9 Concerning the Eucharist
9:1 Concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way.
9:2 First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.
9:3 Next, concerning the broken bread: We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.
9:4 Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. To you is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
9:5 Allow no one to eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized in the name of the Lord. For concerning this, the Lord has said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs.”
I love the mystery of the Eucharist. When I was younger, and going to a Southern Baptist church, we only had it once every quarter. And we called it either “Communion” or “the Lord’s Supper.” “Eucharist” was just too Catholic! But once I started going to a liturgical church, the beauty of the Eucharist captured me. And then, going the next step and studying about it, the complete mystery of it enraptured me.
For me, sharing in the Eucharist is probably one of the thinnest places in all creation. It’s the place where “heaven” — G_d’s Realm of creation—and “earth”—our realm of creation—join together. And the most beautiful thing about it is it can happen anywhere in time and space. You don’t have to be in a beautiful cathedral or in a chapel. You can have it in your backyard. You can have it in a hospital room. You can have it in your neighbor’s living room. And, yes, you can even have it in a sanctuary. But just because sharing the Eucharist may happen in a “designated space” doesn’t make it more holy or sacred. It’s the mystery of the Eucharist itself that reveals the sacredness of wherever you’re sharing it.
And you don’t need to have a long, drawn out, highly detailed “service” to celebrate it. Just simply tell the story of Jesus’ final days and share the meal.
It’s that simplicity that I see in these verses from the Didache. But it’s a different simplicity. Notice that when speaking about the cup, it doesn’t mention the cross or the blood of Jesus. Likewise, the bread is not seen as the broken body of Jesus, but rather the scattered followers of Jesus. The prayer is one of unity and oneness. Instead of looking at the cross, they looked to the feeding stories in the Gospels.
It seems that this very early small community had a glimpse of something we’ve lost—the idea that we’re all one (see John 17). They saw the Eucharist as the time when all of divisions should cease. And it’s at that very point that a lot of us are divided! We fight and debate as to what happens (or if anything does happen) to the elements during the service. “They become the literal ‘body and blood’ of Jesus!” “No, they’re just bread and wine. They’re just symbolic.” And yet, the community from which the Didache came used the Eucharist to bring the scattered followers of Jesus together.
But, and this is interesting, they only allowed people who were baptized to share in the Eucharist. The question that pops into my mind is, “How would they know if someone was baptized or not?” I think, simply, it would be because they would’ve been the ones who performed the ceremony (see Didache—Chapter 7). Or, perhaps they would’ve received some letter or testimony about a someone new in their group letting them know that the newcomer was baptized. Either way, the Eucharist was only limited to people who were wilfully following Jesus now. That’s the point of the Eucharist. It’s not to keep people out, but to show others they’re part of the people who follow The Way.
And, once more, this has become a division. Some traditions state that you can’t share in the Eucharist unless you’re a member of good standing in their tradition. Others state that you have to be “confirmed” after you’ve gone through several classes. Still others say you can only partake of the Eucharist if you belong to that particular group of people that meet in that specific building.
Not so with the community who created the Didache. All one needed to be was “baptized in the name of the Lord.” Simplicity. No fighting about whose interpretation of the elements is right. No squabbling over which tradition is the “true church.” Nope. Just a baptized follower of Jesus. That’s all.
However, I want to push back on this one. While the Eucharist is seen as the community meal or family meal, it’s also a meal of faith, a symbol pointing to a greater reality. And that reality is the one of all creation fully restored—of humanity gathered together as one. What if we used the Eucharist in that light? What if the Eucharist is used as a prophetic symbol or poetic image pointing to the established Realm of G_d? If, as I’ve stated elsewhere, all of humanity and creation has already been reconciled back to G_d, what’s to prevent us from sharing the meal openly with whoever wants to participate? I’ve been a part of services where this was the case—and it was liberating for people. They didn’t feel like outsiders. They felt welcomed and that they mattered. They felt a closeness they hadn’t experienced in a long time. They felt like they belonged. They felt loved. And that, my friends, is what the Eucharist is all about.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC