on the celebration of the Eucharist must start from the biblical
- from the celebration of the Lord's Supper in the primitive
- from the celebration of the Last Supper of Jesus,
- from the Old Testament background, particularly the Jewish
the Christian community assembled with glad and generous hearts
(Acts 2:46) it celebrated the memorial of the death and resurrection
of Jesus, experienced his presence as the exalted Lord in his
Spirit and looked forward longingly to his return in glory.
It thus regarded itself as the pilgrim People of God.
traditional words of Jesus at the Last Supper, despite the differences
in their transmission, recall that his acceptance of death "for
many" inaugurates the new covenant of God with his People.
The cancellation of the old covenant does not mean the rejection
of Israel (cf. Rom 11:1f, 28f) but on the contrary the continuation
of God's promises which are operative in the new gift of salvation
in virtue of the reconciling fruits of the death of Jesus.
this background is taken seriously, new possibilities of mitigating
the traditional confessional quarrels emerge from the understanding
of the New Testament accounts of the institution: for example,
- In the words of institution the emphasis is on the fact
of the personal presence of the living Lord in the event of
the memorial and fellowship meal, not on the question as to
how this real presence (the word "is") comes about
and is to be explained. The eating and drinking and the memorial
character of the Passover meal, with which the New Testament
links Jesus' last meal, proclaim the beginning of the new
- When Christ gives the apostles the commission Do this
in remembrance of me!' the word "remembrance" means
more than merely a mental act of "recalling".
- The term "body" means the whole person of Jesus,
the saving presence of which is experienced in the meal.
on the biblical sources along these lines can also help to relativize
certain traditional alternatives (influenced by a dualistic
anthropology and cosmology) which encumber the dialogue between
the confessions (as for example, realism/symbolism, sacramentalism/inwardness,
substance/form, subject/object). In relation to an objectification
which tends to rigidity, the original biblical way of thinking
helps us to a more profound understanding of the character of
the Eucharist as an event.
glorified body of the Lord with which the New Testament community
had fellowship in the Supper is to be understood in accordance
with the description of the risen Jesus Christ as the second
Adam, who is both a body determined by the Spirit ( 1 Cor 15:44)
and a life creating Spirit ( 1 Cor 15:5).
- The concept of koinonia stresses
not only fellowship with the exalted Lord Jesus Christ, but
beyond this and precisely because of this also the fellowship
of all who partake of the meal and are called together into
the community of the Lord (1 Cor 10:17).
- Reflection on the Supper of
the primitive Christian community must not contemplate the past
in retrospect and seek to restore it; on the contrary, it must
liberate us for a new priestly ministry (1 Petr 2:9), which
the Church has to perform in relation to the world of today.
The Paschal Mystery of Christ and the Eucharist:
sends us into the world with the message of a new life and a
new common life in fellowship with him. In our speaking and
acting he bears witness to himself. His Gospel gathers, protects
and maintains the koinonia of his disciples as a sign and beginning
of his kingdom. He himself constantly calls this community to
the memorial of his death; he himself comes into its midst as
the living One through his word and causes this word to take
shape in the celebration of the Supper in which he deepens and
seals (cf. Jn 15:4f, 6:56f, 1 Cor 10:16) his fellowship with
us and in which the new life of fellowship of Christendom is
represented to the world (1 Jn 1:3). The presidence of the commissioned
church office bearer at the celebration of the Meal effectively
represents this unique role of Christ as the Lord and Host.
The commissioned office-bearer is there to show the assembled
community that it does not have disposal itself over the Eucharist
but simply carries out obediently what Christ has commissioned
the Church to do.
fellowship and witness of the Church depend on it being filled
by God with his Spirit. (cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8; Tit 3:6).
The way of the disciples through the world since his return
to the Father has been characterized by, his hiddenness (cf.
1 Jn 3:1f, 1 Cor 4:9-13 , Jn 15:18-21). They await his return
(cf. Phil 3:20f, Col 3:4; 1 Jn 2:28) and remain dependent on
his promise never to leave them or forsake them (cf. Jn 14:18f,
Mt 28:20). In the eucharistic meal they again and again experience
his keeping of his promise.
