"You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.
He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. " (Mark 16,5)


THE LORD'S SUPPER - (1COR 11,17-34) - III (1)

Fr. G. Claudio Bottini ofm sbf - jerusalem
translated by Fr. Lionel Goh ofm


I restrict myself to comment only on the most significant points, leaving out those points that are self-evident or which I have already explained.

1) The abuses during the celebration of the Lord's Supper (11,17-22)

(1) "When you come together it is not for the better but for the worse" (v17). Before expounding the reasons in detail, Paul advances here en bloc the motive of his denunciation of the manner in which the meetings have come to be conducted in Corinth. Whether the Corinthians are conscience or not, their gatherings have become disadvantageous to the participants. At the end of his instructions, Paul will qualify how one gathers "to be condemned" (v34).

(2) "When you assemble as a church...there are divisions among you" (v18). The greek verb (synerchestai) translated as "assemble" both here and 1Cor 14 designates precisely the liturgical gathering of the entire community, especially for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is almost a tehnical term. The term which it further specifies ("as a church" / en ekklësia[i])points to a local christian community that gathers together (1Cor 14: This term has a history and a rich meaning. In the greek civil world it indicates an assembly of citizens that gathers to make decisions regarding the life and problems of the city. In the greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) it is used to indicate the people of God gathered in cultic assmebly. In Pauline usage "a man of two worlds, as a cultural subject" (Barbaglio, La prima lettera ai Corinzi,575) it takes on again the concept of a cultic assembly. Besides, the context of 1Cor 11:17-34 invites us to understand it with a locale connotation. It deals of gatherings in a same place (cf particularly v20). The type of division is spoken of as illustrating a vital environment.

(3) "For there must be divisions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised" (v19). Here Paul appears to make a digression. Nevertheless the negative judgement on the divisions now contains a positive value, considering it, so to speak, to come from God. This can be deduced from the expression "must be". This idea of necessity to prove and its positive consequence is not a characteristic Pauline thought although it is not totally absent in his writings. One finds examples of this in 1Cor 9:7 and Rom 5:3-5a. One commentator observes "What appears at first to be a disgrace can also become an object of blessing! Like external persecutions that afflict the Church, so too the internal dissenters bring about positive results: they provide a part of the process in testing what may be permitted when deciding upon a definitive separation between the dokimoi and theadokimoi, between what is qualified or disqualified from the test" (J.Dupont citing Barbaglio, La prima lettera ai Corinzi, 577 note 167).

(4) "...it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal..."(v20-21). Paul is peremptory: the Corinthians claim to eat the Lord's Supper when in fact each eats his own exclusive meal.

The term "Lord's Supper" is also called "breaking of bread" (cf Lk 24:30.35; Acts 2:42; 20:7.11; 27:35; 1Cor 10:16) and both are original expressions in the New Testament indicating that which we call the Eucharist or eucharistic celebration. The word eucharistia ppears for the first time in the Didachè 9,1.5. Paul in 1Cor 10:21 when referring to the same reality uses the term "table of the Lord" (trapeza Kyriou)as in contrast to "table of demons". In both expressions ("Lord's Supper" and "table of the Lord") it is important to note the link between "supper/table" and "Lord". It is a profound and manifold association. "Supper" and "table" are "of the Lord" because he is present and he actively participates in them, so that the believers enter into communion with him (10:16-22); it treats of his body given and his blood the instrument of a new covenant (v24-25); his presence is active to the point of proclaiming a judgement of condemnation on whoever partakes unworthily to be guilty of profaning his body and blood (v27-28).

Possible affinities with contemporary greek cultic terminology form the remote and immediate contexts of Paul that decide the sense of the Pauline eucharistic terminology. The ritual supper of which Paul speaks is "of the Lord" because it was instituted by him and left by him to his disciples as a memorial (v23-26); because he broke the bread and gave it as his body, and offering the cup to drink as his blood (v 24.25b.27 and 10:16). It is therefore a "christological and soteriological fullness" (Barbaglio, La prima lettera ai Corinzi, 579).

Before this richness of meaning, the Corinthians ought to have had gathered and placed all at the disposal of the community, thus eliminating social inequalities. Instead they formed separate groups: the work of well-off members of the community - and this is the implicit reference of the pronoun "each one". The disparity had become just too evident.

(5) "Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" (v22). Paul indicates clearly that he has nothing against the "own meal" as such, but he admonishes against the abuse of linking it in the time and space of the Lord's Supper.

Indeed the "own meal" with its discriminatory and separaistic tendencies is in contradiction to the Lord's Supper, which is distinctly noted as communion with the Lord and with members of the community. Besides the "own meal" results in an act of despising the Church of God, that is to say the community created and united in the grace of God (cf 1Cor 1:2; 10:32; 11:16; 15:9; 2Cor 1:2; Gal 1:13 and like formulae in 1The 1:1; Gal 1:22; 1The 2:14; Rom 16:16). The "own meal" ultimately becomes an affront to the poor members of the community. From these, it is gathered that the divisions in Corinth were not theological in nature but sociological. This is to say that it does not regard the possible diverse concepts of the Lord's Supper but rather the claim by some to accord the celebration of the memorial of the Lord's death with the "own meal" which to Paul is radically incompatible. Paul admonishes: if the Corinthians "intend to participate in the Lord's Supper, they must abandon the custom from their past, in this case the habit of eating their "own meal". Here stands the real motive of the wealthy christians' behaviour which Paul denounces: the rich continue to maintain the uses and customs connected with their social rank. They do not realise that the distinction of ranks, of dignity or socio-economic position, known and preserved in certain milieu, cannot be reconciled with the character and meaning of the communal celebration of the Lord's Supper " (Chrupcala, "Chi mangia indegnamente", 70).

© copyright 1998

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