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The Word is Flesh and Blood: The Eucharist …

27 March, 2012

The Word is Flesh and Blood follows the movement of the Mass – assembly, word, Eucharist and mission – , exploring the biblical sources and inspiration of this great sacramental action. It alerts us to the deep symbolism of what we take part in and through it how we can be transformed into a real sacrifice of praise both through the liturgical action and in our life. The articles are scholarly. The contributors are experts in the fields of scripture studies, liturgy, history and music. It makes suitable reading in preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress from 12 to 17th June 2012.

Vivian Boland OP is a Dominican since 1971 and studied at Tallaght, Edinburgh and Rome. His publications include: Ideas in God (Brill 1996) and St Thomas Aquinas (Continuum Library of Educational Thought 2007). He is currently an assistant to the Master of the Dominicans based at Santa Sabina, Rome.

Thomas McCarthy OP is currently editor of Religious Life Review. He studied under Wilfrid in Tallaght in the 1970s and after studies in the Augustianum in Rome taught patristic and dogmatic theology in Tallaght. He has been Secretary General of the Order and for twenty years has been an international television commentator on major papal ceremonies.


Wilfrid J. Harrington, Scholar and Friend – Michael Glazier

I The Bible and the Eucharist – Thomas McCarthy OP

II Why do Christians Read the Old Testament? – Thomas Brodie OP
III The Psalms in Translation – Mark A. O’Brien OP
IV When in our Music God is Glorified – Margaret Daly-Denton
V New Testament Letters: Why Read them Still? – Francis J. Moloney SDB
VI The Gospels and the Eucharist – Donald Senior CP
VII God’s Priestly People: Preaching as Sacrifice – Jerome Murphy-O’Connor OP
VIII Creeds in Scripture and in Liturgy – Liam G. Walsh OP

IX The Prayers of the Liturgy – Thomas O’Loughlin
X Invoking the Holy Spirit and Remembering the Paschal Mystery  – Daniel J. Harrington SJ
XI The Glory of the Lord – Sean Freyne
XII The Lord’s Prayer – Leonard Doohan
XIII Communion in the Supper of the Lamb – Séamus Tuohy OP

XIV Ministry and Mission – Helen Doohan
XV The Presence of God – Céline Mangan OP

Bibliography of Wilfrid Harrington

208pp. Dominican Publications. To purchase this book online go to www.dominicanpublications.com



WILFRID J. HARRINGTON OP is a man of deep convictions, one who is studious yet wears his learning lightly; a man of many friendships, some spanning many decades; a scholar who is aware that the Bible poses numerous and unending challenges; and he has spent his life exploring its message and untangling its complexity. A group of scholars have written this book to honour his achievements; but it is not a Festschrift that marks the end of a career. Far from it: other books are in the pipeline — to add to more than fifty already published. Nor has Wilfrid any intention of ending his teaching assignments in Dublin and in America.

In the late 1950s, Wilfrid began to publish articles on Scripture, encouraged, as he likes to recall, by one of his students, a fellow Corkman called Jerome Murphy-O’Connor. In 1963 Wilfrid’s writing career started in earnest, in Manhattan, when someone sent me a batch of pamphlets written by him on the four gospels. I thought they should appear as a book but the problem was to interest a suitable publisher. I called a very serious and studious editor and he promised to read the pamphlets. A few weeks later he called and suggested that we meet at The Brittany on the west side of New York City. This was a restaurant known for its rural French cuisine, and seasoned drinkers swore that its ‘Southern Comfort Manhattan’ was the best in the city. The serious editor and I had a couple of drinks and I futilely suggested that we order dinner and told him that wise men had sworn that the ‘Southern Comfort Manhattan’ was the enemy of tomorrow. Early the following morning I got a tired and dour call from the editor stating, very bluntly, that all agreements made at The Brittany were null and void. He forgot that the possible book was never discussed.

Later that day, when his health was much improved, he called again and almost cheerfully told me he would gladly publish the Harrington book and it would bear the title Explaining the Gospels.

