John Zizioulas ( The Eucharistic Communion and the World , 9) says that once the Eucharist is understood as an epicletic memorial, then there is no longer any question of “”renewing the Supper and the sacrifice ofChrist accomplished once for all.’” He suggests that “there is good reason tobelieve that these questions appeared precisely in a vision of history thatdid not have enough room for pneumatology.”

He suggests that there are “two ways of envisaging history. The first is “more or less Christo-monist”:

“history (including the historyof salvation and of the Church) develops progressively towards the end oftime. In this case, the mystery of the Eucharist is viewed from a moreor less Christo-monist perspective that tends to see everything thathappens in the Eucharist in light of Christs work as if it developedfrom this work. In this vision, it is not surprising that a particularmoment of the Supper would be considered as the source from which itdeveloped, for example, the words of institution, to the point of givingrise to suspicions of magic and to questions of the renewing of a pastact.”

The alternative views history within “the realm of pneumatological action”: “This does not mean that the history ofsalvation and the past work of Christ are not given their true value, butthat the value is always conditioned by the coming of the Spirit. Thereforeeverything that happens in the Eucharist can never be explainedcompletely by evolution and historical progress, but also, and at thesame time, the mystery of Christs presence in everything that he hasdone and will do for us depends totally and absolutely on the coming ofthe Holy Spirit. Here the words cannot produce the reality of theEucharist and the Word of God in general cannot be placed alongsidethe Spirit, but when it becomes an existential reality for the Churchit is subject to the action of the Holy Spirit.”

I’m not sure what Zizioulas means by placing the Word of God “alongside the Spirit,” but in general his argument is right on target. The Spirit is critical to Eucharistic theology.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart