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Two Eternal Sacraments

The older one gets, the more one begins to think about what happens next, that is, after death. I think about the afterlife from time to time. One of the things that has occurred to me after reading and reflecting on the Bible is that there are two Sacraments in the Church which will continue on into the next life. They are the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

It is clear to us Orthodox that we will continue to celebrate the Eucharist in the afterlife. In Paschal Matins, we sing:

O Christ, Thou great and most sacred Pascha!
O Wisdom, Word and power of God!
Grant us to partake of Thee more fully
in the unwaning day
of Thy kingdom.
(Fifth Troparion of the Ninth Ode of Paschal Matins)

We understand that the Resurrected Jesus Christ is present both mystically and really in  the Eucharist. So, whenever we partake of the Eucharist we partake of Christ. He is ever eaten and never consumed. He does not cease to exist after we partake of Him. This is a mystery. We call the Sacraments the Holy Mysteries.

The Bible teaches that there will be a Eucharist in the kingdom of God after the resurrection of the dead. In Genesis, we read about Melchizedec, King of Salem and Priest to the Most High God.

And Melchisedec king of Salem brought forth loaves and wine, and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed Abram, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, who made heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high God who delivered thine enemies into thy power. And Abram gave him the tithe of all. (Genesis 14:18-20, LXX)

Melchisedec used bread and wine in his priestly office. Jesus likewise used bread and wine.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28, NKJV)

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (I Corinthians 11:23-25, NKJV)

St. Paul points out that one of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus in the Psalms says that He will be a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.

And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’”). (Hebrews 7:20,21, NKJV)

So, if the priesthood according to the order of Melchisec continues forever. That which is offered by this priesthood will continue forever, too. The Bread and the Wine of the Eucharist will continue to be offered in the afterlife on into eternity for all perpetuity.

The Melchisedec priesthood consists of not only Jesus and King Melchisedec of Salem, but also His apostles and the successors of the apostles and those given authority by the successors of the apostles to handle the Holy Mysteries, that is, the priests.

Not everyone may handle the Holy Mysteries. St. Paul wrote:

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (I Corinthians 4:1, NKJV)

The apostles were stewards of the Mysteries of God. They were responsible for safeguarding their administration to the faithful. Those who were ordained bishops by the apostles received this stewardship at their ordination. The presbyters, or priests, were given authority by the bishops to administer the Sacraments to the faithful within their local congregations.

Further evidence of the existence of this stewardship among the apostles can be seen in the Book of Acts. The St. Philip the Deacon baptized men and women in Samaria, but he never laid on hands on them so that they could become sealed with the Holy Spirit.

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. (Acts 8:12, NKJV)

Two of the apostles, Sts. Peter and John, laid hands on the baptized Samaritans.

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17, NKJV)

One must be one of the Twelve Apostles or a successor of the apostles, that is, a bishop, in order to have the authority to do this. St. Philip the Deacon did not have the authority to do this. Therefore, Sts. Peter and John laid hands on them so that the Samaritans would be sealed with the Holy Spirit.

If there is a Eucharist in the afterlife, there will also be Holy Orders. Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Subdeacons, and Readers will be there, too. Two Sacraments which will continue on after the general resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment are Holy Orders and the Eucharist.


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