Wilfrid Harrington’s first book was on its way in America and it was a great success, which encouraged him to accept an invitation from Priory Press to write a commentary for the Bible. Record of Revelation was published in three volumes in 1963. The trilogy was translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish and Croatian. When Priory Press went out of business, Alba House published another hardback edition, but it became obvious that it should be published in paperback to reach a wide student market. Alba House negotiated with Doubleday’s prestige Image Books series which issued a paper book edition with a new title, Key to the Bible, and it had a great academic reception. Wilfrid Harrington became known as an author who understood the mind and needs of students. In 1978, when Bible study groups were proliferating, his New Guide to Reading and Studying the Bible was used by groups all over North America.

Wilfrid is a liturgical man and is keenly interested in the scriptural readings in the liturgy. He wrote two three-volume studies on the liturgical readings: The Gracious Word and The Saving Word; and he also published studies of the four Evangelists: Mark, Realistic Theologian; Matthew, Sage Theologian; Luke, Gracious Theologian; and John, Spiritual Theologian. A glance at the bibliography at the end of this book helps one appreciate the wide variety and scope of his biblical writing.

After her coronation in 1558 Queen Elizabeth I, anxious to convert the Gaelic-speaking Irish from Catholicism to Protestantism, decreed that the New Testament should be translated into Gaelic and contributed a printing press and type fonts to print the book. She evidently did not appreciate the difficulty of a task that was only completed in 1603, the year of her death. In the following centuries Protestant scholars translated the New Testament, and, less often, the entire Bible into Gaelic (Irish). In 1981 the complete Bible was published in this language by Maynooth University: Wilfrid Harrington (Wilfrid Ó hUrdail) was among the scholars who contributed to An Biobla Naofa.

Recently an administrator in St Michael’s College in Vermont was asked how long Wilfrid Harrington had taught in the college’s summer school. He paused, and then opined, ‘Harrington is like the library. He seems to be around forever’. Actually it was Paul Couture SSE, the director of the summer school at St Michaels’s College run by the Edmundites, who in 1964 invited Wilfrid to teach the New Testament courses. Every year since then he has been invited back, and he was recently told to keep coming back ‘until his summers run out’. He makes a point of knowing every pupil in his class, and it is safe to guess that, over the years, Wilfrid never gave a failing grade to any pupil. After finishing at St Michael’s, Wilfrid used to give a retreat to a community of enclosed nuns (during the retreats he wrote Come, Lord Jesus: a Biblical Retreat) and then he used to visit us to take it easy after a working summer.

One evening he mentioned how grateful he was for the stipend that the enclosed nuns gave him. I jokingly said that the good nuns were breaking all the minimum wage laws and suggested that he do a little work in my publishing company: and since then Wilfrid has been a regular visitor before he sets off for St Michael’s each year. Joan, my wife, says he is the ideal guest. He rises every morning before 5:30, fixes his breakfast and sets out on a very long walk past the groves and lakes which beautify the small town (pop. 1,200) noted for its great book shops, good bars, art stores and genial people.

One afternoon in 1978 he surprised me by asking why my company did not publish Catholic books. I told him that the company was set up to publish legal history and congressional studies in series rather than individual books. He suggested that I should consider publishing a multi-volume commentary on the New Testament with the title New Testament Message and said he would co-edit the series if I found an American biblical scholar who would co-edit with him. A few weeks later I was in New York and I decided to ask Raymond Brown SS to see me. He valued his time and rationed it sparingly. He told me to meet him at 9 am for a brief meting at Union Theological Seminary. I told him I intended to publish a new New Testament commentary. He said he thought it was an opportune idea, and said that Donald Senior CP, whom he greatly respected, would make the ideal American co-editor. Harrington and Senior worked wonderfully and constructively together as editors, and their project was published in record time.

