Louis Bouyer discusses the Old Testament and inter-testamental Jewish influences on New Testament eucharistic theology and prayers.

Louis Bouyer

Louis Bouyer, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer (trans. Charles Underhill Quinn; Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), 15-28

University of Notre Dame Press
Louis Bouyer
Reading Public

In order to recount the genesis of the Christian liturgy, and even more importantly to understand it within its own context, we must get a proper start. In a work of this kind, the first steps determine all that follows. To imagine that the Christian liturgy sprang up from a sort of spontaneous generation, motherless and fatherless like Melchizedek, or trustingly to give it a sort of putative paternity which would definitively erase any perception of its authentic genealogy, is from the start to reduce all reconstruction to a more or less scholarly, more or less ingenious mass of misconceptions.

It is true that the Christian liturgy, and the eucharist especially, is one of the most original creations of Christianity. But however original it is, it is still not a sort of ex nihilo creation. To think so is to condemn ourselves to a minimal understanding of it. For it would mean that we should be mistaken about the materials that went into its construction, but, what is much more serious, we should already be misled about the movement that hatched them in order to build this spiritual temple, or rather this great tree of life that the anaphora is. The materials from which the Christian eucharist was formed are something quite different from mere prime matter. They are stones that have already been polished and skillfully worked. And they do not come from some demolition yard where they would have then been refashioned without concern for their original form. Quite the contrary. It is in a studio which has consciously inherited both a long tradition of experience and its finished products that this will be prepared for their new function. Nd this will not be to do away with the first results but to complete them, through some refinishing in which not a joy of the original engraving will be effaced.

With the first eucharistic formulas we can no more start form zero than we can with the Gospel. In both cases, by providential design, there is an Old Testament which cannot be overlooked. For if providence evidently did judge this stage necessary, we have neither the right nor the ability to push it aside.

. . .

When all of these facts are taken into account, it becomes very hard still to reject textual comparisons. Therefore, in examining these texts point by point and following their evolution step by step, we believe that it will become obvious that the eucharistic prayer, like all the “novelties” introduced by Christianity, is something new that is rooted not only in the Old Testament in general, but immediately in the prehistory of the Gospel that is the prayer of those who ”were awaiting the consolation of Israel.”

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