Monday, September 14, 2009

A fine paper on Eucharistic Theology

Sandwiched between a beginning and conclusion that do not necessarily reflect the views of the owners of this blog, are many details and facts well worth presenting. Although I have unanswered and serious questions about the Reformed Episcopal Church and do not endorse the new Anglican Church in North America (and believe our energies are better spent by investing them in our Anglican Continuum than in trying to "restore" the Anglican Communion), I recommend reading the following paper for its scholarship and educational value. I think we can overlook differences of opinion about which jurisdiction best continues Classic Anglican teaching and practice, and simply learn from the details and overall content of this well organized and very informative piece. I am sorry that our St. Louis Continuing Churches have lost so fine a scholar. His paper is here posted in its entirety with permission of the author.-Fr. Hart

CLASSICAL ANGLICANISM AND THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION

by Rev. Victor E. Novak

There is a great deal of confusion among Anglicans today regarding the Anglican teaching on the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Some believe in the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation or something very similar; while others are almost Zwinglian, holding a view that differs little from the Baptists, Methodists or Presbyterians. There is a lot of talk today about “Real Presence,” “Receptionism” and “Calvinism,” without much understanding of what these terms really mean. Many who think they are orthodox Anglicans are unfamiliar with their own Anglican formularies: the historic Book of Common Prayer and its Ordinal and Catechism, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and the two books of Homilies, and what they teach.

On July 29, 2007, I was received as a priest into the Reformed Episcopal Church. Previous to my reception, I had been a priest in the Anglican Province of Christ the King where I served as Ecumenical Officer and editor of The Province, the official publication of the APCK, as well as a pastor. I was a classical Anglican while serving in the Anglican Province of Christ the King, and I believe, teach and confess the same classical Anglicanism in the Reformed Episcopal Church. I joined the Reformed Episcopal Church because it is neither high nor low church today, but is a classical Anglican Church, and is perhaps the only truly classical Anglican jurisdiction in North America. The REC not only professes belief in the historic Anglican formularies, but studies, uses and teaches them as well. After the Reformed Episcopal Church became a founding jurisdiction of the newly gathered Anglican Church in North America, I found myself having discussions with Anglican colleagues outside of the REC regarding ACNA, and whether or not continuing Anglicans should work with it or remain outside. Many of these colleagues knew me while I was Ecumenical Officer of the APCK, and were genuinely interested in ACNA, but some seemed somewhat puzzled that my parish and I had entered the Reformed Episcopal Church. A few have even said to me, “But the REC doesnʼt believe in the Real Presence.” Comments like that have led me to write this paper in an effort to clear the air.

The Real Presence and the REC Declaration of Principles

In the Declaration of Principles of the Reformed Episcopal Church, adopted on December 2, 1873, the same day that the Thirty-nine Articles were reaffirmed without alteration, under “erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to Godʼs Word”, the REC condemns the notion “That the Presence of Christ in the Lordʼs Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine.” It is from this principle that some of my colleagues have assumed that “the REC doesnʼt believe in the Real Presence.” However, nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth is that this Principle does not address either the medieval, scholastic doctrine of Transubstantiation or the Biblical and patristic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, but something altogether different. Transubstantiation is already rejected in Article XXVIII of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion: “Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.”

The Reformed Episcopal Church does not condemn “the Presence of Christ in the Lordʼs Supper,” - rather it affirms it. What it does condemn is the teaching “That the Presence of Christ in the Lordʼs Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine.” It is not the doctrine of the “Real Presence” that is being condemned, but an error that is centuries old and goes back at least as far as John of Paris (d. 1306), and perhaps as far as the disciples of Berengarius of Tours at the end of the eleventh century. It had already been officially condemned by Rome, and by both the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the 16th century; and had become popularized again in the 19th century. In fact, the Vatican condemned a Roman Catholic theologian, Bayma, in 1875, for teaching it; and some High Church Anglicans caused serious controversy in the United Kingdom and the United States by teaching what sounded very much like it in an effort to profess something close to Transubstantiation without technically violating Article XXVIII. Theologians call this error “Impanation.”

Impanation is a theological term used for the teaching that the Body and Blood of Christ are mingled with the elements of bread and wine in the Eucharist. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about Impanation: “An heretical doctrine according to which Christ in the Eucharist through His human body substantially united with the substances of bread and wine, and thus really present as God, made bread: Deus panis factus...The doctrine of impanation agrees with the doctrine of consubstantiation [a term rejected by Lutherans] as it was taught by Luther, in these two essential points: it denies on the one hand the Transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and on the other professes nevertheless the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Yet the doctrines differ essentially in so far as Luther asserted that the Body of Christ penetrated the unchanged substance of the bread but denied a hypostatic union. Orthodox Lutheranism expressed this so-called sacramental union between the Body of Christ and the substance of bread in the well known formula: The Body of Christ is ʻin, with and under the breadʼ - in, cum et sub pane...”

The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910 says, “The doctrine of impanation...is also against reason, since a hypostatic union between the Word of God Incarnate, or the God-man Christ, and the dead substances of bread and wine is inconceivable” (Vol. 7, p. 695). Impanation has been condemned by Rome, the Lutheran Church in the Formula of Concord, and by the Reformed Episcopal Church in its Declaration of Principles, but all three of these Churches believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.


The Classical Anglican Teaching

Anglicanism rejected transubstantiation for three reasons: 1). it “cannot be proven by Holy Writ,” 2). it “overthroweth the nature of a sacrament,” and 3). it “hath given occasion to many superstitions.” Transubstantiation clearly is not provable by Holy Writ, and “is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.” It is really a medieval, scholastic explanation without Scriptural or patristic support; and no impartial student of history can doubt that it “hath given occasion to many superstitions.”