Wilfrid Harrington believes that America has become the centre of Catholic biblical research, and many of the scholars who write in this volume have contributed significantly to making it and keeping it so. But the list of contributors to this volume shows that biblical studies are alive and well in other parts of the world, not least in Ireland, in Australia, and among Wilfrid’s Dominican brothers and sisters. This book is a fitting tribute to Wilfrid Harrington, honouring him and his remarkable contributions (thus far!) to biblical scholarship, pastoral liturgy and the preaching of the Gospel. The chapters follow the order of the Mass, using the Bible to illustrate aspects of the liturgy and turning to the liturgy to highlight biblical themes. It will be of interest therefore far beyond the academic community and should prove very useful for the Church at large. In this it carries on the biblical and liturgical apostolate that has been Wilfrid’s life’s work.


Let us run with perseverance the race set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
– cf Hebrews 12:1f

The ‘race’ proposed to those who first listened to this early Christian homily is the very same course pursued by disciples today. We may say it is a relay race, in the course of which a baton composed of tradition and scripture is passed from one participant to the next, intact – perhaps even enhanced. It is a lengthy stretch: enduring not only beyond the lifespan of any disciple but as long as the range of the New Covenant, from Last Supper to Last Day.

As Luke reaches the deadly and life-giving climax of his Gospel, he reports Jesus’ words, and the Eucharistic community has remembered them ever since: ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’ (Lk 22:20). Remembering these poignant words – spoken the night the Lord was betrayed by an apostle – the Church remains loyal to an instruction issued on the same occasion: ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk 22:19). (Gregory Dix wonders, ‘Was ever another command so obeyed’? (1) Fidelity to that directive, found also in other early Christian texts besides the New Testament, involves taking and consecrating a loaf of bread and a cup of wine, recognizing them as the Lord’s body and blood, the sacrificial ‘ink’ that signed the New Covenant.

Setting the scene for this book, I will reflect on the links that bind Bible and Eucharist, before noting how the essays between these covers examine central features of this unbreakable bond.

As a risen Zion can welcome her children home in this prophetic text, so the risen Christ can summon his disciples to ‘Come and have breakfast!’ (Jn 21:12). A notable participant in the early development of Christian life speaks of ‘all who live in cities or in the country gather[ing] in one place … on the day called Sunday’ (2). Justin’s witness is to a pattern that had become, and was to remain, characteristic of Christian practice. Once they gather, the disciples recall the teaching of Jesus and his meaning. They actually participate in his life-giving sacrifice by means of the sacrament. And they come to realize how central, for acquiring a sense of their own new and redeemed life, is a recognition of Jesus’ dedication to the welfare of all men and women. It is in fact the risen Lord who celebrates and is the true ‘sense’ of the Eucharistic assembly.

Once the disciples are assembled, the reality of wrongdoing is acknowledged. Gratitude for the Lord’s mercy is expressed, together with the Church’s awareness of standing constantly in need of it. What is noteworthy is that many biblical texts deal also with the aftermath of sin, indeed its defeat in Christ’s life and death — leading to lives that are renewed and potentially rebuilt. New Testament texts tell of death’s final destruction — the emergence, that is, of a life to outstrip what is mortal. Trepidation in hearts aware of sin is overcome now by the mercy of Christ (‘take heart, your sins are forgiven’ — Mt 9:2), inspiring confidence to sing glory to God and express heartfelt desires and prayers, collectively, in the Spirit of Jesus who, when leaving Jericho, called a man over and asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Mk 10:51).

When disciples are gathered ‘the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read’ (3). In biblical texts, from Old Testament and New, stories are told that belong to the ‘family histories’ of Israel and of Jesus’ circle of disciples. We find many inspiring pages, but also tales of angry bloodletting and tearful lamentation, accounts of very public sin and of wrongdoing within the closer family circle. Today, as in early Christian times, the assembled local church listens to the inspired biblical word. Prophetic and apostolic pages are heard again, and understood in the light of Jesus’ life and death. Worshippers express their response to this word, in psalm or canticle; then the teaching of Jesus is reiterated in gospel reading and commented upon in homiletic exhortation. Listening to New Testament texts, participants at the Eucharist eavesdrop on the excited atmosphere of discussions held among early Christians. But more than eavesdrop: those who attend to this word belong fundamentally to the very same community of faith that produced Acts, for instance, or Galatians or Matthew!

