Part 7 Conclusions

Chapter 78 Looking Back Over the Course

Preliminary Questions

Ten Important Things 1991

Ten Important Things 1992

Ten Important Things 1993

Ten Important Questions 1994

Important Advances 1995

Ten Important Things 2003

Professor's Exit Comments 2003

Exit Comments 2004

Concluding Essay 2005

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Before reading further, list for yourself the ten most important things that you have learned during this course. State each item as a declarative sentence.

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The Ten Most Important Things I Learned - 1991

Responses of the class, December 1991

Eucharist is the repeatable part of Baptism.
The Eucharistic Prayer is our principal statement of faith, our principal creed.
The Eucharistic Prayer is first and foremost a prayer for unity.
The Mass is a sacrifice because it is a meal.
The four parts of the Mass give us a structure for all the sacraments.
Christ is present in different modes: the assembly, the word, the sacrament, the world.
Mass is the model for communion to the sick.
The structure of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Real presence is a means to an end: unity.
Eucharist is a sacrament of reconciliation.

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The Ten Most Important Things I Learned - 1992

Responses of the class, December 1992

1. The outline of the Mass as presented in class (Gathering, Story Telling, Meal Sharing, and Commissioning) is simple enough for catechesis to non-Catholics and Catholics alike, without oversimplifying the mystery of the Church's action.

2. The theology of the Second Vatican Council has expanded the theology of Eucharist and of Real Presence beyond matter and form.

3.Eucharist forgives sin.

4.Eucharist is the model for the other sacraments.

5.The whole Eucharistic liturgy is consecratory.

6.There is more than one way to talk about Real Presence.

7.There is a method to the composition of Eucharistic Prayers. 

8.What is full and active participation in the Eucharist for one person can be very different for another. 

9.The Eucharistic Prayer is the prayer of Jesus to the Father.

10.Learning the parts of the eucharistic liturgy in detail is helpful in a very practical way.

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The Ten Most Important Things I Learned - 1993

Responses of the class, December 1993

1. Eucharist must be a balance of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.
2. The eucharistic prayer is about unity.
3. The Eucharist prayer expresses the central tenets of our faith.
4. Eucharist is the action of the assembly.
5. The eucharistic prayer is
ONE prayer.
6. Gathering, Story Telling, Meal Sharing, Commissioning.
7. The entire eucharistic prayer is consecratory.
8. The grace of the sacrament is communicated through the unfolding and the experience of the celebration itself.
9.Eucharist is the repeatable part of baptism.
10.The problematical nature of the split epiclesis.

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Ten Important Questions Regarding the Eucharist - 1994

Responses of the class, December 1994 to the question "What are the ten most important questions in the Church today regarding the Eucharist?"

1.  Is it necessary that the presider at Mass be a priest? (14 votes)

2.  How can we convey the sense of reconciliation which is inherent in the Eucharist? (13 votes)

3.  How does Eucharistic adoration fit with the celebration of the Mass? How often, if at all, should a parish have Benediction? (12 votes)

4.  How do we move from nostalgia (real or imagined) to reality in the celebration? (11 votes)

5.  If a person comes forward to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass and that person is not Catholic, what would be an appropriate response by the Presider? (11 votes)

6.  Where is Christ present during the Eucharistic celebration? In the people? In the elements? (11 votes)

7.  Is there a place for catechesis in the liturgy? (8 votes)

8.  How do we deal with children below the age of reason and their presence at Mass? (7 votes)

9.  Can those who are divorced and re-married take Communion? (7 votes)

10.  Should those who cannot take Communion come forward to receive a blessing instead of the Bread? (5 votes)

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Important Advances - 1995

At the end of the course, December 1995, we asked "What are the ten most important recent advances in Roman Catholic Eucharistic theology?"

1.  "Real Presence" is found in the sacred meal, in the word, in the assembled body of Christ, and the presider.

2.  Eucharist is the center and model of all the other Sacraments.

3.  Inculturation has come to be seen as necessary and essential. "Adaptation" is no longer a bad word.

4.  The Eucharist celebrates the whole Pascal event, not just Good Friday.

5.  "Do this in memory of me" is more than simply repeating Holy Thursday. It refers to living as Christ has lived and following Christ's example.

6.  The role of the priest has changed from "putting matter and form together" to "presiding at the eucharistic celebration."

