Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Anglican-Orthodox "Moscow Statement" (1976) on the boundaries of the Eucharist

As a result of talks in 1962 between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Athenagoras I of Constantinople, the Primates of the Anglican Communion were approached and agreed unanimously to the setting up of an Anglican Theological Commission to confer with theologians of the Orthodox Churches. In 1964 the Third Pan-Orthodox Conference at Rhodes unanimously decided officially to resume dialogue with the Anglican Communion, and this was ratified by all the Orthodox Churches. After a preparatory phase (1966-72) in which the Anglican and Orthodox Commissions met separately, the first series of joint conversations took place (1973-6) and resulted in the production of the Moscow Agreed Statement on the Knowledge of God, the Inspiration and Authority of Holy Scripture, Scripture and Tradition, the Authority of the Councils, the Filioque Clause, the Church as the Eucharistic Community, and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist. The following is the substance of the Moscow Statement as touching on the Eucharist:

23. The eucharistic understanding of the Church affirms the presence of Jesus Christ in the Church, which is his Body, and in the Eucharist. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, all faithful communicants share in the one Body of Christ, and become one body in him.

24. The Eucharist actualizes the Church. The Christian community has a basic sacramental character. The Church can be described as a synaxis or an ecclesia, which is, in its essence, a worshipping and eucharistic assembly. The Church is not only built up by the Eucharist, but is also a condition for it. Therefore one must be a believing member of the Church in order to receive the Holy Communion. The Church celebrating the Eucharist becomes fully itself; that is koinonia, fellowship - communion. The Church celebrates the Eucharist as the central act of its existence, in which the ecclesial community, as a living reality confessing its faith, receives its realization.

25. Through the consecratory prayer, addressed to the Father, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the glorified Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit in such a way that the faithful people of God receiving Christ may feed upon him in the sacrament (1 Cor. 10.16). Thus the Church depends upon the action of the Holy Spirit and is the visible community in which the Spirit is known.

26. The eucharisdc action of the Church is the Passover from the old to the new. It anticipates and really shares in the eternal Rule and Glory of God. Following the Apostolic and Patristic teaching, we affirm that the eucharistic elements become, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Body and Blood of Christ, the bread of immortality, to give to us the forgiveness of sins, the new creation, and eternal life. The celebration of the Church in liturgy carries with it the sense of the eternal reality which precedes it, abides in it, and is still to come.

27. In the Eucharist the eternal priesthood of Christ is constantly manifested in time. The celebrant, in his liturgical action, has a twofold ministry: as an icon of Christ, acting in the name of Christ, towards the community and also as a representative of the community expressing the priesthood of the faithful. In each local eucharistic celebration the visible unity and catholicity of the Church is manifested fully. The question of the relationship between the celebrant and his bishop and that among bishops themselves requires further study.

28. The Eucharist impels the believers to specific action in mission and service to the world. In the eucharistic celebration the Church is a confessing community which witnesses to the cosmic transfiguration. Thus God enters into a personal historic situation as the Lord of creation and of history. In the Eucharist the End breaks into our midst, bringing the judgement and hope of the New Age. The final dismissal or benediction in the liturgy is not an end to worship but a call to prayer and witness so that in the power of the Holy Spirit the believers may announce and convey to the world that which they have seen and received in the Eucharist.

29. The Eucharist is the action of the Holy Trinity. The Father gives the Body and the Blood of Christ by the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Church in response to the Church's prayer. The Liturgy is this prayer for the eucharistic gifts to be given. It is in this context that the invocation of the Holy Spirit should be understood. The operation of the Holy Spirit is essential to the Eucharist whether it is explicitly expressed or not. When it is articulated, the 'Epiclesis' voices the work of the Spirit with the Father in the consecration of the elements as the Body and Blood of Christ.

30. The consecration of the bread and the wine results from the whole sacramental liturgy. The act of consecration includes certain proper and appropriate moments - thanksgiving, anamnesis, Epiclesis. The deepest understanding of the hallowing of the elements rejects any theory of consecration by formula - whether by Words of Institution or Epiclesis.1 For the Orthodox the culminating and decisive moment in the consecration is the Epiclesis.

31. The unity of the members of the Church is renewed by the Spirit in the eucharistic act. The Spirit comes not only upon the elements, but upon the community. The Epiclesis is a double invocation: by the invocation of the Spirit, the members of Christ are fed by his Body and Blood so that they may grow in holiness and may be strong to manifest Christ to the world and to do his work in the power of the Spirit. 'We hold this treasure in earthen vessels.' The reception of the Holy Gifts calls for repentance and obedience. Christ judges the sinful members of the Church. The time is always at hand when judgement must begin at the household of God (2 Cor. 4.7; 1 Pet. 4.17).

32. Although Epiclesis has a special meaning in the Eucharist, we must not restrict the concept to the Eucharist alone. In every sacrament, prayer and blessing the Church invokes the Holy Spirit and in all these various ways calls upon him to sanctify the whole creation. The Church is that Community which lives by continually invoking the Holy Spirit.


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