Friday, January 18, 2008

Food for thought

Here is food for thought that was posted several days ago by "An Anglican Cleric." Some of you make think I have gone off the deep end into some kind of Protestant low church view, by reposting this here. Rest assured, I have not. Neither Hooker nor Fr. Schmemann (yes, that Fr. Schemann, of the Orthodox Church) quoted in the post were theological lightweights. My purpose in reposting this is to emphasize the reason why Anglicans coined the name "The Holy Communion" as an additional name for the Mass, the grace given through this sacrament unto salvation, the need to receive Christ's Body and Blood as the food and drink of everlasting life.

What it the intent of the Eucharist?

It is communion. Pure and simple. The Real Presence of Christ, which is the Catholic doctrine enshrined in the Articles, is there to be received. In Saint Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians we read of the Eucharist still embedded in a communal meal, and Paul is concerned that those who came to the Lord's Table did not discern the presence of Christ that they were partaking of nor their Communion with Christ and with one another that was achieved through the bread and the cup. Please read these comments from our learned doctor Richard Hooker taken from his Ecclesiastical Polity:

"Take, eat; this is my body; drink ye all of it; for this is my blood." [Mat. 26. 26–28.]

If we have any doubt as to what is expressed by these admirable words, let that one be our teacher as to the meaning of Christ, to whom Christ himself was a schoolmaster. Let our Lord’s Apostle be his interpreter, and let us content ourselves with his explanation, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" [1 Cor. 10. 16.] Is there anything clearer and easier than the fact that just as Christ is called our life because we obtained life through him, so the parts of this sacrament are called his body and blood because when we receive these elements we do receive the body and blood of Christ?

We say that the bread and the wine are his body and his blood because through their instrumentality we participate in his body and blood, and that is a valid assertion because we quite properly give the name of the effect to the cause which produces it, for the cause is in the result which grows out of that cause. Our souls and bodies receive eternal life, and this life in them has as its source and cause the Person of Christ, and his body and blood are the source from which this life flows. The influence of the heavens is in plants, animals and men, and in everything which they make alive; but the body and blood of Christ are in that communicant to which they minister in a far more divine and mystical kind of union, a union which makes us one with him, even as he and the Father are one.

We all agree that Christ really and truly carries out his promise by means of the sacrament; but why do we trouble ourselves by such fierce contests about consubstantiation and the question whether the elements themselves contain Christ or not? Even if consubstantiation or transubstantiation are true, it does not benefit us, and if they are not true it does not handicap us. Our participation in Christ through the sacraments depends upon the cooperation of his omnipotent power, and that power makes the sacrament a means of creating his body and blood in us. Whether there is or is not such a change in the elements themselves, as some people imagine, need not make any great difference to us.

Let us, then, accept that in which we all agree, and then consider why the rest should not be considered superfluous rather than urged as necessary. In the first place, it is generally agreed that this sacrament is a real participation in Christ, and that by its means he imparts his full Person as the mystical head of every soul who receives him and thereby becomes a very member incorporate in his mystical body, which is the blessed company of all faithful people.

In the second place, it is also agreed that the communicant who receives the Person of Christ through the sacrament also receives the Holy Spirit who sanctifies the communicant as it sanctified Christ who is the head of all those who participate in him. In the third place, it is commonly held that whatever power or virtue there is in Christ’s sacrificed body and blood we freely and fully receive this sacrament.

In the fourth place, it is agreed that the result of the sacrament is a real transmutation of our souls and bodies from sin to righteousness, from death and corruption to immortality and life. In the fifth place, all believe that the sacramental elements are only corruptible and earthly things; therefore, they must seem to be an unlikely instrument to work out such admirable effects in man. For that reason, we must not rest our confidence in these elements themselves, but put our trust altogether in the strength of his glorious power, which he can and will give us."

Now read these comments from a learned theologian and presbyter of the Orthodox communion, the late Father Alexander Schmemann taken from his excellent text The Eucharist (the complete text of which I urge everyone, especially clergy, to read and digest) and see the same points that were made by Hooker. The first comment will strike many as "rather protestant" due to the similarity of the argument made to some of the same arguments made by Cranmer and Hooker (indeed, one could easily misatribute Schmemann's quote to Hooker), but realize that Father Schmemann is speaking past the arguments made in the West, as Hooker was attempting to do. Both men, Hooker and Schmemann, are trying to reach past the disagreements based on scholastic logic to the real crux of the matter, the purpose of the Eucharist:

"The purpose of the eucharist lies not in the change of bread and wine, but in our partaking of Christ, who has become our food, our life, the manifestation of the Church as the body of Christ.

This is why the holy gifts themselves never became in the Orthodox East an object of special reverence, contemplation and adoration, and likewise an object of special theological "problematics": how, when, in what manner their change is accomplished. The eucharist--and this means the changing of the holy gifts--is a mystery that cannot be revealed and explained in the categories of "this world. . ." It is revealed only to faith. . .

We find the answers to these questions in the epiklesis. But the answer is not "rational," built upon the laws of our "one-storied" logic; it is disclosed to us by the Holy Spirit. . .

Thus the epiklesis concludes the anaphora, the part of the liturgy that encompasses the "assembly as the Church," the entrance, the proclamation of the good news of the word of God, the offering, the oblation, the thanksgiving and remembrance. But with the epiklesis begins the consummation of the liturgy, whose essence lies in the communion, in the distribution to the faithful of the holy gifts, the body and blood of Christ."
posted by An Anglican Cleric | 10:55 AM

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems that Bp. Jewel made a point similar to Fr. Schmemann in his Apology :

Yet say we not this so, as though we thought that the nature and substance of the bread and wine is clearly changed and goeth to nothing: as many have dreamed in these later times, which yet could never agree among themselves, of this their dream. For that was not Christ's meaning, that the wheaten bread should lay apart his own nature, and receive a certain new divinity: but that he might rather change us, and (to use Theophylact's words) might transform us into His body.

Blessings,

Fr. Ronald Drummond
Macomb,IL
Long-time reader
First-time commenter

An Anglican Cleric said...

Fr. Drummond--

Excellent point.

AC+

poetreader said...

ONLY A TABLE

It's only a table,
plain and small,
Only a table
at the front of a hall.
It's only a table,
don't you see,
Only a table,
but precious to me.

It's only a loaf,
plain simple bread,
Only a cupful,
liquid and red.
It's only a token,
not a big meal,
Only a token,
but ever so real.

