by Abbot Tryphon
Of all the miracles of Christ, the greatest is the Eucharist.
The Gospels are filled with accounts of miracles performed by Christ, but the greatest of them all was when He offered the simple elements of bread and wine, made by man, and transformed them into His very Body and Blood. This miracle continues to this very day, after some two thousand years, to bring Christ into our very midst and allow us to receive Him for the healing of both our bodies and our souls. That He would use as agents for this transformation, priests, to call down the Holy Spirit to continue this miracle, is one of the great mysteries of our Christian Faith.
Just before the priest offers Holy Communion to the faithful, he recites the following prayer, which he has himself recited just before his own communion. This prayer is each person’s act of personal commitment to Christ.
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first (I Timothy 1:15). I believe also that this is truly Thine own most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own most precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: Have mercy upon me and forgive me my transgressions, committed in word and deed, whether consciously or unconsciously. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting. Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, receive me today as a communicant. For I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: “Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.” May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, 0 Lord, but to the healing of soul and body.
This prayer is a clear sign that we are not simply commemorating a past event, or celebrating a communal meal like the Passover of the Jews. The Church never saw this as a continuation of the Passover Meal, but rather a sacrifice that is offered for both the living and the dead. Because this sacrifice is not a mere figure or symbol but a true sacrifice, it is the most important service that takes place in the life of the Church. Furthermore, it is not the bread that is sacrificed, but the very Body of Christ. Although the Lamb of God was sacrificed only once, the sacrifice at the Eucharist consists, not in the real and bloody immolation of the Lamb, but in the transformation of the bread into the sacrificed Lamb.
The Mystery of the Holy Eucharist can not be explained in purely logical or rational terms, for the Eucharist, like Christ Himself, is a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven which is “not of this world.”
“Having learn these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ; and that of this David sung of old, saying, And bread strengtheneth man’s heart, to make his face to shine with oil, ‘strengthen thou thine heart,’ by partaking thereof as spiritual, and “make the face of thy soul to shine.”” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XXII:8 (c. A.D. 350).