Brief Book Review: The Eucharist: Mystery of Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion

The Eucharist: Mystery of Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion by Lawrence Feingold

Who’s it for? This work of 674 pages in meant to serve as a text book for a seminary course on the Eucharist. It is essentially an exposition of doctrine drawn from scripture and magisterial teaching on the eucharist. It comes across as a lengthy apologia for Roman Catholic doctrines on the Mass and a refutation of challenges to traditional Catholic teaching—especially the challenges leveled at Catholic belief by the Protestant Reformation.

What’s the main point? While this work displays a great deal of erudition, its presentation suffers from a lack of focus and direction—as well as a helpful methodology. Is this work a pious meditation on the Eucharist?; a florilegium of traditional teachings and scriptural proof texts?; an apologetic work to clarify traditional Catholic teaching against Protestant and newer understandings developed since Vatican II?; a refutation of possible communion for the divorced and remarried?

Where would I push back? The essential problem is that it presents its doctrinal quotations without any sort of historical context—or with the understanding that aspects of the doctrine have developed and even changed over the centuries due to shifts in culture and epistemological developments. It is significant that the documents of Vatican II figure hardly at all in this book, while juridical and doctrinal pronouncements of recent Popes and the Congregation for Divine Worship take center stage.

Implications. For these reasons this work would not really equip ordained or lay ministers with a critical understanding of the dynamic and pluriform history of the Eucharist or the means to present it to believers of the 21st century. 

Lawrence Feingold, The Eucharist: Mystery of Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion, Emmaus Academic, 2018. 674 pages.

REVIEWER: MARK FRANCIS, CSV

Mark Francis, CSV serves as President and Professor of Liturgy at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, IL.

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