This free, gracious presence of the Lord takes place in the
Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 2:10-13 ; Jn 14:16-20; 16:13-15), i.e.
He himself lays the foundation for it, creates in itself and
in us the possibility of knowing him and receiving him and sanctifies
the means by which he imprints his presence in us, pours out
on us his gifts and equips us to serve him.
So the Lord himself comes to us in his Spirit (cf. Rom 8:9;
Jn 7:38f) through his word, attests himself in the holy signs
and, giving his Church spiritual food and drink, accompanies
it towards the future of the Kingdom in which the counsel of
God finds its fulfilment.
whole saving work of God has its basis, center and goal in the
person of the glorified Christ.
Christ himself did not seek his own glory but the glory of him
who sent him (cf. Jn 8:50, 7:18). Similarly he said: "It
is meat and drink for me to do the will of him who sent me until
I have finished his work" (Jn 4:34).
- The One who is exalted to God's
right hand lived among us and died among us. He shared our spatial
and temporal existence; despite our sin he was our fellow human
being. In his exaltation, he remains what he was: the obedient
son (cf. Heb 5:8f, Phil 2:8) and our brother. In solidarity
with the glorified One we live in the reality which he opened
up to us by his life and death.
is experienced, confessed and portrayed by the Christian community
in its celebration of the Supper with him. United with Christ
by the Holy Spirit, incorporated in him by baptism (cf. 1 Cor
12:12f), it constantly receives anew his humanity in which he
lived, died and was glorified for us, as the real bond with
God himself (cf. Jn 6:57).
his person, his life, his death and his resurrection, Christ
has established the new covenant.
In him person and work cannot be separated. What he did, derives
its saving power from what he is. He is our salvation because
of what he did.
Christ the mediator (cf. 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 8:6, 9:15) is no hybrid.
He is himself personally the mediation. In him and through him
God's self offering to us as human beings is accomplished; in
him and through him humanity's surrender to God.
The sacrifice brought by Jesus Christ is his obedient life and
death (cf. Heb 10:5-10, Phil 2:8). His once for - all self-offering
under Pontius Pilate is continued by him for ever in the presence
of the Father in virtue of his resurrection. In this way he
is our sole advocate in heaven (cf. Heb 9:11f. 24, 10:13f. 19-21,
7:24f, 1 Jn 2:1; Rom 8:34). He sends us his Spirit so that we
weak human beings, too, may call upon the Father and can also
make intercession for the world (cf. Gal 4:5 ; Rom 8:15f. 26).
its joyful prayer of thanksgiving, "in the Eucharist",
when the Church of Christ remembers his reconciling death for
our sins and for the sins of the whole world, Christ himself
is present, who "gave himself up on our behalf as an offering
and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God" (Eph
5:2). Sanctified by his Spirit, the Church, through, with and
in God's son, Jesus Christ, offers itself to the Father. It
thereby becomes a living sacrifice of thanksgiving, through
which God is publicly praised (cf. Rom 12:1; 1 Petr 2:5).
The validity, strength and effect of the Supper are rooted in
the cross of the Lord and in his living presence in the Holy
Spirit. Far from bypassing us, they are fulfilled in our faith,
love and service.
The witness, celebration and fruits of the Eucharist are crystallization
of the Church's proclamation and fellowship. They are therefore
sustained by every movement in which the eternal Father for
Christ's sake and through him, accepts and recreates the lost
world in the Holy Spirit.
The Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper
often as we come together in the Church to obey our Lord's command
to "do this in anamnesis of me", he is in our midst.
This is the presence of the Son of God who for us men and for
our salvation became man and was made flesh. Through the offering
of his body we have been sanctified and are made partakers of
God. This is the great mystery (Sacramentum) of Christ, in which
he has incorporated himself into our humanity, and in partaking
of which the Church is built up as the Body of Christ. This
is the same mystery dispensed to us in the eucharistic celebration,
for when we bless the cup it is the communion of the blood of
Christ, and when we break the bread it is the communion of the
body of Christ (I Cor 10:16). The realization of this presence
of Christ to us and of our union and incorporation with him
is the proper work of the Holy Spirit, which takes place in
the eucharistic celebration as the Church calls upon the Father
to send down his Holy Spirit to sanctify both the worshiping
people and the bread and wine. How Christ is present in the
Eucharist, we may apprehend to a certain extent by looking at
the work of the same Holy Spirit, e.g. in the birth of Jesus
of the Virgin Mary and in his resurrection in body from the
grave - although as acts of God they are explicable only from
the side of God and not from the side of man.
