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  • The Eucharistic Liturgies: Their Evolution and Interpretation by Paul F. Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson
  • Michael G. Witczak
The Eucharistic Liturgies: Their Evolution and Interpretation. By Paul F. Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press/A Pueblo Book. 2012. Pp. xvi, 368. $39.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-8146-6240-3.)

Paul F. Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson are longtime colleagues in the liturgy program at the University of Notre Dame. At the end of their long association (Bradshaw recently retired from teaching), they have collaborated on this book that draws together the strands of much of their work over the past decades.

The book is intended to serve as a textbook for graduate students in liturgical studies. The use of extensive quotation and exegesis of primary liturgical texts, especially Eucharistic prayers, from throughout the tradition serves as a hallmark. Comparative charts ease the analysis of the structure of celebration in each era. The chapters end with a summary of key themes of the chapter. The book is ecumenical throughout: the liturgies of East and West, encompassing Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. The authors describe the theology of the Eucharistic liturgies through the dual lens of the Eucharistic real presence of Christ and the Eucharistic sacrifice. Whereas the notes provide ample documentation for further research, the lack of a bibliography is notable.

The book has eight chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 (“Origins” and “The Second and Third Centuries”) lay out the basic contention that there is an “original diversity” rather than an original unitary practice in the celebration of the Eucharist, whether in the scriptural tradition or in the pre-Nicene Church. This continues the trajectory that Bradshaw laid out in The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship (2nd ed., Oxford, 2002). The authors argue that the lack of the institution narrative in some early Eucharistic prayers indicates the absence of Last Supper themes in those communities. The work of Andrew McGowan, principally presented in his book Ascetic Eucharists (Oxford, 1999), serves as the basis for exploring gnostic Christian prayers and practices within the early Christian context of Eucharistic celebration.

Chapters 3 through 5 are the heart of the book: the traditions of the fourth and fifth centuries in East and West, looking both at the structures of worship and the texts of the Eucharistic Prayers. The reader will discover masterful presentations of the current scholarship of this period.

Chapter 6 on the Middle Ages (600 to 1500) suffers somewhat from compression. Recent studies on the Frankish liturgy and its reforms have not been used [End Page 575] (e.g., Yitzhak Hen’s Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul, AD 481–751 [New York, 1995] and The Royal Patronage of Liturgy in Frankish Gaul to the Death of Charles the Bald (877) [London, 2001]), which would have allowed for a more nuanced presentation of the blending of Roman and Frankish elements in the emerging medieval culture. Small errors creep in (e.g., Pope Gregory III as crowning Charlemagne rather than Pope Leo III [p. 194] and that Ratramnus had been abbot of Corbie [p. 223]). However, the strengths established in the earlier chapters remain: good exegesis of the texts.

Chapter 7, on the Reformation and the Council of Trent, is another strength, especially the sections on the Reformers. The analysis of the shape and prayers of the Eucharist in the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican traditions is comprehensive. The treatment of the Roman Catholic response is judicious, but lacks nuance in several places such as the proper weight to give Trent’s canons in relationship to its doctrine. The post-Tridentine liturgy commission was established in 1563 by Pius IV—not by Pope Pius V, who continued the commission in 1565 (p. 287).

Chapter 8 leaps from 1570 to the mid-twentieth century. The authors offer some retrospection to contextualize the dynamic of reform that characterized the century, but the start of the chapter seems abrupt. Once again, the authors present the key texts and analyze the shape of the Roman, Lutheran, and Anglican liturgies of the twentieth century, with a shorter section on other Protestant liturgical traditions. Their theological summary is well done, combining a variety...


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