On Thursday of Holy Week (today) we commemorate the first eucharist as the Lord Jesus instituted it, what we Orthodox call The Mystical Supper. On the Orthodox Wiki discussion page I found that someone had asked for clarification of what the Real Presence is, according to Orthodoxy; it seemed confusing to them. Then various people gave input. One said that it may be confusing because it is a Mystery. [Think smiley face] It is a common joke in or on the Church that this is a facile answer.
But it points to the true nature of the faith, that our relationship with God is not purely intellectual. We do not know Him by putting together all the facts we’ve learned; He doesn’t reveal Himself through our intellects alone, or even primarily.
Fr. Thomas Hopko says, “The mystery of the holy eucharist defies analysis and explanation in purely rational and logical terms. For the eucharist — and Christ himself — is indeed a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven which, as Jesus has told us, is ‘not of this world.’ The eucharist — because it belongs to God’s Kingdom — is truly free from the earth-born ‘logic’ of fallen humanity.”
The page on The Holy Mysteries, what we call the sacraments, is very good! It starts right out with this perspective and reality about the Church that I love: “…the Orthodox Church considers everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical.” I suppose this is why “There has never been a universal declaration within the Orthodox Church that there are only seven sacraments.”
I knew that, but I learned some other things, more historical and not so mystical, reading these pages today: “While the Synoptics do give the Last Supper as a Passover seder, John’s Gospel (which the Church privileges over the others) has it happen before the Passover.” The contributors all seemed to agree on these points though they differed on their theological significance.
On a more personal note, while I am grieving the death of my husband, I’ve been so grateful that we are in Holy Week, with its numerous opportunities to participate in this sacrament, this mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven — and truly, in all the abundant graces of the Church. It’s not facts that have been sustaining me, but His Real Presence.