is in this light that we may understand something of the specific
presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, which is at once
sacramental and personal. He comes to us clothed in his Gospel
and saving passion, so that our partaking of him is communion
in his body and blood (John 6:47-56; 1 Cor 10:17). This presence
is sacramental in that it is the concrete form which the mystery
of Christ takes in the eucharistic communion of his body and
blood. It is also personal presence because Jesus Christ in
his own person is immediately present, giving himself in his
reality both as true God and true Man. In the Eucharist he communicates
himself to us in the whole reality of his divinity and humanity
- body, mind and will, and at the same time he remains the Son
who is in the Father as the Father is in him.
Reformed and Roman Catholics are convinced of the centrality
of this common christological confession. The specific mode
of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist is thus to be interpreted
as the presence of the Son who is both consubstantial with us
in our human and bodily existence while being eternally consubstantial
with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead (Jn 17:21-23).
It is important to see that Calvin's Christ ology was mainly
inspired by the theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria and of St.
Athanasius. It would be easy to be misled by the term "extra
Calvinisticum" which arose out of early 17th century polemics
among Protestants; and even the Calvinist teaching then was
that after the incarnation the eternal Word, fully joined to
the humanity in the hypostatic union, was nevertheless not restricted
to, or contained within the flesh, but existed "etiam extra
carnem". This doctrine, that the logos is at the same time
incarnate and present in the whole world, is not a Calvinist
speciality, but is common to the Christology of pre-Chalcedonian
as well as post-Chalcedonian orthodoxy, East and West. What
clearly matters is the fully trinitarian context which is guarded
by this doctrine and the Christological presuppositions on which
there are no fundamental disagreements between Roman Catholic
and Reformed traditions.
celebrate the Eucharist with confidence because in Jesus Christ
we have the new and living way which he has opened for us through
his flesh (Heb 10:19-20). He is both Apostle from God and our
High Priest (cf. Heb 3:1) who has consecrated us together with
him into one, so that in his self-offering to the Father through
the eternal Spirit (cf. Heb 9:14), he offers us also in himself
and so through our union with him we share in that self-offering
made on our behalf. It is the same Spirit who cries "Abba,
Father" (cf. Mk 14:36) in him who cries "Abba, Father"
in us, as we in the Eucharist take the Lord's Prayer into our
own mouth (Rom 8:15f, 26f).
this union of the Church on earth with the risen and ascended
Christ, which he continues to sustain through its eucharistic
communion with him, the Church is enabled by grace to participate
in his reconciling mission to the world. Christ and his Church
share in this in different ways. Christ vicariously as Mediator
and Redeemer, the Church as the community of the redeemed to
whom he has entrusted the ministry of reconciliation (cf. 2
Cor 5:18) and stewardship of the mysteries (cf. 1 Cor 4:1).
"As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you
proclaim the Lord's death till he comes" (1 Cor 11:26).
Thus precisely because the mission of the Church is grounded
in, and sustained through eucharistic communion with Christ,
it is sent out by Christ into all nations and all ages in the
service of the Gospel, in reliance upon his promise that he
will be present to it always unto the end of the world (cf.
The Eucharist and the Church: Christ, the Church and the
one accepts sinners and eats with them"(Lk 15:2), is characteristic
of Christ's work. The power and effect of his death and resurrection
confront and confound the power of death and sin. The institution
of the Eucharist constitutes the Church as the community of
love where the power of his death and resurrection is mediated
by the One intercessor between God and the sinner. For the time
between his first and second coming, our Lord instituted the
Eucharist as a sacrificial meal. Sinful men and women, rich
and poor, religious and secular people, united at the Lord's
table, are the first-fruits of that communion, peace and joy,
which are promised to all who hunger and thirst for righteousness
(cf. Mt 5:6).
The Eucharist and the Renewal of the Church
Eucharist is a source and criterion for the renewal of the Church.
