Why Go to Church? The Drama of the Eucharist

Radcliffe, Timothy OP
Continuum International Publishing Group - Burns & Oates (2008)
Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk

In this book, which directly follows on from his best-seller Why Be A Christian, Radcliffe's central thesis is that the Eucharist enacts the fundamental drama of all human existence. It forms us as a people who have faith, hope and charity and these three Christian virtues are associated in his schema with the different elements of the Eucharistic liturgy: he associates faith with the events from the opening blessing to the end of the Prayers of the Faithful; hope with events in the Great Prayer; and love with the events from the Lord's Prayer to the dismissal; and "events' is the correct word to use here because the exposition is dramatic. In the first section he uses Mary's story from Luke 1 and Moses' confrontations and dialogues with YHWH; the Great Prayer speaks for itself; and in the third part he most adroitly uses the two last Chapters of John. The structure he imposes on himself in terms of the virtues and the use of the Bible can stretch his consistency now and again but on the whole it works well.

This is not to say that the narrative is either stiff or daunting as it avoids rhetoric and jargon (which might explain why there is a substantial unacknowledged debt in the structure and narrative to Hans Urs von Balthasar) as Radcliffe follows his usual custom of inter-weaving his serious theological points with anecdotes, exemplified by his opening paragraph describing a mother waking her son on Sunday morning and insisting that he must go to church because it is his duty and because he is the Diocesan Bishop!

The impact of the Eucharist does not consist in a single attendance at church where something dramatic is supposed to happen but comes to infuse our lives: "Our 'yes' to the body of Christ transforms how we belong to each other and who we are."

This blend of the profoundly spiritual and the cheerful will strike some readers as incongruous but, to a degree, that is Radcliffe's point as he closes with an eloquent passage on the importance of embracing suffering and living in joy as we are sent out at the end of the meal.

Radcliffe eschews both preaching and partisanship in a work which, if successful, will bring the presence of the Eucharist to life in our everyday lives.

And, what is more, it made me resolve to change my way of life, to be more accepting and less calculating, and I can't say that for many Christian books that I have read.