How does it overthrow the nature of a sacrament? A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. A sacrament consists of both the outward sign and the thing signified. In transubstantiation the outward sign is eliminated because the whole substance of the bread and wine are said to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Only the accidents, the appearance of the bread and wine, remain. This overthrows the nature of a sacrament. Zwingli erred in that he separated the sign, the consecrated Bread and Wine, from what it signified, the Body and Blood of Christ; while transubstantiation made the same mistake in the theologically opposite direction. It can be said that Zwingli taught the “real absence” of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion. According to Zwingli, communicants receive only bread and wine as a memorial of Christʼs sacrifice.

Transubstantiation teaches that communicants receive only the Body and Blood of Christ as the whole substance of the Bread and Wine have been transubstantiated into the Body and blood of Christ, leaving only the appearance, the accidents, of Bread and Wine. But Anglicanism has always taught with the Scriptures and the Fathers that the Sacrament of Holy Communion consists of both the outward and visible sign, the consecrated Bread and Wine, and the inward and spiritual grace, the Body and Blood of Christ, as the Catechism makes clear.

In the Catechism of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer we read:

What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?

I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.

How many parts are there in a Sacrament?

Two; the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.

Why was the Sacrament of the Lordʼs Supper ordained?

For the continual remembrance of the death of Christ, and of the benefits we receive thereby.

What is the outward part or sign of the Lordʼs Supper?

Bread and Wine which the Lord commanded to be received.

What is the inward part, or thing signified?

The Body and Blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lordʼs Supper.

What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?

The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine.

If our bodies are strengthened and refreshed by the Bread and Wine, the substance of the Bread and Wine must remain. This is classical Anglican Sacramental Theology. The Holy Scriptures teach that communicants receive the Body and Blood of Christ and Bread and Wine in the Sacrament (I Cor. 10:16; & 11:23-29), and so does Anglican theology.

The Body and Blood of Christ is not mingled with the Bread and Wine and there is no hypostatic union (Impanation), but are Really and Truly Present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and the Sacrament of Holy Communion, like all Sacraments, consists of both an outward and visible sign, the Bread and Wine, and an inward spiritual grace - the thing signified - the Body and Blood of Christ. Article XXVIII says, “the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.” The kneeling rubric at the end of the Eucharistic liturgy in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer makes it clear that Anglican theology rejects the scholastic notion that the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The rubric says, “the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances...” And should anyone doubt the Catholicity of the 1662 Prayer Book, let me remind the reader that it was adopted after the Restoration and the final defeat of puritanism in England, is the product of the triumph of Caroline divinity, and marks the completion of the English Reformation that was begun in 1534.

No less an Anglican authority than the great Rev. Francis J. Hall, D.D., writes, “The assertion, that the consecrated elements have become the body and blood of Christ, is so frequently made by the ancients that it may be reckoned as a patristic commonplace. But...they perhaps represent nothing more than rhetorical emphasis upon the doctrine that the elements become the body and blood of Christ... There may be set against such language a number of clear assertions that the bread and wine continue in their proper nature after they have become the body and blood of Christ; and this appears to have been the ordinary patristic view.

“But the middle ages saw a widespread shifting of emphasis from the mystery of identification to that of conversion... In the West this development terminated in the scholastic doctrine of transubstantiation” (Dogmatic Theology, Vol. IX, originally published 1921, pp. 129-130).

Hall continues, “If the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ, can they rightly be said to retain their former nature and still be bread and wine?...the ancients clearly took for granted an affirmative answer; and with a few exceptions they held, without being conscious of inconsistency, the doctrine that the consecrated elements are and have become the body and blood of Christ without ceasing to be real bread and wine. There were giants in those days, and we are not justified in explaining their position as either careless or stupid. They were, however, more alive to the supernatural aspects of the mystery than are the majority of those who deny that such things can be...We are taught that the divine logos became flesh; but that in becoming what He was not, He remained what He was, truly divine, is also taught in Scripture, and constitutes a stereotyped formula of catholic theology” (ibid, Hall, pp. 134-135).

“The Eucharistic sacrament is said to consist of two parts; but the phrase ought not to be taken as meaning that the inward res is separate or separable from the outward elements. A distinction of aspects and relations is involved, rather than a demarkation between mutually discrete substances. The sacrament is one and indivisible, although substantially representative of two worlds. From the standpoint of this world, it is natural bread and wine to which an extraordinary thing has happened, insusceptible of verification by our senses. From the standpoint of the spiritual world, the self-same thing is the body and blood of Christ, marvelously accommodated to, and identified with, the forms and figures of bread and wine” (ibid, Hall, p. 136).

In his classic work, A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, E. J. Bicknell, D.D., writes, “The Real Presence. On this view we hold that we receive through the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ, because in answer to the prayers of His Church and in fulfillment of His own promise, He has brought the elements into a mysterious union with Himself. He has, at it were, taken them up into the fulness of His ascended life and made them the vehicle of imparting that life to His members. Thus He is in a real sense present not only in the devout communicant but in the consecrated elements. Of the manner of this union we affirm nothing. The Presence is spiritual, not material.

“This in some form, is the teaching of the Roman and Eastern Churches, of Luther, of the Fathers and early liturgies... It would appear to be the most consistent with Scripture and the tradition of the Church, and also to be a safeguard of certain great Christian principles” (p. 492, first published 1919, quoted from the 1936 edition). Bicknell continues, “Again, if we turn to the Church as the interpreter of Scripture, the main stream of Christian teaching is quite clear. We find a singular absence of theological controversy about the Eucharist, but the general line of thought may be exemplified by these words of Irenaeus, ʻThe bread which is of the earth receiving the invocation of God is no longer common bread but Eucharist, made up of two things, an earthly and a heavenlyʼ” (Bicknell, ibid, p. 493).