The homily seeks to turn eavesdropping on early disciples’ attempts to understand Jesus’ purpose into an exhortation to pilgrims to persevere along the pilgrim path (cf Heb 12:1f, quoted earlier). The homily can enable worshippers to receive afresh the Spirit who inspired the texts just heard. Gerhard Ebeling said the preacher’s task here involves ‘letting the text become God’s word again’ (4). After the sermon, worshippers strengthen their faith in communal profession of belief, and are further unified as they list the intentions of prayer present in their hearts and minds as they come to church, as well as those emerging in the Eucharistic context of biblical reading and commentary.

Disciples are aware of the Lord’s promise that ‘the one who eats this bread will live forever’ (Jo 6:58). The Saviour who said this is he who later opened the eyes of disciples on the road to Emmaus, explaining what was found in biblical scrolls. They would have known these texts, though they were as yet unaware of their immediate relevance. And although evening had drawn in and the disciples pressed the man they met on the road to stay overnight rather than remain on the road at that late hour, these very disciples are the ones who cannot now hesitate. Once it dawns on them just who this stranger is, they get up immediately and return to Jerusalem (cf Lk 24:33). They move toward another assembly, where the Eleven are gathered; the opening of their mind’s eye in the breaking of bread leads immediately to their sensing a task ahead, a mission, as they await the fruit of the new vine in the ‘kingdom’, to be drunk by Christ himself and by those with him (cf Mt 26:29).

The definitive triumph of Jesus over sin is, in disciples’ minds, fundamental to survival and flourishing. It was the Word of God made flesh who ‘led captivity captive’ (cf Eph 4:8; Ps 68:18), enabling his brothers and sisters to find the freedom of redemption, liberated now from the crippling imprisonment that was due to mismanagement of their inherent freedom. The Lord died, and this is central to the purpose of the liturgy; but the Word of God is also, and crucially, described as being ‘alive and active’ (Heb 4:12): the sacrifice of Calvary was not in vain.

The Bible recounts tales of exultant joy and acclamation for the Lord, but it also contains pages of darkness and of desolation in the human heart. The Liturgy of the Eucharist unifies contrasting themes: it stresses that both the ‘Hosanna’ acclamation as Jesus enters Jerusalem and the shouts of rejection/ exclusion from the city apply to the very same person, for ‘they have crucified the Lord of glory’ (1 Cor 2:8). Those who gather in memory of Christ are called to offer themselves as a living sacrifice too, one that is ‘holy and acceptable’; their minds are ‘graced’ in this sacrament so they can dare to go consciously where the obedient Christ went.

In the transformation — firstly of bread and wine, and consequently of all who partake of the sacrament — the Spirit of God is ever-present. Described in Genesis as being active at the very start, the Spirit is there too in the re-creation of the world by means of Christ’s Passion. The Spirit who inspired biblical authors is the same who stirs believers, on hearing that sacred word, to live by it. After all, the biblical page has been opened for all disciples as it had once been ‘unveiled’ on the road to Emmaus. Furthermore, this Spirit motivates disciples’ fidelity to Jesus and, in a sacramental moment, enables Communion with him that is truly profound. The Spirit sends them out then, enthusiastic to nourish others with fruit provided them in the sacrament.

The liturgy, during which disciples are nourished first in Word and then in Flesh and Blood, is not an ‘award-giving’ banquet (or ‘celebratory’ in that sense); rather, it represents food for a journey as yet incomplete. This repast is repeatedly required by pilgrim athletes as they press on. Nor, while the history of salvation continues to unfold, can the biblical scroll ever be folded up and shelved. Its meaning has still to be further disclosed in the course of a pilgrim race as yet unfinished. It must be said also that for some the scroll has not even begun to be unfolded: multitudes of people have not as yet heard the good news.

