The eucharist
in John Wyclif
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Wyclif’s views on the church and the papacy were recorded systematically in two roughly contemporary treatises, On the Church (1378/9) and On the Power of the Pope (late 1379). His conception of the church, like his understanding of the nature of scripture, was underpinned quite conspicuously by his philosophical realism, which privileged the eternal over the finite and ephemeral. In the first chapter of On the Church, in response to his initial desire to describe the quiddity of the church, he therefore claims simply that the church is ‘the congregation of all of those predestined to salvation’. This definition, he suggests, underlies many of the diverse conceptions of the church that are found in scripture. It is this church, he goes on to suggest, that we should properly identify as the bride of Christ. The head of the church, we are told, is uniquely Christ himself, and its members are his limbs. Nobody can know for certain that he or she is among the predestinate, or even the foreknown (that is, those predestined to damnation), which meant that for Wyclif, nobody could be sure that he or she was truly a member of the church, except by ‘special revelation’.