Academic Scholarship

The Eschatological Implications of Karl Rahner’s Eucharistic Doctrine

Heythrop Journal, 51(5), 881- 92, September 2010

Photo Needed Ellen R. Scully, Ph.D.
School of Theology

The Church, in her councils, in her catechism and especially in her prayer has professed her understanding of the Eucharist as a pledge of the future glory for which Christ intends his people and his creation. The Eucharist, as the presence of the Lord in our midst, is the true sacrament—the presence and the hope—of the new heaven and new earth. Thus, Catholic eschatology should find not only its hope, but also a preeminent source for understanding the end and the new beginning in this greatest sacrament of sacraments. Therefore, a systematic doctrine of the Eucharist should not be unrelated to a doctrine of the last things. In this paper, through an exploration of the concepts of freedom, the relation between individual and ecclesial eschatology, the nature of the resurrected body and time, I shall explore the Eucharistic and eschatological doctrines of Karl Rahner, to see to what extant his understanding of the Eucharist affects, and serves as a locus for, his eschatological thinking. In the course of this study, a couple of important points will reveal themselves: 1) Eschatology features in Rahner’s Eucharistic theology, but the Eucharist does not feature, explicitly at least, in his eschatology. 2) Therefore, Rahner does not afford methodological priority in his eschatology to the Eucharist. 3) Instead, Rahner assigns methodological priority here not to the sacraments but to anthropology and explicitly defines eschatology as projected anthropology.


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