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SIDIC Periodical XXVI - 1993/1
The Meaning of Blessing in the Jewish and Christian Traditions (Pages 19 - 20)

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Eucharist and Blessing
Max Thurian

 

The relationship between the Eucharist and the Jewish Blessing is complex as Louis Bouyer has shown in his well-known book Eucharist (Notre Dame, Indiana, 1968). Only a few important aspects are developed in the passage of Max Thurian's book which is quoted here. Although certain common points are indicated it is the Christian distinctiveness that is emphasized.

It is in the spirit of a blessing for the wonders of God and a sacrifice of praise, that Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist during the Passover meal. The Church has always understood it in this way, for the oldest liturgies place at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer a solemn blessing for the wonders of creation and of redemption, which testifies that the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving:

"Truly it is right and good to give you thanks to offer you our thanksgiving at all times and in all places, most Holy Father, Almighty and everlasting God, Creator of all things, Master of time and of history..."

The fourth eucharistic prayer of the current Roman Missal is one of the clearest examples of this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. But all the Churches begin their eucharistic prayer in the style of the benediction (berakah) and of the sacrifice of praise (todah).

The eucharist is also supplication and intercession, based on the recall of the sacrifice of Christ. It is because Jesus gave himself to the Father and to us in the sacrifice of the cross, it is because he intercedes for us before the Father, that we, strengthened by this sacrifice and by this interecession, are able to offer the Church's Eucharistic prayer as our supplication and our intercession. It is what the Bible calls the memorial: the recall before God of what he has already done for his people, so that he may grant us today all the benefits they confer. The memorial is the making actual of God's work, and it is at the same time the recall in prayer to the Father of what he has done, that he may pursue his work today.

The paschal meal is the supreme memorial, in which the people of God make the historical deliverance actual, in a liturgy, and remind God of what he once did, so that he may continue it today:
"Our God and God of our fathers", says the Jewish Paschal prayer, "let it rise... the memorial of ourselves, the memorial of our fathers, the memorial of the Messiash... Remember us..." How many liturgical acts of the Old Testament are called in this way "memorial" because they are a symbolic way of saying to God: "Remember us because of your faithfulness, manifested of old by the deliverance from slavery and by the covenant with your people!"

And so, when Christ said at the Last Supper, in the course of the paschal meal, the words, so rich in significance for Jews, "Do this as a memorial of me", the apostles understood very clearly that Jesus was asking them to celebrate the Eucharist in the manner of a sacrifice of supplication and of intercession, to present to the Father the memorial of the sacrifice of the cross as a prayer full of promises for all people. And so it is that a great exegete could translate the words of Christ at the Last Supper "Do this so that the Father remembers me". (J. Jeremias). To take up the wording of the Jewish Passover liturgy, this annotation on the words of Jesus could be made: "Our Lord and God of our fathers, let the memorial of the Messiah, the son of your servant David, the memorial of his sacrifice, rise before your face... Remember us!"

The Jewish Passover liturgy, in the course of which Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, gives us to understand that the Eucharist is a blessing for the marvels of God, a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, a memorial, that is to say an actualisation of the passion, the resurrection and the intercession of Christ, a memorial lifted up before the Father as the offering of the prayer of the Church, reminding God of all the needs of men: "Remember Lord, your Church, and all for whom we present the sacrifice". As a very beautiful prayer of the Catholic liturgy expresses it: "Lord, look with favour on your Church's offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself".(Eucharistic Prayer III)



Max Thurian, a Catholic priest, is one of the founder members of the Ecumenical Community of Take. He is known for his theological and liturgical writings. The text quoted here is an extract from his book The Mystery of the Eucharist, an ecumenical approach, Mowbray, London, 1983, pp. 17-19.

 

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