I come to the table,
I come to the bread,
I open my ears
to the words that He said.
I tremble with awe
at a message so great,
I tremble with awe,
I stand, and I wait.

I come to the table,
I come to the cup,
I open my eyes
to the Lord lifted up.
My knees grow weak,
and my heart feels small
For I'm in His presence,
Who died for us all.

"This is My body,
come and receive,
"This is My body,
only believe.
"This is My blood,
for you it did spill,
"This is My blood,
come let Me fill."

I come to the table,
I come to the cross,
Without this Savior
it all would be loss.
I come to the table
with all my sin,
I bring this poor life
to let Jesus in.

I come to the table,
I come to the tomb,
I come to the place
where He took my doom.
I come to the table,
I see Him arise,
With hope of new life
I look to the skies.

I worship the King
of heaven and earth,
I thankfully sing
the joy of new birth.
I rise and exult
as I go on my way,
Knowing He's with me,
and with me to stay.

It's only a table,
plain and small,
Only a table
at the front of a hall.
It's only a table,
don't you see,
Only a table,
but precious to me.

It's only a loaf,
plain simple bread,
Only a cupful,
liquid and red.
It's only a token,
not a big meal,
Only a token,
but ever so real.

---------------ed pacht

John said...

Good post.

""The purpose of the eucharist lies not in the change of bread and wine, but in our partaking of Christ, who has become our food, our life, the manifestation of the Church as the body of Christ.

This is why the holy gifts themselves never became in the Orthodox East an object of special reverence, contemplation and adoration, and likewise an object of special theological "problematics": how, when, in what manner their change is accomplished."

So if looking past the physical attributes why do so many insist on a 'tabernacle' ? It strikes me as wanting to keep Jesus in a box. Can't we be satisfied to let Him come and go as He pleases and still be Anglo Catholic?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

So if looking past the physical attributes why do so many insist on a 'tabernacle' ?

Then how would you propose that the holy Blessed Sacrament be reserved? In a shoe box? An old sock? A brown paper bag? I cannot go along with you on that. The tabernacle says to those who see, "this is holy." I am not throwing away the monstrance. I reposted this to remind us of the purpose of the sacrament.

An Anglican Cleric said...

I agree that when the Sacrament is reserved it ought to be reserved in a reverential manner. While the tabernacle is the customary way, other means, such as a hanging pyx, have been used in the western Church. In some churches the tabernacle is on or above the altar, while in others it is in the side of the sanctuary or in a side chapel.

Thanks again to Fr. Hart for the repost (most of which is obviously not mine, but Hooker+ and Schmemann+).

AC+

Carlos said...

Father Hart,

What is your opinion about Eucharistic Adoration?

Many of my Roman friends find this spiritually moving, I however find the ritual a little ... boring? I found myself meditating on an Icon of the Virgin of Vladamir on the wall during the Adoration ritual. This might just be me... but I've read several pieces by Orthodox writers about Adoration and it seems like it detracts from the Consumption of Christ in Communion.

John said...

I agree with Carlos, and I guess to answer you on reserving, I cannot see the purpose other than for the sick. Why reserve does not Jesus promise when two or three" It just seems untrusting of the promise.

I understand the article to say that reservation in a tabernacle is not practiced in the East? Is that right? On many posts here the Vincentian Canon is oft referred to, if this form of reservation is not practiced there then does it meet the test?

poetreader said...

I'll speak to that, Carlos,

"... boring?" Well, if by adoration you refer to the lengthy period of time spent in silence before the Sacrament, rather than to the more active rituals before and after that time, that's inevitable. We are mere human beings with limited attention spans, and attentive silent worship is an art learned with much practice, rather than something that comes naturally. Worship is the conscious and intentional setting-aside of a part of our life to, well, worship. While it is more edifying to our conscious mind if we can truly feel engaged, but it is a valid offering of worship to say, "Lord. this is your time, even if I feel bored."

Now, God can be adored in an empty room. He is always present, even when we are alone, and more especially when 'two or three are gathered together' in His Name. Every place and every time is sacred, if only we can know it. There's the point. In a consecrated space, in the presence of such powerful symbols as the icon you mention, and (to a Westerner anyway) preeminently when Christ is present in that indefinable special way in the Blessed Sacrament -- in those circumstances, we are able that much more clearly to know He is present, and thus to worship with more knowledge and, perhaps, more passion.

Rites like the opening of the tabernacle and setting up of the monstrance, of the various hymns and prayers that may punctuate the time of adoration, and the Benediction which concludes it are further expressions of just that kowledge of His presence.

Are these rites necessary? Surely not. He may be worshiped and adored at any time and in any place, but in the Western Church a lively devotion to Christ-in-the-Sacrament has become an important aid to Christians seeking to peer across the Veil to the Throne of God. This isn't really so in the East, as the developed piety there has such an awareness of His presence in the "Temple" (church building) that the place itself is seen as the gate of Heaven.

"It's only a table ... only a loaf ... only a cupfull," but there, whether within the Eucharist or after it is completed, He is present, and the veil is thin.

ed

Carlos said...

I would agree, it's probably the length of time that the adoration ceremonies go on for that has affected my judgement. But as you said, Christ can be magnified anywhere without the aid of anything. But being human, many if not most of us need something physical to focus on or remind us.

Warwickensis said...

I've always found Exposition very helpful for convincing me of realities that I can't see.

If I look scientifically at the situation, then all I see is a group of people kneeling before a small white wafer. How daft! Yet, like the wonderful icons that Carlos mentions, it breaks through my pitiful perceptions of a three dimensional reality and punches a hole through to the infinite dimensions of God.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

John asked a very good question:
I understand the article to say that reservation in a tabernacle is not practiced in the East? Is that right? On many posts here the Vincentian Canon is oft referred to, if this form of reservation is not practiced there then does it meet the test?

We all agree that reservation in some form is necessary, and mainly for the people who need us to take the sacrament to them in a pyx.

As for the Fathers, Justin Martyr mentions a practice that no one does anymore anywhere. People would come with vessels, and take home what remained of the consecrated bread, the Body of our Lord. The practice was to begin each day in prayer and to communicate with part of it. It was assumed that each person treated it with the greatest reverence.

What comes to us from the Tradition (which includes the Scripture) gives us many options about how to practice various devotions, but always with a firm theological basis from the revelation given to us by God in His Son. If Eucharistic devotion is based on gratitude for the gift of Christ, and springs from faith in the Incarnation, and points the soul's attention back to the Incarnation, then such devotion, be it Eucharistic or Marian, is in keeping with the revelation. But, if these are worshiped and adored, or simply venerated without that Incarnational context, they become idols of the mind and heart, stumbling blocks rather than an aid to faith.

