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Posted March 14, 2006

Book: Wedding Feast of the Lamb: Eucharistic Theology from a Historical, Biblical and Systematic Perspective
Author: Roch A. Kereszty, Ocist
Hillenbrand Books, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, IL, pp. 270

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In this deeply contemplative and meditative study, Father Kereszty first places the Eucharist in the universal context of world religions and shows how the Eucharist is Godís response to the universal human quest for the perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving, expiation, and communion. Father Kereszty discusses not only the explicit eudharistic texts of the New Testament, but demonstrates the role and meaning of the Eucharist within each Gospel, within the theology of Paul, the letter to the Hebrews, and the book of Revelation. He highlights forgotten texts and recovers surprising insights from the Fathers that show the link between the Eucharist and mystical experience, the presence of all the mysteries of Christ (in particular his death, Resurrection, and his coming in glory) in the eucharistic celebration. He then carries the lex orandi lex credendi adage to its logical conclusion: the liturgical celebration provides the content and the organizing principle for the systematic presentation.

In understandable language, Father Kereszty shows us that the real presence of Christ appears as a necessary implication of the self-donation of the God-man, Jesus Christ, and that this real presence points to an ecumenical approach, which, while upholding the Catholic dogma, responds to the Protestant concern to acknowledge the empirical reality of the consecrated bread and wine.

Real understanding of the eucharistic mystery is possible only in the context of prayer and daily living nourished by the Eucharist. Hence, Father Kereszty shows in this book that eucharistic doctrine and spirituality are inseparably connected.

Pastoral Implications

Even though I had already developed some of the pastoral corollaries that directly follow from the understanding of different aspects of eucharistic doctrine, some further, more general pastoral considerations need to be sketched out.

1. If the whole of salvation history centers on Christ as the fullness of Godís revelation, if all the scriptures ultimately prepare Him and witness to Him, and if in the Eucharist the whole reality of the crucified and risen Christ is present to unite us t himself, then all Christian preaching should, directly or indirectly lead to a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist. In the words of Luther, ďthe Mass is part of the Gospel; indeed, it is the sum and substance of it.Ē After all, it is in the eucharistic celebration that every biblical text is actualized for the contemporary Christian community as well as for the individual Christian, and our encounter with the word of God leads us naturally to a full, personal, bodily communion with him in the Eucharist.

2. There are today many places where, through lack of ordained ministers, only liturgies of the word along with Holy Communion are celebrated on Sundays or holy days of obligation. Laypeople, who at times would have a chance to choose between attending Mass or a communion service, often go to the latter in the conviction that there is no real difference between the two.

It is true that by partaking in Holy Communion we can personally appropriate the attitude of Christ who has become an eternal gift to the Father and food for us. However, it is only within the Mass (and not in a communion service) that Christ through the Holy Spirit transforms our bread and wind, the signs of our own ineffective gift of self, into his own perfect sacrifice. It is in the Mass, then, that in the sacramental order established by Christ, the offering of the Church is changed into the sacrifice of Christ. This sacramental event of transubstantiation calls for and provides the grace for our spiritual sacrifice (the gift of ourselves) to be taken up into Christís perfect sacrifice. Therefore, a communion service cannot be equivalent to the celebration of the Mass. In the former we are united to Christ sacrificed; in the latter we are also called to participate personally in the very act by which Christ transforms our offering into his own.

3. If we adopt the perspective of the New Testament on the Eucharist, we will not be tempted by the two extreme positions which threaten the Churchís liturgical life today; we see on one side a preconciliar mentality which prefers or, in its most extreme form, idolizes the Tridentine Mass insofar as it promotes respectful individual worship; on the other side, a more instinctive than conscious tendency aims at reducing the Eucharist to a joyful self-celebration of the Christian community which sees Christ primarily in the members of the community and neglects if not practically ignores the source of his community-building presence under the signs of eucharistic bread and wine. In the New Testament theology of the Eucharist (whether we start from Paul or John or from the synthesis of both as most Fathers did) the theocentric aspect of thanksgiving, worship, praise and atonement, and the community-forming aspect of the Lordís Supper cannot be played against the other. It is by sharing the real body and blood of the Lord, sacrificed and risen, that we are built up as his real body, the Church (Paul); Christ dwells in the individual and gives one eternal life only if one is inserted as a branch into Christ, the one true vine who joins the celebrants to himself and to each other (John). We can praise, thank and plead with the Father for forgiveness only to the extent that we are united to Christís ecclesial body, and, vice versa, we live the life of Christís ecclesial body only to the extent that we share in the Sonís worship of the Father. Thus the ecclesial and worshipping aspects of the eucharistic celebration can only be promoted together, rather than one at the expense of the other.

4. In the eucharistic theology of the New Testament, the joy of the eucharistic meal derives primarily not from the good feeling of human fellowship, but from the anticipation of th eschatological meal. It is a joy that may coexist with a bad mood and personal frustration because it is a joy that springs from our sharing in the cross of Christ. This joy nothing and no one can take away from us since it is rooted in our faith, powerful enough to conquer the world. Thus, a sound pastoral approach will shape the eucharistic celebration in such a way that it will simultaneously proclaim both Christís death and Resurrection. It will encourage a daily dying with Christ to our earthly sinful selves so that we also daily experience the power of his Resurrection. Any eucharistic celebration which centers on our earthly life alone stands in contradiction to the biblical witness.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Sacrifice and Sacrificial Meal
1. Sacrifice in the history of religions
2. Sacrifice in the Old Testament

Part II: The Eucharist in the New Testament
3. The institution accounts
4. The Eucharist in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts
5. The Eucharist in the Gospel of John
6. The Eucharist in Pauline Theology
7. The Eucharist in the Letter to the Hebrews
8. The Eucharist in the Book of Revelation

Part III: The Development of Eucharistic Theology in History
9. The unfolding of the Biblical themes in early tradition
10. Further developments in Greek Patristic thought
11. Development of Eucharistic Theology in the Latin Fathers
12. From Early middle Ages to the Protestant Reformation
13. From the Council of Trent to Vatican II

Part IV: Systematic Presentation: The Eucharist at the Sacrament of Christís Sacrifice
14. Toward a Theology of Eucharistic Celebration
15. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
16. The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside the Eucharistic Celebration

Conclusions

Appendixes
Mary and the Eucharist
Pastoral Implications
Ecumenical Implications