Tuesday, October 18, 2005

E.L. Mascall: Eucharistic Sacrifice

I recently finished E.L. Mascall's book Corpus Christi where he deals with the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist within its theological framework. He adds an appendix to the fourth chapter on the Eucharistic Sacrifice and places it within its creational framework and then ties it to the liturgical rite. He does this by explaining the theology behind the way of offering the bread and wine that comes from human hands that is brought to the altar and "received," and then transformed, which is followed by their being offered for the redemption of the whole world. This is not something that is added to the sacrifice of Christ for His act accomplished all that was needed for our redemption once and for all. It is not a different sacrifice but one and the same sacrifice. For every earthly Eucharist is our participation in the One heavenly Eucharist. Mascall concludes the book by defining the Eucharistic sacrifice in three aspects:
There are, in short, three aspects of the Eucharistic sacrifice. First, the Eucharist is the perpetual sacramental presentation in the Church's midst of the one full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice of Christ, as the means by which sin is atoned for, the Church is made, and the world is brought under the mercy of God. Secondly, the Eucharist is the means by which human lives are made acceptable to God by their union with the perfect life of his Son and are transformed by his acceptance. Thirdly, the Eucharist is the means by which the material creation is presented to God by the perfect Man, in whose immaculate body matter itself has been united to Godhead, and so, in the Eucharist, not only man but the sub-human realm as well is transformed by the divine acceptance. Bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ; man's natural food becomes his supernatural food. So in the Eucharist the final transformation and glorification of the created world is eschatologically anticipated. The Father's creation is offered to him by and in his Incarnate Son, in whom he is well pleased; and, being accepted by him in the beloved, it is transformed into an eternal sacrifice by which he is for ever adored.
God transforms the work of human hands (bread and wine) and makes them worthy of offering in the same way he transforms us to make us worthy of offering ourselves for the life of the world (Rom. 12.1-2). It is important to understand that Mascall begins here, not with the order of redemption, but creation and this creation has and is being redeemed by Christ. Our Eucharistic offerings are the celebrations of that ongoing transformation in the Incarnate Son as we are drawn up into him in this rite. The one thing that really stands out in the above quotation is Mascall's intentional emphasis that speaks against a prevailing neo-Gnostic view of "spirituality" that finds itself immersed in both Protestant and Catholic spirituality and individualism today. What is obvious for Mascall is that the work of redemption is the transformation of all of creation. Man is the pinnacle of creation who stands between and within time and eternity possessing body and soul that is being transformed from glory into glory.


Blogger Derek the ├ćnglican said...

I'd never heard the third presented in that way before. I really like it...

5:33 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...


I thought the same. It reminded me a lot of some stuff that I have read in Schmemann. It's been squeezing my brain all day! :-)


5:42 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Which edition of *Corpus Christi* did you use? The 2nd (1965) edition has interesting amplifications and additions, including a critique of some documents of Vatoican II.

9:51 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...


It was the 1953 edition. A copy that I received from Operation Passalong a couple of years ago. it was free!


10:44 pm  
Anonymous J. Gordon Anderson said...

That leads logically to the conclusion that sacraments are extensions of the incarnation. Very exciting to think about!

2:07 pm  

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