Zizioulas ( The Eucharistic Communion and the World ) argues that “the New Testament Churches . . . seem to have so identified the Eucharist with the Church herself that the terms ‘Eucharist’ and ‘Church’ are interchangeable in the existing witnesses” (15).

He elaborates, focusing on 1 Corinthians:

“While it is clear from the contextthat Paul is thinking of the eucharistic gathering in this chapter, hecalls this gathering Church: When you come together as a church . . . (1 Cor. 11:18). If the Corinthians who read this sentence were livingtoday, they would certainly wonder: What does he mean by, youcome together as a church? Are we not the Church when we are notgathered? But apparently this question never occurred to them becauseat that time the term Church was not related to the theories and theidea of universalism, and actually meant this gathering meeting forthe purpose of celebrating the Eucharist. This is precisely why Paul,immediately after, does not hesitate to say that to injure the eucharisticgathering is to injure the Church of God (1 Cor. 11:22). Moreover,he continues by identifying the Eucharist with the Church in a strikingway when he connects everything that he said about the former towhat he says about the latter by simply for, as the one sufficed as anexplanation for the other: do you show contempt [by your conduct inthe Eucharist] for the church of God . . . ? For I received from the Lordwhat I also handed on to you [i.e., the Lords Supper] (1 Cor. 11:22-3).Therefore, according to Pauls usage in this passage, the expressions togather or to gather in one place, Lords Supper, and Church orChurch of God are identical” (15).

He argues that a eucharistic ecclesiology is implicit in other New Testament images of the church: “house Church ( kat oikon ecclesia ), an expression thatdoes not mean a Christian family, but the house where (according toearly tradition, e.g., Acts 2:46) the local church usually met for theEucharist (the family even a very Christian family is clearlydistinguished from the Church in Pauls thought, cf. 1 Tim. 3:4-5, andeven 1 Cor. 11:22). For this reason we should not consider the houseChurch as a special type of Church, but as an indication of where theChurch gathered for the Eucharist, a place that naturally received thename of the owner of the house (Philemon 1-2; Rom. 16:5-16), justas the houses in Rome that were later known by the names of theirowners (Saint Clement, etc.) because they had been used as a place forthe eucharistic gatherings of the local Church” (15-16). “House Church,” in short, suggests a meeting place for the Christian family, gathered around the family table.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart