Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Desert Spirituality for the Emerging Church 2

When one thinks of the monastic life, isolation usually comes to mind. The hermit or monk would seem to be removed from the communal life of the church as celebrated in sacraments like baptism and Eucharist (aka Communion, or the Lord's Supper). But for the Eastern Orthodox monastic movement known as hesychasm, best summed up by the figure of St. Gregory Palamas, Eucharist was essential:

"The Christian mystic seeks a new life in Christ, an active life for his whole being, and he knows that the grace of baptism and the eucharist have already given him that life; moreover he seeks it in the interior of his own being. That is why the hesychast movement of the fourteenth century never deteriorated into individualistic and subjective mysticism but led in fact to a revival of ecclesiastical sacramentalism. Palamas himself says of baptism and the eucharist that in these two sacraments our whole salvation is found, for they sum up the dispensation of the God-Man...he also advises what would seem to be daily communion."
--John Meyendorff, St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality

So Eucharist was central for the monastics. But how can those of us who have very different theologies of Communion and very different ecclesiologies (how the church should think about and organize itself) practice this contested rite in continuity with the desert fathers and mothers?

Up next: A "case study" of Eucharist in one missional church

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