Monday, November 21, 2005

De Lubac 'Eucharistic Ecclesiology'

In my surfing around the I-Net for new Eucharistic articles this evening I came across this article in the Anglican Theological Review by Lisa Wang. It is a very helpful and insightful survey of De Lubac's works and it makes me all the more anxious for the forthcoming publication of Corpus Mysticum this next summer. In her article Sacramentum unitatis ecclesiasticae: The eucharistic ecclesiology of Henri de Lubac Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2003 Lisa Wang writes,
De Lubac's criticism with regard to this gap or loss of connection between the sacramental presence of Christ and the community of his faithful was an issue that was first raised in Catholicism. In that work he deplored the prevailing theological emphasis on the need to demonstrate a real presence, because it detracted from the symbolism of unity in the eucharist. This symbolism carries a further significance, described in Corpus Mysticum, with reference to the mystical body of Christ: "corps auquel se refere mystiquement et qu'enveloppe mystiquement le symbole du pain" (p. 69). In this context it is notable that the phrase corpus mysticum corresponded roughly to sacramentum (mysterium) corporis (p. 95), that is, the body which is present "in mysterio" or liturgically, "sous les apparences materielles ou rituelles qui le signifient mysterieusement" (p. 68). The unitive symbol of the bread directs our attention both to the memorial and the eschatological aspects of the body of Christ offered in the eucharist, "in mysterio panis, in mysterio passionis, in mysterio nostro" (pp. 83-84). Thus, as the oblation of the eucharist is made, we look backwards to the Passion, as well as forward to our own unity in the one body, when we come together for the liturgical celebration of this "mystery."

This suggests that there are two things at work in the eucharist as we experience it: one is the act of Christ's sacrifice offered for us, and the other is that of our own communication or participation in it.8 De Lubac's understanding of the eucharist is therefore much more actionoriented than object-oriented. This is why he observes, in reference to the patristic period, that "bien des textes concernant l'Eucharistie seraient compris plus a fond et que certains d'entre eux offriraient moins de difficultes d'exegese aux defenseurs de la 'presence reelle,'" if they would bear in mind that "la perspective essentielle de ces textes n'est pas celle d'une presence ou d'un objet, mais celle d'une action et d'un sacrifice" (p. 78). "Ce n'est acunement, d'une facon direct, le lien entre le corps du Christ considere 'en soi' et les 'especes sacramentelles' qui est vise" (p. 79). Rather, it is the link between the presence of Christ in the eucharist and the reality of the cross.

De Lubac, then, would seem to be saying that, in terms of the different elements of the sacrament, what is contained under the sign of the sacrament of the eucharist is Christ himself in his very sacrifice on the cross. Yet this in turn is at the same time the sign of a deeper reality, one which de Lubac quotes Augustine in order to convey: "'Quando Christus manducator, Vita manducator.' Il transforme en lui-meme ceux qu'il nourrit de sa substance. Il est lui-meme le corps dont ceux qui le mangent deviennent l'aliment" (pp. 200-201). This recalls the Augustinian notion mentioned in de Lubac's Catholicism: "I am your food, but instead of my being changed into you, it is you who shall be transformed into me." In receiving the body of Christ in the eucharist, we receive life-we receive him-in such a way that we are transformed.
The first paragraph is really essential to my present thinking of a future chapter on Andrewes: Eucharist and Eschatology that this paragraph really helps to bring some of the issues in Andrewes' writing to light for me as well as what will be my final chapter on Andrewes: Eucharist and Ecumenism. Read the rest of the article here.


Blogger Pontificator said...

I have been waiting years for this book to be translated! I eagerly await its publication.

3:50 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

Al, I too am looking forward to this coming out. It will be great to get into the hands of us who are language deficient.

10:37 am  

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