The Celebration & Sacrifice of the Eucharist

An Anglican blog staffed by better scholars than I recently posted a very excellent and helpful explanation of some of the more Catholic views of the Eucharist which is often considered extraneous to most evangelicals: http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2012/03/biblical-basis-of-eucharistic-sacrifice.html  I thought I’d give a brief outline of the article here, partly to offer a summary to those of you who don’t want to read the article, and partly to give myself a reference to go back to at need.

  • Is there any evidence for a specific priestly aspect to the ministry of Christian Pastors?”  See Romans 15:16 in the original Greek, and the image in Rev. 5:8 drawing from Luke 1:8-9.
  • Why is the Leadership of the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper the job of the Pastor?”  Pastors, as shepherds, are to “feed” God’s flock (Psalm 23:1,2,5; John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:1,2), referring to both Word and Sacrament.
  • Does the Lord’s Supper itself have any aspect of Sacrifice? After all, the verses above from Romans and Revelation do not clearly connect the pastoral priesthood to the Eucharist. Showing the Pastor is a priest and presides at the Lord’s Supper is not enough!”  True, but what’s missing here is a full understanding of anamnesis, the word translated as “remembrance” in the Last Supper passages.  Its meaning is beyond simple mental recall, but encompassing a memorial sacrifice (Lev. 24:7-9, Num. 10:9-10).
  • But does the Memorial Offering at Holy Communion have anything to do with Christ’s Priesthood and his Sacrifice of the Cross?”  Remember Christ’s priesthood is “in the order of Melchizedek,” and in Gen. 14:18 we find a not-so-subtle hint in the fact that Melchizedek brought an offering of bread and wine.  Also, in Christ’s words of institution, he speaks of his body & blood in the present tense, hinting at the time-transcending reality of his sacrifice on the cross.  See also Hebrews 9:14 and 10:12.  Also, compare Hebrew 8:6 and 1 Cor. 10:16-17 against Lev. 7:13, 3:7, Exodus 29:40, and 30:10.
  • Hang on a minute! What about what it says in Hebrews about Christ’s Sacrifice being “once-for-all” and never to be repeated (e.g., 9:25-28, 10:10,18)?”  Correct, Christ’s sacrifice is not repeated, but re-connected-to.  Keep Hebrews 9:21, 25, 13:10, and 10:19-22 together in tandem.  Also note the present tense in 1 John 2:2.  Another way to put it is that Christ’s act of self-offering is over, but his state of self-offering is eternally present to us through the Eucharist.  Furthermore, we’re all called to participate in that sacrifice ourselves (see also Romans 12:1, and 6:10-11, 13).

I found the Q&A format quite helpful.  How you frame this sort of discussion can make a big difference… very often people want to explain something ‘their way’ and end up squashing other people’s questions.  But this article was written in a way specifically to address those sorts of questions.  Certainly more questions could arise from this, but I think this is a handy starting place for many conversations I’ve tried to engage in and done poorly in myself.

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About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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3 Responses to The Celebration & Sacrifice of the Eucharist

  1. Isaac D says:

    It is a helpful starting point. Some of the points I think could have been stated more strongly, while others, being built on ambiguities were less convincing to me.
    I would make the connection to sacrifice more strongly, since I can think of dozens of other passages right away that connect communion to the sacrifice of Jesus. I would not try to make the connection through the meaning of the remembering words — anamnesis like most words has a wide range of meaning and usage, sometimes it means an abstract recollection and sometimes it means physical recreation, but I would never argue that it always means one or the other, let alone build an argument on the premise that it always means one or the other.
    There is some confusion around the use of the term “priest”, the authors of the article keep switching between two uses of the term (which may simply be because the authors think both meanings apply, therefore they aren’t careful about which they are using). A “priest” in the sense of a person who presides over sacrifice is not necessarily the same thing as an “elder” in either the OT or NT sense. I happen to agree that there is a great deal of overlap, but you can’t just switch the meaning of the word in the middle of a syllogism and expect the conclusion to follow, when the identity of the two meanings is precisely what is in dispute. To give a slightly silly analogy:
    P1: If a mouse is plugged into my laptop it can be used to move the pointer.
    P2: There is a mouse in the corner.
    Conclusion: If I take the mouse in the corner and plug it into my laptop, it can move the pointer.
    This argument is valid if the “mouse” in both premises is a computer input device. If, however, the “mouse” in premise 2 is a furry rodent, the conclusion will be false.
    Since the dispute is about whether or not a Christian elder offers sacrifices, building an argument around the fact that a celebrant is a “priest” (in the sense of Christian elder) cannot lead us anywhere toward the conclusion that the celebrant is a “priest” (in the sense of one who presides over a sacrifice) unless we beg the question and assume our conclusion that the same individual is a “priest” in both senses of the term.

  2. Pingback: on Christian Priesthood | Leorningcnihtes boc

  3. Pingback: Do this in remembrance of me | Leorningcnihtes boc

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