Certainly there was a basic difference in faith that distinguished Christians from their environment. But there was also a certain distinctiveness in the manner of their gathering together, which should not pass unnoticed. This distinctiveness lay in the composition of these gatherings. Whereas the Jews based the unity of their gatherings on race (or, in the later years, on a broader religious community based on this race) and the pagans with their collegia on profession, the Christians declared that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” “male or female,” adult or child, rich or poor, master or slave, etc. To be sure the Christians themselves soon came to believe that they constituted a third race, but this was only to show that in fact it was a “non-racial race,” a people who, while claiming to be the true Israel, declared at the same time that they did not care about the difference between a Greek and a Jew once these were members of the Christian Church. (151)

In this second subsection of chapter four of Being as Communion Zizioulas addresses how the early Church’s understanding of catholicity was reflected in her structures. He notes that coming together in “brotherly love” was not a Christian innovation and was already found among both pagans and Jews. For the Christians, however, the Sunday synaxis would be the only one in a particular place and would thus include the “whole Church,” which transcended not only social but also natural divisions.

It is very significant that, unlike what the Churches do today in an age marked by a tragic loss of the primitive ecclesiology, there was never a celebration of the eucharist specially for children or for students, etc., nor a eucharist that could take place privately and individually. Such a thing would destroy precisely the catholic character of the eucharist which was leitourgia, i.e. a “public work” for all Christians of the same city… (151-152)

This catholicity was also reflected in the Church’s structure. The ordering of the Church in which the bishop occupies a central place and in which the different orders are given particular places is intended not to create division but rather to enable the “many” to be expressed through the “one”.

A fundamental function of this “one bishop” was to express in himself the “multitude” (poluplhqei/a) of the faithful in that place. He was the one who would offer the eucharist to God in the name of the Church, thus bringing up to the throne of God the whole Body of Christ. He was the one in whom the “many” united would become “one,” being brought back to him who had made them… (153)

However, both the bishop and the various orders in the Church were dependent on and emerged from the Eucharistic gathering and it is this that prevents them from becoming sources of division.

By restricting all such ordinations to the eucharistic community and making it an exclusive right of the bishop, not as an individual but as the head of this eucharistic community, to ordain, the early Church saved the catholic character of its entire structure. The bishop with his exclusive right of ordination and with the indispensable restriction of ordaining only in the eucharistic context took it upon himself to express the catholicity of his Church. But it was the eucharistic community and the place he occupied in its structure that justified this. (154)

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