Discussion in 'Sacraments, Sacred Rites, and Holy Orders' started by Aidan, Oct 5, 2015.
do all Anglicans teach the former or do some teach the latter?
Anglicans have traditionally not subscribed either to consubstantiation or transubstantiation. Those who like Lutheran theology prefer the former, whereas some Angl0-Catholics prefer the latter explanation.
I've always thought that the classical, non-controversial (i.e. pre-Oxford Movement) Anglican vision of the Eucharist is that it is a divine sacrament instituted by our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ. We know Him most truly in the eating and drinking of His Body & Blood. If most Anglicans wished to avoid controversy, we'd all call it just what it is: a mystery.
In the end, what is all our cerebral, intellectual questioning worth? Receive, or do not receive. Love your neighbour, or do not love. That's the point of the Eucharist.
Lutherans do not hold to what is commonly called "consubstantiation." The Lutheran Confessions speak of the union of Christ's true Body and Blood with the elements of bread and wine as a "sacramental union." The bread is still bread. The wine is still wine. But Christ is still giving Himself (His Body and His Blood) through them. In other words, it is a "mystery." But if you deny that Christ is bodily present in the sacrament, then you really have no mystery at all, do you? You just have bread and wine ("symbols" of Christ's body and blood) and your own act of remembrance. Not much to feast on there...
Part of the problem in the debates over the nature of the Eucharist is the tendency to conflate two distinct matters: (1) What and (2) How. We know what Christ promised to give us in the Eucharist, namely, His true Body and Blood for the remission of our sins. What we don't know is how this occurs. What Christ promises is not "mysterious"--at least not in the sense of being "enigmatic." How this promise is so, however, is a mystery which we may not understand even after we have taken our seat at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
All who deny the truth of Christ's bodily presence in the Sacrament do so for purely philosophical reasons. They do not derive their teaching from Scripture--because they cannot. But imagine if we applied that same logic to every article of the Christian faith (and why they do not do this is purely--and happily--arbitrary). We can't understand HOW the Trinity is three and one--get rid of it! We can't understand HOW Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man--strike it from the books! We can't understand HOW the waters of Holy Baptism can possibly communicate God's promise of the forgiveness of sins to us--toss it out! We can't understand HOW a human's mouth could speak the very words of God to me, absolving me of my sin and reconciling me to the heart of the Father--pitch it!
So, what do we have left? Who would even want to receive the Sacrament if all it was were some stale wafers and cheap wine? As Flannery O'Connor could say, if the Eucharist is only a symbol, "then I say to hell with it!"
That sounds precisely like the Anglican concept of the Eucharist -- except that, classically, we believed His Presence was more in the receiving (Kneeling & Eating) than in the act of consecrating (the Epiclesis or Institution Narrative). A true presence, indeed, but not a magical one.
I do rather like the equivalence of "sacramental union", rather like Holy Matrimony or the union of the Holy Spirit with the waters of Baptism.
I don't believe that is entirely so. If you take a picture of your mother out of your wallet and say "This is my Mother", you don't need to say it's merely a picture or representation of her. Our Lord said "do this in remembrance of me". He wasn't entirely clear on what "this" was. Was it the "making-present" of Himself? Well, if that is merely so on the basis of the context, then we make-present the Christ of the Last Supper, not the crucified Christ. Was it merely the memorial of His dying? If so, we do not remember the Resurrection, yet that is what we do on Sundays. It seems to me that it is making-present, remembering, giving thanks, praying, etc., all in one.
The Puritan impulse encapsulated.
That is the opinion of a Catholic woman. I, for one, would be happy to keep a mere remembrance that the Lord had specifically commanded, regardless of philosophy.
A picture of your mother may be a representation of your true mother, but that picture is a mere sign pointing to a reality beyond itself, namely, your actual mother. A sign, by its very nature, represents that which is absent. Sign banishes mystery from the "right here" to the "somewhere else." In other words, there is no mystery there at all...
