Father Stephen Freeman has a post that got me thinking about the Eucharist, which is, more than anything else, what drew me out of where I was as an Evangelical and made me hungry for something more -- the reality of God in this physical plane. I constantly tell folks that the main reason I joined the Orthodox Church was that, when I looked at the bishops of the first and second centuries AD, then re-read the Scriptures in light of their consensus, I came away with a drastically different view of what the reality of being "in Christ" actually means.
The Eucharist (no pun intended) embodies that reality. This is not something that can be "reformed," "rediscovered," or "recreated." It's either a reality that exists within a given community as the ultimate gift of God, the ultimate testament to a "one-storey universe" -- or it doesn't. And it doesn't--it can't!--exist just because such-and-such a group says they've "got it." There were (and are) certain qualifications for being a truly eucharistic fellowship and gathering -- all of which qualifications (the apostolic laying on of hands, the physical transmission of the faith from bishop to bishop, from babushka to baby, and others) are themselves also beautifully organic. These seeming limitations, supposedly confining God's saving presence in physical boundaries, nevertheless bring us to the realization that Christ's Church is, that it is to be joined, and that it cannot be manufactured. It is not a matter of parsing apart theological positions to ensure the "validity" of some self-made community's communion service. This reality of the presence of the God Who Is and Who Is with us -- is not something we make, but (to paraphrase Rich Mullins here) is something which is making us, which was given to mankind from the Outside, to be taken into our inside (not merely the stomach but also our heart of hearts), and which cannot be separated from the eternal life of our Creator, the One Who Gives.
I remember my moment of realization, when I realized that my assent to this Church of God made no difference. When I looked at an icon of the Theotokos and Child, the border of which was surrounded by saints that were (at that time) completely unknown to me, I realized that this Church has been what it's been for 2,000 years and has gotten along just fine without my approval -- or even my knowledge of its existence, for that matter. It was I who needed Her, not the other way around. I needed Her to give me the Bridegroom's Flesh and Blood, for it was to Her that such saving antidotes to the death that reigns in my members had been given.
I know the common cliché is that Evangelicals tend to stress "knowledge about God" whereas Orthodox actually "know God" through sacrament and living the Holy Spirit's life in the Church -- and, granted, the cliché can get far too simplistic if we make it the soundbyte I've seen it become in certain places -- but the flesh-to-flesh encounter with our Lord is too intimate to be excluded from our walk with Him. Christ, found in the Eucharist and received in faith by those united with Him in His death, is the seed of immortality that will blossom forth on the Last Day and give us Life (John 6:54) -- it is through this that the mortal puts on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54).