30 January 2009

St. Ignatius on Discipleship, part 3

Discipleship and Eucharist
Ignatius employs creative bread and wine metaphors to relate the Eucharist to discipleship. For the early Church, only those who were fully accepted into the community through Baptism partook the Eucharist. Some misunderstand his language regarding being part of a new Eucharist. His language of becoming ‘pure wheat of God’ sounds too much like he considered himself to initiate a perpetual sacrifice in the lives of Christian martyrs. No doubt he felt that his own death was somehow connected to Christ’s. But his words on the holy Eucharist convey his belief, like baptism, that individuals participate in obedience only under the bishop.

Ephesians 13:1. ‘Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed.’ The form ‘eucaristw’ in early Christian literature is closely connected to the idea of Eucharist. Of the times it seems on to refer only to thanksgiving to God, this occurrence should be seen to refer to the Lord’s Table, at which the faithful come together. This connects discipleship again to the community of faith. We come together, not in solitary, to give thanks and taking the elements.

Trallians 8:2 “Wherefore, clothing yourselves with meekness, be ye renewed in faith, that is the flesh of the Lord, and in love, that is the blood of Jesus Christ.” Faith and Love!

Philadelphians 4:1. ‘Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist . . . that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God,’ and ‘I have confidence of you in the Lord, that ye will be of no other mind. Wherefore I . . . exhort you to have but one faith, and one preaching, and one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ; and His blood which was shed for us is one; one loaf also is broken to all, and one cup is distributed among them all: there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants.’ Clearly the point to these two lines is unity. Just as baptism could not occur outside the Church, the Eucharist was disallowed unless the community was present under the head of the bishop. He connects the bread to Christ’s body, referring to the action of breaking the bread and passing it to one another. Apparently there was only one loaf to begin with, describing the unity of Christ’s person. Even by taking the cup and breaking the bread, they displayed their discipleship through obedience. For the Eucharist could not be considered worthy of God unless it was administered by the bishop. How do this apply to Christian discipleship? Suppose believers want to explain their faith to their neighbors, yet without the stigma of the assembly. Could they use the sacraments to display the gospel to those interested? No because the gospel must remain in the Church lest it be invalidated. For those actions would be outside the ordained manner of worship, thus disobedient.

Smyrneans 7:1. ‘They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.’ In this interesting polemic against false teachers, Ignatius describes to the Smyrneans how heretics did not come to the table to celebrate the gospel because they did not believe correctly about Christ. The implication is that those who believe the message will obediently join the Church’s worship. Correct discipleship affirms correct doctrine. Apparently this applies to the preceding verse in that those who cannot follow the teaching of the apostles corrupt the gospel and disobediently incur wrath.

Smyrneans 8:1. ‘Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.’ This verse simply extends the sacrament to anyone whom the bishop has entrusted the sacred rite. Perhaps in this way, the Eucharistic celebration could be employed on the mission field by someone commissioned by the Bishop, like a parish Priest.

When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! 1Corinthians 11:20-. The Eucharist is the proclamation of the gospel in Corinthians. The gospel and the Eucharist are the property of the Church.

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