Archimandrite Alypius (Svetlichny) on the history and symbolism of liturgical utensils.
What Vessels and Diskoses Were Used for the Eucharist After the Edict of Constantine the Great?
When Emperor Constantine the Great issued his edict that granted Christians equal rights with the pagans, Christian congregations were finally able to worship openly and to build their churches. New liturgical life started, and it required new liturgical items. Provincial prefects and the emperor himself made generous endowments to the churches, including vessels for the Eucharist. We find it mentioned in the biography of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
Eucharist Cup, late 5th century The chalices often had the conical shape of the emperor’s cups.
Diskoses resembled plain plates. It was understandable because they would order the usual cups and plates, which rich people used at their feasts.
Diskos. 6th century When the believers multiplied, a new custom to drink the Blood of Christ from a Eucharist jug was introduced in some provincial churches.
Liturgical scholars suppose that the jugs were used by poor congregations as a substitute for cups.
The wine that Christians brought to a church in jugs was used during the Eucharist as the full offering.
The jugs were later made either of semi-precious gemstones with Christian symbols on them, or of precious metals, and less often from gilded copper.
This tradition gained popularity in monasteries because a deacon would carry the Holy Gifts to hermits after a liturgy. A jug was really practical for that, while the sacred Bread was simply wrapped in a piece of clean cloth.
It must be noted that traditionally, almost until the tenth century, the faithful would drink the Blood of Christ straight from the Chalice or from the aforementioned jug, while they received the most pure Body into their hands, later into pieces of cloth on their hands, and they would consume it on their own with awe, but first touching their eyes and foreheads with it.
The tradition of giving the communion to the faithful on a spoon started spreading in the Eastern Churches since the 7thcentury. However, they would give only the Blood of Christ on a spoon (this tradition has survived up to now in the Coptic Church).
They started dipping the Bread into the cup with the Blood and then distribute the particles of the Body soaked in Blood on a spoon. Roman Catholics would criticize this method in their arguments with the Orthodox. Thus, Cardinal Humbert wrote in his treatise Against the Greek Misconceptions, “Jesus didn’t put bread in a cup and didn’t tell the apostles, ‘Take ye and eat it with a spoon, for this is my Body’… The Lord didn’t offer soaked bread to any of his disciples aside from Judas the traitor to point at the one who was going to betray him.”
Thus, the Latin Christians started to pay attention to the historicity of the Last Supper.
When and Why Did The Tradition of Giving Communion on a Spoon Arise?
Apparently, the tradition of giving communion on a spoon wasn’t related to new concepts of personal hygiene. On the contrary, it reflected a development of a more reverent attitude to the Eucharist and was more convenient when there were too many parishioners willing to take communion. They didn’t need to take the communion in two steps any longer: they received both elements at once.
Additionally, in contrast with the Latin tradition, which emphasized the suffering and death of Christ, and therefore used unleavened bread for communion as a symbol of sorrow and death, the Eastern Church shaped her attitude to the liturgical elements through theology. The Churches of the East regarded the Liturgy as the re-enactment of the Resurrection, and therefore the liturgical bread was ‘live’ – it was leavened bread of joy. Naturally, this theology stipulated that the Body had to be mixed with Blood visibly for the faithful to symbolize the restoration of life, i.e., Resurrection. That was why the Body was dipped into the Chalice and then taken out of the Chalice with a spoon.
The communion spoon wasn’t actually called ‘a spoon’ (κοχλιάριον); rather, it was called ‘tongs’ (λαβίδα), hinting at the burning coal given to Isaiah by an Angel with tongs (Is. 6:7).
Interestingly enough, the first spoons for communion resembled real spoons and were quite big. Until the 18th century, though the spoons became smaller, they remained deep enough to distribute sufficiently large portions of the Wine and the Bread to the parishioners.
A Communion Spoon. 17th century There was an alternative method of consuming the Gifts in the middle of the 12th century, when the communion spoons were a new thing: drinking from the Chalice using a special silver straw. This custom saw a widespread adoption in Africa and Spain. However, it didn’t stick, and the silver straws became rare as early as the 14th century. I heard that such communion straws appeared much earlier, possibly even as early as the 6th century, in particular in the Western Church.
Hardly anyone knows that a wine strainer was considered a liturgical utensil in the 4th century, too. It was made of silver or other valuable stuff and used to pour wine into the Chalice.
Treasure found in the Zion Monastery: chalices, censers, a tabernacle, and a wine strainer in the front row
Christians used to bring their own wine and their own baked bread for the Liturgy. The wine wasn’t always high-quality and clean enough. That is why they needed a strainer to filter out possible admixtures.
