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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

EUCHARIST, BISHOP, CHURCH

EUCHARIST, BISHOP, CHURCH: THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE DIVINE EUCHARIST AND THE BISHOP DURING THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES by fr. John Zizioulas

As seen from Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries:


Quote:
"INTRODUCTION

The unity of the Church in the
Divine Eucharist and the Bishop as a fundamental historical question


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Throughout the entire period of the first three centuries, unity was
bound up at the deepest level with the faith, the prayers and the activities of
the Church. St John's Gospel reflects this fact when it presents the unity of
the Church as an agonized petition in the prayer of the Lord.1 The Acts of the
Apostles expresses the same reality when they emphatically stress unity as the
element characteristic of the Church's life in her first years2 while the
existence of a "theology of unity" at a period as early as that of St Paul's
Epistles3 cannot be interpreted otherwise than as an indication of the
importance which the Church from the beginning attached to her unity. During the
years following apostolic times, the Church regarded her unity as a matter of
constant concern and an object of vehement faith. The texts of the so-called
Apostolic Fathers present the unity of the Church as an object of teaching, and
something for which they struggled against every divisive force.4 Around the end
of the second century, Irenaeus attempts in a work especially devoted to the
subject to show that the Church was and has been preserved as one,5 and that
unity constitutes the necessary condition for her existence.6 A few generations
later, St Cyprian devotes a special study to the subject of church unity7 while
in the various creedal documents, unity early assumes the character of an
article of faith.8

Once one sees the tremendous importance of unity for
the Church of the first three centuries, the question arises for history - was
this unity a historical reality, or was there simply an unfulfilled desire and a
nostalgic quest for a unity which proved in reality a perpetually and
increasingly unattainable ideal? As we shall see below, almost all modern
historiography has contributed through its various theses to a picture of the
Church of the first three centuries as a society from the first deeply divided
in such a way as to create the impression that schism was an innate part of the
Church organism.

There are thus two aspects to the overall theme of the
unity of the Church. One concerns the ideal or the teaching of the early Church
concerning her unity. The other concerns what the Church experienced as unity
during the period under examination. The first theme may be characterized as the
theology of unity as it was conceived and formulated by the early Church. The
second constitutes the history of unity, as it can be reconstructed from study
of the sources with the aid of objective historical research.




To read the book please visit Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries.













Christ is Risen!

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