The Eucharist

First published as The Metamorphosis of the Eucharist by The Christian Community in New York in about 1954. This edition, revised by James H. Hindes, published by Floris Books in 1995. All rights reserved. NOTE: This is the complete pamphlet.

1. Introduction
2. The New Testament
3. Early Christian services
4. Archetypal structure
5. Pre-Christian mysteries and the Eastern Church
6. The western Mass and action
7. The Reformation
8. The Act of Consecration of Man
9. Gospel and Offertory
10. The Transubstantiation
11. The Communion

1. Introduction

On the eve of the event of Golgotha, on Maundy Thursday, Christ Jesus celebrated the Last Supper together with his disciples. He gave bread and wine and with them his ‘body’ and ‘blood,’ and charged them when repeating this to do it in remembrance of him. Out of this Last Supper has been developed the Eucharist, the ritual of the Mass. It is now celebrated by The Christian Community, Movement for Religious Renewal, in its new form, still containing the four main parts: reading of the Gospel, Offering, Transubstantiation and Communion.

The question sometimes arises: does this elaborated ritual really have any foundations in original Christianity? Is it based on the New Testament? The Protestant Church tried to keep close to the letter of the New Testament, and rejected everything which in the further course of Christendom seemed to have been added to the text of New Testament scripture.

There is no doubt that the New Testament is the basic, classical book of Christianity. Through the modern science of Anthroposophy, which is a science of spiritual knowledge, a new possibility is given to acknowledge the ‘inspired’ character of the New Testament writings. It is one of the tasks of The Christian Community to cultivate a new concrete understanding of the scriptures as documents of real inspiration. But we must not forget that for the first generations of Christendom the New Testament did not yet exist. The Epistles of St Paul were apparently written beginning about AD 50, the first three Gospels not before AD 60-70 and St John’s Gospel not until AD 100. It was not before the end of the second century that these writings were combined into a New Testament. The canon of the New Testament was not definitely fixed until AD 393 by the Church synod at Hippo Regius in North Africa. In this process of bringing together these twenty-seven writings, which constitute the wonderful spiritual organism of the New Testament, we venerate an act of divine guidance and providence, an act of inspiration. Nevertheless the first Christian generations had to do without these writings. Instead of this they had the apostolic nearness of the Christ event, and they had the Eucharist. The Christian Church lived for a certain time without a New Testament, but it never lived without the Eucharist from the very beginning.

The Eucharist is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, after the experience of the Holy Spirit at Whitsun: ‘… they broke bread in the houses with spiritual rejoicing’ (Acts 2:46). This is the first Eucharist after Holy Thursday and a first metamorphosis can be seen. The Last Supper was celebrated in a mood of leave-taking which was overshadowed by the events to come. After Whitsun a jubilant mood was experienced. The Greek word, agalliasis, means more than ‘joy’; it is a kind of spiritual enthusiasm and exaltation. The Last Supper had been a farewell meeting. After Pentecost it was like a first dawn of his second spiritual coming.
From the beginning the Eucharist was never a mere repetition of the Last Supper. The latter is like a seed which now begins growing. One cannot argue against the growing plant that it is different from the seed. There is identity, but there is also metamorphosis.

The Last Supper, on the eve of Good Friday, is a kind of anticipation, a prophetic summary of the event of Golgotha. It reveals what Christ and his deed mean to man: that Christianity is not only ‘doctrine’ and ‘ethics,’ that Christ is not only a teacher and an example, but that he descended to earth as a divine being and transformed his divinity into humanity by going through death and resurrection. He transformed the ‘wave-length’ of his divinity into that of humanity and thus became accessible and ‘communicable.’ Now we are to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ him spiritually in order to be more and more penetrated by his heavenly substance. The essence of Christianity can be seen in Christ offering himself to his followers: ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ me, take me into your whole being.

That which is demonstrated in anticipation in the Last Supper received its fulfilment through Golgotha, through death and resurrection. After this fulfilment the Eucharist is no longer the anticipation but now conveys the substantial radiation and emanation of this great deed.

