Gratefully the last decade or so has witnessed a plethora of books on the Eucharist. Many of them are useful as textbooks or as suggested further reading. I see this book as required auxiliary reading in an undergraduate class on the Eucharist or on the sacraments. Eucharistic Doctors is not a conventional history of the Eucharist. Rather, Cummings has selected some thirty authors from various eras who have something to teach (docere) Christians about the Eucharist. The doctors of the title are not necessarily doctors of the church in the technical sense; they are, however, post-biblical writers whose teachings about the Eucharist can enrich a contemporary understanding of the Eucharist.
Prospective teachers of theology will be served in their selection of texts by knowing who are the doctors in this book. From the Patristic era they are Ignatius of Antioch, Justin the Martyr, Hippolytus, Ephrem the Syrian, Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo and Maximus the Confessor. From the Middle Ages: Celtic texts, John Scottus Eriugena, Hugh of Saint Victor, Robert Pullen, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus and John Wyclif. From the Reformation era: Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Fisher and Thomas Cranmer. From the Post-Reformation era: George Herbert, Robert Bellarmine, Jeremy Taylor, and John Wesley. From the Modern era: Friedrich Schleiermacher, Johann Adam Möhler, John Henry Newman, Edward Pusey, David Power and Geoffrey Wainwright. Cummings' collection of authors is ecumenical. Many writers are authors one expects in such a collection while there are some surprising and welcome entries. One would have expected an author who has composed a book entitled Mystical Women, Mystical Body (Portland: Pastoral Press, 2000) to have a included at least one female author. The inclusion of the poetry/hymns of Ephrem the Syrian, Thomas Aquinas, George Herbert and the Wesleys enriches this book significantly. With such a generous sampling of Eucharistic authors it would be niggling to ask for more; however, contemporary students ought to hear from the writings of Edward Kilmartin whose knowledge of the tradition was so profound and whose prognostications continue to be vital for the development of Eucharistic theology.
Cummings puts each author in historical context. The quotations from the cited writers are quite brief. Professors who favor longer quotations will need to supplement this book with longer quotations. The endnotes for each section of the book have helpful bibliographical references, and an index of names helps one pass from one entry to another.
It is surprising that Cummings has not used the British Blackfriars edition of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologiae of the 1960's which has the Latin and English texts on facing pages and which, incidently, would have reminded Cummings that Summa theologiae is preferable to Summa theologica. It would also have been more sensitive to current and ecumenical scholarship to avoid a phrase like “another Father sacrifices his beloved Son.” (p. 130). The over emphasis on the theme of transubstantiation at various places in the book does not strike a proper balance in the presentation of various themes. I would have welcomed some texts that highlight the Eucharist as the primary sacrament of forgiveness.
This book is clearly a work of academic devotion by an author whose mind is sensitive to the ecumenical issues surrounding the Eucharist and who has a generous spirit in his selection of authors, some of whom, rarely if ever, make it into traditional texts. The presentations throughout the book are lively and clear.