Brief Book Review: Serving the Body of Christ

Serving the Body of Christ:
The Magisterium on Eucharist and Ordained Priesthood
, 2nd ed.
By Kevin W. Irwin

Who’s it for? Roman Catholic seminary and university professors of sacramental theology/liturgy, and masters-level students in courses on the topics of Eucharist or ordained priesthood.

Why is this book useful? Irwin expertly gathers in separate chapters the key magisterial teachings on Eucharist and ordained priesthood from the Council of Trent up through Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia. Professors would find here an especially helpful reference work on Eucharist and/or ordained priesthood, and students would benefit from its individual chapters, both those that summarize and analyze the magisterial teachings and Irwin’s commentaries on each topic. The short introductory chapter on the hermeneutics of magisterial texts, essential context for Irwin’s presentation through rest of the book, would also greatly benefit students of ecclesiology.

A suggestion for the reader. Keep one finger on the citation notes to chapters at the end of the book, which often provide further context and additional resources.

Quibble. I would have liked to see an additional chapter in which Irwin more explicitly brings these two topics together; while there is great insight in Irwin’s separate treatment of these topics, it isn’t entirely clear why these two were chosen, only to be treated separately throughout (except, for the most part, in places where the magisterial texts themselves connected them). Implied (especially through comments in the Preface) is the important place the Eucharist holds in the life of the ordained priest, but it seems to me there would be much more Irwin could offer us through his theological commentary on the relationship of the two. I would have appreciated reading more of his take on issues like their relationship to baptism, and to the baptismal priesthood, which though touched on remain largely unexplored here.

Kudos. Monsignor Irwin, as always, displays the utmost respect for the magisterium in his presentation, yet brings his considerable breadth and profound depth of critical sacramental and liturgical knowledge to bear on the texts, bringing out nuances that can often be overlooked. His love for the Eucharist and for the ordained priesthood shines through in this work, which should certainly inspire those unfamiliar with his other writings (particularly major works like Context and Text, Models of the Eucharist, The Sacraments: Historical Foundations and Liturgical Theology) to turn to them for the rich fare this preeminent liturgical theologian so generously offers.

Irwin, Kevin W. Serving the Body of Christ: The Magisterium on Eucharist and Ordained Priesthood, 2nd ed. New York/Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2021, 172 + x pages. $21.95. ISBN: 9780809155286.

REVIEWER: David Stosur
David Stosur is Professor of Religious Studies at Cardinal Stritch University,
specializing in liturgical theology.
He recently completed service on the convening team of the Liturgy/Sacraments Session
at the Catholic Theological Society of America’s annual convention.

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