As presented in the New Testament, the Eucharist is a source of both inspiration and guidance today. In The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Father LaVerdiere examines what the New Testament tells us about the Eucharist and how the Eucharist provides an important experiential and theological resource for the gospel stories of Jesus' life, ministry, passion and resurrection, as well as for the life and development of the Church.
Father LaVerdiere illustrates how the origins of the Eucharist coincide with the origins of the Church. The development of the Eucharist reflects the development of the early Church, as well as its creative theological and pastoral reflection. Through the lens of the New Testament it views the beginnings of both Church and Eucharist when the risen Lord appeared to the disciples at meals soon after Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. He also looks beyond the New Testament and explores the ongoing development of Eucharistic theology and practice up to the mid-second century, ending with Justin Martyr, the first to describe the Eucharist to people who had no personal experience of it.
Father LaVerdiere focuses on the Eucharist in relation to ecclesiology, Christology, and liturgy. He begins by reflecting on how Christians referred to the Eucharist before it had a name, how names for the Eucharist came to be and their importance, how the Eucharist was celebrated at the very beginning, how liturgical formulas came to be, how these formulas brought out the riches of the Eucharist, and how the Eucharist related to different pastoral situations.
The concept of triunity, the assembly, the Eucharist, and the Church guides this study. The Eucharist is the sacrament of the assembly, the sacrament of the Church's life in the world. From the very beginning, there was no separating the three, nor are there separating references to the Eucharist from the letters, gospels, or other work in which the three appear. Here, Father LaVerdiere stresses that in order to know the Eucharist in the New Testament and the early Church, one has only to look at the composition and actual life of the Church. Thus, to know the Church, one has only to look at the way it celebrates the Eucharist.
Since most of today's challenges concerning the Eucharist are similar to those experienced by the early Church, The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church will be of great help to pastors, students, catechists and those in ministry, who want the celebration of the Eucharist to make a difference on the rest of Christian life in the Church.
Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS, is the senior editor of Emmanuel magazine and an adjunct professor of New Testament studies at Catholic Theological Union and Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. He is author of Fundamentalism: A Pastoral Concern, A Church for All Peoples: Missionary Issues in a World Church, and Luke from the New Testament Message series published by The Liturgical Press.