During the forty days to Ascension and in the ten days from Ascension to Whitsun we do not yet hear about the disciples celebrating the Eucharist. But immediately after Whitsun they begin. At Ascension Christ grew into a new form of existence, definitely outgrowing his former Jesus-existence which limited him to a certain spot in the spatial world. In his Ascension, he weaves his original divinity together with his humanity which he took through his earthly life and death. Thus his resurrection body reaches its full capacity to be omnipresent. At Whitsun, in an act of spiritual awakening, the disciples threw off a certain spell of dullness and dream under which they had lived through the preceding weeks. It is a remarkable fact that the manifestations of the risen Christ after Easter were not yet able to induce the disciples to preach this message to people beyond their own intimate circle. With Pentecost they proved to be strong enough to do so. As Christ had overcome the last limitations and restrictions of his existence at Ascension, so the disciples overcame their limitations of consciousness and will power at Whitsun. Thus they started celebrating the Eucharist by ‘breaking bread in the houses.’ Christ’s prophetical saying, that he would celebrate his meal ‘anew in his father’s kingdom’ (with which he united himself at Ascension) begins to fulfil itself.

The Essence of Christianity

1. The Riddle of Man’s Being
2. The Creation of Man
3. The Loss of Paradise
4. A Godless World
5. When the Time Had Fully Come
6. The Son of God and the Son of Man
7. The Mystery of the Powerless God
8. The Healing Power of the Christ
9. Christendom
10. History and Mysticism
11. Apocalyptic Prospect

Chapter 1: The Riddle of Man’s Being

The nature of Christianity is inseparable from the question of man’s own nature. Modern awareness feels this question weighing ever more heavily: ‘What is man all about?’ Human existence is no longer seen as clear-cut and obvious but is called into question. It has actually become questionable. Is there any meaning at all in being ‘human’?

How often do we see the miraculous promise of early childhood collapse and perish in the empty routine of the adult world -a promise unfulfilled, unredeemed. Moreover, we can observe how the power of human thought resulted in the awful realities of poison gas and the atom bomb, while undirected emotional power wanders into greed and hatred. We witness daily the tragedies resulting from our inability to live together in peace at every level: peoples, races, classes, neighbours, families, marriages, and even, ultimately, the individual’s struggle in living with himself. Indeed, all of us have experienced that sudden sigh within – perhaps on a walk in the country – which announces the thought: ‘How beautiful the world would be without people!’ Yet, put differently, this amounts to saying: ‘How beautiful the world would be without its crowning creation!’ This paradoxical statement brings us face to face with the whole troublesome riddle of man’s existence. What kind of peculiar creature is it who, on the one hand, is such a miracle of divine creation, and yet can be more malevolent and horrible than the wildest beast? Is there not obviously something wrong with man?

How are we to make sense of all these contradictions?

It is our very labouring with this burdensome riddle which offers us the maturity to recognize and accept Christianity. As modern men we are able to look at Christianity afresh and with the best intellectual conscience. That we are able to do so, and to see in it the great, decisive concern of humanity, we owe to anthroposophy (wisdom of man), the body of knowledge made available by Rudolf Steiner.

Although Christianity entered the pages of history only at a specific historical moment, it must be seen in a broad human context. Thus from its inception, Christianity included in its view of the world the wisdom of past ages as preserved in the Old Testament. Let us first direct our attention to this prehistory of Christianity.

Baptism in The Christian Community

Translated by Eva Heirman. First published in 1982 in Dutch under the title Noem mij bij mijn diepste noam. Doop en geboorte in de Christen gemeenschap by Uitgeverij Christofoor, Zeist. in 1982. First published in English by Floris Books in 1985. © Andreas Stichting, Den Haag 1982. This translation © Floris Books. Edinburgh, 1985.

NOTE: This is abridged from the original.


