In The Gospel and the Catholic Church, Michael Ramsey claims that the “Eucharist Body and the Body the Church are utterly one” (97). Like Henri de Lubac, Ramsey states, “in all Christian thinking about the τὸ σῶμά, the Eucharist and the Church are inseparable” (91).

Just as new developments and reforms within Roman Catholicism were brewing at Ore Place, Hasting, Ramsey, it seems, was working on his own blend of Anglican resourcement of Patristic Theology. Ramsey found it significant that “the Greek Fathers gave their deepest teaching about the Church without treating the Church as a separate subject in itself. They did not expound the Church; they expounded Christ the Redeemer, and in such a way that the Church is included in their exposition” (125). There’s no flavor of institutionalism here; with care and remarkable precision, Ramsey highlights the essential organic notion of Corpus Christi. He does this in two ways: first, he focuses on the mysterious nature of Eucharist and Church and second, he draws attention to the life of the ascended Christ.

Regarding mystery, Ramsey writes that the presence of the Eucharistic body and blood “is not the result of the individual’s faith, but, like the Incarnation itself, a presence of Jesus…The gift is there, by the act of the Lord in His Church, just as Christ Incarnate was there in Galilee…Such is the way of the Gospel of God” (96). There’s a sort of sheer givenness of Eucharist presence that refracts the mystery of us. Borrowing from Augustine, Ramsey writes that “the mystery of yourselves is laid upon the table of the Lord; the mystery of yourselves ye receive” (97).

Still, we’re left wondering what this could all mean? Ramsey recognizes the difficulty of mystery, which is only compounded by another great mystery: “the eating of the flesh is a hard thought: harder still is the thought of the Son of Man ascending into heaven” (92). Just as the Western Church has difficulty in comprehending the cosmology of the Transfiguration, so too does it have difficult in thinking the logic of the Ascension. Yet for Ramsey, the economy of Ascension is what allows us to comprehend the whole of Christ’s life, work and continued presence. “In the power of the ascended life and of the Holy Spirit the Christ will feed them with Himself; His words and works and sacraments are to be understood in the light of His completed work and His ascended life. All these stupendous truths, and nothing less, lie behind the Eucharist – the flesh of Jesus, the death, the ascension, the Father and the Son, the spirit. The flesh must be eaten…here is history, concrete fact” (93).

Intentionally or not, Ramsey’s brief exposition of the Eucharist takes on an Apocalyptic tone: “History and fact have their significance in what lies beyond them. Like the Incarnation itself, the Eucharist is the breaking into history of something eternal, beyond history, inapprehensible in terms of history alone” (93). Overall, Ramsey’s little book has done something remarkable. He’s blended the logic of Apocalyptic interruption without compromising the Pauline notion of the Body of Christ as the Church.

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