What had largly assisted the general misunderstanding of 1549 was its retention of the traditional Shape of the Liturgy. Cranmer realised that this was a mistake if he wanted to the new belief to be adopted; and in 1552 he made radical changes in this in order to bring out the doctrinal implications of 1549. But the wording of the prayers of 1549 needed no such drastic treatment. Rearranged in their new order they served with remarkably few changes to express teh full Zwinglian doctrine -- in itself a reasonable vindication of Cranmer's claim that this had been their most obvious meaning all along.When one examines his Defense in light of Andrewes' work, it will not be difficult to see the undeniable difference between Cranmer and Andrewes. T.S. Eliot is right that Andrewes is the first of the Great English Catholics.
O most sweet and tender Jesus, what reverence, what giving of thanks is due to Thee with perpetual praise for the receiving of Thy sacred Body and Blood, the dignity whereof no man is found able to express. But what shall I think upon in this Communion in approaching my Lord, whom I am not able worthily to honour, and nevertheless whom I long devoutly to receive? What shall be better and more healthful meditation for me, than utter humiliation of myself before Thee, and exaltation of Thine infinite goodness towards me? I praise Thee, O my God, and exalt Thee for evermore. I despise myself, and cast myself down before Thee into the deep of my vileness.
Behold, Thou art the Saint of saints and I the refuse of sinners; behold, Thou stoopest unto me who am not worthy to look upon Thee; behold, Thou comest unto me, Thou willest to be with me, Thou invitest me to Thy feast. Thou willest to give me the heavenly food and bread of angels to eat; none other, in truth, than Thyself, The living bread, which didst descend from heaven; and givest life to the world.
Behold, whence this love proceedeth! what manner of condescension shineth forth herein. What great iving of thanks and praise is due unto Thee for these benefits! Oh how salutary and profitable Thy purpose when Thou didst ordain this! How sweet and pleasant the feast when Thou didst give Thyself for food! Oh how admirable is thy working, O Lord, how mighty Thy power how unspeakable Thy truth! For Thou didst speak the word, and all things were made; and this is done which Thou hast commanded.
But Jesus did not tell us to watch and adore. He told us to take and eat, take and drink. And in our obedience, Christ is with us. Christ inhabits the obedience, and the bread and wine are not obedient. Christ is in the participles, in the eating, and in the drinking. Christ is present in His body, and we are that body. As we take the elements and do what we were told to do (which did not include bowing down to them, adoring them, etc.) we are taken by the Holy Spirit and are knit together with Christ and the rest of His body. The elements sitting on an altar by themselves are nothing, and do nothing. But the elements are the instrument that God uses to accomplish His purposes. In order for an instrument to do what it is intended to do, it is necessary to do with it what we were told to do with it, which is eat, drink, and believe.There are numerous issues here that need fleshing out and it would take a dissertation to do so but let me just hit the key issues I see that are very problematic. The very first thing is that Mr. Wilson gives the impression that God gave him the scriptures to read on his own without the Church. He comes to these opinions without much authority behind him other than his own mere opinion. This is the major Puritan problem that is passed off as sola scriptura and one's private opinion becomes the pure undefiled word that is not tainted by outside sources like an institutionalised Church. Yet this nullifies the Eucharistic development from the Upper Room to Paul's discourse with the Corinthians.
To take the elements of bread and wine, and separate them from the sacramental action, the sacramental participles, is a mistake of the first order. It is to remove an animated thing from the animating principle, thereby killing it, and then worshipping it as though it were alive by itself.
