Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. 2nd ed. London:Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005 (republished from 1945 original edition).
Chapter 9, “The Meaning of the Eucharist” pp. 238-267.
Dix reminds the reader that the eucharist is an action performed as a rite, with a meaning stated in the prayer (Dix 2005, 238). The first step of Dix’ discussion of meaning pertains to consecration and sacrifice. Dix asks whether the words of institution by themselves serve to consecrate (Ibid., 238). “The particular rites used by these [pre-Nicene] fathers did contain a full institution narrative” (Ibid., 239). Yet not all of the rites do. Yet that institution narrative moves into the rite quickly and permanently (Ibid., 240). By the fourth century writers began to seek the actual moment of consecration (Ibid., 240). A rejection of this concept and of attempts to view the eucharist as a re-sacrifice follows.
Dix moves on (Ibid., 243) to trace the concept of the eucharist as anamnesis - remembrance. From earliest writers on the elements were always unabashedly identified as body and blood. The Fathers also insisted that this was for anamnesis (Ibid., 244). In fact, Dix says, to the primitive church “the eucharistic action is necessarily His action of sacrifice, and what is offered must be what He offered” (Ibid., 246). This implies Christ giving himself to his people in the eucharist.
Next, Dix addresses the eucharist as an action offering the church to Christ (Ibid., 247). This is a longstanding interpretation of the meaning, eroded by the lack of communion in the Medieval period but still surviving (Ibid., 248-249). This idea brings Dix into the idea that the eucharist is a manifestation of Jesus with his people (Ibid., 255). This is more vivid than simply “remembering.”
Dix moves to a discussion of eschatology on p. 256. A linear view of history, which Dix identifies in Jewish philosophy, indicates that there will be a more or less orderly progression to a clearly defined end. This end is seen in Christianity as the Lord gives his Spirit to bring life, manifested in Word and Sacrament (Ibid., 260). Christian eschatology appears in the eucharist as we do it until the end, joining in with the final sacrifice for sin (Ibid., 263).