The Shape of the History of the Eucharist

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Abstract

Many authors are hesitant to speak of the Eucharist in the pre-Nicene period and some modern scholarship has attempted to cast doubt on the traditional view that Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. This article examines contemporary liturgical studies on the early history of the Eucharist. In light of this it proposes that the traditional view is still the only possibility for an authentic Catholic theology and that liturgical history is, in fact, part of the discipline of Church history that cannot be confused with secular methods of the historical sciences. In this sense, the history of the Eucharist and its later developments must be studied in a manner that acknowledges Providence and the work of the Holy Spirit in the history of the Church. In particular the crystallization of the early “shape” of the liturgy must be understood to be a fundamental element of the divine institution of the Church and not merely a chance selection of one tradition of Eucharistic worship from many equally valid options.

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