for he would have the party that receiveth it, kuptein, that is, to bow himself, and cast his eyes to the ground; that is, in humble and reverent manner to do it. And so do we. And tropo proskunheseos, after the manner of adoring, amounteth not to adoring: for after the manner, or as men use to do, that adore, is a term qualified, and restrained to the outward manner. In which manner our Church enjoineth it to be received…And we (by the grace of God) hold the Sacrament to be venerable, and with all due respect to be handled and received.Having corrected Perron’s citation of Augustine from the XCVIth Psalm to the XCVIIIth he writes, “But upon the 98 Psalm these words are, which (I dare say) he means:, No one sets out to eateth that flesh, unless he hath first worshiped, which I trust, no Christian man will ever refuse to do; that is, to adore the flesh of Christ.” He goes on to remind Perron that “for Saint Augustine presently is careful to warn his auditors, that the word manducat there is to be spiritually understood, and he bringeth in Christ thus speaking. Andrewes was agreeing that there is a proper veneration of the physical Sacrament but not a worshipping of it with divine qualities. Andrewes goes on to turn Perron’s own use of Theodoret against him showing that the Sacramental Symbols, after the consecration, go not from their own nature, but abide in their former substance, shape, and kind. Andrewes concludes his answer saying,
And he gains nothing by it; for proskuneitai in the Cardinal’s sense, may be taken pour venerer, (that is, to honour and reverence;) and is to be taken in that sense, and cannot, here, be taken in any other. For the Symbols so abiding, it is easily known no divine adoration can be used to them, nor any other than hath been said.Andrewes’s stance against divine adoration of the Sacrament is tied to his denial of transubstantiation. Having gone to examine Theodoret Dialogue II for myself, I too find that it is strange that Perron would use this passage that speaks against what he is seeking to argue for. Contextually, Andrewes is correct to argue that the sense in which Theodoret is using proskuneitai is with reference to giving reverence and welcoming respectfully. In that sense, Andrewes agrees with the custom of bowing and venerating (venerationem) the Sacrament as a symbol of God’s divine presence and worshipping the Christ of the Sacrament.
The holy Eucharist being considered as a Sacrifice, (in the representation of the breaking of bread, and the pouring forth the cup,) the same is fitly called an Altar; which again is as fitly called a Table, the Eucharist being considered as a Sacrament, which is nothing else but a distribution and an application of the Sacrifice to the several receivers…So that the matter of Altars, makes no difference in the face of our Church. Andrewes’s position of Altar stems from his understanding of sacrifice in that the Eucharist is for a twofold purpose: Sacrifice and Sacrament. We offer Christ in the Sacrifice and have applied to us the One Sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. In the Sacrament we feed upon the Body and the Blood sacramentally and receive the forgiveness of sins and the comforts that come with being united to Christ. Hence there is no difference of Sacrifice in Andrewes’s theology from that of the Catholic Church except that for Him the notion of transubstantiation is an opinion of the Schoolmen and not of the essence of faith.
I believe, that nothing could acquire a greater sanctity under the Law than by being offered in sacrifice; but I apprehend tha the Eucharistical Sacrifice, that is, the representative Body and Blood of Christ, were, by the primitive Fathers, supposed to be consecrated in a more perfect manner than any sacrifice under the Law could be: for in all the Liturgies, after the oblation of the Bread and Wine as the memorials of the grand Sacrifice, there is a solemn prayer that God would send His Spirit or His Divine benediction for the further consecration of them, after they had first been offered as a Sacrifice to God. And this is the most perfect consecration that inanimate creatures are capable of; and such as consecration does apparently best fit and comport with the Eucharist, as being the most eminent mystery and hierugy that ever was instituted by Almighty God. And it is to be observed, that by this means the Eucharistical Bread and Wine are made the most perfect and consummate representatives of the Body and Blood of Christ. They are not only substituted by His appointment and command to this purpose, but they are by the power of the Spirit, which is communicated to them so often as the celebration of this mystery is repeated, made the lively efficacious Sacrament of His Body and Blood: for the Holy Spirit is Christ's invisible Divine deputy in His Church...when the Holy Spirit, Which is His invisible representative, communicates It's power and presence to teh symbols, which are His visible representatives, they do thereby become as full and authentic substitutes as it is possible for them to be; and the reader is to be advertised, that when the ancients speak of the Logos, or the Divine nature of Christ, being present in the Eucharist; or of the Sacramental Body's being united to the natural Person or Body of our Saviour; they mean the same thing as if they had expressly mentioned the Holy Spirit; becaust is it the known opinion of the ancients, and may be proved from Scripture, that whatever beneficial operations are performed in the Church are performed immediately by the Holy Ghost, and mediately only by the Father and the Son; and that it is by means of the Spirit that the Church communicates with the other two Divine Persons; and the holy Sacraments are very justly, by many of our Divines, styled the channels by which all Divine graces are derived to us.It is interesting what he says here in this last sentence and the writings of Andrewes. Andrewes' sermons on Pentecost make this most clear and I am interested in doing a careful study of how Andrewes connects the Spirit to Eucharistic consecration.