Jugs were used for the Eucharist along with the Chalice until the 14th century; a mural painting in Stavronikita Monastery on Mount Athos depicting the Eucharist allows us to see that monks at Mt. Athos might use a jug for communion up until the 16th century.
Therefore, the communion spoon wasn’t universally widespread. Use of a jug implies that the Bread and the Wine were consumed separately.
Gnezdichno, Ukraine, March 5, 2019
Video has appeared online showing a “priest” of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and other activists of the schismatic church and the nationalist terrorist group Right Sector beating parishioners, including women, of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reports the site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The video clearly shows “Father” Ivan Lesik, known for political racketeering, pushing and hitting women parishioners of the canonical Holy Transfiguration Church in the village of Gnezdichno in the Ternopil Province, and the same violence being used by the other schismatics and the Right Sector nationalists. The video also shows police standing idly by, not intervening.
Despite the multitude of such cases, many of which have been caught on video, the hierarchy of the schismatic church continue to insist that no parishes are every forcefully converted.
The press service of the Ukrainian Church stressed that the incident shows how unprotected believers of the canonical Church experience the gross violation of their rights and freedoms.
Supporters of the schismatic church held a village meeting on January 13 at which part of the attendees to move into the schismatic church, though the parish community resolved to remain in the canonical Church. At that time, the parties managed to reach an agreement on peaceful co-existence. However, the schismatics returned and started a fight outside the church in early February, injuring the rector Fr. Stephan Balan at that time. The parishioners showed up to protect their church, though the police took the side of the provocateurs.
Fr. Stephan warned at that time that they were likely planning to return and finally seize the church, which they did on Sunday.
Though the church was to be sealed, with the communities alternating services on the street, they “for the third time broke their own conditions, opened the sealed church, and started celebrating the ‘Liturgy.’ When our faithful came to the church at the end of the service and asked to be given the opportunity to worship in the church, they were sharply refused,” Fr. Stephan explained.
Negotiations continued for a while, while 15-20 Right Sector thugs blocked the entrance to the church.
After some shouts and shoving, the supporters of the OCU, headed by the pseudo-priest Lesik, began to beat and throw the faithful of the UOC out of the church onto street, under shouts of “There will be no Muscovites here.”
In a separate incident in the Ternopil Province, 15 schismatics surrounded the home of Fr. Yaroslav in the village of Trebukhovtsi, demanding that he and his family leave. They say the house also belongs to the church that was seized on February 28, reports the Ukrainian site Vesti.
The schismatics have already removed Fr. Yaroslav’s belongings and plan to build a Sunday School in his house. Meanwhile, the priest and his family will have to move to Ternopil, an hour away from his parishioners.
After I became convinced by the historic claims of Christianity concerning the person of Jesus, I started looking for a church to call my own and as I did, I quickly became confused by the disorienting variety of teachings and practices among different denominations and this forced me to confront questions about the divisions that exist within Christianity. I started studying Church history and I quickly narrowed my focus to the division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Eastern Orthodoxy didn’t, at that time, register as a contender for one very simple reason. I’m an English speaking white dude in a British commonwealth country. There is a universality to Catholicism that doesn’t exist in the Eastern Orthodox churches. For me to become Eastern Orthodox, I’d have to join a Church with a very specifically ethnic or national identity. When people ask me why I’m not Eastern Orthodox, I’m tempted to get into a theological throw down, but the easiest way to answer that is by pointing out that I’m not Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, or any other ethnicity that the Eastern churches in the city I live in serve. A point of contention at all the major divisions in Christianity has been the focus on authority. So, the East West split focused on the authority of the Pope vs. other bishops and patriarchs. The protestant reformation was about the authority of the Church and the Pope vs. the exclusive authority of scripture, and the English reformation was about the authority of the Pope vs. the authority of the King. So, as you might guess, authority, how it’s defined, and where it resides, seems like a pretty essential component of the faith. So in the case of the East West schism, there were a number of controversies that they were stuck on, but arguably, the most significant one was the disagreement over the authority of the bishop of Rome vs. that of the other patriarchs and bishops. Rome insisted that the bishop of Rome had a unique and universal authority over the entire Church, without which there would be no universal Church, as inherited from the authority of Peter. The Eastern Orthodox side was arguing that the bishop of Rome was a first among equals but only in an honorific way which meant that he had the same authority as the other patriarchs. So that was their position going into the controversy. OK, how true were they to their positions after the controversy had led to an actual division and schism? Well, the West still maintained the conviction that the bishop of Rome had a universal authority over the whole Church. But the East, did not continue to treat the Bishop of Rome as a first among equals. In fact, they excommunicated him which seems like a clear violation of their own claim that no autocephalous patriarch has authority over another. The honor of first among equals has since been designated to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Jesus wanted his followers to be one as a sign of his divinity to the world. Between East and West, from what little I know of it’s history, I only have ever seen major attempts from the West to realize that unity. Through the councils of Lyon and Florence, the East’s bishops conceded Rome’s position on Papal Supremacy, the Filioque, and purgatory, but the unity that was struck fell apart when the Eastern delegates went home and succumbed to political pressure there. Rome has always been the initiator of ecumenical dialogue, from what I’ve seen. It was at the first Vatican Council that the mutual excommunications of 1054 were lifted. It was the second Vatican council that made ecumenism a high priority for the Church moving forward which paved the way for the joint theological commission of East and West. It was Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who recited the Nicene Creed with Eastern patriarchs without the filioque. It was the bishop of Rome who first visited the East. It wasn’t until 1995 when the Patriarch of Constantinople finally visited Rome.