The practical questions become, as a result, pastoral, local and the subject of teaching.

Anonymous said...

John,

The Orthodox Church does reserve the Sacrament in a small tabernacle on the altar, and a light burns to signify its presence. They not as ornate or prominent as Western tabernacles, and reservation is indeed for the purpose of communicating the sick and shut-in. While there are no devotions specifically directed toward the gifts in the Byzantine Rite as in the West, the sacrament is indeed treated with reverence. An illustration of this is the fact that typically the people prostrate themselves immediately after the triple "Amen" following the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiklesis).

In the Western Rite Service Book of the Antiochians, there is provision for a type of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, but special services like this are not to be found in the Eastern Rites.

Hope this helps.

In Christ,

Fr. Ronald Drummond

An Anglican Cleric said...

One more addition to the discussion, along the same lines as those already set out by Father Drummond.

Father Hart mentioned the monstrance--referring to the Benediction. I think this is an honest area of debate among Anglo-Catholics. Bishop Gore, Bicknell, and C.B. Moss offer some good arguments against such a practice. Where there is disagreement on this matter I don't think it is or should be a matter of complete divisiveness, but the theological problems should be addressed honestly. My comments are meant in a charitable manner.

Such a practice is a late western innovation, however well meaning, and did not develop in the East (as mentioned by Schmemann). As such, there is no reason to follow the Romans on this, in that it was unknown in the undivided Church and is opposed actively by many Orthodox as a vivisection of the Divine Liturgy.

That being said, one thing I've noticed is that in some of the early Anglican translations of the collect for Corpus Christi as to how we should view the Sacrament, veneratio is translated "adore" or "adoration," while in the Roman translations it is properly translated "venerate." I have a problem with such a translation (adore the Sacrament), but no problem with the collect as originally composed by Aquinas and used by the Romans (venerate the Sacrament), for even if we use the term "sacrament" to refer (as the Romans do) to the accidents of bread and wine, they are things we cannot rightly adore but rather more properly venerate (using the distinctions of the Seventh Council). If this were the theology adopted and explained to people it may clear up some of the objections, but we are still left with the Eastern Orthodox objection that such a practice cuts the elements from the Divine Liturgy. Father Drummond mentions the Western Rite Service book and its rite for the "Veneration of the Blessed Sacrament"--they get the name and the theology (with a proper translation of the prayer from Aquinas) right. However, we are still left with the other argument of the Eastern Orthodox that such a practice is a distortion of the Divine Liturgy.

AC+

Anonymous said...

'He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But noone eats that flesh unless first he adores it. We do not sin by adoring.'
St. Augustine of Hippo

Christine

An Anglican Cleric said...

True indeed, but one statement from Saint Augustine should not be divorced from the rest of his eucharistic theology. I've seen this quote taken out of context numerous times. Again, we adore Christ who is made present to us by the blessed Sacrament, but any notion that we adore the substance of the bread and wine (in the Anglican theological framework) or the accidents (in the Thomist framework) should be avoided.

We adore Christ because we receive Him-the two should not become divorced from one another, which is what the western piety of the middle ages did. Once again, by taking a quote out of a broader context from Saint Augustine we have, as a result, a one sided Eucharistic theology, one where adoration of Christ made present via the elements is the goal. But the command of Christ is not this. The command is to receive; the goal is communion in His Body and Blood, so that we may be His Body, the Church.

Here also what Saint Augustine saith:

'If you wish to understand the Body of Christ, listen to the words of the Apostle: "You are the body and the members of Christ." If you are the body and the members of Christ, it is your mystery which is placed on the Lord's Table; it is your mystery you receive. It is to that which you are to answer "Amen," and by that response you make your assent. You hear the words "the body of Christ," you answer "Amen." Be a member of Christ, so that the "Amen" may be true.'

This is why veneration of the Sacrament (adoration of the Body and Blood made present) in the East is never divorced from the context of the Divine Liturgy.

poetreader said...

The following is a little clumsily expressed. Try to follow me.

If the Sacrament be consecrated in order that it be adored, I think the problems seen by the East are definitely relevant. That is not the purpose for which Our Lord instituted the Eucharist. The purpose is Communion. It is a partaking of the Holy Sacrifice by eating and drinking. Now, if the Sacrment be consecrated and reserved in order that it be availible for the Communion of the sick, that is only as it should be. As was pointed out, in early days (until abuses began to occur), it was carried by each to his home for daily Communion. That was right and proper. It had certainly begun to be the case that the reserved Sacrament was being used in rather strange ways in many places, and seemed often not to be desined for Communion. It made sense that the Articles stressed the primary purpose and had hesitations about some of the uses bening made, but it remains true that what is kept for Communion is the very Body and Blood of the Lord. and should receive a veneration that can rightly be called adoration, for God is present in that Sacrament.

The other Eastern objection also makes sense. If Benediction and Adoration are treated as services separate from the Mass, or, worse, as superseding parts of the Mass, there is a problem. There was a late medieval custom that some of the AngloCatholics attempted to revive, of a noncommunicating High Mass followed by Benediction, at which those who were not invited to receive could make a spiritual communion. That was clearly a subversion of the purpose of the Mass. If, however, such rites are seen as an extension in time of the timeless mystery of the Mass, and a veneration given as if actually at Mass, I am happy, yea, enthusiastic about joining in with such worship.

ed

An Anglican Cleric said...

Poetreader,

Well said. Exactly right.

AC+

Father Chad said...

What an excellent conversation, for which I thank you all. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I concur completely that the end and purpose for which Our Lord instituted the Eucharist is Holy Communion, a vital truth for which the Articles of Religion rightly contend.

I would like to make one point about the Real Eucharistic Presence as understood by the Eastern Orthodox. Although the adoration of the Sacramental Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is never divorced from the liturgical action of the Divine Liturgy, it is clear that, within the Liturgy itself, the Orthodox faithful offer the Consecrated Gifts of the Body and Blood of Christ the worship of adoration. For example, in the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified during Lent, as the Consecrated Gifts are processed round the Church, the people prostrate themselves on the ground before the Eucharist, a sure visible sign of adoration, not simply veneration, of Christ under the form of bread and wine. Father Drummond has already mentioned the prostration of the priest and people at the Epiclesis in the Anaphora.