The Protestant Reformation of which classical Anglicanism is an heir, was a movement to reform the Church and to return it to its primitive Catholic faith and practice. Dr. Martin Luther described the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament “in, with and under” the consecrated Bread and Wine as a “Sacramental union” (Latin: unio sacramentalis). John Calvin, who did not believe in the “real absence” of Christ like Zwingli or in Receptionism like Bullinger, said the Body and Blood of Christ was “conjoined” with the Bread and Wine in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

In his 1528, Confession Concerning Christʼs Supper, Martin Luther said, “Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, ʻThis is my body,ʼ even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word ʻthisʼ indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a ʻsacramental union,ʼ because Christʼs body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament.”

According to the Formula of Concord, the Consecration brings about this sacramental union whenever the Eucharist is celebrated. “Thus it is not our word or speaking but the command and ordinance of Christ that, from the beginning of the first Communion until the end of the world, make the bread the body and the wine the blood that are daily distributed through our ministry and office. Again, [Luther says] ʻHere, too, if I were to to say over all the bread there is, “This is the body of Christ,” nothing would happen, but when we follow his institution and command in the Lordʼs Supper and say, “This is my body,” then it is his body; not because of our speaking or of our efficacious word, but because of his command in which he has told us so to speak and to do and has attached his own command and deed to our speaking.ʼ”

In his mature doctrinal view, John Calvin also believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Because few contemporary Anglicans are really familiar with John Calvin or have studied his works, most Anglicans are completely unaware that much of what is called “Calvinist” sacramental theology by them is, in fact, Zwingliʼs sacramental theology rather than Calvinʼs. Indeed, much of what is called “Reformed” or “Calvinist” theology today really comes from Calvinʼs successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, and from the Synod of Dort and the Westminister Assembly later still. The truth is that the mature John Calvin did not teach the “real absence” of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion like Zwingli, or Receptionism like Bullinger. Leanne Van Dyk, Academic Dean and Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, writes, “He [Calvin] engaged in vigorous conversation with both Lutheran and Reformed leaders over the Lordʼs Supper, and in these polemical exchanges he developed his mature doctrine. There is discernible development in Calvinʼs understanding of the Lordʼs Supper from early to late in his ministry. One Calvin scholar [Thomas J. Davis] summarizes, ʻWe will see Calvin move from denying the Eucharist as an instrument of grace to affirming it as such. We will see Calvin develop a notion of substantial partaking of the true body and blood of Christ over his career; an emphasis that is practically absent, even denied, in his earliest teachingʼ” (The Lordʼs Supper, Five Views, edited by Gordon T. Smith, c. 2008, Intervarsity Press, pp. 74-75).

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin writes [T]he Lordʼs Table should have been spread at least once a week for the Assembly of Christians,... All, like hungry men, should flock to such a bounteous repast.” And what is that “bounteous repast”? In his 1540, Short Treatise on the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, Calvin writes, “It is a spiritual mystery which can neither be seen by the eye nor comprehended by the human understanding. It is therefore figured to us by visible signs, according as our weakness requires, in such manner, nevertheless, that it is not a bare figure but is combined with the reality and substance. It is with good reason then that the bread is called the body, since it not only represents it but also presents it to us. Hence we indeed infer that the name of the body of Jesus Christ is transferred to the bread, inasmuch as it is the sacrament and figure of it. But we likewise add, that the sacraments of the Lord should not and cannot be at all separated from their reality and substance. To distinguish, in order to guard against confounding them, is not only good and reasonable, but altogether necessary; but to divide them, so as to make them exist without the other, is absurd.”

In the same treatise Calvin continues, “We must confess, then, that if the representation which God gave us in the Supper is true, the internal substance of the sacrament is conjoined with the visible signs; and as the bread is distributed to us by the hand, so the body of Christ is communicated to us in order that we may be partakers of it. Though there should be nothing more, we have good cause to be satisfied, when we understand that Jesus Christ gives us in the supper the proper substance of his body and blood, in order that we may possess it fully, and possessing it have part in all blessings.”

Calvin signed the Augsburg Confession in 1539, and “Luther himself appreciated his theology even on his jealously guarded theory of the Sacrament of the Holy Supper” (A History of the Reformation, by Thomas M. Lindsay, D.D., LL.D.; Charles Scribnerʼs Sons; 1914; p. 112). There was, of course, disagreements among the great Reformers regarding the Eucharist, but the disagreements were primarily over how the bread and the wine became the Body and Blood of Christ. Luther emphasized ubiquity; Calvin, basing his views on the sanctus in the liturgy and the so-called “ascending epiclesis” at the end of the canon in the Roman Rite, believed that we were caught up into heaven with Christ in the Eucharistic Liturgy. Others believed that the consecration was effected by the power of the Holy Ghost descending on the elements; or by the authority and power of Christʼs Words and command in the Words of Institution. All of these theories are helpful but not fully provable by Scripture, and should not divide Christians.

Regarding the Anglican view, Bicknell has written, “Of the manner of this union we [Anglicans] affirm nothing.” Had the leaders of the Reformation from across Europe been able to freely meet in synod to discuss these issues, as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had hoped, unity and a unified teaching may have resulted, but because of the political turmoil and Roman Catholic persecution of the time, no such synod could be held. Unfortunately, as Anglican bishop Michael Marshall has said, while Luther won the battle against Zwingli at Marburg, Zwingliism went on to win the war. The Rev. John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catherines, Ontario, laments, “As painful though it is to concede this point, beginning in the seventeenth century, Luther increasingly lost the war for the real presence even in the Communion named after him” (ibid, The Lordʼs Supper, Five Views, p. 46).

