Several years ago I remember hearing about someone switching churches for a reason that I could not connect to: a man that switched from being Baptist to Episcopalian in part because he found the liturgy to be so beautiful. Liturgy? Really? You mean like formal presentation of that bread and wine with those fancy clothes?
That was my cultural bias in belittling it because I prided myself on my informal formation as a Christian. My parents did not identify themselves as Christian and I became a Christian without their guidance when I was 10 and became a church goer at 14. I did not take into my life a habit to pray before meals and cussing was not a problem for me. In fact, I rarely made it a point to dress nice for church because God knows my heart. There was even a season of my life when I avoided “dry, organized church” of any kind choosing to be in a house church that was off the rails and not reverent to traditions of Christianity that had unity and history to it. So on that liturgy anecdote “Really?” seemed to make sense.
But years later, my meandering journey in following Christ took me unexpectedly into the Catholic Church. To stay. I actually like it. Another interesting point is that I wanted a Christianity to experience that was consistent with a matter of fact declaration on fresh, pristine form on how, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). In this setting I have found this verse to be fleshed out in the most fulness.
But this is not just a matter of just a ceremony for ceremony’s sake. This is the full realization of what is to take the message of John 3:16, thank God for His sacrifice of His Son and infuse it relationally into ones soul and body. In the Old Testament they had a bread sacrifice to God called the todah. In the Greek translation from Hebrew they used the word eucharesteo. This is where we get Eucharist where Jesus is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Did I still accept Jesus at 10 with a simple prayer? Yes. But with The Eucharist it is blown into 3D and it draws me to a unified walk with Church in light of salvation history.
Late invention? The accounts of having the Eucharist in the Early Church Fathers writings are numerous. But one can see something profound with Jesus on the day of the resurrection. Two disciples of Jesus come upon him on the road to Emmaus but do not recognize him right away. He takes the fog away eventually like he does for anyone who seeks him honestly.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-35).
Safe to assume that they consumed the bread? Almost. Once Jesus gave thanks and consecrated, his presence is extended in the bread. They knew him in the breaking of the bread.
Klasis is the Greek word for the actual breaking of bread. In a solemn way this happens in a holy, fellowship time. But there is another breaking of the bread can then be done in smaller settings that are not as formal. There is room to build relationally with one another that does not take away from Jesus.
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke (klasis) bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). This is beautiful, compliments the pillar of above about fellowship and is a sanctified time because of the primary breaking of the bread in the sacrifice reflecting The Sacrifice on the cross. It is in the institution of the Eucharist that Christ gives us the source and summit of our faith as we walk in God and together.
This is where Jesus expressed something that was to have meaning but must be apprehended (like getting the “jist” of something) and comprehending.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me (John 6: 54-57).
Here, all of the crowd save the 12 disciples walk away. The twelve maybe apprehend and others will not soften to such an offensive mystery. But the two men on the road to Emmasaus? Many other Christians through the ages such as Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic? Different story. But now I can tell you it is my story as well.