The Eucharist: The Restoration of Relationship (Part One)

The following paper was written in the 2000.  It was formative and powerful as all the pieces of everything I had been learning about the Eucharist was put together.  It was written while a seminarian at Regent College in Vancouver, B. C., Canada.  I was not yet an Orthodox Christian, let alone ordained.  Note that the liturgical passages are mostly from western sources – I was a liturgical / sacramental western Christian at the time.  Also, some of the citations are from Protestant authors – after all Regent College is an evangelical seminary, yet the quoted authors impart wisdom, and their insights were employed in this paper.  It is a bit lengthy and will be posted in parts.



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They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Naked and ashamed our first parents hid themselves.  They withdrew; from loving communion with the One who created them for relationship.  Here is sorrow.  Here is loss and lostness.  Their nakedness exposed their infidelity and their loss of covenantal, trusting relationship.  Lost and scattered also was their relationship with all of creation:  the priests ordained to maintain the holy structure and furnishings of creation had thrust it back into the deep, sorrowful groaning of chaos.

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When asked this question, “What is the Gospel?” the answer is automatic.  It is the Father’s eternal plan of redemption and restoration.  It is the eschatological and ultimate state of being for all of creation:  to be gathered together in relational union in Christ.  It is the end of alienation.  Ephesians 1:  7 – 10 reads,

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.  With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The key phrase that holds out for us this Gospel message is highlighted above:  to gather up all things in him.  The key word is the Greek word anakephalaiosasthai, “to bring everything together in terms of some unifying principle or person.” [1]  As all was lost, scattered, and alienated by Adam; all was reclaimed by Jesus Christ.  By means of the Incarnation this was possible and made reality.  The Second Adam is the God-man.  The Nicene Creed expresses it, “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.  By the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man.”  She who was a creature, who was made up of representative elements of the universe gathered and assembled together as she grew from a single cell to young womanhood, stood as Representative for all creation.  The Son, her Creator, by the Father’s will and the power of the Holy Spirit, joined himself to those elements of the universe offered by her to him.  He was fully a creature, a man, formed and nurtured from the elements himself, and the Container of all creation within himself.  He holds those material elements given from her body and creation now as his own.  All is restored and gathered together in his headship.

In his work, Christus Victor, Gustav Aulen (borrowing from St. Irenaeus of Lyons) refers to this doctrinal theme of salvation as one of atonement, as “recapitulation” [2] (from the Latin translation of anakephalaiosasthai, recapitulare).  This recapitulation brought about by the Incarnation is accomplished also by the work of Christ’s cross, and it is the intended outcome of its work:  “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses…” (Eph 1:  7).  In Christ we have release, the forgiveness of sins, a basis of our (and creation’s) alienation.  Maintaining the theme of Christus Victor, in so doing Jesus Christ overcame sin and death, and the powers and principalities that held us in the bonds of this alienation.  Recapitulation, then, is our summary existence both now and in the eschaton; it is our summum bonum.  It is ontology of the Kingdom of God.  And, as it is with the Kingdom of God, it is and is not yet.  It has drawn near, but has not fully arrived.

St. Paul writes throughout his body of letters that we en Christo, “in Christ.”  En Christo is written in the Greek dative case.  This case, or form of grammatical construction of nouns, etc, shows relationship – not only spacial, but personal.  With the variants of such dative constructions as “in Christ,” “in him,” and others, the apostle tells his readers that we have relationship with Jesus Christ.  Then by use of compound verbs utilizing the Greek preposition sun, “with,” or better “together with,” he can declare that we who are in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit have been joined also to all the events of the Incarnation.  For example, in Eph 2: 5 we read, “even when we were dead through our trespasses, [he] made us alive with Christ.”  This “togetherness” also carries with its meaning a common destiny, which is especially seen when these compound verbs are used.  Thus, for all relationships and unions in this solidarity, Christ is their source and foundation.  Thus again, we are participants in the life of Christ:  we are participants in his ministry and his victory over the powers that held us in alienation.

As St. Paul develops Ephesians, the most immediate implication of recapitulation is spelled out:  the Ephesian Christians are to live in loving unity amid the diverse and competing ethnic and social groups in this region of the ancient Roman Empire that find themselves together in this new community.  This is especially true within the formerly hostile context of Gentile and Jew.  If the hostility that existed between God and humanity can be overcome by the cross of Christ, then even more so the hostile divisions that separate humanity.  Treating this, Eph 2: 13 – 14 states,

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

St. Paul’s teaching of Recapitulation is not to be for the Ephesians a “pie-in-the-sky” concept – one to be encountered as part of some disembodied experience.  It is also by the establishment of unity in every aspect of life, the Church aids in the bringing about of Recapitulation.  To be in Christ is to live out Christ and to participate in Christ.  Part of our participation in Christ’s Recapitulation is to live as priests:  “But you are a chosen race and a kingdom of priests…(1 Pe 2: 9).”

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[1]  Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Johannes P. Lowe and Eugene Nida eds., vol 1 “Introduction and Domains,” (New York:  United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989), 614.
[2]  Gastav Aulen, Christus Victor:  An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement, trans. A. Herber, (New York:  MacMillan, 1969), 21.  Hereafter referred to as Aulen.

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