Monika K. Hellwig – Eucharist, Hunger
By Donald McKenzie
January 9, 2017
In a few weeks, with the beginning of Lent, I’m going to be starting a lecture series entitled: Eucharistic Eating. I’ll be publishing details in the near future. The main idea of the series is bringing our daily eating into the Eucharist, and vice-versa. One book that I’ve been reading in preparation is: The Eucharist and The Hunger of the World, by Monika K. Hellwig.
The Eucharist and the Hunger of the World was published in 1976. Some of the food issues in our world have changed. However, there is much in the book that resonates with our world today.
Hellwig was a pioneering woman theologian in the Catholic Church. In this little book does a good job bringing the issue of our physical hunger into the discussion of the Eucharist. She then goes on to discuss how the Eucharist might inform our understanding not only our own lives’ hunger, but also the hunger that is a daily part of the lives of large numbers of people in our world.
It is helpful in reading this book if you have some understanding of traditional Catholic Eucharistic theology and practice. However, if you have any interest in the meaning of the Eucharist, you should find this book informative. Perhaps even formative.
Mystery and Magic
At the beginning of the second chapter she distinguishes between the idea of mystery and magic. Hellwig does this by referring to a statment by theologian Karl Rahner. “Somethings are understood not by grasping but by allowing oneself to be grasped.” Too often the Eucharist is perceived as magical, rather than mysterious. Something that we take possession of rather than something that is allowed to take possession of us.
The Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation may be something that troubles you. However Hellwig states, the earliest use of the term, refers primarily to change in the community gathered for the Eucharist. There term is only secondarily to the elements (79).
Hellwig is encouraging readers to think more about the physical hunger of our world. However, she doesn’t write in a prescriptive fashion. She simply invites the reader into deeper thinking about the ways in which their eating affects the world around them. This allows each to come to their own conclusions as how best to connect the Eucharist to the hunger of the world. This a strength of the book.
Given the age of the book it may be difficult to find. However, it is worth your while trying to dig yourself up a copy. I highly recommend reading this book.