The subject of the Eucharist, Mass, Lord's Supper is one to which
the commission has devoted a good deal of attention, and not only
in its main meetings and in its sub-committees: this theme took
up a good deal of time at the colloquia at Cambridge. This was not
because of any undue preoccupations with sacramentalism, but because
there was an obvious place of common agreement and appreciation
with which to begin, i. e. the emphasis on frequent Communion of
the Wesleys which led to a eucharistic revival in the first part
of the Methodist story, and of which the eucharistic hymns of Charles
Wesley are a permanent legacy. So our first conversations included
an appraisal of those hymns from a Catholic view.
It should be stressed that at no point of our conversations has
there been more friendly honesty and candor. It was not disguised,
for example, that the eucharistic devotion of the Wesleys and the
hymns of Charles Wesley are no index at all to the place of Holy
Communion in the life, thought and devotion of modern Methodists.
The conversations ranged from the great . recurring theological
themes to such practices as the Methodist custom of using unfermented
wine, and to Roman practices of extraliturgical devotions to the
Sacrament. In our discussions, it has been a little like ascending
a spiral staircase, coming back again and again to the same points,
but at another level and with a wider horizon.
Obviously two of these points were, first, the sense in which Christ
is present, the mode of his presence and how our awareness of his
presence is realized in the sacrament; second, the question of how
far we may speak of a sacrifice. Other questions, the nature of
our memorial (as the Protestant Reformers themselves stressed, much
more than a bare act of intellectual remembrance of a past event)
and the whole eschatological and forward looking element in the
Eucharist, with its implications in the life of the believer, of
the whole body of Christ and of the Body of Christ in relation to
the world were dealt with in less detail. The whole problem of the
relation of Christ's presence to the elements of bread and wine
demanded and received the full treatment of a massive paper on the
problem of transubstantiation in relation to modern ways of thought.
Here are continuing problems and neither in this case nor in that
of the idea of sacrifice could our commission hope to come up with
solutions of questions which still exercise the scholars in the
learned world. Nonetheless we can register an astonishing, helpful
and hopeful measure of agreement, which we have thought fit to summarize
POINTS OF AGREEMENT:
The real presence
Both Methodists and Roman Catholics affirm as the primary fact
the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Mass, or the Lord's
This is a reality that does not depend on the experience of the
It is only by faith that we become aware of the presence of Christ
in the Eucharist.
Within the worship of the Church, this is a distinctive mode or
manifestation of the presence of Christ.
Christ in the fullness of His being, human and divine, crucified
and risen, is present in this sacrament.
presence of Christ is mediated through the sacred elements of
bread and wine over which the words of institution have been pronounced.
Bread and wine do not mean the same outside the context of the
Eucharistic celebration as they do within that context. Within
the eucharistic celebration they become the sign par excellence
of Christ's redeeming presence to His people. To the eyes of faith,
they now signify the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and shed for
the world; as we take, eat and drink, and share the bread and
wine, we are transformed into Him. The eucharistic bread and wine
are therefore efficacious signs of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Eucharist is the celebration of Christ's full, perfect and
sufficient sacrifice, offered once and for all, for the whole
It is a memorial which is more than a recollection of a past event.
It is a re-enactment of Christ's triumphant sacrifice and makes
available for us its benefits.
For this reason Roman Catholics call the Eucharist a sacrifice,
though this terminology is not use by Methodists.
In this celebration we share in Christ's offering to Himself in
obedience to the Father's will.
The perfect participation in the celebration of the Eucharist
is the communion of the faithful.
By partaking of the Body and Blood we become one with Christ,
our Savior, and one with one an other in a common dedication to
the redemption of the world.
POINTS OF DIFFERENCE:
Presence in the Eucharist for the Methodists is not fundamentally
different from the presence of Christ in other means of grace,
i. e. preaching.
For some Methodists the preaching of the Word provides a more
effective means of grace than the Eucharist.
To the faith of the Roman Catholic, the bread and wine within
the context of the Eucharistic celebration are transformed into
another reality, i. e. the Body and Blood of the glorified Jesus.
The external of the bread and wine remain unchanged. For the Roman
Catholic this transformation takes place through the words of
institution pronounced by a validly ordained priest.
The worship of the Blessed Sacrament is linked with the Roman
Catholic doctrine of the transformation of the elements, and does
not obtain in Methodism.
Methodism any Christian who can conscientiously accept the invitation
is welcomed to the Lord's table. Except in cases of urgent necessity,
eucharistic communion is extended by Roman Catholics only to those
who share the same faith. We welcome the ongoing study of this
problem in actual dialogue, and look forward to the day when we
can partake of the Eucharist together. We rejoice in the increasing
agreements in doctrine between the two communions which are working
to bring this about.
POINTS FOR FURTHER STUDY:
addition to the problem already raised these further issues relating
to the Eucharist need further study:
The ministry and the apostolic succession (Cf. Section VI).
Our common faith.
relation between eucharistic union and ecclesiastical fellowship.
It might be felt that in the light of this concentrated common study
and conversation this is a theme which might be left for a time
while attention is turned to other subjects. If so, it would be
important to return to it at convenient points-in the light for
example of further understanding about the nature of the Church,
or of our common experience of worship-not only in theoretical discussion
but even more in the light of our experience of worshiping with
one another. In any case there remains before us the task of getting
across our agreements to the Churches at large and to bodies of
Christians who have perhaps hardly begun to consider some of our
problems, let alone our solutions. Nor can we ignore the agreement
already registered between Catholics and Orthodox and Catholics
and Anglicans in which we recognize an overall growth in ecumenical