Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Orthodoxy vs. Eucharistic adoration

Always happy to explain Orthodox beliefs and practices.

What do Orthodox Christians think about the Western practice of Eucharistic adoration—as in giving latria to the Eucharist?

Timothy (Metropolitan Kallistos) Ware covered this in his popular book The Orthodox Church. There is no FORMAL, defined doctrine about the Eucharist in the Orthodox communion, unlike the Catholic Church, but that doesn't mean the Orthodox deny the Catholic teaching about the Eucharist as Christ's sacrifice with a complete change to the elements.

Long story short: Eucharistic devotion never developed in Orthodoxy because the Orthodox didn't need it. No Berengarius denied the nature of Holy Communion so no Aristotle-using scholastic theologians defended it.

Sooo... pleasing good Protestant Anglicans in this regard, in Orthodoxy the Eucharist isn't gazed upon outside of the worship service but is duly used, eaten, most of the time during the service for it. But Orthodoxy does reserve the sacrament for visits to the sick and in Lent for a Communion service from the reserved sacrament, the Liturgy (not really a Liturgy/Mass) of the Presanctified Gifts. So the services in the Orthodox rite retain an earlier "shape" (as Gregory Dix might have said), more like the church fathers, pre-dating Western Eucharistic devotion.

All that said, back to Ware. There is no historical and thus liturgical reason in the Orthodox rite for Eucharistic devotion but he allows that there is no theological reason in Orthodoxy not to have it. So "making a visit" to the church specifically to pray in front of the reserved sacrament or to be blessed with it (the Latin Catholic service of Benediction) is a Latinism - thou shalt not mix rites - but in theory allowable in Orthodoxy.

Adoration of the sacrament as God? Yes, remembering that it's not an idol, a god in itself, or representing another god*, but like the body of Christ when he walked among us.

And it's true that the Eucharist's main focus is pleading Christ's sacrifice, offering it to the Father, not the adoration of the elements, though that's part of it.

*I'm with the late Fr. Andrew Lawrence James: next to nobody literally worships the images of their gods.

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