Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pope Benedict's Anglican mind

The following are excerpts from God is near Us, (2003, San Fransisco, Ignatius Press) by Pope Benedict XVI, (published initially under the name Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger), chapter entitiled "The presence of the Lord in the Sacrament", ps. 84-87. Some polemical "Catholic Fundamentalists" have attacked Pope Benedict XVI, calling him a heretic and anti-pope, accusing him of denying the Real Presence. I have no doubt about what these same polemicists think of us, our orders and all of our sacraments.

In what follows, I contend that we find the same spirit and meaning as we find in Article XXVIII, using the principle of composer's intention. We find too, that Pope Benedict XVI faithfully draws the principles of Real Presence in the Sacrament, from the Incarnation. I think the Anglican Divines would have said a hearty "Amen."

In the twelfth century the mystery of the Eucharist was on the point of being torn apart by two groups, who each in its own way failed to grasp the heart of it. There were those filled with the thought : Jesus is really there. But "reality", for them, was simply physical, bodily. Consequently, they arrived at the conclusion: In the Eucharist we chew on the flesh of the Lord; but therein they were under the sway of a serious misapprehension. For Jesus has risen. We do not eat flesh as cannibals would do. That is why others quite rightly opposed them, arguing against such primitive "realism." But they, too, had fallen into the same error of regarding only what is material, tangible, visible as reality. They said: Since Christ cannot be there in a body we can bite on, the Eucharist can only be a symbol of Christ...

"Reality" is not just what we can measure. It is not only "quantums", but quantifiable entities, that are real; on the contrary, these are always only manifestations of the hidden mystery of true being. But here, where Christ meets us, we have to do with this true being. This is what was being expressed with the word "substance". This does not refer to the quantums, but to the profound and fundamental basis of being. Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not in the realm of what can be measured and quantified...How should we relate to reality? What is "real"?...Concerning the Eucharist it is said to us: The substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being...

First. What has always mattered to the Church is that a real transformation takes place here. Something genuinely happens in the Eucharist. There is something new there that was not before. Knowing about a transformation is part of the most basic Eucharistic faith. Therefore it cannot be the case that the Body of Christ comes to add itself to the bread, as if bread and Body were two similar things that could exist as two "substances", in the same way, side by side. Whenever the Body of Christ, that is, the risen and bodily Christ, comes, he is greater than the bread, other, not of the same order. The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens...The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.

...Wherever Christ is present, afterward it cannot be just as if nothing had happened. There, where he laid his hand, something new has come to be. This points us back again to the fact that being a Christian as such is to be transformed, that it must involve repentance and not just some embellishment added onto the rest of one's life. It reaches down into our depths and renews us from those very depths. The more we ourselves as Christians are renewed from the root up, the better we understand the mystery of transformation. Finally, this capacity things have for being transformed makes us more aware that the world itself can be transformed, that it will one day as a whole be the New Jerusalem, the Temple, vessel of the presence of God.

5 comments:

Sandra McColl said...

My fondest delusion is to dream of waking in the middle of the night to hear the BBC World Service beginning a news item: "The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Ratzinger . . ." It would only take a couple of minor adjustments and a few elocution lessong, but, alas, it's too late now.

Anonymous said...

Why would you wish such a horrible fate on a perfectly nice man? His Holiness has enough trouble with maverick RCs, but why would you want him subjected to the madhouse currently meeting at Lambeth? He has done nothing to deserve such humiliation.
Seriously, B16 is a world class theologian. Here is another book for my "need to read" list.
LKW

Sandra McColl said...

Fr Wells, that's why I say it's too late. If he'd succeeded Dr Ramsey, however . . . Don't just read that book--grab whatever you can. The Regensburg Lecture came out of the early work.

Canon Tallis said...

Father Wells,

I am only glad that you don't have ocassion to read either the German or Roman newspapers. But his Anglican mind shows in nothing so much as what he has done with the Sistine Chapel and the fact that he wears the pallium in the ancient and orthodox manner.

Millo Shaw said...

Verse 35 of St. Athanasius's Creed comments on the unity of Christ's Godhead and Manhood: "One, however, not by conversion of Godhead into flesh, but by taking of Manhood into God." Doesn't an analogous process take place with respect to the elements in the Eucharist? God is not reduced to material things; rather, material things are taken up (and I mean REALLY taken up) into God? Indeed, isn't this what happens with all of the sacraments and those who partake of them in faith, in fact, with the whole Church, for the Church is sacramental in all her aspects and, in essence, a divine, not a human mystery?