1. Why Baptism? Baptizing small children. Preparations

2. Godparents and their task. Looking for godparents

4. The form of the service and the substances used

5. The Christian Community. Church and membership

6. The influence of Baptism in everyday life

1. Why Baptism? Baptizing small children. Preparations

Baptism has always held an important place in Christian religious life. Many people, even those who rarely go to church or have lost their faith, still wish to have their children baptized. But tradition does not necessarily justify the continued existence of this sacrament in a modern conception of Christianity. Insights into the process of incarnation, birth and baptism, or observations and experiences concerning the effect and meaning of the sacraments in a Christian community, can lead to a conscious decision to have a child baptized.

Here we arrive at an important question: May we make decisions for a child that is not yet capable of his own decision-making? Obviously, he cannot understand what is entailed. Should we not go back to adult baptism? To find the answers we have to look more closely at the source and development of Christian baptism.

The Gospel describes how John the Baptist baptized in the River Jordan those people who came to him of their own free will. The event was so moving that those involved confessed their sins and experienced a complete inner change. This was possible because it was not a shallow symbolic act but an act of initiation whereby man is brought into connection with his divine, heavenly origin. John brought people to the brink of death through drowning, so that the spirit in man freed itself from the physical body and the inner eye opened to the spiritual world. That is why the Gospel speaks of a ‘turning’ (Greek metanoja) rather than ‘conversion’ as it is so often translated. It was a dramatic experience, and that must be one of the reasons it was a sacrament for adults.

The object of the baptism as John the Baptist performed it, was twofold: the cleansing (katharismos) and enlightening (Photismos) of the recipient. These two elements are very noticeable in the way the Christian baptism was originally carried out. Through baptism the soul was purified. As Paul expressed it: ‘but you were washed’ (lCor.6:1l). The vision of a higher world was experienced as an ‘enlightening’. In Roman Catholic circles it is still the custom to give a baptized baby a white cloth and a candle as christening gifts; in this way both elements are expressed.

Only adults were baptized during the first few centuries of the Christian world. We can assume that the danger involved in infant baptism by submersion became too great and that therefore, by about 350 AD, an infant baptismal ritual was introduced. With this, naturally, the whole character of baptism changed, but this was not carried through to completion in the Churches where it is still essentially an adult undertaking carried out on infants. Infant baptism retained both the confession of sins and the joining of the church. This cannot be demanded of a child, let alone a baby. Still, questions were put to the child and answered by the godparents on his behalf. Only when Baptism acts as a spiritually sacramental addition or completion of birth, can we speak of a true ‘child baptism’ as in The Christian Community. Subsequently, the main reason for an adult form of baptism falls away as this is not essential to commit oneself to a community. Who then would wish to deny a child this gift when he can freely receive it!

Apart from these points we need not place too great an emphasis on the question of making decisions for a young child. We shall have to make countless decisions regarding diet, clothing, and education throughout the child’s life. And we should realize that by not baptizing the child we have also come to a decision. Maybe the unborn or newborn child can influence our decision. It is not unusual for parents to have a definite feeling that their children helped them to decide. It is important to ask oneself ‘Why do I want to have this child baptized?’ even if other children in the family have already been baptized.

The search for godparents should begin before the birth so that they too can prepare themselves for the birth, the baptism, and their specific tasks as godparents. Often, only one consultation between parents, godparents and priest is possible owing to inadequate or late preparation and this is not really enough. The quality of anticipation is greatly enhanced when we increase our awareness of the meaning of baptism and the shared responsibilities it entails. Some people may feel this to be premature, but the experience of others indicates that preparation for baptism before the actual birth is very valuable. For the child it is best to be baptized as soon as convenient, preferably within the first six weeks of life. (In The Christian Community it is unusual to receive this sacrament beyond the fourteenth year.) Ideally, the godparents should also experience the sacramental life of the Community before the Baptism, so that they gain some perception of it and it is in the best interest of the child if they also meet those with whom they will be sharing their responsibility, namely the congregation.