Monika K. Hellwig – Eucharist, Hunger

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 bringing the Eucharist into our daily eating. One book that I’ve been reading in preparation is: The Eucharist and The Hunger of the World, by Monika K. Hellwig.

Cover photo
Cover photo

The Eucharist and the Hunger of the World was published in 1976. Although some of the issues dealt with have changed, there is much in the book that resonates in our world today.

Hellwig, a pioneering woman theologian in the Catholic Church, does a good job in this little (88 pages) book 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 live’s 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, but if you have any interest in the meaning of the Eucharist, you should find this book informative and perhaps formative.

At the beginning of the second chapter she distinguishes between the idea of mystery and magic. Hellwig does this by referring to theologian Karl Rahner’s statment: “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.

If you find yourself at odds with the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, Hellwig states that in the earliest use of the term, the primary reference was to change in the community gathered for the Eucharist as only secondarily to the elements (79).

One of the other things I really liked about this book is that while Hellwig is encouraging readers to think more about the physical hunger of our world, 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, allowing each to come to their own conclusions as how best to connect the Eucharist to the hunger of the world.

Given the age of the book it may be difficult to find, but it is worth your while trying to dig yourself up a copy.


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