And even that note hath not escaped the ancient Divines; to shew there is not only comfort by hearing the word, but we may also “taste of His goodness, how gracious He is,” and be “made to drink of the Spirit.” That not only by the letter we read, and the word we hear, but by the flesh we eat, and the blood we drink at His table, we be made partakers of His Spirit, and of the comfort of it. By no more kindly way passeth His Spirit than by His flesh and blood, which are vehicular Spiritus, ‘the proper carriages to convey it.’ Corpus aptavit Sibi, ut Spiritum aptaret tibi; Christ fitted our body to Him, that He might fit His Spirit to us. For so is the Spirit best fitted, made remeable, and best exhibited to us who consist of both.What is very interesting here about Andrewes’s language is how he is communicating a real presence in the receiving of the flesh and blood of Christ in the Eucharist that is united to the Spirit. The Spirit is the knot of the hypostatic union as he implies earlier on in this sermon. In relationship to the psychosomatic nature of humanity, Andrewes expresses the same unity of the body and blood communicated in the Eucharist as it is united to the Spirit. So, in the Eucharist of the body and blood of Christ there is a true sense of objective life communicated to us through the vehicles of the Spirit. Those vehicles are the bread and the wine. This would mean that the Eucharist is not a lifeless sacrament. It conveys the life it represents since it carries the Spirit of Christ to the communicants. This means that there is an objective operative aspect of the Eucharist in the theology of Andrewes’s sacramental celebrations. This implies, very importantly, a belief in real presence in the sacramental elements. Since there is a real presence of body and blood then there naturally for Andrewes is a presence of the Spirit since they both are united to the body of Christ. He is not a spiritless being. Therefore Andrewes goes on to say,
This is sure: where His flesh and blood are, they are not examines, “spiritless” they are not or without life, His Spirit is with them. Therefore was it ordained in those very elements, which have both of them a comfortable operation in the heart of man. One of them, bread, serving to strengthen it, or make it strong; and comfort cometh of confortare, which is ‘to make strong.’ And the other, wine, to make it cheerful [Psalm 104.15] or “glad;” and is therefore willed to me ministered to them that mourn, and are oppressed with grief. And all this is to shew that the same effect is wrought in the inward man by the holy mysteries, that is in the outward by the elements; [Hebrews 13.9] that there the heart is “established by grace,” and our soul endued with strength, and our conscience made light and cheerful, that it faint not, but evermore rejoice in His holy comfort.For Andrewes the flesh and blood IS present in the elements as well as the Spirit and this was ordained by God to be present via bread and wine. It is the life of the Spirit united to those elements that works the operation of comfort in the heart of man. Naturally this will cause the debate of sacramental efficacy between Protestants and the Roman Church to come to mind. This debate of the sacraments working ex opere operato has simply been a lot of mischaracterizations and over-simplifications of what sacramental grace is able to convey through the ordained means. Of course sacraments work this way but not always the same way in every circumstance. The problem that this debate has caused is a narrowing of the sacramental efficacy in Protestantism where the sacraments’ efficacy has become almost completely dependent upon the faith or the subjective evaluation of the individual receiving them rather than a work of God that is outside of the individual yet subjectively transforms the individual as Andrewes has mentioned in the above quotation. The reality of sacramental efficacy is what enables the vehicles of grace to be used as the means of communicating the “comfortable operation in the heart of man.” It produces strength by making strong and cheefulness by making the heart glad. Andrewes says that this same effect that is given to bread and wine for the body of man is also in effect what is wrought in him by the ‘means of these holy mysteries,’ that is objectively communicated by the outward elements; and it is there, in these holy mysteries that the heart is ‘established by grace,’ our ‘souls endued with strength,’ and ‘our conscience made light and cheerful.’ The essence of this sacramental efficacy is sealed and made known by the Spirit being fitted to Christ and His body, by our union with Christ in the Spirit, and the Spirit’s uniting the body and the blood to bread and wine making for the sacramental grace and the communicating of comfort. The question that seems to be underlying the issue of sacramental efficacy in general and Eucharistic efficacy in particular is not so much that the sacraments are efficacious, as many within both Roman and Reformed traditions would allow; but how in effect is this efficacy exerted?
Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother's progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be priased.
Hence we see how we can offer Christ in the sacrament as our Victim. For in the first place, had not Christ made the active offering of Himself in the past, we could not offer Him now, because our sacerdotal power is simply a participation in, and an instrument of, the priesthood of Christ. Secondly, did not the Body of Christ immolated in the past, and the Blood shed in the past, remain sacred to God, we could not have in the sacrament a true sacrifice, for we would not have a true victim. For we cannot make Christ a victim by the sacrament really, but only symbolically;16 in spite of the fact that He becomes truly present by the consecration. Thus in that event we should offer be in the reality of the Flesh and Blood, present under the species, the likeness of a victim but not a victim. We know however that in the Mass we do offer a victim, and that our sacrificial action is sacramental or representative, in such manner how ever as to be real. How is this if not because in the sacramental immolation we really offer Christ in a sensible manner (i.e. under the species) as one who (in virtue of His own offering of Himself to the immolation of the Passion) abides as sacred to God for all eternity? This is lot to make Christ a victim, but to make of the Victim of our High priest the Victim of His people whom Christ has commissioned to be priests to God and the Father; He who is Victim does not need to be made Victim; but He who is His own Victim is made ours, as will be explained in its proper place." 254 255What La Taille is referencing here is the eternal priesthood of Christ that goes on in the present in Heaven. His view describes that priesthood as one that is fulfilled by the glorified presence of the Incarnate Christ in Heaven where no prayers or petitions from Him are necessary. Simply His presence with His scars and the acceptance of the One sacrificial offering on the Cross seen by His glorification and sitting at the Right Hand of God is the ongoing Intercessory role of Christ. Within that context of Christ's intercessory role as eternal priest does he define the Eucharistic offering of the Church. This is exactly the theology and teaching of the Early Church and specifically that of St. John Chrysostom. Therefore, could Andrewes tell St. Cardinal Bellarmine SJ that there really was no difference between the Church in England during Andrewes' day and that of Rome's teaching on Eucharistic Sacrifice save the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Presence will be my next chapter to write on Andrewes' theology of the Eucharist so you will have to wait until the end of the Summer for those thoughts to be put forth! What do my readers think? You don't have to agree to put your opinion here; all are welcome!
note 16: The reason of course is, as we have repeatedly said, that Christ is not offered to a real immolation (as Christ offered Himself to a real immolation in the Supper) by our symbolical immolation. Therefore take away from Christ His enduring condition of immolation, and you will find in our consecration no element in virtue of which Christ could be called a true victim. 255
to the best and surest sense we know, and therefore most to be accounted of. There we taste and there we see; taste and see how gracious the Lord is. There we are made to drink of the Spirit, there our hearts are strengthened and stablished with grace. There is the Blood which shall purge our consciences from dead works, whereby we may die to sin. There the Bread of God, which shall endue our souls with much strength; yeah, multiply strength in them, to live unto God; yea, to live to Him continually; for he that eateth His flesh and drinketh His blood, dwelleth in Christ, and Christ in him; not inneth, or sojourneth for a time, but dwelleth continually. And, never can we more truly, or properly say, in Christo Jesu Domino nostro, as when we come new from that holy action, for then he is in us, and we in Him, indeed. And so we to make full account of this service, as a special means to further us to make up our Easter-day’s account, and to set off a good part of our charge…Thus using His own ordinance of Prayer, of the Word, and Sacrament, for our better enabling to discharge this day’s duty, we shall I trust yield up a good account, and celebrate a good feast of His resurrection.It is in our tasting the goodness of the Lord in the bread and in the wine, the body and the blood of Christ whereby in our union with him through this sacrament of grace we are to give an account of what we have seen and tasted in the grace of God in Christ in this holy action. The Eucharist for Andrewes theologically and ethically calls the Church to a holy life by the holy action of receiving the strengthening grace through the Spirit. It is a means of our drinking of the Spirit. There are numerous benefits given to us through the sacramental vehicle of grace. For Andrewes it is without doubt a real receiving of this grace that is to be displayed in the real accounting of it that we are to demonstrate.
