Eucharistic theology

Eucharistic theology

Eucharistic theology is a branch of Christian theology which treats of doctrines concerning the Holy Eucharist. It exists exclusively in Christianity and related religions, as others generally do not contain a Eucharistic ceremony.

Biblical foundation

Those Christians who believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Eastern Catholics, as well as some Anglicans and Lutherans) see the foundation for their belief in the Bible.

The Eucharist is believed to be prefigured by the miraculous rain of manna from Heaven (). The aforementioned Bread of Life Discourse occurs in the Gospel of John, ), Mark (), and Luke (). St. John is believed to have omitted the institution because he wrote his Gospel to supplement what the other evangelists had already written. The Eucharist was instituted in this way: "Jesus took some bread and when He had said the blessing He broke it and gave it to the disciples. 'Take it and eat,' He said, 'this is my body.' Then He took a cup and when He had returned thanks He gave it to them. 'Drink all of you from this,' He said, 'for this is my blood'" (Matthew 26:26-28).

Other places in Scripture which are believed to support the Real Presence in the Eucharist include John 6, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11, and Luke 24.

Eastern Orthodox Church

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Eucharistic celebration is known as the Divine Liturgy and is believed to impart the actual Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful. In the act of communion, the entire Church—past, present, and even future—is united in eternity. In Orthodox Eucharistic theology, although many separate Divine Liturgies may be celebrated, there is only one Bread and one Cup throughout all the world and throughout all time.

The most perfect expression of the Eucharistic unity of the church is found in the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (i.e., a Liturgy at which a bishop is the chief celebrant), for as St. Ignatius of Antioch stated, where the bishop is, surrounded by his clergy and faithful, there is the church in all of her fullness.

The Anaphora (Eucharistic prayer) contains an anamnesis (lit. "making present") which not only recounts the historical facts of Jesus' death and resurrection, but actually makes them present, forming an undivided link to the one unique event on Calvary. The Anaphora ends with an Epiclesis ("calling down from on high") during which the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to come and "change" the Gifts (elements of bread and wine) into the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Orthodox theology does not make use of the term "transubstantiation" to systematically describe "how" the Gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ; rather, they state that it is a Sacred Mystery, and prefer to use only the word "change". The Orthodox do not link the moment of transformation of the Gifts to the Words of Institution, or indeed to any one particular moment. They merely affirm that the change is "completed" at the Epiclesis.

Roman Catholic Church

In the Roman Catholic Church, reverence for the Eucharist is quite fervent and the doctrines of the Church thereof are immutable, despite common dissent from them. In the Catholic Church, the Holy Eucharist is taught to be the "Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ" (this doctrine is referred to as transubstantiation). The actual transformation of bread and wine occurs at the priest's recitation of the Words of Institution: "This is My Body…" and "This is My Blood…." At that point, the accidents of bread and wine remain, i.e., it would appear to all senses that these continue to exist, while the substance has been entirely altered, a position succinctly summarised by St. Thomas Aquinas' hymn, "Adoro Te Devote" (see Catholic Encyclopedia article [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01154b.htm "Adoro Te Devote"] ). Consequently, for fear of desecration, the Eucharist may not be received by any in a state of mortal sin, nor (generally) by non-Catholics. However, it is permitted on extremely rare occasions that a Protestant or schismatic acknowledging the teachings of the Church on Communion may receive It.

Additionally, the Eucharist enables perpetuation of Christ's Sacrifice on Golgotha, which is the intent of the Mass. Despite anti-Catholic claims to the contrary, this perpetuation does not imply that the Saviour dies again; transubstantiation posits an "unbloody sacrifice", in that the sacrifice of Christ was accomplished "once for all".

The consecrated Host is quite frequently kept in a monstrance outside of Mass to encourage Eucharistic adoration. [Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was especially imperative in the Year of the Eucharist, declared by Pope John Paul II from October 2004 to October 2005.] The Eucharist is believed to constitute both the foundation and the center of all Catholic devotion. It is one of the Seven Sacraments, referred to as "the" Blessed Sacrament, and is taught to bestow grace upon the recipient and remove venial sin. When received following Confession and preceding an act to which an indulgence is attached, It contributes to a plenary indulgence.

ee also

*Eucharistic theologies contrasted
*Anglican Eucharistic theology
*"Confession Concerning Christ's Supper" by Martin Luther
*Consubstantiation
*Eucharistic discipline
*Historical roots of Catholic Eucharistic theology

References

External links

* [http://www.bigpedia.com/encyclopedia/Eucharist Eucharistic theology]
* [http://www.schmemann.org/byhim/theologyandeucharist.html Theology and Eucharist] by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann (Eastern Orthodox perspective)


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