This week’s readings bring perfect support to the ideas brought previously by Metz, Schmemann, and others around the importance of communal anamnesis. In the previous week’s readings, the moment of the Eucharist became a central focus point for the theologians involved. It was especially in this moment that the mighty and merciful acts of God were remembered and the community stood in solidarity with the world. In Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ Tillard takes a deeper look into the idea of unity in the Christian tradition, focusing especially on how unity plays out in the Eucharist.
In Flesh Tillard brings to the forefront an idea that has been obfuscated over the years in the West, particularly in the traditions stemming Protestant traditions. Salvation is not a solitary endeavor. Salvation comes communally when one grafts oneself into the living body of the church. Further, Christians become actual members of the body of Christ through the Eucharist. For Tillard, this is the church. The church isn’t a group of people who live out the same rules and follow the same hierarchy – though that is involved. Rather, the church is a Eucharistic community in union with each other and Jesus through the Holy Sacrament. At Communion, Christ imparts his actual body to the body of believers giving them the life inherent in his nature and literally becoming part of their nature. In a real sense, Christians become a part of Jesus.
This week I find myself in complete agreement with Tillard, Augustine, Chrysostom, and Cyril. Looking at Eucharist this way gives deeper meaning and challenge to the points raised by Metz and Schmemann in previous weeks. The solidarity we share with suffering humanity isn’t just a living out of the memory of God, but also because we recognize suffering humanity has been grafted onto ourselves through Christ.
Tillard, J.-M.-R. Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ: At the Source of the Ecclesiology of Communion. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2001.