The Eucharist: Representative Views -- By: Dolores E. Dunnett

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:1 (Mar 1989)
Article: The Eucharist: Representative Views
Author: Dolores E. Dunnett


The Eucharist: Representative Views

Dolores E. Dunnett*

This paper will attempt to show how we can come alive in Christ through a recovery of the sacrament of the Eucharist as seen through the eyes of the ancient Church.

It has been said that “spirituality is humanity wedded to holiness.” What could be more visible and tangible in our experience of visual perception than bread and wine as images and symbols of the holiness of God?

Eusebius tells us that in the ancient Church Christians quite willingly went to the racks in order to partake of the Eucharist. They were willing to give up their lives for the celebration. What drove them to do this? Did they have a different understanding of the meaning of the Eucharist than we do today?

As we attempt this historical study let us ask this question: How does a gracious God give himself to man? This will help us to keep an open mind and will allow the Holy Spirit to bring us new truth, which he is so anxious to do. This will then spur us on to seek out the nature and importance of the event and how the grace of God is mediated through the Eucharist.

I. The Eucharist In The Ancient Church

In his fine chapter on the Eucharist in the ancient Church, Arthur Vööbus explores ten aspects that provide good insights for this study. I shall briefly summarize those most relevant to the discussion here, those dealing with the meaning and practice of the Lord’s Supper.

To begin with, “no genre of literature treating the question of the Eucharist and its meaning existed in the Ancient church.”1 Apparently this was not a debatable issue in the early Church. References to the historical aspects of the Eucharist are scarce in the NT, as are those found in such other sources as the Church fathers. Because the primitive Christians felt Christ’s presence so keenly in their midst, this was the main event. Everything else was secondary as far as structure is concerned.

Again, what was the meaning of the Eucharist in the earliest period? What was the meaning the primitive Christians gave to the Eucharist?

* Dolores Dunnett is principal of Christian Grammar School in Roseville, Minnesota.

We are faced with the dilemma of scarcity of material on the subject, making it difficult to give an adequate historical reconstruction.

Some key thoughts on the meaning given to the Eucharist in primitive Christianity are as follows: (1) The “breaking of bread” brought immense joy. Acts 2:46 states that “they par...

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