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Revista Studii Teologice

REVISTA FACULTĂŢILOR DE TEOLOGIE DIN PATRIARHIA ROMÂNĂ



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Sfânta Euharistie – Cina de Taină a Împărăţiei cerurilor şi Hrana vieţii veşnice

The Holy Eucharist – the Mystical Supper of the Kingdom of Heaven and Food for eternal Life

Autor(i): Ciprian STREZA


After Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, He can no longer be seen in the body, as His countemporaries beheld Him, but He is encountered in a wholly new manner in Church worship, through the visible matter. This encounter between man and God, within the Church, culminates in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Christ thus carries out the economy of salvation, and dwells into those who believe in Him, as the only efficient means to impart His entire life and its gifts to all people, thus lending to worshippers’ bodies and souls His pure senses and the dynamism of His sacrificial state. Man’s encounter with God occurs within a unique atmosphere and context: the Mystical Supper of the Kingdom of Heaven. As all Christians are invited to this royal supper, the Church Fathers dwelt on this unique, eternal reality, to show Who is the One summoning people to this supper; which are the gifts He imparts; how He is united with those who receive Him in faith; how the invited one must be attired; and which gifts they must bring to this wedding feast. Saviour Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, Offering, Altar, and High Priest celebrating the recon-ciliation of man with God, is the one who summons, and waits on the eternal feast of Trinitarian love. The heavenly supper He prepares, that of the Kingdom, is is nothing but selfless, generous and disinterested love of the Holy Trinity, a love which the Trinity wants to extend to all created rational beings. Made in the image of God and intended to become a son of God through grace, having tasted the eternal, sacrificial Trinitarian love, man has been called from the very beginning to receive this heaven-ly food perpetually, so that he may be filled with this love and thus he may reunite the entire cosmos around him and return it to God as a token of this selfless love, thus becoming a mediator between the created and the uncreated, between the intel-ligible and the sensible, between heaven and earth, between paradise and this world, between man and woman.
Man’s fall diverted him from this unifying, synthesizing mission and deprived him of the communion provided by Trinitarian selfless love. This blissful communion was regained through the Incarnation, the Sacrifice and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who made Himself into the eternal Food of the new heavenly feast, the High Priest officiating man’s reconciliation with God, the perpetual Offering, the supreme, eternal Altar, by entering the Heavenly Tent, «the inner sanctuary» (Hebrews 6,20) and bringing Himself to the Father as pure, sweet-smelling Sacrifice. He remains there forever as pure offering, continuously preparing and offering the Gifts of His eternal Mystical Supper. At the Mystical Supper of the Kingdom of Heaven, our Sa-viour is not only the Food given to all and the perfect Offering, but also the High Priest celebrating the reconciliation of man with God. At this mystical wedding the Son of God brings the ultimate Gift, His own Person offered as a sacrifice to the Father. The offering brought by Saviour Jesus Christ is unique and perfect, because he has entered the Upper Chamber of the Holy of Holies, to prepare the Mystical Supper not with the blood of bulls and calves, but with His own precious Blood, much more valuable than any offering ever brought by any man. Our Saviour’s sacrifice is unique and has the greatest possible efficacy, because Christ as a perfect man gave Himself to God, offering not some impersonal gifts or some other people (as pagans used to do), but offering HImself for the sake of others, and at the same time being the supreme Priest, the High Priest par excellence, who in his solidarity with his fellow people – his brethren, evinced the immensity of divine love and died in order to sanctify Himself and bring all those who believe in Him to the Father.
In order to enable man again to come before the Father and sit at the table of the Kingdom’s Supper, our Saviour Jesus Christ became incarnate, assumed human nature in His hypostasis and imbued it with complete openness to God, culminating in death as the ultimate token of His complete obedience. It was the only way for hu-manity to regain communion with God, and only in our Saviour Jesus Christ could a human person accept death out of love, obedience and trust that God will resurrect him, thus responding to the love of the Father. His complete self-renunciation, His complete surrender to God, during His entire human life, culminated in His death on the cross, as visible manifestation of His will to maintain and impress on the human nature he had assumed, the willingness to surrender Himself even in His humanity to God the Father and to be eternally in communion with those who follow Him in self-sacrificial love. Christ, the New Man, undertook His crucifixion as visible expres-sion of His true death to any self-centeredness, in its perfect form. „It was meet for Christ – Father Dumitru Stăniloae says – to bring this ultimate proof of His sincerity and accept the supreme form of sacrifice. Circumstances required this proof”.
A peculiar trait of the heavenly Supper is the fact that our Saviour Jesus Christ is the High Priest that eternally officiates man’s reconciliation with God. Father Dumitru Stăniloae pointed out that the uniqueness and sublimity of Christ’s eternal priesthood lies in this perpetual self-sacrifice to the Father and especially in the fact that His sacrifice is personal, a deep and heartfelt one, full of selfless love and delicate sensibility. The Saviour would not offer to the Father something devoid of life and feeling, but He gave Himself with His sensibility as a Son of man, unalte-red by sin, experiencing and living human sinfulness as His own, and willingly accep-ted death, like no man could. His pure affectivity and delicate sensibility enables Him to be a perfect sacrifice and at the same time High Priest in eternity, as well as the highest place of offering – that is, an Altar above heavens, for He could not bring His offering any closer to the Father than He does in Himself. He is both sacrifice, sacri-ficer and the sanctuary where sacrifices are brought. He is the closest to God, and permanently in a state of sacrifice, extending it to those who receive in love the dynamcs of His bringing them to the Father.
