Index > Interconfessional Dialogue > M-RC > Dever Rep. 1971 | CONT. > sec. 5
  section 1 (GENERAL RETROSPECT) - select
  section 3 (SPIRITUALITY) - select
  section 4 (CHRISTIAN HOME AND FAMILY) - select
Eucharist - sec. 5
  section 6 (MINISTRY) - select
  section 7 (AUTHORITY) - select
  section 8 (THE WAY AHEAD) - select


   79. 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.

   80. 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.

   81. 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.

   82. 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 and record:


I. The real presence

  1. Both Methodists and Roman Catholics affirm as the primary fact the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Mass, or the Lord's Supper.
  2. This is a reality that does not depend on the experience of the communicant.
  3. It is only by faith that we become aware of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
  4. Within the worship of the Church, this is a distinctive mode or manifestation of the presence of Christ.
  5. Christ in the fullness of His being, human and divine, crucified and risen, is present in this sacrament.
  6. The presence of Christ is mediated through the sacred elements of bread and wine over which the words of institution have been pronounced.
  7. 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.

II. The sacrifice

  1. The Eucharist is the celebration of Christ's full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, offered once and for all, for the whole world.
  2. 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.
  3. For this reason Roman Catholics call the Eucharist a sacrifice, though this terminology is not use by Methodists.
  4. In this celebration we share in Christ's offering to Himself in obedience to the Father's will.

III. Communion

  1. The perfect participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is the communion of the faithful.
  2. 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.


I. The presence

  1. Presence in the Eucharist for the Methodists is not fundamentally different from the presence of Christ in other means of grace, i. e. preaching.
  2. For some Methodists the preaching of the Word provides a more effective means of grace than the Eucharist.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

II. Intercommunion

  1. In 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.


In addition to the problem already raised these further issues relating to the Eucharist need further study:

  1. The ministry and the apostolic succession (Cf. Section VI).
  2. Our common faith.
  3. The relation between eucharistic union and ecclesiastical fellowship.

   86. 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 understanding..

Index | Centro Activities | Course | Publications | Conferences
Week of Prayer | Library | Interconfessional Dialogues
Directory of Ecumenical Study Centers | Society of the Atonement
Guest Book | Credits | Site Map

1999-2004 © - Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, Inc.
Remarks to Webmaster at webmaster@pro.urbe.it