Embracing the Eucharistic and Ascetic Spirit

A golden chalice and loaf of bread, representing the eucharistic spirit of gratitude in the Orthodox Church.

Understanding Eucharistic Beings

The terms “eucharistic” and “ascetic” play a crucial role in the Orthodox Church. The word “eucharistic” originates from the Greek term eucharistia, signifying gratitude. It symbolizes the deep significance of liturgy within the Orthodox Church. The church urges us to cultivate a eucharistic spirit, acknowledging the world as a divine gift rather than a human possession. This gift is one of healing, wonder, and beauty, deserving of our appreciation and gratitude.

Thanksgiving: A Sacramental Worldview

Thanksgiving underpins the sacramental worldview of the Orthodox Church. From creation’s outset, God intended the world to be a gift, transformed and returned with gratitude. This spiritual approach prevents the world from falling under humanity’s domination. If we perceive the world as a sacred mystery, it precludes any attempts at human mastery. Exploitative control over resources is more associated with Adam’s original sin than God’s generous gift. Such exploitation stems from greed and alienation from God, resulting in a divide between the sacred and the secular.

Human Beings: Eucharistic Creatures

Humans are distinctively capable of expressing gratitude, making them eucharistic creatures. Our ability to consciously thank God for the world sets us apart from other animals. Without this gratitude, we lose an essential part of our humanity. A eucharistic spirit involves using earth’s resources with gratitude and offering them back to God. In the Eucharist sacrament, we offer back to God what is rightfully His, including the bread, wine, and ourselves. This results in a transformation of the world into a mystery of encounter.

The Joy of Gratitude

Gratitude brings joy, while selfishness or indifference can only lead to sorrow. Those who do not appreciate the world’s wonder and beauty curse the world and perceive it as a curse. This explains why many wealthy people can be bitter, while those with less can express profound gratitude.

Ascetic Ethos: Working with Discipline

The term “ascetic” comes from the Greek verb askeo, meaning working raw material with training or skill. The ascetic ethos of Orthodoxy involves spiritual disciplines such as fasting. These practices help us realize that what we take for granted are, in fact, God’s gifts meant for fair distribution among all people.

Ascetic Ethos: Preserving Creation

The ascetic ethos aims to protect creation and preserve nature. It involves self-restraint and frugality, abstaining from certain fruits and preventing unnecessary waste. This ethos expresses love for all of humanity and the entire natural creation. As the scripture says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and humans are innately purposed to love.

Embracing All with Love and Joy

Our purpose aligns with the priest’s prayer in the Divine Liturgy, expressing gratitude to the Lord. With this mindset, we can embrace all people and things with love and joy, caring for every part of creation. As a result, we cultivate peace and life, leading to harmony between humanity and creation.

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