Saturday, January 8, 2011

Christ our Passover

Notes on chapter five of Orthodox Spirituality: An Outline of the Orthodox Ascetical and Mystical Tradition, "Christ our Passover".

  1. The Paschal Lamb. "Eucharistic grace fulfills the grace of Baptism and the grace of Chrisma." The Paschal Mystery consists of the Lord's Supper, the Passion, and the Resurrection.
  2. The Supper of the Lamb. "The fractio panis, the breaking of the bread, remains the center of the Holy Mysteries." The Orthodox Church affirms the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but does not have a theory explaining it. "The Greek Fathers nevertheless eschewed the crude literalism which might become a kind of Eucharistic materialism. which might become a kind of Eucharistic materialism. They warned us against a one-sided or disproportionate piety towards the sacramental action or elements. They knew the the Eucharistic sacrament is not an end in itself, but a means to a spiritual reality greater than the sacraments." The Eucharist is a means of union: "Communicating with Christ, we communicate with all His members. ... The individual Jesus, the historical Christ, was in some sense the sacramentum, the sign, of the mystical body and total Christ, who constitutes the res, the full and ultimate reality of the Eucharist." Other Eucharistic beliefs/practices:
    • Orthodox Christians generally do not commune frequently, though there is a strong tradition in the Fathers for frequent communion. Augustine recommends that everyone act according to their conscience here.
    • Jesus is himself the "real and invisible priest" in the Eucharist.
    • The faithful offer small loaves of bread, prosphorai, which the priest slices into small bits. These pieces are not consecrated, but are placed inside the chalice after the wine has been distributed. This symbolizes the union of Christians with the sacrifice of Christ.
    • The Eucharist is not a "new immolation" of Jesus. "Our present Eucharists are offerings, actualizations, applications of this one all-sufficient Sacrifice." They are "unbloody sacrifices" of praise.
  3. The Blood of the Lamb. It is not true that the Orthodox church gives less consideration to the Cross than the Western church. The Cross is commemorated in the Orthodox liturgy numerous times. They do not, however, have realistic depictions of Christ on the cross, preferring to keep crucifixion and resurrection together by depicting Christ on the cross as a victor. There is a veneration and mysticism of the wounds of Jesus in Orthodoxy. Linked to these things is the Orthodox passionate feeling for the martyrs and its traditional "evangelical non-resistance to violence".
  4. The Marriage of the Lamb. The Bride of Christ is the Church, but "nuptial analogies" have also been used of the relationship between Christ and individual Christians, e.g., virgins, martyrs, mystics. Although Orthodoxy sets virginity above matrimony, the union between a husband and a wife is "a sharing in the marriage between the Lamb and the Church."
  5. The Triumph of the Lamb. "Christ immolated is also the risen Christ." A peculiarity of the Orthodox church is the way they give the grave of Christ "a kind of predominance" over the cross. Another difference in emphasis between East and West is the way that the Orthodox keep cross and resurrection together, not limiting Easter joy to the resurrection only. [Comments: This seems a little unfair. Even so, I prefer proceeding through Holy Week at a more deliberate pace, not jumping ahead to the end of the story.] Gillet concludes with a section on the Transfiguration, deification, and vision, which I will discuss in a separate post.

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About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.