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Friday, April 07, 2006

Eucharist & Eschatology: Ecclesia de Eucharistia

In his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, JPII writes the following:
18. The acclamation of the assembly following the consecration appropriately ends by expressing the eschatological thrust which marks the celebration of the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:26): “until you come in glory”. The Eucharist is a straining towards the goal, a foretaste of the fullness of joy promised by Christ (cf. Jn 15:11); it is in some way the anticipation of heaven, the “pledge of future glory”.30 In the Eucharist, everything speaks of confident waiting “in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ”.31 Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness which will embrace man in his totality. For in the Eucharist we also receive the pledge of our bodily resurrection at the end of the world: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54). This pledge of the future resurrection comes from the fact that the flesh of the Son of Man, given as food, is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection. With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the “secret” of the resurrection. For this reason Saint Ignatius of Antioch rightly defined the Eucharistic Bread as “a medicine of immortality, an antidote to death”.32

19. The eschatological tension kindled by the Eucharist expresses and reinforces our communion with the Church in heaven. It is not by chance that the Eastern Anaphoras and the Latin Eucharistic Prayers honour Mary, the ever-Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God, the angels, the holy apostles, the glorious martyrs and all the saints. This is an aspect of the Eucharist which merits greater attention: in celebrating the sacrifice of the Lamb, we are united to the heavenly “liturgy” and become part of that great multitude which cries out: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10). The Eucharist is truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on earth. It is a glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem which pierces the clouds of our history and lights up our journey.

20. A significant consequence of the eschatological tension inherent in the Eucharist is also the fact that it spurs us on our journey through history and plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us. Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of “new heavens” and “a new earth” (Rev 21:1), but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today.33 I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millennium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world. Theirs is the task of contributing with the light of the Gospel to the building of a more human world, a world fully in harmony with God's plan.

Many problems darken the horizon of our time. We need but think of the urgent need to work for peace, to base relationships between peoples on solid premises of justice and solidarity, and to defend human life from conception to its natural end. And what should we say of the thousand inconsistencies of a “globalized” world where the weakest, the most powerless and the poorest appear to have so little hope! It is in this world that Christian hope must shine forth! For this reason too, the Lord wished to remain with us in the Eucharist, making his presence in meal and sacrifice the promise of a humanity renewed by his love. Significantly, in their account of the Last Supper, the Synoptics recount the institution of the Eucharist, while the Gospel of John relates, as a way of bringing out its profound meaning, the account of the “washing of the feet”, in which Jesus appears as the teacher of communion and of service (cf. Jn 13:1-20). The Apostle Paul, for his part, says that it is “unworthy” of a Christian community to partake of the Lord's Supper amid division and indifference towards the poor (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-22, 27-34).34

Proclaiming the death of the Lord “until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26) entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely “Eucharistic”. It is this fruit of a transfigured existence and a commitment to transforming the world in accordance with the Gospel which splendidly illustrates the eschatological tension inherent in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the Christian life as a whole: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
One cannot help but see the eschatological demands given behind the promises received in the Eucharistic celebration of the Mystery of Faith. There is a lot more work to be done in this area of Eucharistic theology. But, JPII has brought to the surface a very important theme within the theology of the Eucharist that needs further exploration and implimentation within the ministry and calling of the Church as 'bread broken for the life of the world.' I cannot help but be utterly amazed at the close similarities between Lancelot Andrewes and JPII's chapter on the Mystery of Faith within this encyclical. Emphasis on the poor within the Eucharistic offering of the Church was the very heart of the liturgical rite and the moral implications for Andrewes when he applied this rite to the lives of those who eat at this banquet. I hope to do some further work in this area at some point in the future.

6 Comments:

Blogger lexorandi2 said...

Para. 19 causes me to reflect on how different the liturgical course of Anglicanism would have been had Cranmer's first book (1549) been the model of all subsequent editions rather than his second (1552).

Dan

9:10 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Yes, if only Good Queen Mary had come to the throne in July 1550 or 1551, rather than in 1553 ...

3:38 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

Bill, I hear the laughter as you write that sentence but the truth of it as well. That is why I don't even reference the 53 on my links on the right in the list of liturgies.

I'm not sure Mary's coming to the throne then would have made things better; possibly worse.

7:48 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

1552 that is!

4:36 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Well, I was thinking of Gregory Dix's remark in his pamphlet "Dixit Cranmer et Non Timuit" (1947) which was written as a contribution to the controversy over his interprtetation of Cranmer's eucharistic theology in *The Shape of the Liturgy* (an interpretation close to that of Diarmaid MacCulloch, althogh the latter's is more nuanced) that Anglicanism (or at least Catholic Anglicanism) owes a great debt of gratitude to Mary Tudor for coming to the throne and forestalling both the "institutionalization" of the 1552 BCP and another, even more "Reformed" rite, a few years later (had Edward VI and Cranmer survived a few more years -- a likelihood that MacCulloch envisages in his biography of
Cranmer).

But I can't see how an earlier coming to the throne by Mary would, or even could, have made things worse. Assuming that her reign would have ended, as it did, in 1558 with Elizabeth succeeding her, and that she would have restored England to the papacy, then there would have been a number of Protestant martyrs, probably including Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, but fewer in number; and possibly with 2 or 3 more years of "Catholic restoration" to have its effect, Elizabeth would have found it even more difficult to effect a breach with Rome in 1559, as the Catholic party in the House of Lords would have been even stronger than it was; and assuming that nevertheless she managed to get the Royal Supremacy passed, (1) probably she would have found it more difficult to get bishops to consecrate Parker and (2) she might have restored a version of the 1549 rite -- and in turn, found far fewer returned Protestant exiles willing to become bishiops in her church. In other words, Elizabeth would have had to confront an almost impossibly difficult situation in 1558-59.

5:16 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

And, as it was, Elizabeth's ministers did have doubts about how they would get Parker consecrated. There is a document in the State Papers for 1559 in Cecil's hand, which is a draft of a royal commandment to the Deans of various cathedrals to consecrate Parker, in the absence of any bishops to do so, and a memorandum concerning Acts to be introduced into a future Parliament to give legal validity to such a "presbyteral consecration." Imagine the future of Anglicanism if *that* had happened!

5:20 pm  

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