Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer 1st Edition
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About the Author
In addition to his translation of Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, Rev. Charles Underhill Quinn translated books on the Paschal mystery and the Gallican Rite.
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Basically, I got the message. The Mass is not a ceremony for confecting the Blessed Sacrament and reserving it in the tabernacle. Rather it is a sacred meal, what Fr. Regis Duffy, OFM called a “meal-sacrifice-berakah.”
I realized at the time my own spirituality should be built around the liturgy of the Church: the Eucharist, sacraments and the Hours. Others might enjoy devotions like the rosary, the stations, or particular practices, images and shrines; but as a priest I should find my identity, sustenance and life within the official prayers of the Church.
That being said, I see how much I did not learn at the time. I came to this book after taking a hint from Cardinal Ratzinger, that when the apostolic age ended the Church still had much work to do. She would have to shape the leadership structures of the Church; sort and select the canonical books of the Bible; define our doctrines, especially the Incarnation and the Trinity; and develop the Eucharistic Prayers. After reading several books about the Trinity, I went to the Internet to find a book about the Eucharistic Prayers.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit led me to Louis Bouyer and Eucharist, Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer. Not surprisingly, I am out of my depth. I had to look up words like epiclesis, anaphora and anamnesis. I was unfamiliar with oblation, not to mention Tefillah and Abodah. But I was searching for a deeper appreciation of the nine Eucharistic prayers we have in the Roman Missal, and I found it.
I am most impressed – and I think this is Bouyer’s main point – that the Christian religion sprang directly from its Jewish roots and never wandered far from there. This was not a reformation of the Jewish religion, not did it provide a prototype to the upheavals of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Jewish religion was always hyper-aware of the demand to maintain a pure heart and clear mind when addressing God. Jesus’ critique of the Sadducees and Pharisees was nothing if not traditional. Rather than Christianity being a reform of the Jewish religion, history shows the mother religion deliberately moving away from its gentile-embracing offspring.
I was also impressed by the beauty of the ancient prayers. I wish I could proclaim the Eucharist of Saint James or of Saint Basil to an appreciative modern congregation.
The study has resolved my doubts about the institution narrative. We believe the elements of bread and wine are indeed transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. We ask the Holy Spirit to do so. If the most ancient proto-prayers did not say that – e.g. the Didache – the Church did not hesitate to insert that biblical doctrine into its prayers at a very early date.
Finally, Eucharist reminds me to honor the ipsissima verba of the Eucharistic Prayers. I do not have the authority to rewrite them to fit my own taste or the preferences of the congregation. Nor would I dare to read them in a language the congregation cannot understand. That seems to me the height of clerical arrogance. Even if the congregation insists they prefer the so-called Traditional Latin Mass, I could not violate our worship with such brazen effrontery. The prayer belongs to the whole Church, not to me, or any priest or any congregation. We gather to worship God, not to please the consumer.
As the fiftieth anniversary of this ground-breaking work approaches I hope the University of Notre Dame, who first published it in 1968, is preparing a commemorative edition and, perhaps, a companion volume of appreciation for Father Bouyer’s historic contribution to the Prayer of the Church.
Make no mistake: this is not an easy book. The difficulty is not in the writing or style, but in the density of the writer's knowledge. But it is rewarding in bringing to life the history of the central rite of the catholic faith, the Eucharist, and showing us how that rite has developed into what we are blessed to have today.
Fr. Bouyer's primary contribution in this book is showing meticulously how our rite grew forth from the rites of the synagogue and temple in the time before the incarnation. Also invaluable is his demonstrating how the church's western rite is more likely an example of the earliest rites of the church, and that the eastern (Byzantine) rites are more likely examples of a later, more refined theology and praxis.
As the sample pages show, Bouyer spends the first 119 pages exploring the Jewish context of the Eucharist, bringing to light the concepts of �berakoth� (liturgical formulae for blessing a meal) and �tefillah� (other liturgical prayers), which were immediately adopted by the early Jewish Christians.
He then goes through the whole of Christian history, East and West, tracing the liturgical and biblical meaning of the shared meal of the faithful. Very exhaustive and well done! You will not go wrong with this one, and the price is a great deal!
You may also enjoy �The Eucharist Makes the Church� by McPartlan, �Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries� by Elert, and the works of Joachim Jeremias such as �The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Enjoy!