'Tis agreed on all hands that the merit and satisfaction whereby our sins are forgiven flow purely from the Grand Sacrifice; but I am now speaking of 'the actual application of these merits and this satisfaction, which was the end for which all Sacrifices under the Law, and the Eucharistical Sacrifice under the Gospel, were appointed by God.’It is in this aspect that Andrewes seems to understand the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice. In the above quote Andrewes is quite intent on keeping this aspect of the Eucharist’s work in our lives in its proper union with Christ and not something altogether separate. He speaks of this union as something that is in continuum for the Christian that is realized in the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ. He references John 6:33, 56 as support for his position. The Eucharist seals our union with Christ for Andrewes. He says, ‘that there is never a time where we can say with more affirmation and confidence than at the action of Holy Communion that we are in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ For Andrewes this creates a real vital union between Christ and his people. It is in the reapplication of the one sacrifice of Christ where our consciences are cleansed and we are enabled to carry out the charge given to us to continue living unto God in Christ and dying unto our sin in his death as well. Both dying and living is what it means for Andrewes to account for our knowledge of God’s work for us in Christ whereby through the right use of the means of His grace in prayer, word and sacrament we are given the means to carry out the charge given to us. That charge is to live as 'bread broken on behalf of the world.'
CHAPTER I.On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Forasmuch as, under the former Testament, according to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, there was no perfection, because of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood; there was need, God, the Father of mercies, so ordaining, that another priest should rise, according to the order of Melchisedech, our Lord Jesus Christ, who might consummate, and lead to what is perfect, as many as were to be sanctified. He, therefore, our God and Lord, though He was about to offer Himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father, by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption; nevertheless, because that His priesthood was not to be extinguished by His death, in the last supper, on the night in which He was betrayed,--that He might leave, to His own beloved Spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be represented, and the memory thereof remain even unto the end of the world, and its salutary virtue be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit,--declaring Himself constituted a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech, He offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine; and, under the symbols of those same things, He delivered (His own body and blood) to be received by His apostles, whom He then constituted priests of the New Testament; and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, He commanded them and their successors in the priesthood, to offer (them); even as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught. For, having celebrated the ancient Passover, which the multitude of the children of Israel immolated in memory of their going out of [Page 154] Egypt, He instituted the new Passover, (to wit) Himself to be immolated, under visible signs, by the Church through (the ministry of) priests, in memory of His own passage from this world unto the Father, when by the effusion of His own blood He redeemed us, and delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into his kingdom. And this is indeed that clean oblation, which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness, or malice of those that offer (it); which the Lord foretold by Malachias was to be offered in every place, clean to his name, which was to be great amongst the Gentiles; and which the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, has not obscurely indicated, when he says, that they who are defiled by the participation of the table of devils, cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord; by the table, meaning in both places the altar. This, in fine, is that oblation which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices, during the period of nature, and of the law; in as much as it comprises all the good things signified by those sacrifices, as being the consummation and perfection of them all.I believe if one can get past their anti-Catholic emotions and fears, the obvious can be understood here. There is not a new sacrifice. It is one and the same sacrifice that is offered once and for all. What a priest does at the Eucharist is to offer the same offering that Christ offered to the Father for the forgiveness of sins. With the theological connection of Melchisedech and the eternal priesthood of Christ, the nature of the offering is not an improvement or an addition to the one offering of Christ. It's that very offering brought into the present and applied to us for the forgiveness of sins daily committed. Is there scriptural justification for this? What did Jesus mean when He said 'do this as my memorial for the forgiveness of sins?' One can see the theology of sacramental efficacy in the providing in the present that offering of the past. That is what is going on. As the New Pascha, the Eucharist brings into the present the offering of Christ and we receive the forgiveness of sins (Is. 6 'the burning coal') and receive the eschatalogical hope of the fulness of the Kingdom being brought near to us in the present as we journey into the future. The offering of Christ in the Eucharist does not take away from the offering of Christ on the Altar of the Cross because it's the SAME offering though of course it's unbloody because Christ Jesus no longer is able to suffer death. This is the fulfillment of the promise from Mal. that the Gentiles would offer the sacrifice and incense up to God. It is in this manner that all of the early Church Fathers spoke of the Eucharistic sacrifice and had calmer heads prevailed in the C16, we might not have all the reductio ad absurdum explanations from the Puritan sects in England in the late C16 and early C17.