Christ is the most precious gift that could be offered to the Father, because He gives Himself to redeem all humankind, gaining the Father’s love for all His brethren according to humanity. The Creator chose to elevate human nature ena-bling it to grasp and experience such full, all-pure love and taste the communion of intratrinitarian life. It was only Christ who could achieve this, through His perfect sacrifice that imbued human nature with the utmost sesibility and complete self-giving, so that man may fully experience communion with God and his fellow people. Our Saviour’s self-sacrifice could elevate humanity to such sensibility as to feel the ineffable divine presence and sensibility, and fill man with compassion for his fellow people, thus turning all of them into children of the Father and His brethren accor-ding to the human nature. In the Holy Eucharist, in man’s mystical attending the Supper of Heavenly Kingdom, occurs the ineffable encounter and union between man and God. Those who are alike end up in perfect union, as St Gregory Palamas says, and love makes man one body and one Spirit with Saviour Jesus Christ, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, being united with Him by means of this heavenly Bread. And union with Christ, encounter with Him in the Holy Eucharist is mysterious and personal. This union is complete because by virtue of it, Christ’s body is extended into the body and soul of every Christian, imparting all qualities and beauty of His deified human nature.
The Holy Eucharist is a wondrous exchange of gifts between man and God. The Saviour brings Himself as the supreme gift at this Mystical, heavenly Supper and man is called to join Him wearing a „festive attire”, bringing the gift of self-sacrifice. This heavenly Feast can only be attended in a sacrificial state, the only one allowing man to feel and experience the delicate, selfless love of Christ, completely opposed to the insensitive, rude selfishness of vice. The depth of man’s and God’s communion is manifest in the reciprocity of selfless love. Man loves because he is loved, and the nobility and loftiness of divine love prompts an adequate response from the part of man. Christ offers Himself in the Holy Eucharist with the sensibility of His selfless love. This is the manner of offering which Christ teaches us so that we, like Him, as free persons, may be fully and completely present in the gifts we offer, giving our entire life to God in order to receive it anew, deified and imbued with the fragrance of His selfless love.
Patristic theology and especially the philocalic one emphasize that, in order for this extraordinary exchange of gifts to take place, man must approach the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist in a self-sacrificial disposition, manifest in fasting, watchfulness and observance of the divine commandments. The visible enactment of this exchange of gifts between God and man is the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Christi-ans bring to the Holy Liturgy bread and wine, the basic elements that sustain life; thus they symbolically place their entire life before God. Bread and wine are fruits of the earth and gifts of God, but they also involve man’s toil and effort and thus they can be offered back to God as a gift to which man’s own sacrifice is added. Christ’s bringing us, as persons, to the Father is clearly seen in the practice of cutting out particles and remembering names during the Holy Liturgy. The entire ritual of Proskomedia, fully-fledged by the 11th century, expresses ecclesial awareness that the offerings of all believers are personally assumed by Christ in His sacrifice and thus brought before the Father. Remembering the names and placing the particles beside the Lamb shows that they preserve their personal character while their offe-ring is also a distinct and personal one.
During the Proskomedia, on the Holy Diskos is represented the entire Church – both the triumphant one in heaven, and the militant one on earth – gathe-red around the sacrificed Lamb, who conveys His sacrificial state to it and thus offers it to the Father as an extension and result of His own sacrifice. Christ’s sacrificed Body includes the sacrifice of the Church, which is brought before the Father in a personal manner, united with but distinct from His sacrifice. Thus the particles placed on the Holy Diskos do not become the Body and Blood of the Saviour, for they re-present all the Church members mentioned by name during the Proskomedia to show that all those gathered around the Lamb partake of the gifts of His sacrifice. The saints who are now in heaven partake of the Liturgy of eternal intratrinitarian love and perpetually give themselves, together with Christ, to the Father as they did during their earthly lives. The faithful, still living in the body in this world, can parti-cipate as well in this eternal self-offering of Christ to the Father, by joining their own sacrifice to that of the heavenly Lamb through the visible ritual of the Holy Liturgy, whereby Christ descends and offers His Body and Blood to bring to the Father, as pure offerings, all those who believe in Him. The particles cut out for the saints re-present their mystical surrender to God as they dedicate all spiritual achievements to Christ, as fruit borne by His sacrifice within themselves. The particles for the living and the dead are cut out in order to help those still on their way towards the Kin-gdom of heaven to know, taste and experience the dynamics of selfless love within the Holy Trinity.
The Holy Eucharist is the perfect means and vehicle of man’s encounter and union with God. The Mystical Supper has not ended, but it continues in the light and joy of the wedding feast of the Son of the eternal King, with the souls – brides ente-ring in white wedding attire into the chamber of the heavenly Groom, who with His pure, delicate sensibility offers Himself up as sacrificial food. Man can attend this heavenly feast only in a sacrificial state, which enables him to feel and experience the lofty, selfless love of Christ, completely opposite to the insensitivity, rudeness, selfishness of sin. Only thus can man be united with Christ and become one Body and one Spirit with Him, so that the Body of Christ is extended into the body and soul of every Christian, imparting all its qualities and beauty to the deified human nature.

Taguri:
Studiu
Pagini: 75-94