By contrast, when we confess the Eucharist to be a sacramental union, what we are confessing is that it is a union of both sign and reality. It is what it signifies and it signifies what it is.
Jesus wasn't clear on what "this" means? Interesting...
Most of the time those who oppose the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist follow Zwingli (and Bill Clinton, for that matter) in challenging the meaning of the word "is." You have chosen to go the more creative, and less trodden, route of Karlstadt.
Reading the passages of scripture which record the verba of our Lord, I find it unmistakably clear that the "this" (touto) refers to the bread and the cup, respectively. Christ took bread, broke it, gave it the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my Body." Then He took the cup, gave to them all and said, "Drink of it all of you, this cup is the New Testament in my Blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins."
By making the very meaning of the word "this" into a mystery, you negate the real mystery of the Eucharist itself. You substitute for the mystery of sacramental union a "mystery" (or better phrased "obscurity") of language. According to this view, the mystery is in what Christ said. But this locates the mystery in the wrong place. His words are not unclear. What is mysterious is how His words accomplish what they so plainly and obviously state, namely, that in the Eucharist we become true partakers of God's own Body and Blood, for the remission of our sins.
Moreover, the argument that Christ could only have offered up at the Last Supper His "pre-crucified Body" is a blasphemous denial of God's omnipotence, as well as a rejection of Scripture's own witness that Christ is the Lamb slain before the very foundations of the world. No sin has ever been forgiven in all the world apart from the crucified Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Once again, this objection centers on the matter of "how" rather than dwelling with childlike faith on the simple "what."
And, finally, Flannery O'Connor may have been a Catholic, but as Luther once said, "I'd rather drink blood with a papist than grapejuice with a Zwinglian."
Indeed, if it is merely a "picture/symbol/sign of my Body", there isn't any mystery to speak of. It's certainly a way of interpreting the message. I find it interesting that the Lord said the cup is the New Testament in His Blood. It's as if the cup itself is the blood, or the symbol.
I am not a fan of the continental reformers. They were heroic men in their times, standing up for Jesus Christ in an awkward age, but I do not subscribe to any particular belief system of theirs. Be it Zwingli, Karlstadt, Bucer, et. al., I am merely trying to understand through imagery.
Anyway, our Lord certainly said the bread is "my Body" and the cup/chalice/wine is "my Blood". I did not purposefully locate the mystery in what Christ said. Most importantly, I was merely "thinking aloud". I subscribe to no system, but try to let the pastors do their job in making the commemoration, and to do my job in receiving.
From what I can see in the Scriptures (esp. 1 Corinthians 11:29) and in every early Father, there is certainly no mystery as to the fact that we truly consume the Body & Blood of the Lord. Whether that is "beneath" bread & wine, "with" bread & wine, or "through" bread and wine, I cannot say.
I often wonder why this subject - in which I can see to be nothing but semantics - is so hotly debated. Whether He comes with, beneath, or through the elements, the fact is that He is with us until the end of the age.
I do have to contest the accusation of blasphemy, though! If the Eucharist was a solely bodily/corporal institution of eating literal flesh & drinking literal blood (whether united with bread & wine or not), it can have nothing to do with the fact that the "Lamb [was] slain before the foundation of the world", for the Lamb was not incarnate until the world was had progressed quite far in time. A corporal, physical, bodily thing is subject to time and space, and since the Eucharist pertains to the incarnation, it cannot be woolly as to time and space.
Of course it's not blasphemy if He didn't actually offer up His Body in sacrifice at the last Supper...
What is the source for that quote of Luther, by the way?
Okay, now I think we are getting somewhere. You say that you agree with the Scriptures and the early Church Fathers that what we are consuming in the Eucharist is, truly and properly, Christ's Body and Blood. Am I correct in interpreting your words this way?
