How does the ecclesiology of communion go back to the very sources of the great ecclesial tradition? How should we explain that a Christian is never alone, even before God? How should we perceive that the Church is a communion before being a society, a mystery before being a structure? These questions reflect the inner being of the Church that is at the center of Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ.
The late renowned scholar J.-M.-R. Tillard defines what the flesh of the Church is for the New Testament and the period of the undivided Church. He enables readers to understand not the structure of God's Church but the living reality of grace for which this structure exists. Tillard explains that the "flesh of the church" is communion of life for humanity reconciled with the Father and with itself "in Christ." He also shows that through the power of the Spirit and the Word, the Church is the "flesh of Christ" in the osmosis of the sacrificial flesh of the Lord and the concrete life of the baptized, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament.
Chapters are "All Linked Together by Salvation: For God, in Communion," "All Joined into One Body, Eucharistic Body, Ecclesial Body," "All Taken into the One Sacrifice: The Sacrifice of Christ," and "Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ."
The late J.-M.-R. Tillard, OP, served as vice-president of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, was consultor to the Vatican's Secretariat for Christian Unity, and a member of several ecumenical commissions. He also wrote Church of Churches: The Ecclesiology of Communion, published by The Liturgical Press.
In Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ the late J.-M.R. Tillard leaves us a fitting conclusion to his considerable body of work on an ecclesiology of communion. Tillard offers a virtual tutorial in biblical and patristic ecclesiology as he makes the case that in the early centuries of the church Christian life was understood as a thoroughly ecclesial existence. Communion' has become a central concept in contemporary ecclesiology. For those who wish to grasp the depth and breadth of this ancient view of the church, there is no better guide than Tillard.
Rick Gaillardetz, University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas
This book includes an abundance of primary source material; it could serve an important function in a course on ecclesiology. Because Tillard's passion for church unity is palpable, this work is an exhortation as well as an argument. Fidelity to Christ, he urges, requires conversion of life and the restoration of visible unity in a Eucharistic and an ecclesial communion.
This book is a fitting last testament of a great ecumenist whose extensive writings on ecclesiology have consistently imagined Christ's Church ecumenically.
With Tillard's death, the Church laments and gives thanks for one the great ecumenists of our time. In this, his first posthumous work in English, he takes up again his abiding concern: Rather than being a juridical or sociological reality, the Church is first and finally a sacramental and mystical communion. Only by taking this insight with utmost seriousness can our ecumenical efforts move forward in the twenty-first century.
Michael Downey, Professor of Systematic Theology and Spirituality, St. John's Seminary, Camarillo, Author, Altogether Gift: A Trinitarian Spirituality
Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ takes one to the inner mystery of the church where daily experiences of conversion, ecclesial identity, eucharistic spirituality, integrity of life, sacramental practice and contemplative living are linked. Tillard mines the tradition to make clear that Christian existence is integrally a church existence.' He lays the foundation from which contemporary issues of globalization and diversity, inculturation, ecumenism and eucharistic practice must ultimately be resolved.
Judith A. Merkle, S.N.D. de N., Niagara University