This new book builds on my previous work, both historical and somatic, as I explore the relationship between the historical body of Christ, the sacramental body and blood of Christ, the ecclesial body of Christ, and human bodies that receive the bread and wine into them.
The first six chapters are based on lectures I gave to pastors of the Church of Iceland May 29-31, 2016. I had agreed to talk about the Eucharist and relate it to some contemporary issues. I was writing these lectures at the same time as I was teaching a graduate seminar on the Eucharist at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in the spring term of 2016, so the material is pretty fresh. At the suggestion of my Icelandic host I wove some elements of autobiography into my book—personal as well as intellectual.
Drawing on the richness of the eucharistic prayer traditions and my own life experiences with the Eucharist, I attempt to expand our understanding of the Eucharist to include a life of gratitude (Anaphora), cosmology and praise (preface), body and remembrance (anamnesis), Spirit and community (epiclesis), orthodoxy and world view (doxology), presence and union with Christ (Communion), and initiation and reconciliation (fencing the table). I argue for the use of a full eucharistic prayer in order to express a wider and deeper understanding of the Eucharist, including creation themes, an emphasis on the passion of Christ to connect the Eucharist to suffering humanity, an expansion of the fellowship dimension of the Eucharist flowing from the epiclesis of the Holy Spirit to embrace the church in heaven and around the world, a recovery of Trinitarian praise to inculcate the orthodox Christian communitarian worldview, an ecumenical exploration of how we understand theologically the presence of Christ received bodily, and a reconsideration of the value of initiation in sacramental discipline and in the life of faith.
As the German materialist philosopher, Friedrich Feuerbach, said, “we are what we eat.” If we consume the body and blood of Christ as bread and wine, we have received Christ himself into our bodies. I see the sacrament as a physical union of Christ and his members, both individually in the body of the communicant and corporately as an interpersonal body.
Here is some information about the book from Fortress Press.
- Ad Altare Dei: Journey Into the Presence
- Anaphora: A Eucharistic Life
- Preface and Sanctus: Cosmology and Praise
- Anamnesis: Body and Memory
- Epiclesis: Spirit and Community
- Doxology: An Orthodox Worldview
- Communion: Presence and Embodiment
- Fencing the Table: Initiation, Fellowship, Reconciliation
“The fascinating thing about this book is that Senn understands the art of weaving one’s own small life story into the Grand Narrative of God’s salvation, and that he does that in a way which is both imaginative and theologically convincing. Or, to put it the other way around, the Mystical Body here does not remain a strange idea, but it becomes a tangible reality which enables us to connect, also bodily and vividly, with Christ and his Church. This fundamental intuition leads Senn to an interesting rediscovery of past and present Eucharistic prayers and practices, of texts well-known and not known well enough, and of a rich diversity of ritual performances and cultural customs. The same intuition moreover urges him to develop a deep liturgical spirituality of solidarity that clearly meets the needs of a troubled time. Senn’s fine presentations and reflections reveal a profound yet refreshing view on Christian sacramentality, which opens promising ecumenical perspectives. So, in more than one sense, Eucharistic Body is a timely and praiseworthy initiative.”
Joris Geldhof, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium; president-elect, Societas Liturgica
“The Last Supper,” Altar piece, St. Peter’s Church, Leuven, Belgium (15th century), from which the cover of the book is taken.