After centuries of peaceful endorsement, eventually two eucharistic themes were to become controversial: first, the presence of Christ in or under the elements (theme 4), and later, the Eucharist as sacrifice (theme 3). In the twentieth century the participation of the entire liturgical assembly in eucharistic celebration drew more attention and encouragement. Let us take up these three points.
1. Eucharistic Presence. Despite the lack of serious controversy for many centuries, Church writers attended to the change that occurs in the elements used to celebrate the Eucharist in the liturgical assembly. How should one express that change when the elements obviously continue to look like bread and wine? What new presence of the crucified and risen Jesus takes place through the epiclesis and the words of institution from the Last Supper?
The third-century writer Origen seemed to encourage in certain texts a 'purely' spiritual understanding of the eucharistic presence, based on the first part of John 6 (vv. 25—51b). Thus he indicated in one homily: 'That bread which God the Word proclaims as his body is the word which nourishes our souls' (In Matthaeum, 85). Yet Origen could also remind his readers in another homily: 'you know how carefully and reverently you guard the body of the Lord, when you receive it, lest the least crumb of it should fall to the ground, lest anything should be lost of the hallowed gift (In Exodum, 13. 3). Such reverence for the consecrated elements expressed a realistic sense of the presence involved.
In the fourth century Athanasius of Alexandria, relying on St Paul (1 Cor. 10: 3—4), wrote of the Eucharist as 'heavenly food' and 'spiritual nourishment' (Epistola ad Serapionem, 4. 19). Yet eventually it became a commonplace to appeal to the miracle at Cana and to affirm more clearly a change in the reality of the eucharistic elements. Thus Cyril of Jerusalem reminded his hearers: 'In Cana of Galilee he [Christ] changed water into wine (and wine is akin to blood). Is it incredible that he should change wine into blood?.Therefore with complete assurance let us partake of those elements as being the body and blood of Christ' (Mystagogic Catecheses, 4, 2. 3). With reference to the epiclesis, Cyril commented on the words that at the time followed the Preface and Sanctus in the eucharistic rite: 'We call upon the compassionate God to send out his Holy Spirit on the gifts that are set out, that he may make the bread the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ. For whatever the Holy Spirit has touched is assuredly sanctified and changed' (ibid. 5. 7).
Where Cyril spoke of a 'change', Gregory of Nyssa wrote of the bread and wine being 'transformed' into the Lord's body and blood. Hence 'we are right in believing' that 'the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is transformed into the body of God the Word' (Oratio Catechetica, 37). Where Gregory used 'transformation' to express the change in the eucharistic elements, Ambrose of Milan wrote of the bread and wine being 'transfigured' into Christ's flesh and blood (De Fide, 4. 125). In support of the changed 'character' of the elements, Ambrose appealed to an OT story about Elijah (1 Kgs. 18: 38): 'if the words of Elijah had the power to call down fire from heaven, will not the words of Christ have power enough to change the character (species) of the elements?' (De Mysteriis, 52). Around the same time John Chrysostom inculcated in his homilies a strongly realistic faith in the eucharistic presence. He appealed, for instance, to Matthew's story of the Magi, who 'worshipped this body even when it lay in a manger', and added: 'you behold him not in a manger, but on an altar; not with a woman holding him, but with a priest standing before him'. Chrysostom taught that Jesus is no longer wrapped in swaddling clothes but is entirely enfolded in the Holy Spirit. Thus this presence is to be attributed to 'the Spirit descending with great bounty upon the oblations'
(In Epistulam Primam AD Corinthios, 24). With graphic and almost excessive realism Chrysostom declared: 'Not only ought we to see the Lord; we ought to take him into our hands, eat him, put our teeth into his flesh, and unite ourselves with him in the closest union' (In Johannem, 46).
By the end of the fourth century Christians were using such terms as 'changed', 'transformed', and 'transfigured' to describe what happens to the elements in the Eucharist. In all this reflection the NT accounts of the institution of the sacrament played a decisive role, along with the discourse on the bread of life in John 6. That chapter's appeal to the eating of the manna in the desert prompted Augustine to remark about Moses and others who 'pleased God': 'they understood the visible food in a spiritual sense; they were spiritually hungry, they tasted spiritually, so that they were spiritually satisfied'. This enabled Augustine to distinguish between the visible sacrament or sign of bread and wine and its invisible power: 'the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament is another'. Communicants were to eat 'inwardly' and not merely 'outwardly', consume 'the sacrament' in their 'heart' and not merely 'crush' it with their 'teeth' (In Evangelium Johannis, 26. 11, 12). Augustine spelt out in a more sophisticated and unambiguous way what Chrysostom intended by the Eucharist 'uniting' us with Christ 'in the closest union'.
