Olivier Clement on the Eucharist  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Olivier Clement (1921-2009) was a French Orthodox lay theologian. He was born in Aniane, an ancient town in the Languedoc that was a center of Cathar activity during the Middle Ages. Long before that it was the home of Benedict of Aniane, a monk who helped reform western monasticism during the reign of Charlemagne. Given these roots, it was perhaps inevitable that his life would turn towards spirituality despite the religious indifference of his parents. After taking a degree in comparative religion from the University of Montpellier, he moved to Paris where he obtained a position in a secondary school. There he came into contact with the Eastern Orthodox community, many of whom were White Russian refugees. He underwent Orthodox baptism at the age of 30 and eventually wrote approximately 30 books, as well as teaching part-time at the Institute St Serge, an Orthodox theological school. Click here for more information on his life.

One of his books, The Roots of Christian Mysticism (New City Press 1993) is a gold mine of information on the subject. Excerpts from the Fathers on a wide variety of topics are interspersed with his own incisive commentary. His remarks on the Eucharist quoted below are found on pp 107-109.


The Fathers never ceased repeating these stupendous assertions of Jesus--Jesus is the "bread of heaven", the "bread of life"--the Risen One gives himself fully to us in the Eucharist which is thus resurrection food. Jesus is bread because his body is composed of the whole life of the cosmos kneaded together by human labor. He is also "living bread", life-giving bread, because in him the divine life permeates the earth and the human race. The Eucharist is therefore a real power of resurrection, the "leaven of immortality" as Ignatius of Antioch says. Certainly, it needs to be received in faith, and there needs to be an encounter within which the transmission of divine energy may take place, but its power is "objective", and independent of our attitude towards it. Our attitude can only encourage (or restrict) the spread of the eucharistic fire through our soul and body...

The eucharistic body is that of the historical Jesus as well as that of the risen Christ. It is the body of the Child of the crib, the body that endured the suffering on the cross--for the bread is "broken", the blood "poured out"--the body that is risen and glorified. The term "body' covers the whole human nature. For God's human nature since the resurrection and the ascension encompasses the world and secretly transfigures it. However, Jesus' historical body, while allowing itself in the foolishness of love to be contained in a point of space and a brief moment of time, in reality already contained space and time in itself. For it was not the body of a fallen individual, crushing human nature in order to take possession of it. It was the body of a divine Person assuming that nature, with the whole universe, in order to offer them up. Incarnate, the Logos remained the subject of the logoi, the spiritual essences, of all created beings.

At the same time God-made-man had to accept into himself all our finiteness, our whole condition of separation and death, in order to fill it all with his light.

It is this deified humanity, this deified creation, this transfigured bread and wine, this body bathed in glory yet bearing forever the wounds of the Passion, that the Eucharist communicates to us.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at Monday, March 28, 2011 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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