In the second subsection of the fifth chapter of Being as Communion on apostolic continuity, Zizioulas points to the need for a synthesis between the historical and eschatological approaches outlined in the previous subsection and makes the following points.

Firstly, the Christ event should be seen as pneumatologically constituted leading to an understanding of Christ not as an individual “but in terms of personhood which implies a particularity established in and through communion” (182) which allows the biblical idea of “corporate personality” to be applied to Christ.

Our continuity, therefore, with the Christ event is not determined by sequence or response based on distance; it is rather a continuity in terms of inclusiveness: we are in Christ, and this is what makes Him be before us, our “first-born brother” in the Pauline sense. (182)

It is in the Spirit that Christ contains us in Himself and

He thus in the Spirit contains by definition the eschata, our final destiny, ourselves as we shall be; He is the eschatological Man – yet, let me repeat, not as an individual but as Church, i.e. because of our being included in Him. It is in this sense that historical existence becomes in Christ and in the Spirit a continuity that comes to us from the future and not through the channels of a divided time sequence like the one we experience in our fallen state of existence. Thus when the eshcata enter into history in the Spirit, time is redeemed from fragmentation, and history acquires a different sense. (183)

This means, secondly, that the apostles cannot be enclosed as individuals in a self-defined event or a closed past. Zizioulas argues that

It has done a lot of damage to the notion of apostolicity to think of it in terms of historical prerogatives, be it in the form of the Petrine keys or in that of the apostolic kerygma. For the keys are those of the Kingdom, and the kerygma is not an objectifiable norm but the Risen Christ, i.e. a living person; in both cases historical prerogatives are eschatologized. The apostles continue to speak and proclaim Christ in the Church only because the Church is by her very existence the living presence of the Word of God as person. (184)

In listening to the voice of the apostles, the Church listens to her own voice that comes from her own eschatological nature.

This makes the history of the Church identical with that of the world and of creation as a whole. Thus to recall that the Church is founded on the apostles in an eschatological sense makes the Church acquire her ultimate existential significance as the sign of a redeemed and saved creation. This makes the Church, in the words of St Paul, “the judge of the world,” i.e. makes her acquire a prerogative strictly applied to the apostles and especially to the Twelve in their eschatological function. (184)

Thirdly, such pneumatological conditioning should allay fears about an identification of the Church with the Kingdom, for such fears are only justified when apostolicity is seen in historical terms, which is what we see in the Protestant reaction to the medieval Church. However,

… in a pneumatological conditioning of history by eschatology this identification does not present any dangers. The reason is that it takes place epicletically. The epicletic aspect of continuity represents a fundamental point in what I am trying to say here, and its implications must be stressed. In an epicletical context, history ceases to be in itself a guarantee for security. The epiclesis means ecclesiologically that the Church asks to receive from God what she has already received historically in Christ as if she had not received it al all, i.e. as if history did not count in itself. (185)

Despite having received the Spirit, the apostles, and the Church since them, continue to invoke the Spirit.

The epicletic life of the Church shows only one thing: That there is no security for her to be found in any historical guarantee as such – be it ministry or word or sacrament or even the historical Christ Himself. Her constant dependence on the Spirit proves that her history is to be constantly eschatological. (185-186)


…the fact that the Spirit points to Christ shows equally well that history is not to be denied. “The Spirit blows where He wills,” but we know that He wills to blow towards Christ. Eschatology and history are thus not incompatible with each other. (186)

Such an epicletic conditioning of the Church’s continuity with the apostles points, fourthly, points to the possibility of a synthesis between the historical and the eschatological in a way that overcomes any Neoplatonic dualism. While there is certainly an “already” and a “not yet” aspect this does not involve any incompatibility between time and eternity.

The incarnation of God in Christ makes it possible to say against Neoplatonic dualism that history is a real bearer of the ultimate, of the very life of God. History as existence in space and time offers in Christ the possibility for communion with the eschata. (186)

The tension between history and the Kingdom is not one of ontological dualism but rather of a longing for transformation.

In the expression of St Paul, we are anxious to exchange the present form for the eschatological one not because the present one is less real or less “ontological” in its nature – it is the very same body we have now that will be resurrected, according to Paul – but because the presence and activity of the Antichrist in history makes the present form of the Church’s existence fragile and a cause of suffering. (186)

When the Church lives epicletically, she cannot but long for what she already is. The synthesis of the historical with the eschatological in this epicletical conditioning of history constitutes what we may properly – and not in the distorted sense – call the sacramental nature of the Church. (187)

This leads, fifthly, to the practical question of how the Church can unite these two approaches in one synthesis. Here Zizioulas points to the eucharistic experience of the early Church.

There is, indeed, no other experience in the Church’s life in which the synthesis of the historical with the eschatological can be realized more fully than in the eucharist. The eucharist is, on the one hand, a “tradition” (para/dosiv) and a “remembrance” (a0na/mnhsiv). As such it activates the historical consciousness of the Church in a retrospective way. At the same time, however, the eucharist is the eschatological moment of the Church par excellence, a remembrance of the Kingdom, as it sets the scene for the convocation of the dispersed people of God from the ends of the earth in one place, uniting the “many” in the “one” and offering the taste of the eternal life of God here and now. In and through the same experience, therefore, at one and the same moment, the Church unites in the eucharist the two dimensions, past and future, simultaneously as one indivisible reality. This happens “sacramentally,” i.e. in and through historical and material forms, while the existential tension of the “already” and the “not yet” is preserved. In the consciousness of the ancient Church this is further emphasized through the use of the epiclesis in the eucharist: the “words of institution” and the entire anamnetic dimension of the Church are placed at the disposal of the Spirit, as if they could not constitute in themselves a sufficient assurance of God’s presence in history. This makes the eucharist the moment in which the Church realizes that her roots are to be found simultaneously in the past and in the future, in history and in the eschata. (188 )

The Eucharist was therefore the place where the concrete manifestation of apostolic continuity took place. While the centrality of the Eucharist has been preserved in the Orthodox liturgical and canonical tradition, Zizioulas that Orthodox theology has often disregarded it making a synthesis between history and eschatology difficult.

In the following subsection he discusses the concrete consequences of this for the life of the Church.