The assembly of worshippers has sung, we may say, in unison; they have professed a united faith and received the One Bread and One Cup. This unity is a bond that links them also as they move out, going in all directions. Christ it is who binds them as one, wherever they may wander: ‘get up and walk’ (cf Jn 5:8) is an invitation addressed also to those disciples who have spent Mass-time in prayerful memorial of the Lord’s Passion. The ‘sending out’ of the congregation comes with a reminder of the task ahead, to tell others what they have heard, tasted and believed. Disciples whose lives are enhanced by this sacred food can go and share its benefit with people who have never tasted the goodness of the Lord — and with some others who once walked closely in step with the Church but who have recently, for whatever reason, taken their distance. The Spirit will enable disciples to speak also to those who find it impossible to (re)join a worshipping community that has at some levels yet to appreciate how valid it is to speak of the Church as ‘semper reformanda’.

As Matthew notes when he recounts the feeding of a multitude (15:32-39), the disciples were aware of the hungry crowd while being conscious also of the scarcity of food immediately available. Yet, in the Church’s celebration of Jesus, as in the gospel text, nobody who participates need leave the gathering undernourished. ‘I do not want to send them away hungry’, says Jesus (v.32). The word of Scripture, its proclamation, its explanation and the prayer it inspires, this is food for heart and mind. Eucharistic participation in the Lord’s body and blood is a viaticum to sustain those who resume their missionary path after Mass. The Lord invited those who hunger to come to him: none of those who have been in Christ’s presence ought to remain undernourished as they pursue the path their life is taking. Those fed at the Lord’s Table are the ones called to go to the byways and invite further guests, so they too may belong. The good news must also reach those who today feel unforgiven and thus radically undernourished.

Nor is it without significance that Jesus’ invitation in the last chapter of John, already quoted, called the disciples to ‘come and have breakfast’. For when the service of worship is complete, a long day still lies ahead, time when these disciples are expected to do as instructed: ‘tell … what you have seen and heard’ (cf Lk 7:22).

Without the Spirit’s presence, the doors of places where disciples gather remain firmly shut (cf Jn 20:19ff). But when the Spirit comes upon the assembly (by means of a proclamation of the inspired word and a transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the ‘beloved Son’), the Eleven and all disciples ever since can open the ears of heart and mind and ‘Listen to him’ (cf Mk 9:7).

This essay forms the first part of an examination of links between Scripture and Eucharist. What follows now is an attempt to provide a brief introduction to the study of different stages of the Eucharistic celebration, treated in order. This will include an examination of the biblical background of the liturgy’s major moments.

Gathering for worship, instruction and fellowship has been a constant feature of Christian practice. The Chosen People had traditionally come before the Lord too, and for specific occasions the assembly was in the Temple. The Eucharist is a congregation of a family united with Christ — it is gathered indeed by Christ himself — and thus can strengthen bonds of loyalty and love. The gathering itself is a kind of entrance antiphon: a common purpose is expressed by pilgrims who have assembled to refresh their memory of what Christ did, to come again into an intimate Communion with him and then move on, a Spirit-inspired fresh vigour in their step.

When the family story is told in biblical word and elaborated in homiletic commentary, and when they ‘eat this bread and drink this cup’, the disciples enter into sacramental communion with the Lord they commemorate. In this manner the Body of Christ’s disciples, a metabolism whose heartbeat is found in the union of the Lord’s sisters and brothers, is strengthened further in prayerful worship and in a conscious sense of corporate mission.

The Liturgy of the Word forges a chain to link the next seven chapters of this book, as our authors consider aspects of that part of Eucharist when the Word of God gathers us to hear the message again and gain fresh insight into how best it can be put into practice. Tom Brodie, in Chapter Two, notes the importance of seeing the Old and New Testaments as parts of one story: each part of the biblical story illuminates the other. Brodie highlights some features of the Old Testament without which, he notes, ‘Christianity cannot flourish’ (p 31). The first reading at Mass may come from either part of this story, but the Response (sung, ideally) is generally taken from the Book of Psalms. Mark O’Brien examines the place of the psalms in prayer. His essay (Chapter Three) does not shy away from difficulties posed by texts of psalms, including the question of lament, the issue of cursing, and the constant and often vexatious problems involving translation of these poems. O’Brien is certain the psalms provide opportunity and challenge for the translator, and he provides a range of examples.

