The Eucharistic Theology of Rowan Williams

When Jesus ‘lends’ to material objects, food and drink, the significance of his own personal will and being, makes them part of his self-gift, it is made clear to us that the grace he gives is not restricted to his flesh and bones. As we have already said, the shared table is an ‘extension’ of embodied grace. We might go on from here to say that Jesus can in some measure ‘inhabit’ the material world beyond the limits of his biological existence: his life is communicable through what is not biologically his body, because his activity of breaking bread is so tightly bound to what he is, to the manner of life he lives. During his ministry, this communicability of his life, his significant being, is limited by the limitations of his biological existence: it occurs, necessarily, only in the place where he happens to be, with the people he happens to be with. Now if we are right in seeing in the resurrection the liberation of Jesus from the constraints of ordinary human individuality, it is clear that the communicability of his significance is no longer limited in the same way. The ‘life of Jesus’, the presence of his grace, can inhabit what is not literally his flesh even in circumstances remote in time and space from the historical location of his flesh; and this occurs when the resurrection transaction of restoration and reconciliation is effected ‘materially’. . .He is ‘materially’ present where this process involves a specific material transformation – where the effective significance of material things changed. . .

The Eucharist demonstrates that material reality can become charged with Jesus’ life, and so proclaims hope for the whole world of matter. The material, habitually used as a means of exclusion, of violence, can become a means of communication. Matter as hoarded or dominated or exploited speaks of the distortion and ultimate severance of relationship, and as such can only be a sign of death. . .The matter of the Eucharist, carrying the presence of the risen Jesus, can only be a sign of life, of triumph over the death of exclusion and isolation. . .If the Eucharist is a sign of the ultimate Lordship of Jesus, his ‘freedom’ to unite to himself the whole material order as a symbol of grace, it speaks of creation itself, and the place of Jesus in creation.

Williams, Rowan. On Christian Theology. (Blackwell, Oxford, 2000). 101-104.

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