Today, the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches do not hold Calvinist views regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Like the Baptists, Methodists and other modern evangelicals, they have become completely Zwinglian in their approach, and believe that the Lordʼs Supper is a mere memorial of Christʼs sacrificial death. As Anglicans we must be careful not to describe these Zwinglian views as “Calvinism,” which thy are not. Professor Van Dyk writes, “There is little doubt that the approach to the Lordʼs Supper expressed by Ulrich Zwingli was taken up in large part by the subsequent Reformed tradition. Many generations of Reformed believers have assumed that the Lordʼs Supper is a memorial act, a way to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, an encouragement to gratitude and service” (ibid, The Lordʼs Supper, Five Views, p. 72).

In the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Anglican theology rejects both the errors of Transubstantiation and Zwinglian mere memorialism. Zwingliʼs ideas are rejected in Article XXV, “Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian menʼs profession, but rather they be certain sure witness, and effectual signs of grace. And Article XXVIII says, “The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign but rather it is a Sacrament...a partaking of the Body of Christ.” The Articles of Religion also reject the notion of “Receptionism.” Like “Calvinism” which is often confused with Zwingliism, Receptionism is often misunderstood. The doctrine of Receptionism comes not from John Calvin, but from Heinrich Bullinger. Bullinger was Zwingliʼs successor in Zurich, and served there for forty-four years, from 1531 to 1575. Bullingerʼs sacramental views matured over time, leaving behind Zwingliʼs teaching, but stopping short of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. For Bullinger, like his predecessor Ulrich Zwingli, the sacramental signs, the bread and the wine, are not connected to the thing signified, the Body and Blood of Christ. Heinrich Bullinger taught a sort of parallelism. The sacramental signs are not merely signs, but rather are analogies of Godʼs gracious actions. They do not confer grace. The sacramental action and the divine action are separate, but parallel. As the believer receives the bread and wine with his mouth, he receives Christ in his heart by faith. This view is called “Receptionism”, and it is rejected in the Thirty-nine Articles. Article XXVIII teaches: “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper.”

Despite the teachings of Scripture and of Article XXVIII, Receptionism historically has had influence among Anglicans. This is for three reasons. First, many have mistakenly believed that Richard Hooker, one of Anglicanism's greatest theologians, believed in it. Second, because Anglicanism teaches that the Body and Blood of Christ are received “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” (Article XXVIII). And finally, because of a misunderstanding of Article XXIX, Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lordʼs Supper. Richard Hooker is sometimes described as a Receptionist because he wrote in his famous Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, “The real presence of Christ is not therefore to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the Sacrament.” But Hooker was only echoing the important point made in Article XXV, “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon,...but we should duly use them.” The sacraments are not an end in themselves to be lifted up, carried about, and gazed upon, but a means to an end: the union of the believer with Christ, that as the Apostle Peter says, we may be partakers of the divine nature. Elsewhere, Hooker makes it very clear that he sees the sacraments as means, or vehicles, of grace. Hooker writes, “This bread hath in it more than the substance which our eyes behold”; and “The power of the ministry of God...by blessing visible elements...maketh them invisible grace.” Likewise, some have misunderstood the words “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” (Article XXVIII) regarding how the Body and Blood of Christ are received in Communion. “Spiritual” does not mean symbolic or representative; but rather not in a materialistic, carnal, corporeal way. This language is taken from John 6:63, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” The spiritual is anything but figurative.

Spiritual things are as real, or more so, than physical or material things. In the Catechism of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer the question is asked, “What is the inward part, or thing signified [in the Sacrament of Holy Communion]?” And answered, “The Body and Blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lordʼs Supper.” Where it says “spiritually taken and received” in the 1928 Prayer Book, it says “The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily [truly] and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lordʼs Supper” in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. “Spiritually taken and received” and “verily [truly] taken and received” mean the same thing. It should also be noted that the words “taken and received” echo Article XXVIII, “The Body of Christ is “given [by the priest], taken [by the communicant], and eaten [by the communicant]”, thus ruling out Bullingerʼs Receptionism.

Finally, some Anglicans have been influenced historically by Receptionism because of a misunderstanding of Article XXIX, Of the Wicked which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lordʼs Supper. Receptionism teaches that unbelievers receive only bread and wine, but not its parallel, the Body and Blood of Christ, which are only received into the heart by faith; and that Christ is present at the Table rather than on the Table. But that is not what the Article is teaching. Bicknell writes, “This Article does not in any way deny the ʻreal presence,ʼ it only rules out any carnal view of it. To give an illustration: when our Lord was on earth He possessed healing power quite independently of the faith of men: but only those who possessed faith could get into touch with it. Many touched His garments, but only the woman who had faith was healed (Mk. 5:30). The healing power was there: the touch of faith did not create it, but faith as it were, opened the channel to the appropriate blessing. So in the Eucharist, Christ in all His saving power is present. The wicked are only capable of receiving the visible and material signs of His presence. But those who approach with faith can receive the inward grace and become partakers of Christ by feeding on His Body and Blood” (ibid, Bicknell, p. 503).