Consideration of the psalms leads to a general examination of the question of music in the Eucharistic act of worship. Margaret Daly-Denton recounts how Jewish writings in the aftermath of the Temple’s destruction in 70 CE frequently insist that ‘to pray the psalms that formerly accompanied the sacrifices is as good — and even better — than offering sacrifices’. Our author notes, in this chapter, how rabbis taught that, since the absence of psalm singing would have invalidated a sacrifice, the real sacrifice was actually the prayer. Daly-Denton notes that in Greek and Roman philosophical works there are frequent instances where they question the whole idea of animal sacrifice, as a preamble to praising the practice of ‘rational sacrifice’, an inner worship by the human spirit. Jews, she notes, generally ‘valued the singing of praise as a testimony to their devotion and gratitude’ to God. Now, in our Eucharistic context, we know the congregation of worshippers yearn to become ‘one body, one spirit, in Christ’: the practice of singing psalms and hymns enables the community ‘to sing and make melody to the Lord’ (cf Eph 5:19; Ps 27:6).

The biblical reading heard just before the gospel is proclaimed can often come from Letters of St Paul or his circle — though other New Testament texts are used not infrequently, Revelation, say, or the ‘Letter’ to the Hebrews. It is worth reflecting, with Francis Moloney in Chapter Five, that some aspects of the mystery of Christ are found, among NT texts, only in the Pauline Letters. Thus, apart from the gospels, there are many ‘summaries’ of the mystery and significance of who Christ is, found in the Pauline texts; and this material provided valuable vocabulary for early Christian statements of faith. Paul’s writings, as Moloney points out, insist that ‘the sinful condition established by the sin of Adam has not disappeared’, but also that ‘grace and freedom’ have been established in the new creation ‘made possible in Jesus Christ’. This mystery of Christ is carried forward in the gospels too, and Donald Senior examines the role of these evangelical texts in the Eucharistic celebration. The fascinating three-stage formation process that led to the final redaction of the gospels is rehearsed again here (in Chapter Six), principally to point to the crucial part played by the Eucharistic gathering itself in the final editing of these texts. As some of that earliest group of witnesses to Jesus’ life and teaching had now died, the stories being handed down and shared needed, in Luke’s phrase, to be formed into ‘an orderly account’ (1:1-4). These sayings of Jesus and accounts of his deeds were told, proclaimed, and even gained their definitive written form, in the context and environment of Eucharistic celebration. There could be no clearer or more inspiring evidence than this of the link between the text of the gospel proclaimed and the homiletic reflection that follows it.

Preaching follows the gospel, and on this basis Jerome Murphy-O’Connor entitles his essay (Chapter Seven) God’s Priestly People: Preaching as Sacrifice. St Paul admired especially Jesus’ total dedication to his ministry: his life was a living sacrifice. The Apostle of the Gentiles considered the temple to be the place where God lived, and thus can speak to the disciples and say ‘you are God’s temple because God’s spirit dwells in you’ (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). Murphy-O’Connor notes that since the ‘fundamental activity of the temple… was sacrifice’, it makes sense that Paul considered ‘all aspects of the life of the Christian community in terms of sacrifice’. In a striking consideration of two Pauline verses (Romans 15:15f), he links word and sacrifice. The preaching of the word in homiletic reflection on the biblical passages that have been proclaimed is seen in sacrificial terms, as is the offering of one’s life (‘a living sacrifice’), in imitation of Christ’s complete dedication. Murphy-O’Connor notes also that we have evidence that the disciples in Corinth were fully aware of the (monetary) collection taken up — and the importance attached to it by Paul. It is a feature worshippers in all ages have been fully aware of. Although evidence of his practice is found in Paul — as Murphy-O’Connor mentions — and also in Justin, it is not a theme dealt with explicitly in our book. But when it comes to the collection, as Murphy-O’Connor notes, sacrifice is plainly to the forefront, whatever the cause and purpose of the collection.

