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On the Body of the Lord
by Albert the Great
translated by Albert Marie Surmanski
Catholic University of America Press, 2017
Cloth: 978-0-8132-2958-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8132-2959-1
Library of Congress Classification BV825.3.A4313 2017
Dewey Decimal Classification 234.163

Albert the Great wrote On the Body of the Lord in the 1270s, making it his final work of sacramental theology. A companion volume to his commentary on the Mass, On the Body of the Lord is a comprehensive discussion of Eucharistic theology. The treatise is structured around six names for the Eucharist taken from the Mass: grace, gift, food, communion, sacrifice, and sacrament. It emerges from the liturgy and is intended to draw the reader back to worship.

The overall movement of the treatise follows the order of God’s wisdom. Albert begins by discussing the Eucharist as a gift flowing from the goodness of the Trinity. He touches on its relation to redemption and the Church, including a rigorous Aristotelian analysis of Eucharistic change and presence before ending with a discussion of Mass rubrics. The most significant theological emphasis is on the Eucharist as food given to feed the people of God.

The style varies to suit the content: certain sections are terse; others are devotional, allowing the reader to enter the saint’s own prayer. Perhaps most characteristically Albertine is an extended meditation that compares the process of digestion to the incorporation of the Christian into the Body of Christ. The mixed style allows this work to integrate rigorous aspects of scholastic thought with a fervent love for God, making On the Body of the Lord one of Albert’s most human as well as one of his most beautiful works.

On the Body of the Lord was well received, particularly in areas that came to be influenced by the devotio moderna. By 1484, three separate Latin editions had been printed, two of which were the inaugural works on new presses. In the following century the Protestant Reformation brought an end to its popularity. On the Body of the Lord is here translated into English for the first time.

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