoon they come with one face, when they turn round, their faces are absolutely changed, there is light in them, there is light in their eyes so that your God must be not only a Host in this building, He is an active God, He does something about people and something which I wish someone could do for me.” I said: “Yes, how do you want to proceed?” “I want you to talk to me and to explain things to me which I don’t understand or know”. And for a while he came regularly, then he came to services and he stood still and quiet and one day he said: “I know now that God, your God is an active God Who transforms people, I need being transformed. Could I be baptised?”


  • Another really nice quote about the Eucharist:

    "The Eucharist can be interpreted correctly only in eschatological categories. Performed in time (not outside of time), the Liturgy reveals in time; anticipates and gives the Kingdom of the age to come; so the Sacrament of the Eucharist, although consisting of a series of actions, is one, undivided sacrament.

    While the Liturgy as a whole is related to time, is part of time, inside the Liturgy the categories of time are not applicable, because the essence of the Liturgy is in leaving the fallen, fragmented time and moving into a time restored in all its fullness. In that sense, the whole Liturgy is in the Spirit. 

    Christ is present; He assembles, offers and distributes through the Holy Spirit, as at the Last Supper. On the day of the Last Supper, there was no epiklesis, and the Last Supper shows the glorification of the Son by the Father in the Spirit, so that the distinction in the Eucharist of the actions of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity is wrong and leads to dead ends. Each Person of the Holy Trinity is acting “Trinitarianly.”...

    ...In the Eucharist, everything (the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) is accomplished by the Son, and revealed by the Holy Spirit. 

    Thanksgiving has taken us, the Church, up to heaven, to the heavenly altar. In heaven, there is no other Food, no other Drink, than God, who gives us, as our life, His Son. So bread and wine are transformed by our rising up in the Son to the Father. And the Holy Spirit reveals Him to us as perfect, full, complete—given to us as Communion.

    The goal of creation is fulfilled and revealed. What happens with the Bread? It is “fulfilled.” “This is My Body...” What does that mean? It means that it is what the Bread was meant to be: everlasting, existing before time, Divine, fulfilled. It joins us in Christ to God; it makes us into what we are created for. It means that in this world, in its categories, nothing happens to the bread because what is happening is spiritual, in the Spirit. All the talk about the substance, the talks about the “moment,” does not clarify anything. But then, “blessed are you who see...” 

    It is impossible to objectively fit the Kingdom of God into frames, laws, connections of this world. That is why the disciples did not recognize Christ “objectively” but knew that it was He—spiritually. The early Church, therefore, never mentions the Eucharist detached from the Church, from the Assembly.

    To explain the Eucharist separate from what is happening in it, first of all with the Church, is impossible. Therefore as soon as such an explanation is begun, it unavoidably leads to a dead end."

    Father Alexander Schmemman, Monday, October 27, 1980, Journals pages 274-275
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