The Orthodox reject the following doctrine promulgated at the heretical Iconoclastic Synod of AD 754 held at Constantinople:

'The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form, this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his incarnation. Bread he ordered to be brought, but not a representation of the human form, so that idolatry might not arise.'

This position, that the Holy Eucharist is only an image or icon of Our Lord, and thus only to be venerated, is flatly condemned by the Sixth Session of the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicea II. The Eucharist is not only venerable, but worthy of adoration, because it is not an icon of the Body and Blood of Christ, but the Very Body and Blood of Christ, the human nature of our deified by the hypostatic union of God and Man in the one Person of God the Son.

Nicea II quotes Saint John of Damascus, who teaches that the Blessed Sacrament is True and Adorable Body and Blood of Christ:

'The bread and the wine are not merely figures of the body and blood of Christ (God forbid) but the deified body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, "This is My body," not, this is a figure of My body: and "My blood," not, a figure of My blood. And on a previous occasion He had said to the Jews, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. For My flesh is meat indeed and My blood is drink indeed. And again, He that eats Me, shall live." But if some persons called the bread and the wine antitypes of the body and blood of the Lord, as did the divinely inspired Basil, they said so not after the consecration but before the consecration, so calling the offering itself'(On the Orthodox Faith 4).

Once consecrated by the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Blessed Sacrament is given divine worship (latria), although is must be stressed that such worship is maintained within the organic unity of the liturgical action: there are no extra-liturgical devotions to the Holy Eucharist.

It believe it is helpful to distinguish the legitimacy, even necessity, of offering the Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Mysteries divine worship, from the later medieval extra-liturgical devotions of the Western Church. I would submit that the former is non-negotiable and the latter is fully open to debate.

God bless you!

An Anglican Cleric said...

While I largely agree with what you've said, Father Chad, given the traditional Anglican understanding that the Sacrament consists of an outward and visible sign (the bread and wine) and the inward part, or thing signified (the Body and Blood of Christ), and that the substance of the bread and wine remain after consecration (as one Orthodox priest has commented "Who are we to say that the ousia of the bread ceases to be?"), it must be stressed that any adoration is given to Christ is who is present, not to what the eyes can see. Sometimes it would be wonderful if we could see things exactly like the East sees them (theologically speaking), but we do follow western theological types and formulas (Augustine stating: "He who abideth not in Christ, and hath not Christ abiding in him, doth not spiritually eat His Flesh nor drink His Blood, although he may carnally and with his teeth press the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, but rather eateth and drinketh the Sacrament of so great a thing to his own condemnation"--here we have a distinction of "sacramental eating" and "spiritual eating," which our Article presumes, and this is highlighted by Aquinas). As such, we need to explain and defend our practice using not only the theology. We worship what we know by faith (Christ) and not what the eyes of the unfaithful (as well as the faithful) see--elements of bread and wine.

An Anglican Cleric said...

Father Chad, a short P.S. to my earlier post:

From my reading of Eastern authors I cannot find a counterpart to your assertion that "Once consecrated by the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Blessed Sacrament is given divine worship (latria). . ."

Indeed, what you've said is directly opposed to Father Schmemann's assertion that the elements are treated in the same manner throughout the Divine Liturgy (they are treated at all points for what they will be), and that equating the Invocation with "the consecration" is to make the main error of the Roman Church (in the eyes of the East), equating the consecration with a moment or phrase. The prayer of consecration, in this reading, cannot be cut out from the whole of the liturgy.

Most Orthodox I've read also reject the assertion that the elements are worshipped. Indeed, on one Orthodox forum I found the following.

"Question: Why would Orthodox *not* worship the consecrated bread turned into the Body? Is it not then Christ Himself?

Answer:
Because, as I stated above, Christ specifically gave us His body and blood to consume, not to worship. It is not necessary to have Christ's physical presence before us to worship Him in fullness of truth, so we tend to see eucharistic adoration as something a bit odd and unnecessary."

Also, I can't find anything in the pronouncements of the 7th Council that say that the elements are to be worshiped or are deserving of "latria."

Bowing and genuflecting before the altar and the elements are proper during the liturgy and when passing before a tabernacle in the church, but arranging a service specifically for such a practice still suffers from all of the objections the Orthodox point out. It is best, in my opinion, to keep such things in the Sunday service of the Holy Eucharist.

And if we are to use the prayers of Aquinas for such a service (which I still think is questionable and somewhat divisive), let's provide appropriate translations.

AC+

poetreader said...

[I] believe it is helpful to distinguish the legitimacy, even necessity, of offering the Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Mysteries divine worship, from the later medieval extra-liturgical devotions of the Western Church. I would submit that the former is non-negotiable and the latter is fully open to debate.

I would further add that such "extra=liturgical" devotions, if seen as really separate from the Liturgy are highly questionable, but, if seen as extensions in time of the Liturgy itself, are almost certainly licit.

ed

An Anglican Cleric said...

Perhaps such a service would be better if it preceded the Mass and left out the blessing with the consecrated elements (to many Anglo-Catholics that I've read who are critical to the practice, this is perhaps the most objectionable part), for the fullest blessing one can receive from the Sacrament is through a worthy reception.

AC+

An Anglican Cleric said...

It may seem like splitting hairs, but I agree with Lancelot Andrewes on this matter, so I thought I would quote him more fully:

"Christ is really present in the Eucharist and is really to be adored, that is the reality (rem) of the Sacrament, but not the Sacrament, that is 'the earthly part' as Irenaeus says, 'the visible' as Augustine says. We (Anglicans) also, like Ambrose 'adore the flesh of Christ in the mysteries' and yet not 'it' but 'Him' who is worshipped on the altar."

Hence my continued difficulty, given the continued use of the distinctions in our Prayer Book and Catechism, with saying that we "adore the Sacrament," rather we "adore Christ in the mysteries."

AC+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

AC wrote:
Augustine stating: "He who abideth not in Christ, and hath not Christ abiding in him, doth not spiritually eat His Flesh nor drink His Blood, although he may carnally and with his teeth press the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, but rather eateth and drinketh the Sacrament of so great a thing to his own condemnation"--here we have a distinction of "sacramental eating" and "spiritual eating," which our Article presumes, and this is highlighted by Aquinas.

I have been amused by people who think that the Article is Protestant, when it is quoting St. Augustine.