If so, allow me to clarify a few things from my own position:
(1) When Luther said that the Body and Blood of Christ are "in, with, and under" the sacramental elements, what he was doing was simply throwing three prepositions together in a decidedly non-systematic way. What on earth does it mean to be "in, with, and under" something? It simply means being present.
(2) Moreover, I nowhere assert a crude physical eating of Christ's literal flesh and blood--as though we were gnawing on bits of his fingers or ears or toes in the Eucharist. That would indeed be a blasphemous thought, and hardly worthy of being called Christian. What I asserted was that we receive the entire fullness of Christ in the sacrament. After all, Christ does not give Himself piecemeal. He does not give Himself in segments or pieces, but imparts all of Himself to sinners--body, soul, and divinity.
(3) I do not claim that Christ offered Himself to the disciples as a "sacrifice" in the Eucharist, or that this is somehow "re-created" in our weekly (and, for some, daily) reception of the Eucharist. We partake of the sacrifice completed once and for all in the Eucharist, this is true. But we do not bring anything to sacrifice at the Eucharist but our own broken and contrite hearts.
(4) Your definition of what a "body" is and is capable of is drawn from your own fallen experience, rather than the word of God. The resurrected Christ did some pretty wild things: like pass through closed tombs and locked doors. Even before His resurrection He was transfigured and revealed the light of His glory on Mount Tabor. He also said upon ascending into heaven (often called His "farewell" discourse, but most properly called His "arrival" discourse) that, lo, He is with us always. Did He mean that? Or was He just using "imagery" to tickle the disciples' imaginations? If He did mean it, then He was certainly referring to Himself--His whole self--seeing that He was not incarnate for only a time, but took flesh in time and now for all eternity. If the resurrected Christ has a true body (and I hope we can agree on that), then we must not limit the potentialities of that body to our own puny knowledge of physics--which is fragmentary at best.
The quote comes from Luther's 1526 treatise, The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ: Against the Fanatics, in Luther's Works (American Edition), vol. 36. I am not near my library at the moment, so I cannot give you a page number, but when I get the chance I will send that to you.
I am joyful that getting somewhere is the goal of your replies -- it certainly is for me, too! So much theology can become acrimony.
2. This point has always bothered me, somewhat. On the one hand, it is denied that we chew on specific parts of Christ, like a finger or toe; but on the other, it is asserted that we receive the whole Christ: body, as well as soul & divinity. Now, a human body is decidedly a whole. It contains toes, fingers, hair, etc., and is not a complete body without them. Mustn't say that if we do eat Christ bodily, we eat Him "crudely", or corporeally? There seems to be no other way. Do you know of any Protestant divines - continental or insular - who theorized that somehow, in the Eucharist, the Bread was a new Body for the Soul & Divinity of Christ? I suppose that would be an intolerable separation of His full Human from His full Divine nature.
3. I am very glad that we agree on this point. It is essential. Our sacrifice is that of praise & thanksgiving, as the Psalms say.
4. Plainly speaking, the resurrected Christ did not institute the Eucharist. I acknowledge that my understanding of temporality is created, fallen, mortal, and limited, however. There's no need to push further in an area that I don't understand at all.
However, to say that Christ's words "I am with you always, unto the end of the World" are to be understood in a physical sense as well as spiritual, then mustn't "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" mean that the conversants literally become Christ Himself, in a physical sense? This is, of course, impossible. It's quite possible to be with someone "in spirit", as it were.
5. Thank you. I don't need a page number, as I believe you.
Interesting to see that your signature is a quote of S. Thomas. He's the reason I moved on from the atheism of my upbringing to embrace [Roman] Catholicism, at first; in fact, my Baptismal/Confirmation name (both in one day) is Thomas -- hence, "Toma".
And yes, I do believe that our Lord & Saviour inhabits precisely the same fully-human body, post-resurrection, which He assumed in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary at the Incarnation.
