Summer 1985

Introduction: The Eucharist

Hans Urs von Balthasar

Another question is, which internal structure does the eucharistic "sacrifice" possess? "Do this in memory of me" is a phrase spoken by Jesus to his disciples and not directly to the multitude of believers who will participate in the eucharist. If the priest is ordained especially to perform this "act," does he then also share in a special way in the "sacrifice"? Why is it written: "Pray my brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours..."? Why the differentiation? Surely what is meant is the special way in which the priest surrenders his life to the service of Christ. But others, too, try to do the same. Does this involve another motive? The question is still open.

Finally, all celebrants, the faithful and the priest, pray that they may be incorporated in Jesus Christ's sacrifice: they offer themselves, they surrender themselves but God himself must complete this incorporation. The faithful speak of their lives which certainly include the ones outside of the celebration, too. Thus we must say that the eucharist possesses a dimension which extends beyond the actual celebration. This is particularly true if we consider on the one hand that Christ did not die exclusively "for the church" but for the world, that the celebrating church does not pray, and not even primarily, for herself, but for "all our brothers and sisters who are still far from you" and for all those departed "whose faith nobody knows but you." And, yet, the act which was intended by Christ—just as the cross—is not diffused all over the world; rather it constitutes a definite sacramental act which is so central to the church that the church can admit only those who fully believe in Christ.

The above is merely a sampling of questions that suggest themselves. To try to answer them fully is not the intention of the following contributions.