Last week I made a video about why I never became Eastern Orthodox and it got a lot of reaction, which is great, but that reaction was quite polarized and there seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding about what I was trying to say in that video, so I wanted to take some more time to address some of the feedback as well as the misunderstandings from the previous commentary. The first thing I’d want to point out and re-emphasize is that the perspective I’m trying to share on this topic is more personal than anything else. Some people complained that my presentation of the history and theology of the great schism was too one sided. And that’s completely true. It’s the same criticism or disclaimer I made about it at the beginning of the video by saying that it wasn’t supposed to be an apologetic about why Catholicism is right and Eastern Orthodoxy wrong. It was about my reasons for not being Catholic as opposed to Eastern Orthodox which is going to be inherently one sided. Ultimately, I’d hate for people to think that I’m positioning myself in an adversarial way towards Eastern Orthodoxy because the honest fact is, I do find the peculiarities in Eastern Christianity extremely attractive. I like a lot of the simplicity of it, I like icons, I absolutely LOVE eastern architecture. I love how you’ve been so steadfast against the aberrant currents of modernism, and I could go on. So let me try to dispel what I think is the biggest misunderstanding from the last video which is that some people thought I was criticizing ethnic or national churches which is definitely not what I was trying to say. I think it’s great that there are particular churches that express the theology, liturgy, and spirituality of a particular heritage. The point I was trying to make about the universality of the Church, is that there needs to be a way for those national churches to express their communion and universality with one another. So in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, from what I understand, they would say that their universality is expressed in their common theology… their orthodoxy. But the question for me has always been, how is that common theology defined? How do you make sure that as new difficulties and controversies arise the entire Church responds to address them? Well, if there’s no one final authority, like we have with the Pope, then you’d need an ecumenical council where all the patriarchs and bishops gather to define doctrines and settle controversies. But for the Eastern Orthodox, as they are known today, there hasn’t been an ecumenical council in over 1000 years. And meanwhile, Rome never stopped calling and hosting ecumenical councils through the centuries. So there seems to be something, to me, about the Eastern Orthodox Churches that keeps them frozen and unable to reaffirm the universal aspect of our faith because there isn’t one unifying voice to bring them together in an ecumenical way. In evaluating the East West schism, I tried to find a similar easy to identify and understand argument. Something that made one of the positions self refuting and I felt like I found it in the Eastern position and that’s what I was trying to emphasize in my last video. I was interested in trying to discover which Church stayed true to the very thing they were contending in the division itself. The Eastern bishops maintained that the Bishop of Rome was the first among equals but not supreme in authority. But after the schism, they excommunicated him and haven’t once shown him that kind of honor since, so they’ve betrayed their own position. Now some people responded to that by saying, the Pope excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople too, which is true. But in so doing, he was acting in accord with the argument that the West was making which is that he had universal authority. The East was saying that the authority of those ancient sees ended there. Constantinople couldn’t tell Rome what to do and vice versa. But in, excommunicating the Pope, they were contradicting themselves and their own arguments. So, I hope that provides some more clarity for what I was trying to say in my last video and again, don’t take my word as some kind of authority because I’m not. Based on my comprehension level, these are the points I found persuasive. You should go do your own research because it matters, and it’s pretty interesting. The Wikipedia article on the East West schism is actually a great resource so, I’ll link it in the description.