A Eucharist Journey: Day 5 of 8

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Unity

-Joshua M. Casey

One of our earliest Communion prayers is from a late 1st Century book called the Didache, or “Teachings”. In the blessing of the bread it says,

 As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy Kingdom, for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever (Did. 9:4).[1]

In these early stages of the faith, there appears to be an understanding that this act has a unifying power for those who partake. It recognizes that as individuals we have complex lives full of our own joys and sorrows, but when we gather as the Church to receive the Life of Christ, we are leaving one world and entering another. Now this leaving is in no way an escape, some attempt to leave the problems of this world–to be saved from it–but an act of centering–a reminder that we are saved for the world. This leaving and gathering is essential for the Church to become what it is meant to be: the physical presence of Christ in the world. As Orthodox scholar Alexander Schmemann said, “In Church today, we so often find we meet only the same old world, not Christ and His Kingdom. We do not realize that we never get anywhere because we never leave any place behind us.”[2]

We leave and gather for unity, for solidity. Like a loaf of bread which appears once the various ingredients are brought together, we go to church in order to become the Church. Better still, we go to be reminded that we already are the Church. This remembrance unites stained sinners into the stainless Body of Christ, that we might go out and bring this same unifying Life to the rest of the world. For it is in this “superlative act of Christian fellowship”[3] that we approach the Table–broken, frayed, and hungry–and discover a Love that is equal to the task of our emptiness. Not the old kind of love which is for those who are like me in name, skin tone, or opinion, but a new kind which transcends the differences we allow to divide us, making friends out of enemies.

For this is ultimately the aim of our unity found in this Common Meal: not simply a command to love (that is nothing new), but the possibility of fulfilling the command. That if we receive this Life into our bodies, we might then have the strength to turn together to the world and love it as Christ has loved us (John 13:34): with that same death-shattering, Life-giving, transformative Love of God.

[1] Didache. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (translation J. B. Lightfoot). Early Christian Writings, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html>.
[2] Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary, 2004.
[3] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together. New York: HarperOne, 1954. Print.


About The Author

Joshua M. Casey worked as a campus pastor for eight years and is passionate about connecting the church of today to the practices of our past. He lives in Bloomington, IN with his family and writes regularly at joshuamcasey.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter @thejmcasey and Facebook.com/jmcasey7.