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The Eucharist
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The Biblical Basis:
  1. Reflection on the celebration of the Eucharist must start from the biblical sources, i.e.:

    - from the celebration of the Lord's Supper in the primitive Church,

    - from the celebration of the Last Supper of Jesus,

    - from the Old Testament background, particularly the Jewish Passover.

  2. When 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.

  3. The 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.

  4. If 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 covenant.

    - 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.

  5. Reflection 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.

  6. The 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).

  7. 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).

  8. 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:

  9. Christ 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.

  10. The 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.

  11. The 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).

  12. 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.

  13. This 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).

  14. In 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).

  15. In 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

  16. As 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.

  17. It 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.

  18. The 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.

  19. We 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).

  20. In 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. Mt 28:18-20).

    The Eucharist and the Church: Christ, the Church and the Eucharist:

  21. "This 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

  22. The 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

  23. The 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

  24. In 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.

    General Comment

  25. While 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.

    Lines of Investigation

  26. Our dialogue has convinced us of the urgent need to pursue the following questions:

    - 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 hospitality.
    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.

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