Unfortunately, in the middle to late 19th century, many Anglicans were driven toward Receptionism in reaction to the excesses of the so-called Ritualists that had grown out of, and separated from, the Oxford Movement led by Pusey and Keble, and had increasingly adopted Roman ceremonial, doctrine and devotions. But the Tractarians of the Oxford Movement were loyal churchmen devoted to the Catholic faith according to the Anglican tradition. They were classical Anglicans. Regarding the Eucharist, they held to classical Anglican theology as found in the Book of Common Prayer. The Rev. Francis J. Hall writes, “Even the Tractarians of Oxford, while seeking to take our Lordʼs words literally, usually contended themselves with the affirmation of a real presence of the body and blood of Christ in, with and under the consecrated bread and wine” (ibid, Hall, p. 112).

The influence of Receptionism seems to be a thing of the past in Anglicanism as there are no well known theologians or schools of thought within the Church that teach it today. The same cannot be said of Transubstantiation and Impanation. Those under the influence of Tridentine Roman Catholicism still hold to these unscriptural teachings or to something like them, despite the fact that Rome has been moving in the direction of Anglican Sacramental Theology in recent years. In his book, God Is Near Us (Ignatius Press, 2003), in his chapter entitled “The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament”, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) writes, “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 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.”

In the opposite extreme there are some Anglican neo-evangelicals, late of the Episcopal Church, that have been heavily influenced by contemporary “evangelicalism” and the church growth movement, and who hold to a memorialism hardly distinguishable from that of Zwingli and of today's Baptists and Assemblies of God. God raised up Anglicanism for a purpose, has used it powerfully, and has preserved it through a generation of heresy and apostasy. Anglicanism is the one branch of the historic Church that is both thoroughly Evangelical and fully Catholic. Anglicanism confesses, as our forefathers use to say, “Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order.”
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Anglicanism is not three parallel but increasingly divergent “streams” - Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic - flowing from the same original source; but a Church that is thoroughly Evangelical, fully Catholic and called to minister in the power of Pentecost. Anglicanism has so much to offer to the wider Church and to a lost and hurting world. It is to this classical and confessional Anglicanism that we must return if we are to be what God has called us to be; and to do what He has called us to do - raise up authentic disciples of Christ; reform, restore and renew the Anglican Communion; and effectively advance the work of the Great Commission.

C. 2009, by Rev. Victor E. Novak (used with permission)

The Reverend Victor E. Novak is a priest of the Diocese of Mid-America of the Reformed Episcopal Church, a jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America, and the rector of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Omaha, Nebraska.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good article--thanks for posting this!

Doubting Thomas

Brian said...

This is indeed a good article, and I'm glad to have read it. I can't help but find it ironic, though, that the author decided to pursue "classical Anglicanism" in a constituent church of the ACNA, a body that seems like a deliberate exercise in theological contradiction and innovation. Still, I wish him and the REC all the best in their ministry.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article.

I have never heard or read the Anglican position of the Real Presence exlained so well.

Too often, when many "Anglicans" today they really mean Transubstantiation, or something very close to it.

High Churchman

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I will assume that sentence by High Churchmen was meant to say, "Too often, when many 'Anglicans' [say Real Presence] today, they really mean Transubstantiation, or something very close to it." And, I take it he means "transubstantiaiton" by the pre-Ratzinger definition.

RC Cola said...

That was an excellent article. Can you recommend for me a book that describes Anglican Eucharistic theology (the name of which is what?) vs. the Roman Catholic theology (Transubstantiation, in the pre-Ratzinger sense)?

Being new to the Continuum, I only knew that the 39 Articles rejected Transubstantiation, but I need to learn why. so far this article is the closest to a positive theology I've seen, but I know there must be something out there to help me understand.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Father Hart.

That's what you get when you type when you are tired - leaving something out.

High Churchman

Anonymous said...

The Holy Eucharist is a Holy Mystery that we humans are not supposed to be able to understand. It is, after all, a mystery.

We are simply supposed to have faith in Christ and believe His words: "This is my body..." and "This is my blood..."

Any time humans, with our limited understanding of the things of God, try to define a Holy Mystery of which we are not supposed to understand, we run the risk of creating heresy and division in the Body of Christ - the Church.

All of the conflicts that divide Christendom concerning the Eucharist would have been avoided if instead of trying to define God's mysteries, all had accepted the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist by faith.

BCP Catholic

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent essay indeed. The most valuable part, for me, was the quotations from Bicknell and Hall. To these may I add the words of E.C.S Gibson, in a litle known commentary on the Articles, published 1896. Gibson was sometime Bishop of Gloucester. He wrote:

"It has been noticed by a thoughtful writer that in the clause 'the body of Christ is not said in a general sense to be "received," but to be "given, taken, and eaten"; as if there were a solicitude, in correcting the abuses of the sacrament, explicitly to maintain the union between the heavenly and spiritual blessing and the outward and visible sign. . . . To use these precise expressions, therefore, respecting the Body of Christ is, by clearest implication, to combine that "heavenly and spiritual" blessing with the given and taken symbol.' "

Gibson is quoting a writer unknown to me, named "A. Knox." But Gibson gets even better:

"The words of the whole paragraph imply that the Presence [note capital P] is what is now commonly called "objective," that it is THERE, in virtue of consecration as something external to ourselves, in no way dependent on our feeling or perception of it."

Another point altogether: Not too much should be made of Calvin's signing of the Augusburg Confession. That worthy document had a very fluid textual history. The version Calvin signed was the so-called "Variata," the version as doctored by Melanchthon. On the Eucharist, the revision was significant: whereas the original read,

"Concerning the Lord's Supper, they teach that the body and blood are truly present and are distributed to those that eat in the Lord's Supper."

The amended version, signed by Calvin, read,

"Concerning the Lord's Supper, they teach that with bread and wine are truly exhibited the body and blood of Christ to those that eat in the Lord's Supper."

