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The Body of Christ and the Ecumenical Potential of Eucharistic Ecclesiology

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image of Ecclesiology

There are various theories as to the origin of St Paul's image of the Church as the body of Christ, but it seems to have a particular link with his experience on the road to Damascus. The image has a stark realism and is to be understood in terms of the Hebrew concept of the body as the whole person, not in terms of the Greek idea of the human being as made up of body and soul. For Paul and the Fathers, the Church was sustained as the body of Christ by receiving the body of Christ in the Eucharist. The term, 'mystical body', referred originally to the Eucharist. When, as a result of eucharistic controversy, it was applied to the Church early in the second millennium, the link of Eucharist and Church was quickly lost in the West and a strongly institutional understanding of the Church resulted. Christian East and West split as this understanding took hold, and the Reformers in the West subsequently objected to it also. The development of eucharistic ecclesiology in the twentieth century has helped to bridge the divide between East and West and between 'catholic' and 'protestant' understandings of the Church. The renewed link between the Eucharist and the Church entails renewed links also between the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit, and the Eucharist and the future. All three renewed perspectives are reflected in recent ecumenical agreements.


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