that the proper function of the ‘leitourgia’ has always been to bring together, within one symbol, the three levels of the Christian faith and life: the Church, the world, and the Kingdom; that the Church herself is thus the sacrament in which the broken, yet still ‘symbolical,’ life of ‘this world’ is brought, in Christ and by Christ, into the dimension of the Kingdom of God, becoming itself the sacrament of the ‘world to come,’ or that which God has from all eternity prepared for those who love Him, and where all that which is human can be transfigured by grace so that all things may be consummated in God; that finally it is here and only here—in the ‘mysterion’ of God’s presence and action—that the Church always becomes that which she is: the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the unique Symbol ‘bringing together’—by bringing to God the world for the life of which He gave His Son. (p.151)It is important for us to realize that the Eucharist not only gives thanks for a past event, but it also humbly entreats God for the present and the future. It is a meal that draws together all the Saints, past and present. The Eucharist unites time and eternity. On Easter Sunday of 1612, Lancelot Andrewes preached on 1 Cor. 5:7 ff. and worked out a full statement of his Eucharistic theology. Christ is the sacrifice, the Passover feast. “If Christ be a propitiatory sacrifice, a peace-offering, I see not how we can avoid, but the flesh of our peace-offering must be eaten in this feast by us, or else we evacuate the offering utterly, and lose the fruit of it.” The Supper is rightly a memorial action and a receiving of grace. On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus offered Himself over to death for the forgiveness of sins. He did this with bread and wine as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The Eucharist was given as the memorial offering of Christ for the life of the world. Andrewes went on to say in his sermon, “That sacrifice was but once actually performed, at His death: but ever before represented, in figure, from the beginning; and ever since repeated, in memory, to the world’s end.” He concludes his sermon by joining together time and eternity and says,
And we are, in this action, not only carried up to Christ (sursum corda; i.e., lift up your hearts) but, we are also carried back, to Christ; as he was at the very instant, and in the very act of His offering. So, and no otherwise, doth this text teach. So, and no otherwise, do we represent Him. By the very incomprehensible power of His eternal Spirit, not He alone, but he, as at the very act of His offering, is made present to us, and we incorporate into His death, and invested in the benefit of it…This is the beauty of the mystery that we have in the Holy Eucharist. As we are united together in our prayers and actions in the liturgy of the Church, time and eternity, Christ and the Eucharist meet together and we receive a foretaste of eternity with Christ. As he is one body, it is crucial for us to demonstrate that we are one body by participation in the Holy Sacrament. The bread shown represents this. Seeing that there are many grains mixed together in the one loaf, we who are many are mixed, joined and bound together in such a way that one theologian said, “…by such great agreement of minds that no sort of disagreement or division may intrude.” (1 Cor. 10:16, 17) Therefore, we cannot love Christ without loving him in the brethren. We are called to take care of the whole Body as we take care of our own. We cannot let a brother be affected by evil or hardship without having compassion for him. So St. Augustine called this Sacrament “the bond of love.”
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”.32One 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.
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).