Another way of expressing this distinction is that it is the difference between eating and drinking the food and drink of eternal life, and eating and drinking damnation to yourself. One may eat the body and blood of Christ in an unworthy manner, and in so doing does not feed on Him. The objective and real holiness of the sacrament either adds to one's guilt, as St.Paul warns, or it gives life. The accusation that Anglicans are guilty of Receptionism is based on Tridentine teaching, the terms of which we cannot accept as genuine Catholic doctrine. In fact, it is not Receptionism, but a return to the Patristic and Scriptural teaching. The sacrament is holy, but only benefits those who eat and drink in a worthy manner. The rest do not feed on Christ in the salvific sense of His own words of John 6:51-58. This is what St. Augustine meant, and what the Article says.

Father Chad said...

Dear AC+

Thank you for your splendid thoughts; the brilliant explanation of the Articles in reference to SS. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas is simply incontestable.

I have finally remembered where I first saw an Orthodox statement reading the adoration or latria of Our Lord uniquely present in the Blessed Sacrament: it is explicitly found in the Confession of the Synod of Jerusalem 1672, the Confession of Dositheus. Although heavily latinised and scholasticised, this formulary is still, as far as I understand it, an official statement of Orthodox doctrine. In it the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is asserted. For all those interested, here is an introduction to it followed by its section on the Eucharist. I believe Bishop Kallistos Ware makes mention of this text in his book, The Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church: It is uncertain whether it was first written in Greek or in Russian. The Confession must not be confounded with the Short Russian Catechism by the same author, which was originally drawn up about the year 1640 by Peter Mogila, Metropolitan of Kiev, and father of Russian theology (died 1647), in the form of a Catechism for the benefit of the Russian Church.This Confession was revised and adopted by a Provincial Synod at Kiev for Russia, then again corrected and purged by a Synod of the Greek and Russian clergy at Jassy, in 1643, where it received its present shape by Meletius Syriga, the Metropolitan of Nicæa, and exarch of the Patriarch of Constantinople. As thus improved, it was sent to, and signed by, the four Eastern Patriarchs. The Synod of Jerusalem gave it a new sanction in 1672. In this way it became the Creed of the entire Greek and Russian Church.

DECREE XVII.

We believe the All-holy Mystery of the Sacred Eucharist, which we have enumerated above, fourth in order, to be that which our Lord delivered in the night wherein He gave Himself up for the life of the world. For taking bread, and blessing, He gave to His Holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: “Take, eat ye; This is My Body.” {Matthew 26:26} And taking the chalice, and giving thanks, He said: “Drink ye all of It; This is My Blood, which for you is being poured out, for the remission of sins.” {Matthew 26:28} In the celebration whereof we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose, but truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptised in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sitteth at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world. {John 6:51}

Further that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, there no longer remaineth the substance of the bread and of the wine, but the Body Itself and the Blood of the Lord, under the species and form of bread and wine; that is to say, under the accidents of the bread.

Further, that the all-pure Body Itself, and Blood of the Lord is imparted, and entereth into the mouths and stomachs of the communicants, whether pious or impious. Nevertheless, they convey to the pious and worthy remission of sins and life eternal; but to the impious and unworthy involve condemnation and eternal punishment.

Further, that the Body and Blood of the Lord are severed and divided by the hands and teeth, though in accident only, that is, in the accidents of the bread and of the wine, under which they are visible and tangible, we do acknowledge; but in themselves to remain entirely unsevered and undivided. Wherefore the Catholic Church also saith: “Broken and distributed is He That is broken, yet not severed; Which is ever eaten, yet never consumed, but sanctifying those that partake,” that is worthily.

Further, that in every part, or the smallest division of the transmuted bread and wine there is not a part of the Body and Blood of the Lord — for to say so were blasphemous and wicked — but the entire whole Lord Christ substantially, that is, with His Soul and Divinity, or perfect God and perfect man. So that though there may be many celebrations in the world at one and the same hour, there are not many Christs, or Bodies of Christ, but it is one and the same Christ that is truly and really present; and His one Body and His Blood is in all the several Churches of the Faithful; and this not because the Body of the Lord that is in the Heavens descendeth upon the Altars; but because the bread of the Prothesis set forth in all the several Churches, being changed and transubstantiated, becometh, and is, after consecration, one and the same with That in the Heavens. For it is one Body of the Lord in many places, and not many; and therefore this Mystery is the greatest, and is spoken of as wonderful, and comprehensible by faith only, and not by the sophistries of man’s wisdom; whose vain and foolish curiosity in divine things our pious and God-delivered religion rejecteth.

Further, that the Body Itself of the Lord and the Blood That are in the Mystery of the Eucharist ought to be honoured in the highest manner, and adored with latria. For one is the adoration of the Holy Trinity, and of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Further, that it is a true and propitiatory Sacrifice offered for all Orthodox, living and dead; and for the benefit of all, as is set forth expressly in the prayers of the Mystery delivered to the Church by the Apostles, in accordance with the command they received of the Lord.

Further, that before Its use, immediately after the consecration, and after Its use, What is reserved in the Sacred Pixes for the communion of those that are about to depart is the true Body of the Lord, and not in the least different therefrom; so that before Its use after the consecration, in Its use, and after Its use, It is in all respects the true Body of the Lord.

Further, we believe that by the word “transubstantiation” the manner is not explained, by which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord, — for that is altogether incomprehensible and impossible, except by God Himself, and those who imagine to do so are involved in ignorance and impiety, — but that the bread and the wine are after the consecration, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, nor by the communication or the presence of the Divinity alone of the Only-begotten, transmuted into the Body and Blood of the Lord; neither is any accident of the bread, or of the wine, by any conversion or alteration, changed into any accident of the Body and Blood of Christ, but truly, and really, and substantially, doth the bread become the true Body Itself of the Lord, and the wine the Blood Itself of the Lord, as is said above.

Further, that this Mystery of the Sacred Eucharist can be performed by none other, except only by an Orthodox Priest, who hath received his priesthood from an Orthodox and Canonical Bishop, in accordance with the teaching of the Eastern Church. This is compendiously the doctrine, and true confession, and most ancient tradition of the Catholic Church concerning this Mystery; which must not be departed from in any way by such as would be Orthodox, and who reject the novelties and profane vanities of heretics; but necessarily the tradition of the institution must be kept whole and unimpaired. For those that transgress the Catholic Church of Christ rejecteth and anathematiseth.

An Anglican Cleric said...

