Eucharistic Ecclesiology in a Nutshell

holy-eucharist-icon2‘The Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church, the sacrament of sacraments – wherever it’s celebrated by a legitimately consecrated priest, the Church is present and it’s possible to live the fullness of the church experience. No primacy can be exercised at the expense of this catholic fullness of the local Church. Yet in the [Roman] Catholic Church, the Pope projects his ecclesiastical power over the whole earth. This complicates relations with Orthodox sister Churches.’

(Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk, president of the theological commission of the Russian Church’s governing Holy Synod.)

The local church is the Body of Christ in its eucharistic aspect — by partaking of the one loaf which is the one body of Christ, the eucharistic community becomes the Body.

“The local church is autonomous and independent, because the Church of God in Christ indwells it in perfect fullness. … There may be a plurality of such manifestations, but the Church of God itself always remains one and unique.” (Nicholas Afanassieff)

Each local church is the whole church, and at the same time all the local churches together are the One Church.

“In the Church, unity and plurality are not only overcome: the one also contains the other.”  (Nicholas Afanassieff)

There is no sense of the church being made up of parts. Rather, the eucharistic assembly around a bishop — the diocese — is the fundamental unit of the church. Anything larger, such as a Metropolitanate or Patriarchate, is derivative in nature, consisting simply of a number of dioceses in mutual fellowship.

In eucharistic ecclesiology, the catholicity of the Church is fundamentally a concrete, visible aspect which is made real in the eucharist. The eucharist is the experience which brings together the “many” and the “one”, the “already” and the “not yet.” This one eucharistic community transcends all natural and social divisions. The one bishop at the table signifies the one catholic church before God. The catholicity of the church is Christological, in that it is a mark of the real presence of Christ in the Christian community. It is Pneumatological in that it is dynamic in history. It is local because it is living and concrete. The fact that catholicity is eucharistic, is highlighted by the fact that the conciliar activity of the church from the earliest time was concerned with issues of eucharistic communion as the local churches related to each other.

Eucharistic Ecclesiology is the Orthodox view of Ecclesiology and is a bottoms up approach to the Church rather than a top down approach. A top downs approach has been the traditional view (at least of the second Christian millennium) of the Latin Church, and to a certain degree adopted by the Eastern Church also.

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