Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. 2nd ed. London:Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005 (republished from 1945 original edition).
Chapter 5, “The Classical Shape of the Liturgy: (II) The Eucharist.” pp. 103-140
“In this chapter we shall study what may be called the skeleton of that ‘four-action shape’ of the eucharist whose first century origins we have just investigated” (Dix, 2005, 103). Dix here looks just at the structure rather than the meaning. The four actions are the offering, the prayer, the breaking of the bread, and the communion.
In the pre-Nicene period the greeting is the peace of God, not simply a prayer that the Lord would be present. This reflects the fact that all unbelievers had been sent away (Dix 2005, 103). A spreading of the table linen followed, then the eucharist itself. After all had brought their offerings there was an invitation, the bishop’s prayer, then the bishop would break bread and commune himself (Dix 2005, 105). The communion was received standing. The reply of each was “amen.” The vessels were then cleansed and the congregation dismissed. People would take some of the bread home for mornings without the liturgy. Deacons would take bread to those who could not be present or to assemblies lacking a bishop (Dix 2005, 05). Beginning on p. 105 Dix considers these parts of the eucharist in more detail.
The greeting and kiss of peace were self-consciously guarded as a time for reconciliation and never as a mere formality (Dix 2005, 105-106). Within the Christian court system which existed by the third century the bishops and presbyters purposely made judgments early in the week so in case of contest the matter could be resolved and all parties reconciled prior to the next eucharist.
The offertory is the means by which the bread and wine arrive at the altar (Dix 2005, 111). Dix shows that Clement, Justin, and Hippolytus all saw a particular order of events and order of roles and responsibilities in the eucharist including in the offering of the bread and wine (Dix 2005, 112). Irenaeus’ application of this act is that the people give themselves to God and God gives himself to the people (Dix 2005, 117).
Dix mentions in brief the ceremonial handwashing, which he sees as a fifth-century innovation (Dix 2005, 124). The bread and wine are recognized as present. Then the eucharistic dialogue and prayer follow a very old tradition (Dix 2005, 126-128).
In the breaking of the bread Dix observes the pragmatic implications. It needed to be broken to distribute. Sometimes there were multiple loaves. Relatively early a statement of purpose - broken for you - was often added (Dix 2005, 132-133). The communion itself follows, with an emphasis on the leaders distributing to the people. It is itself followed with an emphasis on the leaders distributing to the people. It is clear in early practice that the elements are considered the true body and blood of Jesus (Dix 2005, 138).