The various local Churches had to wrestle – perhaps unconsciously – with the problem of the relationship between the “catholic Church” in the Episcopal community and the catholic Church in the world. The moment they would admit a supra-local structure over the local eucharistic community, be it a synod or another office, the eucharistic community would cease to be in itself and by virtue of its eucharistic nature a “catholic Church.” The moment, on the other hand, that they would allow each eucharistic community to close itself to the other communities either entirely (i.e. by creating a schism) or partially (i.e. by not allowing certain individual faithful from one community to communicate in another or by accepting to communion faithful excluded from it by their own community) they would betray the very eucharistic nature of their catholicity and the catholic character of the eucharist. The council was, therefore, an inevitable answer to this dilemma, and its genesis must be seen in the light of this situation. (156-157)

In this third subsection of chapter four of Being as Communion Zizioulas addresses the relationship between the local and the universal and argues that a eucharistic ecclesiology enabled the early Church to transcend the antithesis between the local and the universal, so that the term “catholic” could apply to both the local and the universal at the same time.

Each eucharistic community revealed the whole Christ and the whole Church in a particular concretisation. It revealed the eschatological unity of all in Christ. However, this necessarily applied to all the eucharistic communities and so “no mutual exclusion between the local and the universal was possible in a eucharistic context, but the one was automatically involved in the other.” (155) This relationship between the different eucharistic communities was expressed through the bishops who represented their own local Churches and who also shared in the episcopacy of their brother bishops.

The fact that in each episcopal ordination at least two or three bishops from the neighbouring churches ought to take part tied the episcopal office and with it the local eucharistic community in which the ordination to it took place with the rest of the eucharistic communities in the world in a fundamental way. This fact not only made it possible for each bishop to allow a visiting fellow-bishop to preside over his eucharistic community but must have been also one of the basic factors in the appearance of episcopal conciliarity. (155)

While the origins of conciliarity are obscure, they are clearly rooted in the search to explicate the implications of eucharistic communion. They represent “the most official negation of the division between local and universal, a negation which must be taken in all its implications.” (157)

The whole Christ, the catholic Church, was present and incarnate in each eucharistic community. Each eucharistic community was, therefore, in full unity with the rest by virtue not of an extended superimposed structure but of the whole Christ represented in each of them. The bishops as heads of these communities coming together in synods only expressed what Ignatius, in spite of – or perhaps because of – his eucharistic ecclesiology wrote once: “the bishops who are in the extremes of the earth are in the mind of Christ.” [Eph. 3,2] Thanks to a eucharistic vision of the “catholic Church” the problem of the relationship between the “one catholic Church in the world” and the “catholic Churches” in the various places was resolved apart from any consideration of the local Church as being incomplete or any scheme of priority of the one over the other, in the sense of a unity of identity. (157)

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