7.  Eucharist is not just a noun, it's a verb.

8.  The Eucharistic prayer is prayer.

9.  Intercommunion is seen in a new light as we come to appreciate the traditions of others.

10.  Eucharist has come to be seen as the principle sacrament of Reconciliation.

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Ten Things that People Need to Know about the Eucharist (2003)

At the end of the 12:550 Eucharist, December 2003, each student was asked to post a list of the ten most important things they learned during this course.   The first five choices of each student posted on ANGEL were typed on pages hung on the classroom wall and the students voted on which ones they judged to be the most important things people today need to know about the Eucharist.  The ten statements with the most votes are listed below, in descending order of votes received.

1.  The Eucharist is the primary Sacrament of Reconciliation which makes present Jesus' forgiveness of sinners and his willingness and desire to forgive those who come to him.

2.  There is more than one way to talk about Real Presence as that Real Presence is found in the sacred meal, in the word, in the assembled body of Christ, and the presider.

3.  Eucharist must be a balance of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter because it celebrates the whole paschal event.

4.  The real presence of Christ in each member of the Body enables actions in charity as Christ taught.

5.  Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life.

6.  The sacrificial nature of the Mass found in the latest translation of GIRM focuses on the vertical relationship of the Church and God and not so much on the horizontal relationship of the Body of Christ subsisting in the Church.

7.  The Eucharist commits us to the poor.

8.  The communal participation in the berakah, anamnesis, epiclesis, and intercessions allows for the Church's mission and the ordered response to faith in Christ to be accomplished through a memorial of Christ's passion, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Tied for 9/10.  The entire Eucharistic Prayer is consecratory and  to treat a single part of it as the "moment" of consecration degrades the rest of the prayer.

9/10.  The Eucharist is both a sign and the reality of the unity of the People of God.

9/10.  The Eucharistic Prayer is our principal statement of Faith and belief.

9/10.  Eucharist is the sacrament of sacraments in that Jesus is not only really, truly, and actually present in the Eucharist, but all other sacraments flow from it.

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Professor's Exit Comments 2003

1.  I would like to thank you for your cooperation and charity during the semester.

2.  The first period when I spoke of my teaching method I said that "All learning is self activity."  I have tried to let you do the learning.  The deacon year is a transition time in learning method.  After ordination you will not be in the classroom listening to lectures.  Learning will be on your own time, with reading, reflection, and "self activity."   For those who are accustomed to sitting, listening to a professor talk, the transition can be difficult.  (As it is when one takes a totally "on line" course for the first time.)

3.  One area of the course that I do not think I presented sufficiently is the relation between meal and sacrifice.   I do not believe that "meal" as the "outward sign instituted by Christi to give grace" is understood as clearly as I would have liked.  "Meal" is sometimes seen in opposition to "Sacrifice" as in "Catholics believe the Mass is a Sacrifice, for Protestants it is only a meal."  When I was in the seminary I learned that the Mass was the sacrifice of the cross.... and that the sign of the sacrifice was the double consecration, the separation of the elements, or the breaking of the bread (all signifying the death of the victim).  Communion (when offered or received, which was seldom) was an added extra.  Priests gave communion at Mass much in the same way as giving communion at a wake service or following the way of the cross.  The integral relation between "receiving communion" and "sacrifice of the Mass" is a teaching of the Council that has not been realized.   Perhaps the experience of the participants in the course has been too distant from their experience of meal to see the Eucharist in that context.  Perhaps it is the experience of meal that is deficient?  Perhaps it is my explanation of the teaching that is deficient? 

4.  Several times during the semester students have used the image of the pendulum swinging back  to the center or to the other end of its arc as a metaphor for what is happening in the liturgy in the past ten years (i.e. since about 1992).   A metaphor reveals and conceals (e.g. My love is like a red, red rose...)   How is the metaphor intended?  1) Before the Council the Eucharist was transcendent and reverent; after the Council it was folksy and irreverent; now Eucharist is returning to transcendence and reverence?  or  2)  Before the Council the Eucharist the Eucharist was the private domain of the priests; after the Council the laity became involved in ministry; now Eucharist is returning to the domain of the ordained?  A metaphor is open to many interpretations.   "Mr. Smith used to get drunk four times a week and beat up his wife; then he got sober and stopped beating her.  But now the pendulum has swung back to the middle; Mr. Smith gets drunk two times a week and beats his wife."   In this example, it is the one extreme of the arc that is the most desirable position, not the center position.