Liam Walsh deals then in our eighth chapter with the Creed. Examining the development of statements/ summaries of faith from the Old and New Testaments and then further into the early history of the Church, Walsh sees these creeds as, basically, statements of interpersonal relating in liturgical and doctrinal contexts, and he develops this reflection to take in the complex history of their development and use. Whether the context was immediately liturgical or (also) doctrinal, ‘there was a need to get it right, to tell the truth about Jesus, about the God who is his Father, about the Spirit who is present and given in the interaction of Father and Son’. Walsh mentions a classical confession of faith among God’s people (cf Deut 26:1-11), for it has some notable parallels in what takes place at the Eucharist. Once settled in the land given them by the Lord, the people of Israel are required to take ‘some of the first of all the fruit of the ground’, put it in a basket and present it in the place the Lord has chosen, acknowledging that they have come into the land the Lord had sworn would be theirs. The priest sets the basket of fruit down before the altar, and the one making the presentation pronounces a statement of faith, starting with an acknowledgement of family history (‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…’). The worshipper recalls aloud some key moments of the people’s story – told as family history. In the Church’s Eucharistic assembly, the profession of faith leads presently to the bearing to the altar of the fruit of the earth and of human work: these will become not only symbols of the fruitfulness of land and labour and of people’s gratitude for life but will be revealed as the body and blood of the Saviour, without whose presence the sacrament cannot be celebrated, tasted, believed.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is dealt with in the five chapters of Part III. This is the part of the Liturgy where the invitation issued by the Lamb of God to come to his Supper is heard again; and all who come are nourished. Thomas O’Loughlin examines the very structure of Christian prayer. There are Christological and Trinitarian prayers in our Missal, and other prayers of thankfulness. All of these are embedded in prayers recited during the Mass, in the first place in the Eucharistic prayer but also in the Collects and in the Prayer of the Faithful. This consideration of prayer in its many Eucharistic forms (Chapter Nine) may be considered a link between this book’s examination of the Liturgy of the Word and the section beginning here, relating to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The memory is recounted of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and in this context bread and wine are brought forward: the assembly prays that the Spirit will come upon them as the worshippers unite with Jesus in recalling the life-long prayer that was the Saviour’s dedication ‘unto death, death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). Daniel Harrington devotes Chapter Ten to aspects of Pneumatology: the Spirit in creation and in the remembrance of the Paschal mystery. Harrington examines epiclesis and anamnesis in the Bible and how vital this background is for understanding these terms in the Eucharistic context. Shortly after the Liturgy of the Eucharist has begun, there is the festive ‘Holy, Holy!’ acclamation. The very remembering of the Paschal Mystery makes present the hour of Christ’s Glory.

Seán Freyne deals with this theme of Glory in the Old and New Testaments, recalling that the notion had a liturgical sense right from the start of its biblical treatment. ‘The pre-eminence of the term glory (kabod) among the Hebrew epithets for God has given rise to the notion of the doxology as a central dimension of human recognition of the divine.’ Freyne notes (in Chapter Eleven) how persuasively Hurtado argues ‘that it was in the context of Christian worship that the first followers of Jesus began to ascribe divine status to him’. The Eucharistic Prayer concludes with an acclamation of assent, Amen, and the assembly then says or sings, together, the Lord’s Prayer.

A meditative reading of texts from Matthew, Luke and the Didache is presented in Chapter Twelve by Leonard Doohan. In a sense, the Lord’s Prayer is similar to a Creed in that it outlines, albeit in a text addressed to God, ‘a summary of the key teachings that Jesus gave during his ministry’. These teachings, Doohan points out, ‘give us a picture of authentic discipleship’. The reality of this unity among disciples is the perfect moment for the Holy Communion that is about to take place.

Seamus Tuohy then presents a striking reflection in Chapter Thirteen on the eschatological aspect of the Eucharist, linking Scriptural and Eucharistic features by means of the biblical-liturgical mention of an invitation to ‘the Supper of the Lamb’ (Rev 19:9). Worshippers partake of this supper, yet still await its definitive revelation. Disciples formed ‘in the patience of God’ can bear the impatience that attends expectation. As early as the Didache, prayer at the end of the Eucharist included a final plea for another assembly:

Gather her [the Church] from the four winds, separated into your Kingdom which you have made for her, because You have the power and glory for ever (XIV).