It was only in the ninth and even more in the eleventh century that controversy about the nature of the change in the eucharistic elements and of the presence of Christ's body and blood triggered more precise reflection and teaching. (Since sacramental communion had already gone into a decline, the transformation of the elements could be considered without a strong link to the transformation of the communicants.170) Berengar (1005—88), head of the school of St Martin at Tours, attempted to correct the ultrarealism of Paschasius Radbertus (¿790—¿860) by explaining the eucharistic presence as 'spiritual' in that it entailed no physical but a metaphysical change in the bread and wine. Berengar was forced to admit that Christ becomes present by a change of 'substance' (or essential reality) in the elements (DH 700; ND 1501). By the late eleventh century some theologians began to use the noun 'transubstantiation' to avoid the other extreme of ultrasymbolism. A few years later, in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council employed the verb 'transubstantiated' to describe the
170 By that time the Western Church was well on the way to a Mass at which only the presider communicated, and in which the sacramental action was considered to be the recital of Jesus' words from the institution narrative.
metaphysical mutation in the eucharistic elements: the bread and wine are 'transubstantiated' into the body and blood of Christ (DH 890; ND 28). Later in the same century Thomas Aquinas was to elaborate this teaching by adopting terms from Aristotelian philosophy: the words of consecration bring a change in the 'substance' of the bread and wine, while the 'accidents' (the secondary characteristics that do not belong essentially to the substance) remain. Developments in eucharistic theology went hand in hand with a widely renewed devotion to the Eucharist (which sadly did not always involve its reception) and with the establishment in 1264 of the Feast of Corpus Christi, a feast that involved public processions of 'the Blessed Sacrament' or consecrated host and that for many centuries remained very popular in Europe and beyond.
With the movements initiated by John Wyclif (d. 1384), by John Huss (d. 1415), and, even more, by the sixteenth-century Reformers, controversy over the eucharistic presence broke out again. Martin Luther (1483—1546) proposed a doctrine of 'consubstantiation', according to which after the consecration both the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ co-exist on the altar. The Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli (1484—1531) maintained that the elements underwent no change whatsoever; he affirmed that the Lord's Supper is a mere memorial whose meaning in simply symbolic. John Calvin (1509—64) and his followers attributed the entire efficacy of the sacrament to the Holy Spirit, and thus held a mediating position: while denying any change in the elements, they acknowledged the 'virtue' of Christ's body and blood in the soul of believers by the power of the Spirit—a view which became known as 'virtualism' and was accepted by some of the leading Anglican Reformers. Faced with the challenges from Zwinglians and Calvinists (and with less of a quarrel with Luther, who allowed for Christ's real presence), the Council of Trent affirmed the doctrine of 'transubstantiation' more vigorously than Lateran IV, distinguished between the 'substance' and the 'outward appearances (species)' of bread and wine, but refrained from employing the pair of terms, 'substance' and 'accidents', which after Aquinas had become the normal usage in eucharistic theology. After acknowledging that 'we can hardly find words to express' Christ's eucharistic presence, the Council taught: 'by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly named transubstantiation' (DH 1636, 1642; ND 1513, 1519; see DH 1652; ND 1527). This was the careful attempt of Trent to find a middle ground between a purely symbolic and a crudely realistic view of the presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist. 'Transubstantiation' became 'the preferred terminology and touchstone of orthodoxy'.171
In the twentieth century some Catholic theologians groped for other ways of expressing the change in the eucharistic elements, so that it might be more intelligible, once problems arising from contemporary ways of understanding 'substance' had been avoided. Hence Karl Rahner (1904—84) reintroduced the Augustinian concept of 'real symbol', and Edward Schillebeeckx (b. 1914) and others suggested 'transignification' and 'transfinalization' based on modern approaches to metaphysics. In his 1965 encyclical Mysterium Fidet, Pope Paul VI expressed his fear that such emphases on the change of significance or of purpose did not by themselves safeguard sufficiently the real and wonderful presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He reiterated the doctrine of transubstantiation, but added that 'as a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new meaning and a new finalit/ (ND 1577, 1580).