"From my reading of Eastern authors I cannot find a counterpart to your assertion that "Once consecrated by the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Blessed Sacrament is given divine worship (latria). . ."

On this I was in error--I have dogmatic texts that do assert this, but others that do not--such as Schmemann. Is there a canonical pronouncement from an Ecumenical Council on this matter?

An Anglican Cleric said...

Father Hart,

My sentiments as well. One way I've explained this to some is the idea of not being able to digest a food, lacking either the physiology or the biochemistry to break down and absorb the nutrients given to you. I may be given food, I may eat it, but I may not be able to fully "partake" and derive sustaining nutrients from the food. Indeed, it may even make me ill. A materialist analogy, to be sure, but one that usually gets across the facts that 1) All are given Christ in the Sacrament; He is presented to all who come to receive, and 2) some do not partake in the full and spiritual sense. As you said, the Eucharist "only benefits those who eat and drink in a worthy manner. The rest do not feed on Christ in the salvific sense of His own words of John 6:51-58."

An Anglican Cleric said...

". . .under the species and form of bread and wine; that is to say, under the accidents of the bread and wine."

This is indeed very scholasticised. This is essentially Aquinas. If we are now speaking of accidents and substances, as in this document and in Aquinas and Trent, then we are still left with a bit of a problem in saying "adoration of the Sacrament" (the outward and visible, the accidents), and I'm again forced the make the distinctions made by the Caroline divines, as set forth most clearly by blessed Andrewes.

The way you stated it is more in line with +Andrewes: "the adoration. . .of Our Lord uniquely present in the Blessed Sacrament."

AC+

An Anglican Cleric said...

After a little more reading I've found varied responses to the Synod of Jerusalem. Some Orthodox have said it goes too far into the adoption of western theology, even adopting something which resembles the late western understanding of Purgatory.

Here is description given by the Greek Orthodox:

"Councils convened during the seventeenth century to counteract Protestant infiltrations in the East and establish the Orthodox doctrine vis-à-vis the Protestant teachings, like the Councils of Jassi [1662] and Jerusalem [1672] are also considered to be councils of relative importance. Documents produced by these Councils, or ratified by them, along with other important documents, such as "confessions of faith" by Orthodox prelates and teachers (St. Photios, Michael Cerularius, Mark of Ephesus, Gennadios of Constantinople, Jeremiah II of Constantinople, Metrophanes Kritopoulos, Peter Moghila, etc.) are given the name of "Symbolic Books" of the Orthodox Church. They are certainly witnesses of the Orthodox faith "once handed down to the saints" and perpetuated in the Orthodox Church.

However, their authority is subjected to the authority of the Ecumenical Councils and the ancient Fathers of the Church."

As I mentioned, they are applying scholastic theology to defend many practices, in a way that make many Orthodox very uncomfortable. Some note the heavy western and Jesuit influences seen in these documents. Anglicans have no reason to accept such proncouncements without question. Our own divines of the same period seem more patristic than some of the Orthodox of this time.

AC+

poetreader said...

Thank you AC+,
That Jerusalem statement Fr. Chad posted made me sit up and take notice with its Thomist phraseology. I have had conversations with many Eastern Orthodox clergy and scholars and have never yet encountered one who did not bristle at the mention of "subsance and accidents" - as do I. Being philosophically a non-Aristotelean, I have considerable problem with such verbiage.

ed

An Anglican Cleric said...

Ed--

I had the same reaction. After reading quite a bit on the dogmatic theology of the Eastern Orthodox (and their problems with the errors of the west), this took me back a bit. In the past I have only read of the Synod of Jerusalem's condemnation of the Calvinists.

I am a bit of an Aristotelean and a Thomist, and don't mind it as speculative theology. However, when it is used a a dogmatic weapon and where it goes against the ancient Fathers, I have to part company with the Romans. Indeed, the argument for any sort of Eucharistic adoration is stronger from the usual assertion of the Orthodox that the Bread and Wine ARE the Body and Blood, the completion of their material nature, the deification of the materials themselves. However, in that we still use Augustinian sacramental terminology in our BCP catechism, any move toward such language has the problems +Andrewes outlined.

And ,once one goes into the language of "substance and accidents," well, you already know my position on that. . .same problems, with more philosophical hoops to jump through.

AC+

Fr_Rob said...

“Further, that this Mystery of the Sacred Eucharist can be performed by none other, except only by an Orthodox Priest, who hath received his priesthood from an Orthodox and Canonical Bishop, in accordance with the teaching of the Eastern Church.”

Before we get too carried away with quoting Eastern Orthodox sources, just keep in mind that the Orthodox generally do not believe that the Church subsists outside of their own Communion nor do they hold that any non-Eastern Orthodox church or priest is genuinely “valid” (to use a Western term and concept). Whatever a few bishops may have agreed to at the rather notorious (among the Orthodox) Jerusalem Synod of 1672, it would be hard to make the case that it has much relevance to Anglican practice or Eucharistic theory.

An Anglican Cleric said...

Ditto, Fr. Rob.

andrew said...

this tread appears to be dead; however, I think that the major assumption which appears to underlie the thesis of the original post is a non sequitur, and I am disturbed by how much mileage such an argument appears to have gotten here. so here are my two cents:

I have continued to follow discussions of this topic among Anglicans, and it seems that the following line of argument (from Richard Hooker) has been generating discussion:

(1) The purpose of the Eucharist is communion (reception of the elements).
(2) Whatever, the sacramental elements really are, you either receive them (in accordance with the purpose of the sacrament) or not.
(3) Therefore, what the consecrated species really are is of secondary importance (worthy reception is paramount).

I would like to point out the fallaciousness of this kind of argument by means of a reductio ad absurdum:

(1) The purpose of Christ's coming was to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.
(2) Whatever Christ really is, you either receive him (i.e., as a ransom, in accordance with the purpose of his coming) or not.
(3) Therefore, what Christ really is is of secondary importance.

No Christian, faithful to the great tradition and familiar with Church history and the orthodox theology hammered out therein, would claim (3). Futhermore, (3) is not only central to Christian doctrine in terms of the development of theology; it actually grounds (1) and (2), both ontologically (the redemption considered in itself) and subjectively (redemption as applied to the believer). In other words, Christ's coming to ransom humans from sin is of no consequence apart from what he is, ontologically speaking (true God and true man). Furthermore, no one rightly apprehends Christ as redeemer who, because of culpable ignorance or by outright unbelief, does not apprehend (by faith) what he is ontologically, in his true being. Likewise, if Christ is not truly God and truly man, then it doesn't matter that his purpose is to ransom men- said purpose cannot be realized. Purpose (or telos) is grounded in being, not vice versa.