There is a distinct difference between "truly present" and "truly exhibited."

The amended version was soon repudiated by the Lutheran churches. This is why conservative Lutherans insist on the "Unaltered Augsburg Confession." No Lutheran body today that I know of adheres to the revised version.

The writer is correct in pointing out the profound difference between the mature Calvin (the Calvin of the final edition of the Institutes) and Zwingli.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC Cola:

Trying to think of a book on that subject is difficult at the moment. Canon Tallis or Fr. Wells may have some ideas about that.

I can point you to a couple of my essays that may answer some questions.

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2009/02/richard-hooker-on-communion-of-christs.html

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2008/12/ultimate-transubstantiation.html

RC Cola said...

Transubstantiation does not remove the mystery from the sacrament, nor can you blame all of the division in Christendom to its definition. Nor does it show a lack of faith because it still takes faith to believe that--contrary to all sense data processed by our intellect, which is the only way humans can know anything--what seems to be Bread and Wine are in fact the Body and Blood of Jesus. Not a mere symbol, not a nice idea to make us feel good, not even a perception, but a stark raving mad reality...for which the only support we have is that this belief has been passed down to us from the get-go.

I reckon that even with the RCC's definition of Transubstantiation, and our rejection of it, there is still plenty of mystery left and then some. And I don't think it is a bad thing at all to pursue the "leads" that Jesus and the Apostles left for us.

There's a reason that the encyclical by Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio very consciously titled one section "Credo ut intellegam" and the following section "Intellego ut credum." Faith and reason, far from being at odds, go hand and hand. Philosophy is the servant of scripture and theology.

In the introduction to Fides et Ratio John Paul II wrote:

13. It should nonetheless be kept in mind that Revelation remains charged with mystery. It is true that Jesus, with his entire life, revealed the countenance of the Father, for he came to teach the secret things of God.(13) But our vision of the face of God is always fragmentary and impaired by the limits of our understanding. Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently.
.
.
.
In short, the knowledge proper to faith does not destroy the mystery; it only reveals it the more, showing how necessary it is for people's lives: Christ the Lord “in revealing the mystery of the Father and his love fully reveals man to himself and makes clear his supreme calling”,(18) which is to share in the divine mystery of the life of the Trinity.(19)


I submit that your use of the word mystery is too colloquial, when in the Church it has a very technical meaning that is not the same. also, I would adjust your assertion that we "are not supposed to be able understand" [the mysteries of the faith] should really read, "we are not supposed to be able to totally understand. We humans are quite capable of partial understanding, and that is precisely why we were given rational souls.

We must have some understanding other wise we wouldn't be able to have any faith.

I would would find it helpful if I cold get my hands on a book outlining an Anglican Eucharistic theology that describes what we do believe rather than what we don't.

RC Cola said...

Thanks, Fr. Hart. I'll check out those essays.

Anonymous said...

"and is perhaps the only truly classical Anglican jurisdiction in North America."

Come again? Why did he come to believe APCK wasn't classical Anglican? I'm not familiar with REC. How do they differ from the Continuuing Churches?

Anonymous said...

RC Cola: When you speak of transubstantiation, it is necessary to distinguish between (1) the popular view in the late Middle Ages (which survives today among a few untaught RC's and mistaught Protestants), (2) the official view set forth at Trent, and (3) modern official interpretations such as the CCC or writings of Bishop Ratzinger.

I believe that the real divide, the real fork in the road, is in the theory of annihilation, the teaching that as the elements of bread and wine are consecrated their natural substance is simply abolished, leaving only the outward accidents as a kind of shell.
But even if such was taught by Trent (I am not sure), I do not find it in the CCC. It find nothing in the CCC on the Eucharist which does not describe my own faith, and anyone would hard put to set it in opposition to classical Anglican eucharistic teaching. At the risk of sounding triumphalistic, the Reformation triumphed and popular "Catholicism" lost.

Gone are the days when ignorant nuns frightened children with tales of wicked Jews who stole hosts, which drowned the blaspheous thieves. But there are plenty of other issues we still must debate, for the sake of the Gospel and the honor of Christ.
LKW

Will said...

Regarding Fr. Wells' comment about Edgar C.S. Gibson's work on the Articles: Wipf and Stock Publishers was kind enough to work with me and get that book republished:

Gibson's text on the Articles

I can't recall if it is the precise edition to which Fr. Wells refers, as this one is two volumes and there was at least one prior single-volume edition. But it IS now available from a current publisher!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Come again? Why did he come to believe APCK wasn't classical Anglican? I'm not familiar with REC. How do they differ from the Continuuing Churches?

They left the Episcopal Church in the 1880s, as I understand it, because they rejected the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral. We would easily affirm the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral, so the issue is one with which we are on the opposite side.

Anonymous said...

I do not know the identity of "Will," but we are in his debt if he has gotten a reprint of Gibson's Commentary on the Articles. I happen to own a copy I found years ago at a local used bookstore, Champlin's Book Mine. Every now and again, my friend Champ gets the library of a retired priest and I have a field day.
The edition I have the joy of owning is the 10th, dated 1928, published by Methuen & Co. It is 1 volume, 800 pages, compared to Bicknell's 563 pages.
But Gibson's commentary is a treasure trove. He had a generally High Church orientation, but is honest about what the Articles really said. If available, it is a MUST BUY.
LKW

Anonymous said...

No, no, no, Fr Hart. The REC originated in the departure of Bp Cummins in 1873. The Lambeth QWuadrilateral appeared in 1888.