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Exit Comments 2004

1.  Teaching and learning are influenced by many factors, for example "where you are in your personal space" at the time of the course.  I know that many of you are at the end of many years of study and looking forward eagerly to you ordination to the (deaconate and) the priesthood. 

I entered this class after having been immersed for 10 weeks in my first totally online learning experience.  I spent many hours online with other teachers discussing the art of teaching.  The catchphrase that kept reoccurring was:  The Teacher is not the "Sage on the Stage" but the "Guide on the Side." -- In other words:  less lecture and more assignments to let the students discover for themselves.   The teacher should not be as concerned (as formerly) with content or "covering all the material." 

I entered this course with those ideas in mind -- however, this class seemed to prefer the "sage on the stage" i.e. lecture, content, etc.  I consequently modified the syllabus to meet those needs.  However, I remain convinced that 1) "All learning is self-activity" (William James) and 2) next year, after the many years of seminary lectures are behind you, you will have to be a "self-starter" and an "independent learner" and it is good to start that process (transition) now. 

2.  During the Capitulum Generale Ordinis Fratrum Minorum held at St. Mary of the Angels, Assisi, June 2003, Very Rev. Timothy Radcliffe O.P. (former Master of the Order of Preachers / Dominicans) addressed the assembled friars.  Among his remarks were the following:

"St. Francis and his early brethren were filled with joy.  The letters of Clare are filled with joy.  And this is true also of Dominic and his first brethren.  Dominic was often described as a man who laughed with his brethren.  This is the most fundamental authority of the preacher. ...

"Cardinal Suhard, a former Archbishop of Paris, once wrote that  'To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one's life would make no sense if God did not exist.People will be drawn to the gospel if they find in us an inexplicable joy, which makes no sense if God does not exist.  They should be attracted and puzzled by our joy.  It should be a living question mark and an invitation.  Once I was walking back alone at night through the old city of Jerusalem, and saw though a door a room full of Hassidim who were dancing.  When I saw their joy, I saw their faith.

"Francis stressed that your life is an entry into the life of Jesus.  And the mission of Jesus began with the Father's joy at his baptism.  He emerges from the water and a voice is heard saying, 'You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.'  The fons et origio [fount and source] of Jesus' mission is the joy that the Father has in the Son, and the joy which the Son has in the Father, which is the Holy spirit.  Meister Eckhart, the German Dominican mystic, says that at the heart of God's life is this uncontainable laughter.  'The Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs at the Father, and the laughter brings forth pleasure and the pleasure brings forth joy, and the joy brings forth love.'  He says that God's joy is like a horse galloping around a field, kicking its heels in the air for fun.

All of our preaching is an invitation to people to find their home in that joy.  Jesus began his mission in going out to feast and drink with tax collectors and prostitutes.  He took pleasure in being with them, he delighted in their company.  The Church has nothing to say on anything, and especially about morality, until all people find in the Church a place of joy, in which God delights in their very being.  The most marginal people, whose lives are a mess and who do not live according to the rules of the Church, should nevertheless find in us a community which says, 'It is wonderful that you exist.'  Preachers should be touched by an incomprehensible joy, which stands like a question mark.  Why are these people so happy?  What is their secret? 

So keep alive Francis and Clare's joy.  It is this joy that gives authority to our preaching.  No one will believe that a miserable preaching brings the good news!  It is joy that opens our eyes to a world of gifts; it is joy that points to the Kingdom and invites us to carry on the adventure.  And this means that we must care for the joy of our brethren.  We must keep alive their dreams.  Ultimately that joy is deepened by vulnerability to the suffering of this world.  Without that suffering to hallow our hearts, the joy will remain superficial."

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Concluding Essay 2005

At the conclusion of the 2005 online Eucharist course I asked the participants to "write an essay integrating the four key concepts of this course:  1) What do we mean when we say that the Eucharist is a Sacrament?  2) What do we mean when we say the Eucharist is a Sacrifice? 3)  What do we mean when we say the Eucharist is a meal?  4) What do we mean when we say that Christ is truly present during the Eucharist.  --- I find that in each of our lives there seems to be a "journey" of discovery and understanding as our appreciation deepens regarding these four aspects of the Eucharist as the central mystery of our faith.   Each one's journey is personal, yet I believe they would all embrace at least some of the following.


Journey from:  Outward sign instituted by Christ.  Matter and Form.  Bread and Wine.  Words of Consecration.