Beyond question the most eloquent passage on the eucharistic presence of Christ and his presence in all liturgical celebrations came from Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7):
Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, but especially in the eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when anyone baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the church. Lastly, he is present when the church prays and sings. (italics ours)
This striking list of the liturgical celebrations (the assemblies of the baptized), rites (the Mass and other sacraments), persons (the ministers and all those who take a specialized role in the liturgical celebrations), modes (reading of scriptures, as well as the singing and praying of the Church) that mediate the presence of Christ reaches its high point with the consecrated bread and wine on the altar. There his real and fullest encounter with Christians combines with his other liturgical presences (including his living and revelatory voice when sermons proclaim the
171 Tanner, 'The Eucharist in the Ecumenical Councils', 42.
good news (ibid. 33) ) and reaches its high point in the sacramental communion of the liturgical assembly.
In this Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy the Council made an inclusive, rather than an exclusive, statement. It recalled the range of the liturgical presences of Christ without denying that he is also present both non-liturgically and beyond the visible community of Catholics and other Christians: for example, in all those who suffer and need our practical love (Matt. 25: 31-46). We return to this point below.
2. Eucharistic Sacrifice. In the history of Christianity, the Eucharist as sacrifice (theme 3) became controversial much later than the real presence of Christ (theme 4). Hence we deal now with theme 3, only after tracking the development of Catholic teaching on the real presence. We noted above how OT texts like Malachi 1:11 quickly encouraged postNT writers to recognize the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. In any case the words employed by Christ when instituting the Eucharist had rich sacrificial associations: 'covenant', 'memorial', and 'poured out'. After some time talk of sacrifice, without losing its connection with the sacrificial offering and living of the Christian assembly, inevitably involved talking of the priests (or bishops) who presided at the rite. Thus Cyprian of Carthage wrote:
If Christ Jesus... is himself the high priest of God the Father and first offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father, and commanded this to be done in remembrance of himself, then assuredly the priest acts truly in Christ's stead., when he reproduces what Christ did, and he then oiffers a true and complete sacrifice to God the Father, if he begins to offer as he sees Christ himself has oiffered. (Epistola 63, 14; italics ours)
The authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews supported calling Christ 'the high priest' and speaking of his self-offering in sacrifice. The question then emerged: is the Christian leader of the liturgical assembly who celebrates the Eucharist in 'memory' of Christ truly a priest 'acting in Christ's stead' and offering 'a true and complete sacrifice to God'? If we join Cyprian in answering yes, further questions arise: what is the connection between the Church's celebration of the Eucharist and the historic sacrifice of Calvary (Ch. 4) and between the priest (and the Church) and Christ himself?
John Chrysostom, as emphatically as anyone, insisted that there is only one sacrifice. He spoke of the daily Eucharist in a homily: 'We offer every day, making a memorial of his [Christ's] death. This is one sacrifice, not many. And why? Because it was offered once. We always offer the same person.the same oblation: therefore it is one sacrifice.' Just as there are not 'many Christs' but only one in every place, so there is only 'one sacrifice'. Chrysostom added: 'We offer now, what was offered then, an inexhaustible offering. We offer the same sacrifice; or rather we make a memorial of that sacrifice' (In Hebreos, 3, 17). What is more, the human ministers ('we who offer') of this memorial sacrifice are just that, (secondary) ministers of the invisible Christ: 'He who did this at the supper is the same who now performs the act. We rank as ministers; it is he who consecrates and transmutes [the elements]' (In Matthaeum, 82). In controversy with the Donatists, Augustine—as we mentioned earlier in this chapter—stressed that Christ is the primary minister of baptism and hence also of the Eucharist.
Augustine further argued that sacraments enjoy 'a kind of likeness to those things of which they are sacraments'; it is from this likeness that they can 'receive the names of the things themselves'. Moreover, 'we speak of some sacred event which we celebrate as happening' now, when 'in fact it happened long ago'. Thus 'Christ was once sacrificed in his own person; and yet he is sacramentally (in sacramento) sacrificed for the peoples not only throughout the Easter festival [with its special, calendar connection with the sacrifice of Christ], but every day' (Epistola 98. 9). There are uncountable eucharistic sacrifices (lower case) but only one historic Sacrifice (upper case) of Christ, just are there many priests offering the Eucharist but only one primary high priest who always 'performs' the eucharistic act.
