So in summary, the claims by any Lutheran that Luther somehow agreed with the (absolutely correct) Orthodox beliefs regarding the Eucharist is a very misguided statement. In essense, the Catholic belief is the same as the Orthodox belief, that the bread and wine physically become Jesus Christ's actual body and blood, soul and divinity at the words of consecration by the priest. Its not the substance of the Catholic beliefs that the Orthodox have a problem with but rather the fact that our beliefs are defined dogmatically.
Catholica, while I would not want to lose the distinctions I've laid out, I will say that with regard to Holy Communion, this would not be a sticking point with regard to the reunion of the two churches. I would quibble to say, it's not that the beliefs have been defined dogmatically per se
, but that they have been defined at all. Even if this would not have been dogmatized but would have been a universal pious belief, the Orthodox would have a problem with the bent toward rational analysis of these Great Mysteries.
In general, the Orthodox feel that it is the tendency toward rational analysis of these sorts of divine realities that lead to innovations in practice and belief. Had the tendency toward wanting to define, say, the state of souls after death not been so strong, the doctrine of purgatory, and attendant practice of indulgences, would not have developed. But the rational impetus to define and to delimit is difficult to stop once it's given its way, and so also develops supererogation and definitive time lengths for certain penances.
But the point here is not purgatory, but is rather Holy Eucharist, so I'll cease here. I'm just trying to illustrate the differences.
Again, on the bare essence, Orthodox and Roman Catholic are in agreement.
But just to clarify, something you wrote, CDHealy: Is it really the "prayers of the people" or is it rather the words of the priest, which repeat the words that the Word used, which are "this is my body" and "this is my blood"? Don't the Orthodox believe in the necessity of the priesthood in the consecration of the Eucharist? Can any group of Christians consecrate the Eucharist even without a priest, according to Orthodox belief? For example, do you believe that a group of Lutherans could pray together or with a Lutheran minister and come up with a valid Eucharist?
Yes, it is the prayers of the people, led by a priest in apostolic succession, to which the Holy Spirit responds and makes the change. In Orthodoxy, no Eucharist may be validly held without laity present. A priest may not celebrate alone. Conversely, the laity may not approach the altar to "make" the Eucharist. It takes both: the fulness of the priesthood of all believers--those that have been set aside from among the people to serve at the altar, and those who bring the gifts from their own labors which are consecrated into the Body and Blood of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is both the receiving of the Divine Life of God into our bodies, and the offering of all our labors and life represented by those labors to God. We give God our lives and our labors; God gives us himself in return.
While we Orthodox always include the words of institution (This is my Body; This is my Blood), we also always include the epiclesis:
Priest: Again we offer to Thee this noetic and unbloody sacrifice; and we beg Thee, we ask Thee, we pray Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts set forth.
(Deacon [pointing with his orarion to the diskos]: Bless, Master, the Holy Bread.)
Priest: Make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ,
(Deacon [pointing to the chalice]: Bless, Master, the Holy Cup.)
Priest: And that which is in this Cup, the Precious Blood of Thy Christ,
(Deacon [pointing to both]: Bless them both, Master.)
Priest: Changing by Thy Holy Spirit.
People: Amen, Amen, Amen.
The Orthodox believe that without the epiclesis, the prayer of the Eucharist is incomplete.
That said, the Orthodox also do not dogmatize as to when precisely the bread and wine are changed, though in terms of the liturgical actions this is at the end of the epiclesis, when the people add the triple Amen. Whether or not God "starts" the change during the words of institution or not, who knows. But we know that the prayer of the Church is always accomplished so that when the epiclesis is ended, whenever the change occurred in metaphysical reality, it is now fully accomplished.