November 19, 2012
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v2.1 Reference

Sacrifice as Gift

Eucharist, Grace, and Contemplative Prayer in Maurice de la Taille

How is the church to understand the Eucharist? Historically, the church has thought in terms of Christ's sacrifice that atones or makes satisfaction for our sins. Today, many theologians hold that Christ's death is primarily a self-gift, and they de-emphasize atonement or satisfaction. According to Michon M. Matthiesen, the early twentieth-century Jesuit Maurice de la Taille offered a theology that is relevant to this contemporary debate because it accounts for both the sacrifice and gift aspects of the Eucharist. De la Taille's three-volume masterpiece, Mysterium Fidei, published in 1921, generated theological excitement and controversy. Some praised the work as a new theological method that overcame post-Tridentine immolationist Eucharistic theories of sacrifice. Others objected to his view of Trent and were offended by his mystical-theological synthesis.

Sacrifice as Gift retrieves de la Taille's magisterial thought, presenting him as an early nouvelle théologie thinker who recovered patristic and medieval insights that lost prominence after Trent. The volume also demonstrates his role in the liturgical movement in Europe. According to Matthiesen, de la Taille did not claim to offer a "new theory" about the sacrifice of the Mass. Rather, he carefully read the tradition, weaving "the voices of the pages"—from scripture and the Fathers (East and West), to the scholastics, and the mystics of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries.

This study captures the remarkably integrated nature of de la Taille's thought on eucharistic sacrifice. Matthiesen argues that de la Taille's theology of eucharistic sacrifice cannot be properly understood apart from his theology of grace and contemplative prayer. Besides providing a new appreciation of the depth of de la Taille's theological contribution, Sacrifice as Gift is a timely presentation of a forgotten vision of eucharistic sacrifice, one that reconfigures the current philosophical and theological divide between sacrifice and gift.


Michon M. Matthiesen is adjunct assistant professor at Providence College.


"Michon Matthiesen has written a rigorous elucidation of the immensely respected sacramental theology of Maurice de la Taille not primarily as historical research, but rather as a way of resolving what she sees as a debilitating impasse in sacramental theology today. Matthiesen is a sacramental theologian of considerable merit, whose grounding in liturgy enriches her theological inquiry. Her presentation of de la Taille's often dense argumentation makes it comes to life, ever showing its relevance to the issues it questions."—David Burrell, CSC, Hesburgh Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Theology, University of Notre Dame

About the Author

MICHON M. MATTHIESEN is adjunct assistant professor at Providence College.


"Her 'Sacrifice as Gift' gives a lucid, learned, and engaging discussion of a major theologian who helped map the route toward the gift of grace issuing from Eucharistic communion and mystical union."—Henry Hart, Anglican Theological Review

"Her effort to restore this 'forgotten voice' to contemporary theology and intellectual history is in aid of a better understanding of sacramental theology and the doctrine of grace in Christian thought and spirituality Matthiesen's research has been turned to good account. The vital issue, as she sees it, is to accept a complete identity of spiritual significance between the Last Supper of Jesus, with its instiution of the Eucharist, with his death by crucifixion. Her repeated use of the disturbing term 'the supper-Cross' vividly expresses the doctrine in question."—Philip F. O'Mara, The Sixteenth Century Journal: The Journal of Early Modern Studies

"In this timely study Matthiesen presents a critical and tellingly appreciative account of La taille's work Matthiesen's retrieval of the corpus of La Taille's work I a welcome contribution to contemporary scholarly work on eucharistic origins, understandings, and practice, and one that certainly repays a serious and attentive reading."—Christopher Irvine, Oxford University Press The Author
The Catholic University of America Press


9780813220031 : sacrifice-as-gift-matthiesen
320 Pages
$75.00 USD

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