Eucharist and Globalization – Book Review by Marc Ellis


How marvelous to come across yet another generation of liberating theologians in the Christian tradition.  Claudio Carvalhaes’s, Eucharist and Globalization: Redrawing the Borders of Eucharistic Hospitality, is squarely in that tradition but with an innovative theological and liturgical touch.

So often religious services of different faith traditions alienate, divide and, let’s face it, too often bore the justice-committed believer to death.  Carvalhaes wants to bring liturgy to life by reorienting its central purpose or, better, by reclaiming aspects of its original communal gathering function that are relevant in our increasingly globalized world.

While committed to the Christian tradition, Carvalhaes is innovative in his understanding and subversive in his method of inviting the oppressed, committed, alienated, believer and unbeliever into a sharing of bread and companionship that is, as he stresses, borderless within a border.  Carvalhaes’s ultimate border is commitment to a world beyond the one we experience today.  With that border established, what other borders should block our fellowship with one another?

Like the Jesus he affirms, Carvalhaes’s call is broad and deep.  Carvalhaes wrestles with his own Reform tradition. Nonetheless, he avoids rigid divisions.  He also avoids a syncretistic relativity by maintaining a direction toward the marginal of our world.  Carvalhaes writes:  “Perhaps if we celebrate the eucharist once in a while without the biblical, historical warrant, it might shift our attention from ‘mere’ words to a broader horizon where new situations are created and new solutions are offered.  Perhaps, if we start talking about the ways that the food is served on the table got there, we will make ourselves responsible for the people who prepared it.  Thus, this other horizon provides connectedness to other people and things around us.  Moreover, a broader notion of the sacrament would also expand conscious connections to other communities that are not yet part of the table, either by remembering them or by committing ourselves to invite other people to eat with us.”

After decades of ecumenical and interfaith encounters, religion and liturgical time is where we continue to be cut off from one another.  In a world where the cycle of violence and atrocity increases, this is no longer acceptable.  Carvalhaes offers Christians, people of all faith and no faith, a way to come together in the struggle to reclaim and assert our common humanity.  This is the main thrust of Eucharist and Globalization, a book that should be read and widely discussed.


Marc H. Ellis, is retired University Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation and The Future Prophetic, forthcoming from Fortress Press.
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