The Cummins movement was a fall-out from the long-standing controversies over churchmanship. One of its early documents was a tract entitled "Are There Catholicizing Germs in the Prayer Book?"
It attacked the BCP for teaching that a priest has power to absolve, and that Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration. Once outside of PECUSA, the newly formed REC lost no time in producing a drastic revision of the Prayer Book, removing all the "Catholicizing germs." Over the years the REC has reinvented itself numerous times, presenting itself as Calivnist, Arminian, dispensationalist, whatever. Its current posture is "classical Anglican," but it is evidently moving toward a neo-Anglican phase. For over 5 years they seemed to be joining forces with Bp Grundorf's "Anglican Province of America," but that romance seems to have cooled.
LKW

poetreader said...

Fr. Wells is pretty much correct as to the history of REC, and I am afraid, from what I've read of Bishop Cummin's own words that he would have rather vociferously disagreed with Fr. Novak's assessment of the Declaration of Principles. Whatever later interpreters may see in those words, I have no doubt that Cummins and the other founders of REC took them in the most natural and colloquial sense of the words, denying any presence of the body and blood of Christ in the elements, though they may have been willing to grant that obeying His command we, in some nebulous spiritual sense, spiritually (as in not quite actually) partake of His body and blood.

REC is indeed changing, and one can hope it is still developing in the direction of the Continuum, though its connection with ACNA is not too promising.

I have friends who have made the same sort of move as Fr. Novak, and I consider them to be mistaken, but I know their theology of the Eucharist to be orthodox, and that they have somehow (unaccountably to me) managed to feel at home there.

Let's pray that Our Lord help us all, somehow, to find the way to extract consistent truth from the ridiculous mess that current Anglicanism has managed to produce.

ed

Will said...

Well, I found Gibson's book on the Articles, and his general theological orientation, to be something I could really live with. After reading Peter Nockles' work on the Oxford Movement, I now really, really wish that the Tractarians had striven for an ultimate theological position like Bishop Gibson's. He is a High Churchman an Evangelical could love.

To comment on topic: I truly appreciated the essay by Fr. Novak. He definitely articulated as clear an "Anglican" understanding as I have ever read and I wish most people in our churches could read it.

Brian said...

I'm still a relatively young guy, but it's been interesting to see even in my time the REC shift from attempting to brand itself as the original Continuing church to seeking recognition from "official" Anglican bodies--first from Africa and now as part of ACNA.

Wasn't the instigating incident of its founding when Cummins participated in a Presbyterian communion service? I believe it was his rejection of a sacramental priesthood (over and against "classical Anglican" teaching) in favor of ecumenicism that caused the controversy behind the split. Actually, given this heritage, it makes perfect sense that the REC would want to join the ACNA, the modern Presbyterians in clerical collars.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I had forgotten; but I recall now. They are stuck with their Declaration of Principles because of the legal foundation of their denomination.

Their previous claim to be the first Continuing Church never convinced us because of two things: 1) What they left was, at the time, Anglicanism itself, and 2) what they left was not a corrupt church with false teaching, but was our own church, the teaching and practices of which we Continue.

Now, they are seeking legitimacy or validity by trying to be re-associated with the Anglican Communion; and it is ironic. When it was worth being associated with, they were willing to leave it behind. Now that it is dangerous to be associated with, they seek some kind of "validity" from it. I had always respected their willingness to stand for what they believed, and now I hope they recover it; and that their confusion about Anglican doctrine and practice will disappear.

This paper indicates that their doctrines have been improving; but, they are still terribly confused about where they ought to be, to what they ought to belong.

Anonymous said...

The fine scholarly essay (which should be the focus of our discussion) reflects the sound Reformed Catholic faith of Fr Novak himself. The REC is no more responsible for it than the ACC is responsible for my personal opinions.
Perhaps Fr Novak's choice of the REC as his safe haven is ironic. But I pray that God will continue to bless him and his priesthood, in whatever context he sees fit to labor.
I repeat: the essay, not Fr Novak's choice of jurisdiction, should be our focus. The personal choice is none of our business.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Correction accepted Father. Amen.

poetreader said...

A few comments back RC Cola said this:

I would would find it helpful if I cold get my hands on a book outlining an Anglican Eucharistic theology that describes what we do believe rather than what we don't.

This is not as easy a request to answer as it might seem. There's a peculiar thing about theology -- that it is an attempt to know what is ultimately unknowable. The reality of God is immeasurably more vast than our minds are capable of handling. This is why so much of theology ends up being "apophatic", what is otherwise known as "negative theology". Heresy, in its very nature, sounds more reasonable to the human mind, as it is pretty generally an attempt to reduce God to the explainable, to bring the Infinite down to a manageable size. It's been a constant assertion of mine, repeated until people get tired of hearing it, that, in theological matters at least, If I think I really understand anything, somewhere I've missed an important point and made a vital mistake.

This is the real problem with all the theories of the Presence that have been advanced, whether transubstantiation, consubstantiation, impanation, receptionism, or the "real absence". All of them are treating the Mystery as though we can understand what it is that confronts us. Beyond a certain point the best we can really do is to point out the weakness in each of the various theories and to affirm with joy and awe the Mystery that remains. We know, in every way that a human can know, that what is before us is a piece of bread and a cup of wine. We also know by faith, because He told us so, that what is before us is His own Body and Blood. We eat bread, we receive His Body, and so doing enter a reality beypond our comprehension. Elizabeth's little ditty, whoever actually wrote it, and whatever the precise form, continues to be at the heart of Anglican Eucharistic theology, and it is very difficult to make unassailable specific conclusions as to what we do teach. Frankly, I think that is a good thing.

