Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Etymology of Communion ordered to Contest

Community is a very popular word these days. A Latin word sounding very similar to community is also very popular among Catholic theologians – this word is communio. Both words trace their roots to the Latin word communis, a word which literally means a shared duty (cum meaning ‘with/together’ and munus meaning ‘duty’). While we tend to think of community or communio in terms of peace and prosperity, we must remember our public duties which shape both community and communio.

We are in a communion ordered and directed to contest and conflict.

Indeed, contest and conflict are what Christians are celebrating right now in the Easter season. We sometimes think Christ’s agony in the garden was simply Jesus’ nerves bothering him before his torture and death – but we should remember that ‘agony’ comes from the Greek word agon, which means ‘a contest’. Jesus’ death did not mark his triumphant entry into Heaven – no, it marked his descent into Hell where he engaged in a battle with the Evil One, struck Satan a mortal blow, and then freed the righteous from his death grip.

The Resurrection is the celebration of Christ’s victory over death. In a conflict and contest, there is a winner and a loser – and Christ is the winner!

The word agon also means ‘an assembly for contest’ – and it is altogether fitting that the word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia which means ‘the assembly’. Ekklesia itself is derived from ek-kaleo, “which was used for the summons to the army to assemble… and denotes in the usage of antiquity the popular assembly of the competent full citizens of the polis, city” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology). The assembly thus comes in two forms – the city, state, nation and the Church. There are those men assembled to protect the borders of temporal entities and another drawn from the nations elevated to protect us from the power of the Evil One himself.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia! But let us not forget that the Devil still prowls about seeking the ruin of souls. Let us form up as men and ready ourselves for contest.

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