The application of the above to the Eucharist should be obvious. Furthermore, the purpose of the Eucharist is not some unspecified reception. It is reception of Christ. So the question now becomes: how is it possible that we recieve Christ in the sacrament? Answer: because the Eucharist is Christ (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinty). Other answers have been given, and such answers will undoubtably multiply until Our Lord's return (when sacraments shall cease). But the answer to the question (i.e., what is the Eucharist in reality?) is not secondary to the purpose of the sacrament. Being grounds purpose, not vice versa. Something has to be before it can have a purpose.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Andrew wrote (that he does not agrre with the following):
(3) Therefore, what the consecrated species really are is of secondary importance (worthy reception is paramount).

Then, what are they really? We say they are really the Body and Blood of Christ (the Prayer of Humble Access affirms this within the liturgy itself). The Real Presence is not contested by this Blog. But, can we understand this mystery? And, does theological understanding have to be just right in order to feed on the Bread of Life, to receive the grace of this sacrament?

The Pope himself wrote, in his book God is Near Us (a collection of sermons) that transubstantiation should not be thought of in crude materialist terms. He has refuted a long held view that Trent requires a belief in physical change. Very significant from any RC theologian, especially one who became their Pope.

We will never understand this Sacrament, just as we will never understand the Incarnation. A level of sacred Mystery remains. Even so, we can receive the grace of God by feeding on Christ when we receive with faith in Him.

poetreader said...

I can affirm the classic Catholic statements about the person and nature of Christ, as I most assuredly do, as, indeed I must if I am to be saved, but do I understand the mystery I am thus affirming? By the same token, I can affirm the Real Presence of Christ, body, soul, and divinity, in the Elements of the Eucharist, and must do so, but do I understand that mystery? In both cases, of course not. It is beyond the capability of merely mortal man to penetrate into such mysteries. They are such as to far transcend the ability of a mortal and finite mind. The ultimate realities of the faith, while certainly not against logic, transcend logic, and cannot be bound by what humans are able to think.

It has truly been said that to claim understanding of a mystery is to deny that there is a mystery, and that to claim comprehension of the central truths of the faith is to be a heretic, as such claims inevitably involve distortion of the reality. The Church has hammered out formulations which serve, not principally to describe what is, but primarily to eliminate what is not. None, thus, can say what 'substance, nature, essence, person' actually mean, but can clearly eliminate such errant rational speculations as those of Arius and others. Thus, though there may be value in using our minds to plumb as deeply into the mystery as we may (I, for one, love speculation), if we come to believe that our speculations are objectively true, we almost certainly err, perhaps grievously.

In short, what I understand about the sacramental presence, or, for that matter, about the Christ Himself, is (providing I reject what is known to be false) entirely secondary to meeting Him, knowing Him, receiving Him, and more to the point, being received by Him.

ed

andrew said...

I am pretty sure that one of the errors eliminated by orthodox eucharistic theology (both Latin and Byzantine) is the notion that the Eucharist, whatever else it may be, is really bread and really wine. Thus, there is no question of idolatry in the adoration of the Sacrament. It is Christ is the Lord. Period.

As to what this does not mean: that is impossible to say unless we have some idea what it does mean.

As to poetreader's assertion that none can say what substance, nature essence person actually mean [I assume that he refers to the use of such terms in theological discourse, and not in general], it seems that we have run up against a significant difference between the via analogia of St Thomas and the West and the via negativa of Pseudo-Dionysius much of the Eastern tradition.

According to St Thomas: terms that are predicated of God, such as "alive," or "good," have the same definition whether predicated of God or of some finite reality, but the properties denoted by said terms do not exist in God in the same mode that they exist in finite things;

e.g., when we say that "God is good" we have some positive idea of what this means, but we cannot understand, or comprehend, the way that goodness exists in God. God's goodness remains a mystery.

If we push the via negativa to an extreme, we are left with theological agnosticism. In which case, poetreader's hope of "being received by him" is meaningless, since we have no positive understanding of what it means for God to "receive" someone. If you care to respond that "God knows what it means," then it seems that you possess some positive knowledge of God, namely, that he exists and knows things, else "God knows what it means" is just another meaningless assertion and we are back to agnosticism. I think you catch my drift.

We tend to balk at theology using terms which regularly occur in philosophical discourse (e.g., substance, being, essence), but in keeping with the unrestrained via negativa, we must likewise balk at "normal" terms such as "good," "sovereign," and "savior" or, for that matter "real" and "presence."

If we simply dont know what we mean by the words that Scripture, the Fathers, the Church's Magisterium and theologians use in dogmatic definitons and other modes of theological discourse, then we are all just howling at the moon.

Faith is not a warm fuzzy feeling. Orthodoxy is not a jumble of meaningless slogans. Pious agnosticism is not a virtue.

BTW. Thanks for letting me hang out here. I love this site. Anglicanism is too intriguing.

poetreader said...

1. Welcome, Andrew. It's a good place to hang out, whether we all agree completely or not.

2. not "really bread and really wine." The whole debate here is on what is meant by "really" The Aristotelean categories of substance and accidents are used to attempt to make this statement, but that is a philosophical construct made by a pagan, perhaps useful, but of a stature to become dogma? I rather doubt it. We have here an attempt to "explain" how something that is clearly and obviously unchanged in any material sense is something other than it was. If Christ can be totally and completely God, and yet fully man, where is the theological necessity for denying that this Bread can be totally His Body, with the presence of his soul and divinity, and not likewise truly Bread? The one is no further beyond logic than the other. All I can say by observation is that this is a piece of bread and a cup of wine. I know by revelation that this is His true Body and His true Blood. Further than that I can't really go. I can talk around it, as St. Thomas did, in an effort to make it easier to believe without "blowing the mind", but none of that description really touches the reality.

