The Didache 26 – Open Communion?

Posted: July 6th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

I tend toward the idea that we should feed the body and blood of our Lord to all who come to the table. I don’t necessarily remember much of my interactions with Christianity growing up, but there are moments I still recall with utter clarity. One of those is kneeling at the rail of some Episcopal somewhere in Houston receiving the bread and drinking from the common cup. I knew instantly what Sara Miles was trying to capture in words about that moment when she took the bread, hardly knowing what she was doing, and consumed and was consumed by the Lord. There is a wild mystery to the Christian ritual of bread and wine, in our God who takes on our flesh and then gives himself back to us so that as we eat his body and drink his blood, we receive life. I may not be able to explain our God, but I can say: Come! Eat!

But statements like this remind me that while it is powerful, the bread and wine can be to our condemnation rather than life. It is not something controlled or managed. 1 Corinthians drives that point home. Some are sick and have even died because they ate and drank unworthily. There is a tension here.

The Teaching evokes memories of Jesus’ interaction with the gentile woman. Yet she was bold enough to ask for crumbs and so her child was healed. Traditionally the Church has been cautious with the incredible gift entrusted to its care. I do believe the caution is warranted. But perhaps sometimes we need to be less cautious as well and trust in the power of our Lord to seek and to save.


7 Comments on “The Didache 26 – Open Communion?”

  1. 1 ChristSpeak said at 4:45 pm on July 6th, 2009:

    I think I would prefer a closed (Christian-only) Eucharist based on Jesus originally giving it so that we would take in “in remembrance of me.” This is not a simple “remember I existed” but a more powerful, “remember that I lived and saved you from your sins.” It is a remembrance that a non-believer could not take part in in Spirit, only in the physical consumption.

    I suppose I could relate this to baptism — a rite specifically given to the church. Of course, the different views of baptism would carry this differently; I’m a “believer’s baptism,” so it fits in well with my thought in terms of the Eucharist.

    With Jesus’ interaction with the Gentile woman, it is clear from the passage that she had faith, and that it why she was healed. Thus, she was a Christian (regenerated). Though this passage doesn’t discuss baptism and Eucharist, I think she would have been perfectly qualified to take part at this point (had both of them actually been established at that point).

  2. 2 mike said at 8:51 pm on July 6th, 2009:

    …i guess what im thinking about this is:Does any of this really matter?…i mean does it matter to God who judges the hearts of men?…can we become too detail oriented in the letter of the law and completely miss the spirit?..i think so…

  3. 3 Scott said at 9:23 pm on July 6th, 2009:

    I suppose it depends on what is or is not happening in communion. If, as Jesus says in the eucharistic chapter of John’s gospel that only those who eat his body and drink his blood receive life, and that Paul was right when he said that those who partook “in an unworthy manner” (a phrase that is not necessarily easy to understand) were sick and had even died as a result, then it probably matters a great deal. Certainly Sara Miles encountered a wildness and a power that she did not expect at all.

    If, on the other hand, the modern Zwingli and his disciples over the last few centuries are right, and nothing actually happens in communion — there is no real power — then it probably makes no difference what you do or how you do it.

    Me? I look at a two thousand year old faith and I have serious doubts about the veracity of a minority view that originated about four hundred years ago. That’s especially true given that that view does not even adequately deal with the Holy Scriptures, much less all of the Christian writings and liturgies for the preceding sixteen hundred years. The idea appears to be more tied to modern rationalism than anything that flows naturally from our faith. Heck, rumors and distortions of the eucharist tended to be among the things the pagans in the ancient world knew about Christians. It was that central and important.

  4. 4 Scott said at 9:29 pm on July 6th, 2009:

    Please note, as utterly postmodern as I tend to be, I did not say this mystery depends on what you do or do not believe about it. I started to write that way, since that is more natural to me. And then I remembered the day the ten year old I once was knelt at an altar rail. And I realized it’s not contingent on belief at all. It either is one thing or it is the other. There is power and reality or there is powerless ritual. And this one really depends on Jesus, not on what we do or don’t think about him.

  5. 5 mike said at 10:04 pm on July 6th, 2009:

    ……..i almost “reacted” ……i guess we’ve been taught differently from each other about taking communion……i have never really fully considered it as being “literal” body and blood…your making me stretch here…if your saying a miracle takes place then would’nt a basic DNA test prove the transformation and make believers of all who questioned?…

  6. 6 Scott said at 6:06 am on July 7th, 2009:

    I doubt we’ve been “taught” differently, since my only real adult participation has been in an SBC church. And they are one of the groups who follow Zwingli on this issue, though they don’t directly credit him. And I’ve noticed in the past that we like to read 1 Corinthians 11, but much of the time we skip over the awkward verse about people getting sick and dying because they took in an unworthy manner, whatever that manner might be. No, I simply trace beliefs back to their origin. And that particular belief originated in the early modern period with Zwingli. It didn’t exist anywhere before then. That’s an issue that none of the proponents of the perspective ever adequately (for me) explain. And I’ve read probably at least most of the explanations of John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11 from proponents of that perspective and found them … lacking.

    The DNA question simply misses the point and actually sounds more like the comments made by the pagans in the first few centuries translated into modern terminology. The Western Latin church in the late middle ages did get a bit strange here as well, largely from misunderstanding what Thomas Aquinas was actually trying to say. (Many people don’t actually read Aristotle, and I’m not really sure that’s a good lens through which to approach the faith anyway.)

    But as you study the consistent thread of the belief of the church from the first century on, there is an ongoing belief that, though it transcends our ability to understand, in the mysterion of the eucharist we are consuming God and making God a part of our bodies. And there is a wildness to it as we eat and drink either to life or to condemnation.

  7. 7 mike said at 8:49 am on July 7th, 2009:

    …thanks for your insights…….i’ll ponder this further