Celebration of the Eucharist as the second ordinance which Jesus gave to his disciples, the first being baptism, is the central mystery of the Christian continuum practiced by adherents of nearly all traditions and having an equal number of different theologies associated with its institution.
Although the institution of the Eucharist has a very clear Scriptural basis, it would be in error to think that it is something solely found within the limitations of New Testament scripture as we know from related practices in the Mediterranean from Egypt to the Orphic mysteries of Ancient Greece and Rome. While some may view this as a point of detraction against the Eucharist’s integrity as practiced in contemporary Christianity, from a Gnostic perspective this fact points to the universality of God’s covenant with Creation.
From a Christian perspective the Eucharist begins and ends with Christ, something likewise affirmed in Gnostic scripture: “The Eucharist is Jesus. In Syriac it is called pharisatha (broken bread), which is ‘one who is spread out,’ since Jesus came to crucify the world.” In order to understand the Eucharist, one must first understand Christ. Amongst the early Christian and Gnostic communities there was, as today, a wide variety of Christological interpretations.
Whereas the outer Church would almost unilaterally agree that the personhood of Christ in Jesus are united in one or single nature, the general consensus amongst Gnostics then and now would be much closer to a monophysite or semi-docetic interpretation in which the nature of Christ in Jesus is singular or that Christ in the person of Jesus was permeable in a way that his physical existence was at least semi-illusory. Because of our limitations of perception, we are only able to hint at the nature of Christ however, but from scripture bother perspectives and conjecture his essence is pre-existent from his physical body:
“In the beginning was the word and the word was with god, and the word was god. He was in the beginning with god. Through him everything came to be. What came to be in him was life and life was the light of all people and the light in the darkness shone and the darkness could not apprehend the light.”
The nature of Christ, at the very least, can be characterized as light – not merely physical light, but illumination of consciousness. It is through Christ we are illuminated into the original light which pre-existed all things. In Gnostic cosmology, all things exist by an act of emanation from a point of singularity that is pre-existent and pervades all space and all time yet remains, for the most part, perceptually incomprehensible.
The emanation which we call Christ is the closet to both our own earthly natures but unique in its ability to draw all things back to the singular source. Since all things consist of substance, it is therefore possible from a Gnostic interpretation to pneumatically affirm the real presence in the mystery of the Eucharist:
“The world eats bodies, and everything eaten in the world dies. Truth eats life, but no one fed on truth will find death. Jesus came and he carried food, giving life to whoever wanted it so they might not die”
The Eucharist therefore is not merely a commemorative meal instituted by Jesus as affirmed in the synoptic gospels Mark 14: 16-25; Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:13-20 and later by Paul in I Corinthians 11:23-11:25; it is a perpetual act of God experiencing humanity that humanity may experience God and through this act of understanding (henosis), reunite in communion (synaxis) with the original state of unity that preceded Creation. In this Christ is not merely understood to be the physical Jesus of Nazareth, rather the eternal principal of the Christ existing pervasively throughout all eternity.
This varies only slightly in the understanding of the mystery as elucidated from Catholic and subsequent Protestant theologies in that it is understood to be a truly universal and participatory ritual that is not limited only to Christians alone, but to and for all persons in all times as part of the commemoration of our divine origins as part of that unity which manifests itself as the emanated spectrum of the Light of God’s unity throughout Creation. In order to understand this, we must understand the Eucharist not only as the consuming of bread and wine, but as synergetic act – leitourgia – between us as individuals and the community and the community and God, as stated by pseudo-Dionysius in the third chapter of The Ecclesiastical Heirarchy:
“For a start, let us reverently behold what is above all characteristic of this, though also of the other hierarchic sacraments, namely, that which is especially referred to as ‘Communion’ and ‘gathering’ [synaxis]. Every sacredly initiating operation draws our fragmented lives together into a one-like divinization. It forges a divine unity out of the divisions within us. It grants us communion and union with the One.”
This synaxionomic operation further illustrates the immanence of God in His perpetual covenant with humanity by ensuring that all who participate in the Mystery of the Eucharist are transformed by the living presence of the Christ through the mediums of bread and wine.
Is this to be understood that the Eucharist as practiced by Gnostics is to be understood under strictly pneumatic principals – in short, not at all. Scripture from both the Gnostic and Christian sources seem to unanimously indicate that the sacrifice of the Eucharist is very real indeed with the material elements of bread and wine being transformed into the body and blood of the Christ: “The word…the holy one is… food and drink.” In this way the Eucharist amongst Gnostics is every bit the same meal consumed by Christians to this day as it is the same sacred feast of the body and blood God as understood and observed by initiates of the great mystery traditions and schools from ancient times to the present day.
 Gospel of Philip. Isenberg, Wesley (trans.), The Gnostic Bible
 The Gospel of John. Barnstone, William (trans.), The Gnostic Bible
 Gospel of Philip. Ibid.
 Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. Rorem, Paul. Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works.
 On the Eucharist (B). Robinson, James. The Gnostic Bible