This ‘already but not yet’ aspect of this Supper involves the acknowledgement, just before Communion, of the unworthiness of those about to take it, to eat and drink. Any idolatry that might, in Tuohy’s words, be ‘inherent in arrogant self-sufficiency’, is destroyed in the redemptive suffering of a humble servant. ‘God’s Messiah’, Tuohy notes, ‘conquers not as a devouring lion, but as a slaughtered lamb’. The triumph of the sacrificial victim has taken away the sins of the world. As the disciples celebrate and give thanks for a life that is renewed and redeemed, they ‘come and take the flesh of Christ’.

A disciple will need strength and courage in order to go forth confidently as a witness to what the Lord has done. In the closing rites of the Eucharistic liturgy, Christ reminds the assembled disciples (just nourished) that a task lies ahead. In the final section of this study, aspects of the life of disciples are examined: what their mission is once they are sent forth at the end of the liturgical assembly. Helen Doohan (Chapter Fourteen) sees St Paul as the archetypal apostle and missionary, and for us as for him the commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice leads to being sent out, fortified by the nourishment of Word and Sacrament. In the dismissal of the worshippers, I hear also an echo of Moses’ own report of the Lord’s own words to the people: ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Resume your journey, and go to the hill country…’ (Deut 1:6f).

Chapter Fifteen concludes our collection: Céline Mangan reflects on the presence of God, in every place, independently of any liturgical action. ‘Nature is a temple’, said Charles John Vaughan, quoted here by Mangan. The presence (of God) is no longer bound by Temple wall or precinct, but is also to be soughtand located in all places the disciples go with the message they have learned and shared in the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is recalled that in Israel’s ancient history, the exiles experienced ‘a new and more profound understanding of God whose presence was not just to be experienced by them alone but by all peoples’ (cf Isa 56:6-8). In the era during which Jesus lived, Mangan notes, Qumran covenanters took themselves off in protest, ‘to await a new in-break of God’s presence in a new Temple’. The Fourth Gospel (2:13-22, for instance) gives the clear impression that Jesus himself critiqued the Temple and its practices. He had come to inaugurate a new Temple, the Temple of his body, offered once and for all in the obedience of his utter dedication unto death (cf Heb 10:10; Jn 2:19-21). Let Mangan have the final word here: ‘… in trying to turn humankind back to a realization of the presence of God, Jesus had to experience in his own flesh the pain of that turning’. It is the pain of this New Covenant’s inauguration, the dedication it involved, dedication that was to culminate in sacrifice, this is what is commemorated and gratefully celebrated in the Eucharist.

This book seeks to treasure both biblical word and Eucharistic worship, researching so much that links them. But why now, and why in this manner? The answer is called Wilfrid Harrington.

The papers between these covers honour a participant in the pilgrimage we have spoken of. Wilfrid has constantly treasured the Sacred Scriptures of Old and New Covenants, and sought their meaning and purpose. In addition, he comes daily before the Lord, giving thanks for the nourishment of Word and Communion. But there is more. For Wilfrid is a runner in this pilgrim track who sees as his mission to instruct fellow disciples to love the Sacred Scriptures, and to nourish and encourage many who are not yet disciples or, for some reason, no longer run the race with the conviction of their younger days. The example of Wilfrid’s transparent joy has meant for many disciples an injection of fresh hope: these then carry the treasure of word and sacrament further and share it with a wider circle.

His colleagues honour Wilfrid Harrington in this Festschrift, and record how much they value this colleague who has read the Word and spoken what he has learned. If there were a ‘response’ to each chapter that follows, perhaps it might be Ad multos annos!


1. The Shape of the Liturgy, Westminster, Dacre, 1945, 744. 15
2. Justin, First Apology, 67. Cf Didache, IX, X & XIV.
3. Justin, loc. cit.
4. G. Ebeling, Word and Faith, Philadelphia, Fortress, 1963, 329.

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