3. "According to St Thomas: terms that are predicated of God, such as "alive," or "good," have the same definition whether predicated of God or of some finite reality, but the properties denoted by said terms do not exist in God in the same mode that they exist in finite things;"
Interesting verbiage. How does something have the same definition and yet not exist in the same "mode", whatever that means? Tell me, then, what these terms actually mean in another "mode"

4. If we know what these terms all mean in their application to the Infinite, well, then, what do they mean? If they are concepts I can really get my mind around, they are inadequate to describe the ineffable God. Yes, they point at concepts that are useful in attempting to approach the Mystery, but they cannot descrobe Him. We have propositions which we must believe about God. Those we can comptrehend we must recognize as almost infinitely shirt of adequate. Those we cannot really comprehend are, as I said before, intended to keep us from stuffing God into the wrong box. We do know where we point with the words we use, and it is an altogether different place to where the worshipers of false gods would point, but to think we therfore understand what we are talking about is actually a form of idolatry, the woprship of the icons we have made in our own mind, rhater than the use of those icons to approach the Mystery.

The wolf howls at a moon he can see but cannot attain. The Christian reaches for a Mystery He cannot see, but which He can surely touch, receive, and be received by.

ed

andrew said...

dear poetreader: I am not sure if there is a single over-arching purpose for this site, but it seems to facilitate the following good things: (a) intra-Anglican (traditional) dialogue; (b) articulation of historic Anglican doctrines and disciplines for purposes of highlighting the fact that TEC and much of the Canterbury Communion have set off in an entirely unprecedented direction (doctrinally and liturgically), which direction is in some particulars antithetical to historic Anglican faith and practice; (c) some ecumenical dialogue (usually with Catholics or would-be Catholics).

On two fronts, (a) and (c), I find much disagreement and debating among your readers (and a little among the authors); this I take to the beginning, not the end, of good conversation.

Sorry for taking so much time to state the obvious. I take inordinate pleasure in doing just that.

As to your points:

(1) Complete agreement is often detrimental to good "hanging out." I think that such a forum as this provides occasion for assertion, defense, and healthy re-examination of one's reasons for holding an overall position or a particular doctrine.

(2) According to a number of my official and unofficial teachers:

"Transubstantiation" does not "explain" the Mystery so much as it "states" the Mystery: what once was bread and wine is now the Body and Blood of Christ. We are not underwriting Aristotle or any other "pagan" by using the philosophically challenging word "substance" any more than we are underwriting Plato or any other "pagan" with the use of the philosophically challenging word "ousia."

As you point out, we absolutely cannot see that such a radical change has occured. Transubstantiation is one way, an ecclesiastically sanctioned way, to affirm this radical change. It is not a way of "seeing" (with the eye or with the mind) the Mystery. The mystical change must, as Aquinas wrote, be affirmed sola fide.

As to "bread and Body": this seems an unfortunate "rationalization,"
although not a complete rationalization, of the Mystery. In accordance with the words of institution ("this is my body"; NOT "my body is with, in, and/or under this"), we do not believe according to what the senses perceive (in contrast to normal, non-mystical, experience), but according to what the Lord has spoken.

In fact, you do go "further than that" and "talk around it": you imply that the Eucharist is truly (and not merely symbolically) bread and wine (to which the Body and Blood are "added"?). Does your "description" really touch the reality or is it a rationalization (i.e., this can't simply be the Body and Blood of Christ, because if it were my mortal senses would be offended)?

(3) As to my "interesting verbiage" (thank you!): I'll give you an example: sense perception (meaning: the apprehension of external, physical reality by means of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching) exists in humans as well as other animals. Sense perception means the same thing in either case (i.e., "the apprehension of external, physical reality ..."), but the way (i.e., "mode," a "modification" of being) in which it exists in men is different than that in which it exists in other animals because man is essentially a different kind of being: possessed of a rational soul. Sense perception means the same thing, but its modality (way of being) is different in men and in animals.

So, moving from the higher to the lower, we know that animals have sense perception, and we know what this means, but we cannot comprehend, i.e., fully understand, what it is like for an animal to experience external reality. Moving from the lower to the higher, we know that God exists, that he is good, that he is intelligent, etc. Yet we cannot comprehend (fully understand) the way in which God exists and is good and knows. The definition of these terms does not change when applied to God, else we are left with agnosticism (no knowledge, or understanding).

Yet the fact that we understand the meaning of the terms that are correctly attributed to God does not mean that we fully know God. The terminus of knowledge is not words or concepts but things: external reality. And God is a reality that, although we can speak truly about him, we cannot fully understand him. His mode of being is infinite, and we are finite.

Perhaps the most basic point I am making is that we are not left with either complete knowledge of God or no knowledge of God; we have partial knowledge, imperfect understanding of God and the Christian mysteries, which is not the same thing as blindness.

(4) See my comments about the terminus of knoweledge not being concepts; the terminus of knowledge is the thing itself- external reality; we are not doomed to be locked up inside our own heads. Concepts are a means to knowledge of reality. If they cannot describe God at all, then they are not useful. If the assertion that "God is good" tells us nothing about God, then it is a useless assertion. might as well say "atman is brahman." or "googoo-gaagaa."

As a "non-Aristotelian" you may dispute some of the philosophical claims made by Aristotelians, or theological claims made with the aid of "aristotelian" categories, but you can't in good conscience accuse others of resourcing Greek philosophy while hiding your own (English?) philosophy safely under a bushel. Judging from your own philosophical comments, it seems that you are the one "stuffing God in the wrong box," precisely because you have adopted a wrong-headed philosophy, the fruit of which appears to be theological agnosticism.

We can debate this point, but please, we need not pretend that either of us truly prescinds from "philosophy" altogether: no one does. We all bring philosophical presuppositions to the task of theology. These presuppositions can be tested as to whether they are true or false. We are not doomed to blind agnosticism, greasy relativism or chest-thumping, anti-philosophical fideism. We can, and should, reason together.

Finally, not being an agnostic, I can claim with confindence: we are not wolves. We are rational beings made in the image of an intelligent God. As such, if our reaching is completely devoid of understanding then we dishonor God in whose image we are made. The Lord does give out brownie points for ignorance.

Andrew

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sacraments are related to icons, except that they are more than image, effecting what they signify. Nonetheless, we know God best not by description, since the Divine Nature is wholly other from every created nature, and cannot be comprehended. Knowing God iconically is given to us because we are that icon: God made man in His image. The Incarnation gives us the full revelation, not of understanding God, but of knowing God.

Since the Incarnation is the ultimate revelation, and a great deal of mystery remains, we should not be surprised if a great deal of mystery remains in the Mysteries- or Sacraments.

John A. Hollister said...

I can't resist adding to this solemn discussion of the Eucharistic elements an observation I heard a seminary professor make:

"The greatest leap of faith in the [Western] Christian religion is believing that little wafer of fish food is really bread."

John A. Hollister+