Horton Davies. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993. 274 pages, $18.99 (paperback).
We live in an ecumenical age. Barriers that previously divided Christians have slowly and continually been dissolving as denominations discover that we have more in common that unites us than splinters us. Unfortunately over much of the church's history the very sacrament that Christ gave as a means toward unity has created disagreement and division. Horton Davies, professor of liturgies at Drew University and researcher at Princeton Seminary's Center for Theological Inquiry, has crafted this book to reveal the most recent ecumenical perceptions and growing partnership as it relates to the Eucharist.
This work is a wonderful gift that can shed light and remove clouds from the lingering confusion that often surrounds the Lord's Supper. Davies escorts us on a journey, stopping at various points to explore several dimensions of the Eucharist. He unveils the meaning of the Supper as Memorial, Thanksgiving, Sacrifice, Eschatological Banquet, Communion (joyful meal of unity), Mystery, Liberation, and Social Justice. At each point he examines the biblical foundations and precedents for these attributes of the Eucharist. Additionally, he analyzes the historical interpretations and stumbling blocks that have accumulated and often divided Christians over the years. Finally each chapter reviews recent Eucharis-tic liturgies that depict each specific aspect of the Supper.
In addition, Davies adds a section on "transignification" and the nature of Eu-charistic symbolism. This recent concept maintains that while the material substance of the bread and wine do not change, their meaning is altered. This book concludes with a summary marshalling the evidence for the growing ecumenical partnership as it centers around the Table of our Lord.
Davies is honest throughout this work to expose remaining elements of controversy. He sadly laments that our theology and understanding has traveled further than our actual practice of being able to celebrate this Meal with other denominations. It is only as these lingering walls are dismantled and as all Christians, regardless of their denominational backgrounds, are welcomed to the Table that we can experience the wholeness of Christ's body.
While Davies writes in a very readable style, some Eucharistic awareness will be helpful in studying this book. To assist the beginner, a glossary of liturgical terms is provided at the outset to make the book more user-friendly.
There is much to cheer about with the publication of this informative book. It is well researched, and numerous footnotes direct the interested reader to additional sources. It provides a valuable update on the Eucharistic understanding of Roman Catholicism, Orthodox, and various branches of Protestantism. However, disappointing to the present reviewer was the lack of inclusive language—at least in the author's regular text. Language is another element that fosters division within the church, making it essential that we take special care with our word choices.
Overall, reading this book was a spiritual experience. It expanded my own comprehension and drew me closer to taste and see the fullness of Christ's life and the richness of his joy.