Saturday, March 11, 2023
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
MIAMI SHORES | How important was the Eucharist to the early Christians?
Biblical theologian Scott Hahn summed it up in one sentence during a day-long conference at St. Rose of Lima, Miami Shores.
“The New Testament was the Eucharist in the early Church, and the Eucharist was the only thing called the New Testament for the first 200 years of the Church,” he told an audience of around 800 gathered at the church March 4, 2023.
The theme of the conference, “The Eucharist: Our Source and Summit,” coincided with the current Eucharistic Revival taking place in the U.S., which began in June 2022, and will culminate with a National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The conference also was one of the events planned by the parish as part of its year-long 75th anniversary celebration, and it was free to all.
That’s because the goal was “reviving the Eucharist, reviving our Catholic culture,” said Sister Rachel Lucia Kottoor, director of religious education at St. Rose and a member of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Hahn, a prolific author and well-known professor of biblical theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, spoke in the morning, after the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski to open the conference. The afternoon speaker was John Bergsma, also a professor of theology at Steubenville.
Both are associated with the St. Paul Center, whose goal is “to promote biblical literacy for lay people and biblical fluency for clergy and teachers, so that all Catholics can read the Bible from the heart of the Church.”
Hahn centered his talk around St. Luke’s account of the journey to Emmaus. He explained — much like Jesus must have done with the two disciples — how the stories and prophecies of the Old Testament parallel, foretell and find fulfillment in the life and death of Jesus. Those parallels go back to Genesis, course through the lives of Moses and Abraham, and echo the events of Exodus.
“Are we noticing a pattern yet?” Hahn asked after giving dozens of examples. He stressed that the New Testament is “theologically unintelligible apart from the Old,” and its fulfillment in the New “surpassed the wildest dreams of the holiest Jews.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated another Passover, that of the New Covenant, which was consummated with the sacrifice at Calvary.
“If the Eucharist is just a meal, then Calvary is just an execution,” Hahn stressed.
And just as the Emmaus disciples recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the bread,” the Mass is “the means by which we recognize the resurrected Lord’s body, blood, soul and divinity,” Hahn said. “His own resurrected body is what we call the Real Presence.”
He noted that Jesus used the words “New Testament” – which is interchangeable with New Covenant – only at the Last Supper. When he instituted the Eucharist, he called it a “New Testament” not the Eucharist.
“The New Testament was a sacrament long before it becomes a testament,” Hahn said. Jesus “didn’t say ‘write this’ in remembrance of me. He said, ‘Do this.’ He said do what I do.”
And the apostles did. “They preached, they baptized and they did this, but they called it the New Testament.”
“This is what it means to be Catholic. This is why it’s an obligation” to attend Mass, Hahn said.
Citing a survey some years back that found 70% of American Catholics believe the Eucharist is just a symbol rather than the Real Presence of Jesus, he stressed, “we have to take a good look at what we’ve come to take for granted.”
Among those listening to him was Eddie Montalvo of Epiphany Parish in Miami.
“It’s wonderful,” he said of Hahn’s talk. “He makes some complicated Catholic things that we just take on faith, he ties them up very neatly.”
FIND OUT MORE
- The St. Paul Center is offering a series of video classes for lay Catholics called the Emmaus Academy that people can take at their own pace.
- It is also offering four-day Bible-focused retreats for priests, April 17-20 in Texas, July 10-14 in West Virginia, and Jan. 8-11, 2024 in California.
- This Lent, Scott Hahn is also presenting, at no charge, a 12-part Scripture study based on his latest book, “Holy Is His Name.”
- For more information, go to stpaulcenter.com.