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Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Eucharist As Catalyst For Unity And Conversion

I have a friend who is in the process of possibly revising his theology. He told me that the "memorialist" position on the Eucharist that characterizes the communities of the radical Reformation no longer makes sense with how he reads John chapter 6. Obviously, I agree. Yet if someone is Protestant, there must be some sort of juxtaposition between faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life, and the Eucharist as the Bread of Life. Certainly, the end of the passage (vv. 51-68) is the part that Catholics point to as the clearest exposition of Catholic Eucharistic faith. It makes sense to spiritualize the graphic parts that a plain reading--and in the ears of the Jewish audience--suggest cannibalism. Jesus makes no effort to comfort the listeners, however. And in fact, a Catholic reading sees no juxtaposition between faith in Christ, and Eucharistic piety. The spiritual and the sacramental are one.

I said to my friend, “It's not definitive evidence by itself, but the best refutation of the memorialist view is the sustained, frequent reception of the Lord's Supper, no matter the community.”

The Council Fathers noted in Unitatis redintegratio, 22,

"[Protestant ecclesial communities]  when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper . . . profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory."

Earlier, in Lumen Gentium, they said:

"This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic,  which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity." (LG, 8)

I could "hear" Christ calling out to me in the Eucharist, though I could not partake in it for two years. I had not even begun to examine the evidence for believing that Christ founded the Catholic Church. I had only known that a mere memorial of Christ's finished work on the Cross could not account for my experience. I wept aloud at the retelling of the story of the papal nuncio saying Christ called to every person from the altar. I wonder if Bryan Cross remembers this. I most certainly do.

We should say that many Christians take Holy Communion seriously. But to be drawn near involves more than devotion. It involves professing what is true, and only that, about the Eucharist. The Catholic doctrines concerning the Eucharist are not true because they are majestic; they are majestic because they are true. An Anabaptist community can not only learn from Catholic reverence; a deeper union with Christ must certainly imply a greater correspondence with those true doctrines.

"And after I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself."


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