One Bread, One Body
“…we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17)
In those terrible yet sublime days when the Church was relentlessly persecuted in the Roman Empire, to attend the Eucharist meant death if one was caught. The government was swift to recognise that the very life and existence of the Church depended on her Eucharistic worship. That was the basic source of her unity and her strength.
Those Christians who, while professing belief in the Christian Faith, absented themselves from the Sunday Eucharist, they could safely be left well alone: a faith which did not express itself in worship was no danger to anyone and could be ignored. The Sunday communicants, however, presented an altogether different problem.
Sunday was, of course, an ordinary working day and so the Eucharist used to be held before anyone else was astir, probably about five o’clock in the morning. They often met at the home of the Christian who owned the largest house and therefore could accommodate the greatest number. The worshippers slipped along the deserted streets in ones or twos so as to attract no attention. At the door one of the deacons was posted who knew all the members by sight, and they were only admitted after a careful scrutiny had satisfied him that each of them was a Christian and not a government agent.
Several minutes would elapse between the first arrival and the last, but the Eucharist itself was quite short for, like the Last Supper, it began at that time with the Offertory and ended with the Communion. When it was over, the communicants slipped away as inconspicuously as they had come.