The Eucharist: Looking backwards and forwards

eucharistThomas O'Loughlin

Hearing the word 'Eucharist' most think of it as the name of a special sacred object, but it refers to an activity Christians are called to engage in. 'Eucharist' is derived from a verb not a noun, writes Thomas O'Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham.

Christianity is a religion of memory. We look to the future - indeed to beyond the future - and so we live today in such a way as to build that future, but we do so while recalling our past. Our past is significant because it identifies us, affirms that we are a community in a covenant with God, and provides us with a key to what is significant in that relationship. The journey we are on is always looking forward, but we understand it by looking at where we have come from. We must start from here, but for better or for worse, this 'here' is not some ideal spot but a result of the winding paths of the Christian pilgrimage - and for this reason historical enquiry is a valuable starting point in our theological reflection. This can nowhere be seen more clearly than when we consider that central moment of our gathering as the Church, when we become visible as the People we are, at our weekly celebration of the Eucharist.

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