This is a post from Taylor Marshall's blog, Cantebury Tales.
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Saint Paul’s doctrine of the believer’s participation in Christ finds its high point in the Apostle’s doctrine of the Eucharist, which he called “the Supper of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:20) or “the Breaking of the Bread” (Acts 20:7). Some time before a.d. 100, the ritual of the Lord’s Supper came to be known as the Eucharist. We find the term Eucharist being applied to the Lord’s Supper in the early late first-century Christian document, the Didache: “Now as regards the Eucharist, give thanks after this manner…” There are two reasons for why the Lord’s Supper came to be known as the Eucharist. The first is that the Greek word eucharistia means “giving thanks.” The earliest use of eucharistia in the context of the Lord’s Supper is from the writings of Saint Paul. Paul uses a Greek form of the word eucharistia in 1 Cor 11:24 when he describes how the Lord’s Supper was celebrated:
And when he had given thanks (Greek: eucharistésas or “eucharisted”), he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24).
Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians was written in about a.d. 57 and so the Apostle’s account of the Eucharist is the earliest testimony to the ritual and beliefs surrounding the Lord’s Supper. The accounts of the Lord’s Supper found in the Matthew, Mark, and Luke were composed sometime after a.d. 57 and so Paul’s description in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians is the oldest. Less than one hundred years after the death of Saint Paul, we find Saint Justin Martyr writing to the pagan Emperor Antonius Pius (a.d. 138-161) in order to explain the way in which Christians at this time celebrated the Eucharist:
On the day we call the day of the sun [i.e. Sunday], all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.
The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits. When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves…and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation. When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren. He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (he “eucharists”) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts. When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: “Amen!”
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the eucharisted bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.