Saturday, March 30, 2013

Eucharist and Covenant in John's Last Supper Account: Book Review

Eucharist and Covenant in John's Last Supper Account

(A Theological Gift for Our Time)

Matthew J. Bellisario

Pope Pius XII wrote in `Mediator Dei', "Liturgical practice begins with the very founding of the Church." Monsignor La Femina's revolutionary new theological work, 'Eucharist and Covenant in John's Last Supper Account' sheds new light on this very fact, in examining the Johannine Last Supper Account, which until now has not been revealed. There has always been a problem which has separated the synoptic Gospels from the Gospel of Saint John. One of the major problems has always been the absence of the institution of the Eucharist in the Gospel of John, which appears in every synoptic account and in Paul. Likewise, the mystery is reciprocal being that the synoptic Gospels and Paul do not mention the footwashing in their Last Supper accounts. Many biblical scholars over the centuries have come up with a variety of opinions as to why this apparent problem exists, and even among the Church Fathers there has been no unanimous interpretation of Saint John's Footwashing account. Monsignor's book begins by laying out this fundamental problem, and proposes a solution to the problem: Jesus' death was indeed made present at the Last Supper, and John indicated this through his Footwashing analogy of the Eucharist.

This may seem to be a strange interpretation at first, and indeed it is "strange" being that Saint John's account of the Footwashing has never been interpreted in such a manner. Yet this theological gem gives a very convincing argument that Saint John did speak about the institution and nature of the Eucharist in his account of the Last Supper. It is hidden in analogy. The problem and the proposed solution is then built upon by explaining what type of analogy Saint John uses in his account. The book is nicely documented by easy to follow footnotes, so that you can research further into each topic as you study the work. As the book progresses, you will learn many other interesting facts about the Church and the Catholic faith, as well as some of its Jewish roots, especially those that pertain to covenant.

One reason this work is important for our times however lies in the fact that the Church is now in a time of crisis when it comes to understanding and believing the doctrine of the Eucharist, and how it pertains to us. Of course the Eucharist given to us and the person of Jesus Christ are truly inseparable. This is clearly and uniquely articulated in the book. There are however many other important theological topics that are covered as the book unveils this hidden account about the nature of the Eucharist of the Last Supper. For example, do most Catholics really understand the role of Christ as Messiah? Do they understand the meaning of Jesus' command to "love one another as I have loved you"? Do they truly understand Jesus' kingship which is "not of this world?" What about His title, "Son of Man?" Is the Father truly greater than the Son? These any many other important questions pertaining to the person of Jesus Christ are also clearly answered. As the book progresses one begins to truly understand the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and how the Church actually takes its origin from Christ and the Eucharist. Monsignor states, regarding the Church, "...she is essentially eucharistic because her very origin is essentially bound to the Eucharist and can never be separated from it."

After reading this book you will clearly see how Saint John's Footwashing account flows along side by side with the Last Supper accounts. Monsignor indicates the similarities in circumstances, attributes and effects of the Eucharist in the synoptic and Pauline Last Supper Accounts and the Footwashing in the Johannine Last Supper Account. Moreover, one begins to understand how Saint John views the reality of the Eucharistic covenant. As Monsignor covers the Royal Investiture Tradition and the analogy used by Saint John of the Hittite vassal treaty, this all comes together nicely. After reading this work you truly begin to see the relationship between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and his "children of God."

There is much to be learned from reading this book. It will not only be an eye opener for Catholics, but it will also give Protestants yet another Scriptural conundrum to wrestle with in regards to the Christ and the Eucharist. I highly recommend this work, and having read the other reviews here on Amazon, I must say that this is not really a difficult work. Yet, if you are expecting one of those warm fuzzy books that you read before bed, this is not one of them. This book is best read at the desk with your pencil and Bible close at hand. It is a theological work in the truest sense, and those that understand and appreciate older theological works that are rooted in Saint Thomas will really appreciate the amount of time and effort that went into this theological study. In my copy there is underlining on every page, and although I read the book in two days, I am now going back and rereading it again. This book may truly be the next colossal breakthrough in Catholic Scripture scholarship. With the mayhem brought upon us today by those who have sought to degrade and desacralize the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, this book contains the remedy to their errors. One other note, the book's forward is penned by non-other than Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. Whether or not you come away from this book convinced of Monsignor's premise, which is truly convincing, I guarantee you will not come away from it without seeing the Gospel of Saint John, and Scripture in general, in a new light.

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