Journey toward:  Visible sign of invisible reality (God's Trinitarian Love).  Eucharist as Sacrament of Christ -- which makes Church as Sacrament  -- which continues mission of Jesus as the First Sacrament (URSAKRAMENT) -- Jesus is the Sacrament of God's Plan for Creation (Mysterion / Sacramentum).  Eucharist contains God's plan for the world and is the key to human identity.

Key words and phrases I look for: sacrament / plan / mystery / Berakah

Visit also my web notes at Chapter d31 Sacrament   I have also posed there a copy of my article from Eucharist:  Jesus With Us on the Eucharist as Sacrament.  

2.  MEAL

Journey from:  Receiving Holy Communion at Mass.

Journey toward:  Communal action which makes real our union with one another and with God which therefore forgives all sin and is the sacramental sign of the Sacrifice of Christ and the Paschal Victory.  The anamnesis of the BRK of the Eucharistic Prayer brings us into the presence of the Lord's Supper and the words of the Eucharistic Prayer give the meaning of the meal sharing.

Key words and phrases I look for:  communal / reconciliation / sign of the sacrifice / meal:sacrifice::sign:reality / Berakah shape of the meal prayer/ Lex Orandi: the Eucharistic prayer is our primary source for the theology of the Eucharist.

Visit also my web notes at Chapter e31 Origins of the Christian Eucharist    I have also posed there a copy of my article from Eucharist:  Jesus With Us on the Eucharist as Meal.  


Journey from:  Sacrifice (as "death of a victim") of the Mass as the outward sign of Jesus death as expressed in the twofold consecration (body and blood are separated = death)

Journey toward:  The joyful union with God made real by Jesus on Calvary which so radically changed everything that there is never again any need for another sacrifice.  The Eucharistic liturgy (anamnesis) brings us into the presence of this once and for all event so that its effects transform our lives.

Key words and phrases I look for:  Joyful union / ANAMNESIS / once and for all sacrifice / saved by faith alone.

Visit also my web notes at Chapter e34 The Reformation / Sacrifice   I have also posed there a copy of my article from Eucharist:  Jesus With Us on the Eucharist as Sacrifice. 


Journey from:  The historical Jesus makes himself tiny and gets into the consecrated host.

Journey toward:  Eucharist as the encounter with the Risen Lord in his Body the Church which by the epiclesis of the Holy Spirit, transforms us into Christ and gives us a share in the Trinity's inner life so that "God is all in all."

Key words and phrases I look for:  Risen Lord (integration of Jesus / Son of God / Risen Lord / Bread and Wine / Church into "One Bread, One Body") / Epiclesis / Holy Spirit / Trinity / Divine Life

Visit also my web notes at Chapter e33 Scholastics and Real Presence at I have also posed there a copy of my article from Eucharist:  Jesus With Us on the Eucharist as Presence.  

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To Think About

In the light of your reading and reflection during the past semester what would you want to say to next year's class?

"If consumption is located in millions of separate compartments, finality and celebration are accordingly scattered and inconspicuous.  It is possible, of course, to aggregate a thousand condominiums into a soaring and gleaming tower, but such a structure no more bespeaks a spirit of festive engagement and public celebration than does an office high rise building from which it is outwardly indistinguishable." Borgmann pg. 41

"I believe that the churches can hope again to become vital forces in our culture only if they learn to be genuine communities of celebration in the sense described above.  That means that they have to give up on abstract designs handed down by a hierarchy.  Instead, they must listen to the Holy Spirit that animates people in unforethinkable ways.  Religion must also recover a sense of realism that asserts the sacramental dignity of things and practices against their conversions into commodities for consumption." Borgmann pg. 54

"The culture of the table, the careful preparation and the daily or festive celebration of meals, has been invaded by the commodious flexibility and variety of foods that are bought ready made, stored safely and easily, and prepared in an instant." Borgmann pg. 121

:At the level of partners and parents it comes to affirming on Monday what has been professed on Sunday.  If the Sacrament of the Eucharist is not reenacted in the sacramental (the sacraments little sibling) of the dinner table, the Breaking of the Bread has a precarious place in contemporary culture.  It is "intrinsically evil" Catholics are told, to use contraception.  I have never heard that said of the failure regularly to sit down to dinner, a morally much more consequential calamity.  Men, as a rule, are the sinners here.  Their contributions to the preparation and scheduling of dinner tend to be deplorable or worse.  Borgmann pg. 128

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