Cranmer'a most developed understanding of Christ's presence in the eucharist, as expressed in his "True and Catholick" work on the subject, was essentially a spiritual one in nature, where the worthy partaker's heart is spiritually united with Christ in the sacrament, which is viewed and defined in its material/spiritual outer/inner totality and is not reduced simply to the physical elements thereof. It can be difficult to fully grasp the nuance, especially when our minds are trained to look to either the romish or zwinglian extremes of the argument with no thought of the vast and colorful theological landscape in between.
Alright. I thought we were moving toward an agreement, until you began to deny that we partake of Christ's crucified and resurrected Body in the sacrament. In your previous post you said that we do partake of Christ's Body and Blood. Am I missing something?
Anyways, here a few further points that may help to clarify my own view:
(1) I did not say that the resurrected Christ instituted the Eucharist. I noted that Christ's pre-resurrected body shone forth in all its glory on Mount Tabor in His transfiguration. Physics says that this is "impossible," but Christ did it anyways. Your denial of our
(2) To say that our eating of Christ is both bodily and spiritual is not a contradiction--at least, not unless you assume a neo-platonic separation of the physical and the spiritual, which it seems you are close to accepting. When you do this, then every time I say that something is physical, then you will think, "Oh, I see, then it is not spiritual." And every time I say that something is spiritual, then you will think, "Oh, I see, then it is not physical." I am saying that it is both--just like Christ Himself. The spiritual and the physical are not at war with each other. To paraphrase a Thomist dictum: the spiritual does not destroy the physical but perfects it.
(3) Whenever I discuss the Eucharist with those of a more Reformed mindset, I find the reason to be philosophical presuppositions rather than scriptural support. Your reasons for denying the true, bodily presence of Christ in the Sacrament have all been appeals to preconceived philosophical definitions of what a body is and is capable of. What I am saying is that, if Christ is the true human being (cf. Gen. 1:26, Jn. 19:5, Heb. 1:3, Eph. 4:24, etc.), then we should let Him tell and show us what a body can and cannot do. And He has told and shown us that it can do a lot more than what the "laws of physics" say it can. Furthermore, when I say that Christ's Body is present in the Eucharist, I am not saying that it is present in a localized way, but in an ineffable way that surpasses our understanding.
(4) Lastly, if Christ has not ceased to be incarnate, then He has not ceased to be with His Body. Therefore, when He says, "Behold, I am with you always," the I refers to the total person of Christ, who is both God and man, divinity and body. The person of Christ is not divided. His flesh is not a suit that His divinity takes on and off at its leisure, but has been fully assumed and appropriated by that divinity now and ever and unto ages of ages.
Doesn't Cranmer basically follow the same line as Calvin, who claimed that it is we who ascend to Christ, and not Christ who descends to us, in the Sacrament? We receive Christ "spiritually," meaning that we do not receive Him physically in anyway whatsoever. As far as I can tell, this is just a more decorative form of Zwinglianism--better furniture; same room. There is nothing "nuanced" about it, really. It is just another variety of spiritualistic reductionism.
Toma, your the first person I've encountered who moved from RC to Anglicanism. May I ask why?
Was this to me or to Toma? I do not want to reply to a comment not directed to me.
It depends on what point in Cranmer's life you look at. Cranmer's personal reformation started solidly in the traditional Romish territory, he then became essentially Lutheran, at least from my point of view, except for his eucharistic theology, which does share similarities to Calvin. I seriously doubt anyone could honestly characterize Cranmer's eucharistic theology as decorated Zwinglianism but to each his own.
I would characterize myself as Lutheran in the since that I agree with many of Luther's stances. However, I think the rumored divide between his followers and Anglicans who follow Cranmer's view on this issue is greatly exagerated. Cranmer believed that upon consecration of the elements, they were no longer mere bread and wine; they were Christ's Body and Blood, but in significance, not in substance.
I would suggest reading his definitive work on the subject: https://archive.org/details/defenceoftruecat00cran I would point out that his work was showing the contrasts between his view and the romish one which might tend to emphasize a more protestant tone.
