In the early Church, the primary word used to describe the celebration of the Mystery of Christ was Eὐχαριστία-Eucharist (thanksgiving). This “Thanksgiving” was an attitude which defined early Christian worship and praxis. It was a thanksgiving for every part of creation from the beauty of the stars to the bounty of the sea, and above all, it was an act of gratitude for the revelation and presence of Christ. It was a celebration and thanksgiving for the crucified and Risen Christ’s presence at and in the Eucharist by the Holy Spirit as the unique revelation of the Father.
Put more simply, it is primarily a thanksgiving for God Himself. Metropolitan John Zizioulas says this when he writes:
The Eucharist is… an act of thanksgiving to God the Father ‘for your holy name’, which is a way of referring to God’s very identity, His personal existence revealed and made known to us through Jesus. The most important gift to us, therefore, is the fact of God’s existence, his ‘name’…He continues by saying the essence of the Eucharistic Ethos, therefore, is the affirmation of the Other and of every Other as a gift to be appreciated and evoke gratitude.
Panayiotis Nellas takes this concept, which is of a somewhat philosophical nature, and expresses it in a simple yet infinitely profound manner when he writes that the”…Eucharistic character [ethos] makes the faithful accept life, their fellow human beings, the fruits of their labors, nature itself, as gifts that they then give to each other and that all offer up to God within the selflessness and joy of receiving and giving gifts.”
The early Liturgy was also characterized by ἀναφορά- offering/referring. This offering was manifest in the Bread and Wine...