The Church's renewed understanding of the Eucharist may lead
to a renewed way of celebrating the Eucharist, revealing the
Church more clearly as essentially "the Eucharistic community".
The renewal of the Church through the Eucharist includes a continuous
summons to church unity. The division of the churches at the
precise point where the Church should reveal its true nature
as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church calls urgently
for ecumenical agreement on the meaning of the Eucharist and
its relation to the Church.
At the same time the Eucharist requires and inspires the Church's
sense of her vocation to bring the Gospel to the whole world
in proclaiming the good news of God's salvation and exercising
the work of reconciliation in its deeds. Since the Eucharist
means "thanksgiving" the members of the Church will
show forth a life that is inspired and sustained by this sense
of gratitude. Renewal, unity and mission are inseparable characteristics
of the Church as it receives in faith the gift of the Eucharist.
Eucharist, Liturgy and Dogma
Eucharist is an expression of the Church's faith. That faith
is expressed in part in its liturgical life, according to the
principle "lex orandi, lex credendi". It is an essential
function of liturgy to hand on the Gospel in the formulations
of its prayer, and also in the forms of ritual practice.
In the course of history certain formulae have been taken
up in dogmatic and liturgical usage, primarily as protective
devices to safeguard the faith against misinterpretation.
These formulae have been usually developed from a context
of controversy, from which the passage of time has tended
to detach them. Such formulations need to be re-examined in
order to see whether they are still adequate as safeguards
against misunderstanding, or have themselves become sources
of misunderstanding, especially in the ecumenical situation.
There is therefore a pastoral responsibility on the churches
to see that such formulae contribute to the genuine communication
of the Gospel to the contemporary world.
The Eucharist and Church Organization
the visible aspects of the Church, the Eucharist should reveal
to the world the authentic reality of the Church. Similarly,
the Eucharist should continually empower the Church to recall
itself to the vision of that reality. The Eucharist thus enables
the Church both to reveal its true nature to the world, and
to shape itself in conformity to that same reality.
As a community of men and women living in the world, the Church
organizes itself in varying ways in the course of history. This
organization of the Church's way of life should not obscure
the true face of the Church, but allow it to be seen in its
true being. It is the Eucharist which is the source of continuing
scrutiny of the organization and life of the Church.
In particular, the law of the Church should reflect Christ's
law of love and freedom. The Church's law is not an absolute,
but always serves a pilgrim people. One of the functions of
that law is to promote the constant renewal of the Church in
its preaching of the Gospel and in its service to mankind. The
law of the Church must be in harmony with the law of the Kingdom,
revealed in the Eucharist.
we are aware of the serious discrepancy between our claims to
common theological understanding and our actual practices, we
gratefully acknowledge the way our investigations and discussions
have resulted in a greater appreciation of the richness in our
respective eucharistic doctrines and practices. We believe we
have reached a common understanding of the meaning and purpose
and basic doctrine of the Eucharist, which is in agreement with
the Word of God and the universal tradition of the Church. We
also believe that the way is clearly opening out before us on
which remaining misunderstandings and disagreements about the
Lord's Supper can be cleared up. The terminology which arose
in an earlier polemical context is not adequate for taking account
of the extent of common theological understanding which exists
in our respective churches. Thus we gratefully acknowledge that
both traditions, Reformed and Roman Catholic, hold to the belief
in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and both hold
at least that the Eucharist is, among other things:
(1) a memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord;
(2) a source of loving communion with him in the power of
the Spirit (hence the epiclesis in the Liturgy), and
(3) a source of the eschatological hope for his coming again.
dialogue has convinced us of the urgent need to pursue the following
- the constitutive elements of a eucharistic service, especially
in view of its relation to certain forms of Christian fellowship,
called in some countries "agape-celebrations";
- the use of the Eucharist today which grows out of a faithful
reflection on the tradition and on the vast changes which
typify life today;
- the urgent contemporary pastoral questions of mutual eucharistic
Study of these questions should take into account:
- the rich connotations of memorial (anamnesis);
- the biblical and patristic "non-dualist" categories;
- the false antinomies which can be corrected by a study of
such themes as "body, person, presence, spiritual";
- the question of the proper role of the ordained ministry
in the celebration of the Eucharist.