He makes a compelling case, although it is one I ultimately consider to be less accurately worded than Luther's, Laud's, and Pusey's; we must remember that at the end of the day, all of these are just men's words. Just the attempt of blind men to guess at the elephant. Just explanations or approximations of God's Truth on the Lord's Supper which is in essence a mystery. Some are more articulate, others are less so. But none can claim to be the Truth itself. Such a claim is reserved for the Word of God alone.
Thank you for your reply, Lowly Layman. I wish there was not such a divide between Lutherans and Anglicans on the matter of the Eucharist, but the fact remains that there is.
It is worth pointing out that Luther did not deny transubstantiation per se, but only that it was wrongly elevated to the status of dogma. There is nothing inherently wrong with asserting that Christ is substantially present in the Supper, or even of understanding it in terms of transubstantiation. What is wrong is forcing all Christians to accept a single, philosophical explanation of what the Sacrament is.
I didn't say that we do not partake of Christ's crucified & risen Body (& Blood) in the Sacrament. Clearly, if it is His Body & Blood, it is the Body & Blood of the One who died and rose again. Our disagreement is over how Bread & Wine are His Body & Blood: transub., consub., sacramental union, etc.
1. At Tabor, who says it was His resurrection that was shown? Why not some glimpse of His Divine Nature, revealed mysteriously? Also, I agree with everything else you said, but I don't think you finished your paragraph?
2. I am not proposing Gnosticism, Dualism, or any such thing. In fact, the Incarnation is the entire basis of believing firmly in a good union of spiritual with physical. There can be a distinction, however. In John 6 - if we presume the Lord is speaking of the Eucharist, which is not entirely certain - the Lord says that His words are "spirit and life", not "fleshly or carnal". Interesting distinction, near to S. Paul's.
3. I do not have a "Reformed mindset". I reject all of TULIP, for example, and am of a mind with Anglican episcopalianism. The exact "how" of the Eucharist is one area that is very unclear in Scripture, however. Merely being interested in alternate explanations of the Mystery does not render one beholden to them. I am here to think aloud, not to hold forth a certain idea.
Anyway, I'm glad that you say Christ's body isn't present locally, but ineffably. That precludes Eutychianism. The problem is that, glorified or not, a Human Body is in one place or another -- unless you're saying that Christ's Human Body is so timeless after the Resurrection that He was literally in Emmaus at the same time as He was passing into the Upper Room? Is that a chronology supported by the Gospels? I mean, if so, then the debate is at an end: Christ's literal human body is in Tabernacle A and Tabernacle B at the same time. If not, we have a very strange Eutychian Christ indeed, who is present everywhere and filling all things with a huge "Cosmic Body".
4. It's well and good to say Christ's human & divine natures are united to the degree that they are inseparable, but the fact remains that a Person is no less a Person when his nature is "projected". What I mean is that you are a Full Human Person after your death and before the general Resurrection (i.e. as a "Soul"), just as much as you are a full human person before your death and after the general resurrection (i.e. as a "Soul+Body"). Can it not be so for Christ, present spiritually but not physically?
If we "ascend to Christ" and Christ does not "descend to us", either way there is Christ the divine person with a human nature. It doesn't necessarily reduce to mere spirit. Of course, I think it's nonsense to say that we ascend to Christ, as if we joined His Ascension into the clouds. Again, strangely, He is physically "at the right hand of God", even though God has no right hand.
Curiouser and curiouser!
Please avoid attributing labels of Zwinglianism to Archbishop Cranmer, as that theology is officially condemned as a heresy in the Thirty-Nine Articles.
Aidan, there is a great variety of reasons for my decision. Since Transubstantiation is not one of them, I will refrain from discussing my conversion here.
Maybe another thread, somewhere else.
I wholeheartedly concur.
Would you please start one Toma, am very interested in what you have to say as I am also former RC?