Unity Faith and Order - Dialogues - Anglican Roman Catholic
Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine 1971
Anglican - Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission
- In the course of the Church's history several traditions have developed
in expressing christian understanding of the eucharist. (For example, various
names have become customary as descriptions of the eucharist: lord's supper,
liturgy, holy mysteries, synaxis, mass, holy communion. The eucharist has
become the most universally accepted term.) An important stage in progress
towards organic unity is a substantial consensus on the purpose and meaning
of the eucharist. Our intention has been to seek a deeper understanding
of the reality of the eucharist which is consonant with biblical teaching
and with the tradition of our common inheritance, and to express in this
document the consensus we have reached.
- Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God has reconciled
men to himself, and in Christ he offers unity to all mankind. By his word
God calls us into a new relationship with himself as our Father and with
one another as his children?a relationship inaugurated by baptism into
Christ through the Holy Spirit, nurtured and deepened through the eucharist,
and expressed in a confession of one faith and a common life of living
I. The Mystery of the Eucharist
- When his people are gathered at the eucharist to commemorate his saving
act for our redemption, Christ makes effective among us the eternal benefits
of this victory and elicits and renews our response of faith, thanksgiving
and self-surrender. Christ through the Holy Spirit in the eucharist builds
up the life of the church, strengthens its fellowship and furthers its
mission. The identity of the church as the body of Christ is both expressed
and effectively proclaimed by its being centred in, and partaking of, his
body and blood. In the whole action of the eucharist, and in and by his
sacramental presence given through bread and wine, the crucified and risen
Lord, according to his promise, offers himself to his people.
- In the eucharist we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Receiving
a foretaste of the kingdom to come, we look back with thanksgiving to what
Christ has done for us, we greet him present among us, we look forward
to his final appearing in the fullness of his kingdom when "The Son
also himself [shall] be subject unto him that put all things under him,
that God may be all in all" (1 Cor 15:28). When we gather around the
same table in this communal meal at the invitation of the same Lord and
when we "partake of the one loaf", we are one in commitment
not only to Christ and to one another, but also to the mission of the church
in the world.
II. The Eucharist and the Sacrifice of Christ
- Christ's redeeming death and resurrection took place once and for all
in history. Christ's death on the cross, the culmination of his whole life
of obedience, was the one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins
of the world. There can be no repetition of or addition to what was then
accomplished once for all by Christ.
Any attempt to express a nexus between the sacrifice of Christ and the
eucharist must not obscure this fundamental fact of the christian faith.
Yet God has given the eucharist to his church as a means through which
the atoning work of Christ on the cross is proclaimed and made effective
in the life of the church. The notion of memorial as understood in the
passover celebration at the time of Christ?i.e. the making effective in
the present of an event in the past?has opened the way to a clearer understanding
of the relationship between Christ's sacrifice and the eucharist. The eucharistic
memorial is no mere calling to mind of a past event or of its significance,
but the church's effectual proclamation of God's mighty acts. Christ instituted
the eucharist as a memorial (anamnesis) of the totality of God's reconciling
action in him. In the eucharistic prayer the church continues to make a
perpetual memorial of Christ's death, and his members, united with God
and one another, give thanks for all his mercies, entreat the benefits
of his passion on behalf of the whole church, participate in these benefits
and enter into the movement of his self-offering.
III. The Presence of Christ
- Communion with Christ in the eucharist presupposes his true presence,
effectually signified by the bread and wine which, in this mystery, become
his body and blood.
The real presence of his body and blood can, however, only be understood
within the context of the redemptive activity whereby he gives himself,
and in himself reconciliation, peace and life, to his own. On the one hand,
the eucharistic gift springs out of the paschal mystery of Christ's death
and resurrection, in which God's saving purpose has already been definitively
realised. On the other hand, its purpose is to transmit the life of the
crucified and risen Christ to his body, the church, so that its members
may be more fully united with Christ and with one another.
- Christ is present and active, in various ways, in the entire eucharistic
celebration. It is the same Lord who through the proclaimed word invites
his people to his table, who through his minister presides at that table,
and who gives himself sacramentally in the body and blood of his paschal
sacrifice. It is the Lord present at the right hand of the Father, and
therefore transcending the sacramental order, who thus offers to his church,
in the eucharistic signs, the special gift of himself.
- The sacramental body and blood of the Savior are present as an offering
to the believer awaiting his welcome. When this offering is met by faith,
a lifegiving encounter results. Through faith Christ's presence?which does
not depend on the individual's faith in order to be the Lord's real gift
of himself to his church?becomes no longer just a presence for the believer,
but also a presence with him.
Thus, in considering the mystery of the eucharistic presence, we must recognize
both the sacramental sign of Christ's presence and the personal relationship
between Christ and the faithful which arises from that presence.
- The Lord's words at the last supper, "Take and eat; this is my
body", do not allow us to dissociate the gift of the presence and
the act of sacramental eating. The elements are not mere signs; Christ's
body and blood become really present and are really given. But they are
really present and given in order that, receiving them, believers may be
united in communion with Christ the Lord.
- According to the traditional order of the liturgy the consecratory
prayer (anaphora) leads to the communion of the faithful. Through this
prayer of thanksgiving, a word of faith addressed to the Father, the bread
and wine become the body and blood of Christ by the action of the Holy
Spirit, so that in communion we eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood.
- The Lord who thus comes to his people in the power of the Holy Spirit
is the Lord of glory. In the eucharistic celebration we anticipate the
joys of the age to come. By the transforming action of the Spirit of God,
earthly bread and wine become the heavenly manna and the new wine, the
eschatological banquet for the new man: elements of the first creation
become pledges and first fruits of the new heaven and the new earth.
- We believe that we have reached substantial agreement on the doctrine
of the eucharist. Although we are all conditioned by the traditional ways
in which we have expressed and practiced our eucharistic faith, we are
convinced that if there are any remaining points of disagreement they can
be resolved on the principles here established. We acknowledge a variety
of theological approaches within both our communions. But we have seen
it as our task to find a way of advancing together beyond the doctrinal
disagreements of the past. It is our hope that in view of the agreement
which we have reached on eucharistic faith, this doctrine will no longer
constitute an obstacle to the unity we seek.
1. The early
church in expressing the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection often
used the language of sacrifice. For the Hebrew sacrifice was a traditional
means of communication with God. The passover, for example, was a communal
meal; the day of Atonement was essentially expiatory; and the covenant
established communion between God and man.
2. The word
transubstantiation is commonly used in the Roman Catholic Church to indicate
that God acting in the eucharist effects a change in the inner reality
of the elements. The term should be seen as affirming the fact of Christ's
presence and of the mysterious and radical change which takes place. In
contemporary Roman Catholic theology it is not understood as explaining
how the change takes place.