The Eucharist unites those who are broken in the body of Christ. Many times we think that because we are broken this brokenness we carry can never be restored. Humanity begins to develop different ideologies on how to be fix the brokenness of human beings in which, these ideologies, will always lead you back to step one. An example can be medicine. People take medicine in order to physically get better however, some individuals can develop an addiction which leads back to step one-brokenness. Now I am not saying medicine is bad, actually quite the opposite is true. With the rise of medicine, we as a specie have been able to advance far more in the past 150 years than we have in the last 2000 years before then. The natural question that stems from this then if we have advanced to this degree why is it that humans are broken beings? To answer a question is not easy but many points have been made from all sides. I would suggest that one common answer or common action that unites every human being no matter what religious belief or background one takes is death. Death, as we know it, will come to all human beings. Death is a certainty for all. Growing up I sarcastically was taught that two things that can never be avoided are taxes and death. Death is guaranteed to all, so by understanding death and what it means this will allow us to understand the brokenness of humanity.
What is death? Death in a physical sense and in a simple manner is when one's body stops functioning. Your heart stops to beat and life has left your body. You cease to exist. All human brokenness will cease once death occurs. However, society today treats death in the complete opposite manner. Death today is glorified and celebrated in way that people do not want to see death anymore. 50 years ago if a family member would die the body would remain in the home for a few days before the funeral took place. This practice today however, has ceased because people cannot see death no more. By not seeing death we as a society have forgotten what it means to be "dead". This is the simple reason why death is the hardest thing to accept. Death has become a "passion" and a form of brokenness to many because it is at the point of death that we as human beings cannot carry anything with us to the afterlife. This is a known fact that any human being can acknowledge no matter what one believes in. In death we lose all our positions. This is why death is hard for many. I would challenge the reader to take another perspective, or paradigm in regards to how one should view death. In order to accept death (seeing that it is the one thing that unites all human beings) we must understand what it means to live. It is in death that life begins. The church has always taught that through baptism and Eucharist we enter these mysteries through our death. We must die to the world in order to receive life. This is exactly what Christ gave to us through his own death. He was crucified and then was risen into life. This is why at the last breathe Christ said, "It is finished". What is finished?
The restoration of the human being. Humanity once again was restored in the image and likeness of our original creation. As God spoke in Genesis by making us in his image and likeness, through Christ death and life we have been restored. Brokenness is shattered and new life has been given to all. This is why we chant during Pascha (Easter) Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death. Through Christ death He abolished death and through death he gave life to all. Unfortunately, many in our society cannot comprehend such a notion of destroying death because there paradigm of death is limited. If death becomes a separation of the individual from their positions then death surely will be a great travesty to all. However, if we are "separated" from our positions and we learn to die daily to the "passions" that constantly bombard us then death will truly be a reward as the spirit goes to its rest in Christ. Positions are good and we need them to survive and expand however, when I speak of separation I speak of attachment. We cannot be attached to positions. To be attached means to be "addicted" (for lack of better terms). One example that comes to mind is Frodo from the Lord of the Rings. He grew attached to the ring that at the end he did not cast it into the fire until he realized how much pain it caused him. If we learn to live in harmony with creation and see the good in creation then surely death, when it comes to us, wont be painful, but rather a restoration to the one who gave us all that is good. This culminates in the Eucharist. What it means to partake of the Eucharist is to die daily to that which holds us captive. The passions we have created around ourselves are what we constantly need to die to in order to have life. Then and only then will we be able to say, "into why hands do I commend thy Spirit" as we depart from this world.
The following are two passages that inspired this entry. Fr. Alexander Schmemann and Fr. John Behr look at the dimension of the Eucharist and what this means for us today. The life of the church has never been perfect, but we are all united in the body of Christ by our participation in the Eucharist. I highly recommend both books as they both lay the ground work of the Eucharist. Fr. Alexander was a liturgical theology professor at St. Vladimir's Seminary and the dean up to his death in 1983. Fr. John is a patristic professor at St. Vladimir's Seminary and is the current dean of the school.
For more than thirty years I have served the Church as a priest and a theologian, as a pastor and a teacher. Never in those thirty years have I ceased to feel called to think about the Eucharist and its place in the life of the Church. Thoughts and questions on this subject, which go back to early adolescence, have filled my whole life with joy—but, alas, not only with joy. For the more real became my experience of the Eucharistic liturgy, the sacrament of Christ’s victory and of his glory, the stronger became my feeling that there is a Eucharistic crisis in the Church. In the tradition of the Church, nothing has changed. What has changed is the perception of the Eucharist, the perception of its very essence. Essentially, this crisis consists in a lack of connection and cohesion between what is accomplished in the Eucharist and how it is perceived, understood and lived. To a certain degree this crisis has always existed in the Church. The life of the Church, or rather of the people in the Church, has never been perfect, ideal. With time, however, this crisis has become chronic. That schizophrenia that poisons the life of the Church and undermines its very foundations has come to be seen as a normal state.
Taken from the preface of Fr. Alexander Schmamann's "The Eucharist".
There is clearly a close relationship between the dynamism and the faithfulness of the Spirit and the action of the Word operative in the processes that lead both to the Eucharist and to the resurrection. It is by receiving the Eucharist, as the wheat and the vine receive the fecundity of the Spirit, that we are prepared, as we also make the fruits into the bread and wine, for the resurrection effected by the Word, at which point, just as the bread win receive the Word and so become the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist, so also our bodies will receive immortality and incorruptibility from the Father. As such, death, within the overall economy of God seen in the light of the Passion of Christ, takes on a Eucharistic dimension, alongside its educative and limiting function, and the economy as a whole can be described as the Eucharist of God.
Fr. John Behr, The Mystery of Christ, page 106.