Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Byzantines Demand Eucharistic Adoration

Tabernacle from the high altar of the Beuron Archabbey.

The mind boggles when Orthodox who (rightly) encourage the faithful to venerate icons, feel the presence of God through them, attend liturgy on feast days dedicated to icons, and even make pilgrimages to miraculous icons, then imply worshipping the True Body and Blood of Christ already reserved on the altar is somehow unseemly.
This is all the more true when one realizes the Byzantine East has an interesting parallel to Eucharistic Adoration. The scholar Hugh Wybrew notes this in his work The Orthodox Liturgy, discussing the development of the Great Entrance. He references the theologian Symeon of Thessalonike:

Popular devotion at the Great Entrance found a more willing protagonist in Symeon than it had in [St. Nicholas] Cabasilas. He holds that veneration of the gifts is perfectly justified, since they are already images of the Body and Blood of Christ, comparable to, though greater than, icons. They are, as St. Basil called them, antitypes of the Body and Blood of Christ, and have already been offered to become the Body and Blood. Symeon reckons worse than iconoclasts those who criticize such veneration as idolatry. He encourages the veneration even of holy vessels which are empty, "for they all partake of sanctification, the holy gifts being offered in sacrifice in them." Perhaps Symeon was deliberately trying to correct what he considered Cabasilas' mistaken caution. But his use of the word antitype is significant, for in the anaphora of St. Basil it is used of the consecrated gifts. Symeon here reflects the view by now deeply ingrained in Orthodox eucharistic piety, that a certain holiness attaches to the bread and wine from the time of their preparation in the prothesis. This is in fact implied in the prayers said during the proskomidia, and by the ceremonial surrounding both that rite and the Great Entrance. The Orthodox Liturgy (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1996) p. 169.
Apparently St. Nicholas Cabasilas also believed veneration of the sanctified gifts was appropriate, as during the Presanctified Liturgy (p. 163).

Clearly, if veneration of unsanctified gifts is appropriate Orthodox piety, then it borders on blasphemy to deny the same reverence to Christ's Body and Blood, truly present in the consecrated Eucharist.

This is made more clear by context: parishes began reserving Communion to take to the sick. With the Church's high view of the Eucharist, this reservation took place in a sufficiently ornate tabernacle. As all church buildings -- whether Orthodox, Roman, or Protestant -- were until recently left unlocked for the benefit of respective parish faithful, if one piously paused to pray and noticed upon the altar was...God Himself...one might appropriately feel reverence, even if the elements had originally been reserved for consumption rather than adoration.
I suspect were we to truly perceive the Divinity present in the Eucharist on the altar of every Orthodox church, we would be incapable of rising from our faces.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Chris Jones said...

I don't think adoration of the reserved Gifts is discouraged -- certainly no Orthodox priest ever spoke to me against it. What there is, is a certain caution against isolating the adoration of the Gifts outside of the context of the liturgical action that Christ commanded. Not because adoration is ever wrong, but because it removes the focus from the purposes for which the sacrament was instituted. The question is, what are the Holy Gifts consecrated for? They are consecrated for communion (of the faithful at the liturgy, and of the sick thereafter), for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting. They are not consecrated for the purpose of adoration apart from communion.

That, I think, is why Bp Kallistos said (quoting from memory) that "there is no theological, as opposed to liturgical, reason" why public adoration of the Gifts is not practiced in the East. Theologically, adoration is appropriate, and the faithful should adore the Gifts whenever and wherever they are present. But the liturgical reason against a public service of veneration is that it does not conform to Christ's explicit liturgical instructions.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Aristibule said...

Indeed, Chris is right .. the issue is the isolation of the adoration from the Divine Liturgy itself. After all, do we have paraliturgical services for the Benediction of the Holy Gospel? Even the Veneration of the Holy Cross is done in context of the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy or Mass *is* the most important thing we can participate in liturgically. If one is going to do 'Benediction', why not go ahead and pray the Mass? There the adoration is appropriate, and even has its intended goal - the reception of the Sacrament. " Take, eat; this is my body. ...Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins. "

8:34 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Critics have asked whether showing reverence only during the liturgy doesn't imply that we only believe the gifts are the Body and Blood of Christ during the DL. (That we believe the heresy [which we condemn] of "receptionism.")

Ari, in the areas where this adoration developed, daily Mass was already the rule. This was an additional act of devotion after the devout went to Mass, showing one believes in the True Presence even outside Mass.

God bless,
Ben

10:12 PM  

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