It was only many centuries after Cyprian, Chrysostom, Augustine, and other ancient writers commented on the sacrificial (and priestly) dimension of the Eucharist that we find full-scale attempts to define the nature of this self-giving. A vast literature built up from the fourteenth century and increased when many theologians of the Reformation either denied the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist or 'explained' it in an unconvincing way. A widespread tendency was to speak of the Eucharist as being a memorial meal, which recalled the loving self-offering of Christ, but not as being a redemptive sacrifice. Many Reformers feared that to admit the saving value of the Eucharist would be to take away from the unique sacrifice of Christ. The Council of Trent dedicated its twenty-second session (1562) to the sacrifice of the Mass. It restated traditional Catholic teaching: the bloody sacrifice Christ offered once and for all 'on the altar of the cross' is
'offered' 'in an unbloody manner', but not repeated, 'under visible signs' to celebrate 'the memory' of Christ's 'passage from this world' and to apply 'the salutary power' of his sacrifice 'for the forgiveness of sins' and 'other necessities' of the faithful, both living and dead (DH 1740-3; ND 1546-8).
In the twentieth century and, especially from the 1920s, Catholics realized more and more that it was a false choice to speak of the eucharistic liturgy as either a sacrifice or as a memorial meal. It is the sacrificial meal of the new covenant. 'This is my body given up for you' includes and does not exclude 'take and eat', just as 'the cup of my blood poured out for you' includes 'take and drink'. The properly enacted sacramental sacrifice calls for this eating and drinking. Second, while proposing different theories about the precise nature of sacrifice, many have recognized the term's rich range of meanings in the scriptures: one should value sacrifices not only for expiating sins and imploring the divine mercy but also for praising and thanking God, as well as for sealing and renewing covenantal relationships with God and with his people.172 Some have argued for the primary 'direction' of sacrifice as coming not from human beings to God, but vice versa, inasmuch as 'sacri-fice' primarily means the 'holy-making' achieved by the divine initiative alone. Thus those who believe in Christ and share in his sacrifice are likewise 'consecrated' and sanctified by Christ and the Holy Spirit (Heb. 10: 14-18). Third, modern Catholic teaching has generally not been content to limit the event of the sacrifice of Christ to his crucifixion. One must take into account what came before (in the sacrificial nature of Christ's life of faith identified as sacrifice by his words and gestures at the Last Supper), and what came after (in his resurrection, exaltation, and sending of the Spirit). A fourth insight has been rediscovered, refined since the 1920s, and encouraged through dialogues with other Christians: a renewed sense of the import of the liturgical word anamnesis (remembrance). The Eucharist as anamnesis makes effective in the present the past event of Christ's sacrifice; it 'represents' the whole event of his dying and rising, or makes the past effectively present now
3. Eucharistic Participation. Finally, before leaving the Eucharist, we should add something on the participation by the entire assembly of the faithful in the liturgical re-presentation of Christ's living, dying, and rising. Ignatius of Antioch and other early witnesses let us picture the
172 Along with the common elements between the OT and the NT, Christ's non-cultic sacrifice differs from the previous cultic sacrifices. They are ended, but for Christians the self-offering of Christ continues in the Church's self-offering or spiritual sacrifice.
bishop leading the eucharistic celebrations, with his priests and deacons standing around him on one side of the altar, a central sign of Christ's presence. The faithful, gathered on the other side of the altar, completed the sense of being grouped around Christ in the one community of God and with the bishop speaking in the name of the whole assembly. Apparently the bishop or his delegate initially improvised the prayers, drawing on extant Jewish blessings and the words of Christ at the Last Supper. The first clear example of a eucharistic prayer comes from the early third-century Apostolic Tradition. The fourth and fifth centuries witnessed the composition of the wonderful eucharistic prayers or 'anaphoras' attributed to Basil of Caesarea, John Chrysostom, and others. Eastern Catholicism has continued to enjoy a variety of anaphoras composed in Greek, Syriac, and other languages. In Western Catholicism, the Roman Canon or First Eucharistic Prayer was virtually the only one in use from the sixth century onwards.
By that time, after the freedom that came with Constantine (see Ch. 1), the places for Christian worship were no longer private houses but public churches, sometimes built into or on top of old pagan temples. The altar was usually moved against the Eastern wall; the celebrant at the Eucharist turned around, so that all the people of God could face in one direction, eastwards. The long defunct liturgy in the temple at Jerusalem served, in part, as a model for medieval Christians. Just as the high priest had approached the altar on behalf of God's people and offered sacrifices in their name, so too did the NT priests with the Christian offering of the Eucharist. Basil of Caesarea had recommended 'daily communion and participation in the holy body and blood of Christ' as a 'good and helpful practice' ((Epistola 93). But in the Europe of the Middle Ages a profound sense of unworthiness caused the number of communicants to decrease. Western and Eastern Christians lost sight of St Paul's clear conviction: the worthy sacramental communion of the assembly is not optional (see above). Although many adored the consecrated species, most believers communicated rarely, some only once in a lifetime.
Believers came to 'hear' Mass and 'gaze on' the host, with such 'ocular' communion or adoring of the elevated host replacing sacramental communion. Early in the thirteenth century priests began to raise the consecrated bread after the words of institution; later an 'elevation' of the chalice was introduced. Some people wanted to be present at as many consecrations as possible, so that they could pray even more for the living and the dead. A bell called their attention to the fact that a consecration and elevation were approaching. The need for more masses became so great that some medieval cathedrals, such as St Alban's to the north of London, constructed several altars around the columns of the nave, so as to permit people to attend more consecrations.
The Council of Trent, knowing that the Eucharist was the bread of Christian life and nourishment for the life journey of the believer, encouraged frequent communion (DH 1649; ND 1524). At the same time, the Council set aside as inappropriate the Reformers' demands that the Mass be celebrated in the vernacular (or spoken language of different areas) and that the laity receive communion also from the chalice (communion under two kinds), without rejecting either change in principle. To promote stability and uniformity in the Western Church, the bishops at Trent asked for a reform of the liturgical texts. The Tridentine Missal was introduced in 1570 and replaced various missals that had appeared since the tenth century.
Building on the directives of St Pius X (pope 1903-14) and Pius XII (pope 1939-58) and inspired by leaders of the liturgical movement (see Ch. 8), Vatican II aimed to promote a more active and joyful participation in the celebration of the Eucharist (and of the other sacraments). Mass was translated into the vernacular languages, the altar turned to face the people, sacramental communion encouraged as 'the most perfect form of participation in the Mass' (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 55), and communion under both kinds made available to the laity under a wide variety of circumstances. Eventually the new Roman Missal was promulgated by Paul VI in April 1969. It contains four eucharistic anaphoras: Prayer I is a slightly revised version of the old Roman Canon, Prayer II an adaptation of the prayer in the third-century Apostolic Tradition, Prayer III a modern composition, and Prayer IV an adaptation of the Anaphora of St Basil. The aim of the Council and that of the Pope were identical: all the faithful should take part in the Eucharist, 'conscious of what they are doing, with devotion, and full collaboration'. Being 'instructed by God's word [the Liturgy of the Word]' and 'nourished at the table of the Lord's Body [the Liturgy of the Eucharist]', and 'offering the immaculate victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves' (ibid. 48).
This continual self-offering implies that Christians should view the Eucharist not only as presupposing the existence of the Church, but also as contributing to its constant vitality. Thus, partaking in this sacrament in a conscious and active manner entails becoming ever more united with Christ the Head and all the other members of the Mystical Body. This modern theme retrieves the primarily ecclesial understanding of the Eucharist advocated by St Augustine. Attempting to clarify the unifying effect of the sacrament, he claimed that the totus Christus or 'whole Christ' (the glorifed Lord and the faithful) is present in the species on the altar, since the earthly Jesus identified himself with bread in the Cenacle and since all Christians 'become bread' at their baptism. In receiving communion, therefore, the faithful are 'to be' what they see, and 'to receive' what they are, the Body of Christ (Sermo 272). In fact, Augustine held that Christ and the Church are symbolized and conjoined in the eucharistic elements. St Thomas Aquinas, constrained by the medieval controversies to take a more christocentric and metaphysical view, found it necessary to modify the mystagogical insight of Augustine, without losing sight of the chief consequence of the Eucharist: the unity of the Church. He thus made the distinction, which has dominated ever since in the West, that 'Christ is signified and contained in the Eucharist, while the Church is only signified' (ST III q. 80 a. 4). Many Catholic theologians, writing in the post-Vatican II period, strive to show that the christological dimension of the Mass is not lessened by accentuating the ecclesial aspect of the eucharistic sacrifice, of the reception of Holy Communion, and of the life of grace which flows from them.
Thus self-offering, or sacrifice in union with Christ, should promote a eucharistic style of life, which manifests itself not only in charity towards members of the Church but also in generous service of the needy in society, with whom Jesus identifies himself in a special way (Matt. 25: 31—46). During a visit to Columbia for the 1968 International Eucharistic Congress, Pope Paul VI spoke of a real presence of Christ in the poor workers (ND 1587a). John Paul II was to take further the social implications of the Eucharist as empowering work for development and peace in the service of the coming kingdom of God (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 48; ND 1592).
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