["He was the Word that spake it.
His was the hand that brake it,
And what that Word doth make it,
That I believe and take it."
]

Incidentally, Fr. Wells' point is well taken. This is a thread about the Eucharist, not about REC. However, inasmuch as Fr. Novak struggles to justify his jurisdiction's position in the terms of the theology he advances, it is unavoidable that we have to consider this background. There are problems there that are quite relevant to the discussion. If we can keep that part of the discourse to the reasonable and nonemotional level that this thread has shown, we do well.

ed

charles said...

I believe if you go by 39 Articles and Cramner's liturgy, you end up with a definitive confession of 'real presence' albeit one that varies between a Lutheranism to Calvinism. However, Transubstantiation is ruled out. I understand transubstantiation to be an "annihilation" of the substance of bread and wine. Meanwhile, the Lutheran view angles at a 'hypostasis' of two natures while the Calvinist is fairly silent but denies locality and objectivity. Memorialism is ruled out, but due to the Calvinist option (which straddles the high and low views) it remains in practice.

This does touch upon the REC. The REC has, of late, become something very different from its conception. There is a general high view of the sacramental essence of Bishop alongside a growing Anglo-catholic wing. Novak is exempalary of this trend.

Angicanism, as orthodoxy in general, has never had 'pure' or 'precisionist' views. As we know, we tend to bracket off heresy but are not especially positive in our statements. I see REC's transformation in a very encouraging light as we return to a more robust and less 'precisionist' Anglicanism. In many ways, as you all know, the non-jurors were sort of the flipside of puritans in so far as doctrine became propositional and not something which came 'thru' the Church by her communion between her Bishops and Christ.

Puritanism is a tricky bird. It infects more than we suspect, and I tend to identify it with the ill-patience and ill-will of men in general regarding fellow churchmen. Yes, REC has problems, but it is 'in flux' at a very important time, with a growing catholic wing, and it will play a critical role in the emerging ACNA. I wish their best.

charles said...

I'd like to correct myself. I don't think it's so easy to compare the nonjurors to puritans. While similar in so far as both were ultimately separatist, nonjuror disagreement was not 'propositional' (a positive and extensive confession) but regarded the nature of a vowed ministry. I don't think it's an automatic comparison.

Also, Lord forbid we define or reduce Catholicism solely to propositional formuals!?! I think the difference between authentic catholicism and modern-day protestantism boils down, in some ways, to the sermon vs. sacrament. Is faith entirely rational (in the head), i.e. a set of truth statements; or, is faith essentially 'sacramental', namely born by the Spirit and expressed through a living agency. IN so far as it might be the later, perhaps we can say genuine catholicism is more than a creed (or seven councils and their doctrine) but the manner in which we received and transmit truth, i.e., through an ecclesiology, and this has visible signs by synods, bishops, and charity. I like what a poster said on the Haverland thread, "essentials in unity; in non-essentials diversity; and in all things charity". We often forget being 'catholic' means submitting and enduring error as much as it does anathemitizing at times. ?

Again, the REC would have Cummins roll over in his grave. It is slowly becoming a 'comprehensive church'-- as Novak said, "catholic, evangelical, and charismatic". While ACNA might be more problematic, and I would recommend researching this before casting a sure judgement (as I've heard many different and even contrary accusations), even more reason for conservatives in REC alongide the emerging anglo-catholic phalanx to be that 'salt'. As always I wish them the best.

welshmann said...

To all:

As I understand things, the upshot of the orthodox teaching on the Sacrament is this; that it consists of 2 parts, the outer sign (bread and wine) and the inner grace (Body and Blood); that by virtue of the Institution and subsequent consecrations, the inner and outer parts of the Sacrament are bound together in such a way that the outer part both signifies and effects or makes present the inner part in a mysterious way; that the inner and outer parts must neither be confounded nor separated; and that the outer part retains its natural identity after it is bound to the inner grace in the sacramental union.

I am puzzled by the distinction made between the sacramental union that exists between the inner and outer parts of the Sacrament on the one hand, and the hypostatic union that exists between Christ and His natures on the other. Let me pose an example, and then ask a question.

I had thought that the sacramental union was much like the relationship that exists between each one of us and our natural bodies. We point to a natural person and say "There is George," not "There is George's natural person." For some purposes, the natural body of George IS George; for some important purposes, we distinguish carefully between the natural body that represents George in the physical world, and the sentient being that is George. Likewise, the bread and wine for most purposes simply are the Body and Blood, just as George's natural person is, well...George.

Am I guilty of impanation, or just using a bad example? Any comments are appreciated.

welshmann

RC Cola said...

I've had to stop and think for a couple of days about this.

It seems to me like there are only three possibilities:

1. There is absolutely no change in the bread and wine, so "Body and Blood" are merely symbolic or figures of speech.

2. That the physical species remain bread and wine, while they are simultaneously spiritually (that is to say, non-physically) the Body and Blood of Jesus. Perhaps I've explained it wring, but I mean for this to agree with Luther's 'hypostasis'...if Jesus was God and Man, why can His sacrament not be Body and Bread/Blood and wine. That is, it is composed of two natures. [N.B. Nature, in St. Thomas is synonymous with nature, essense, quiddity, etc.]

3. The nature of the species change from bread and wine to body and blood, even though that change in nature/substance is not perceivable by any means except faith, because all of the accidents of bread and wine remain intact. That is transubstantiation.

There is no 4th possibility that would be opposite of the first possibility because we clearly see that there is no experience (except for the stories of eucharistic miracles) that the bread and wine maintain their outward appearance and do not change into bloody fleshmeat.

We rule out #1. The Eucharist is more than a merely symbolic presence, but the Real Presence.

That leaves us either Luther's hypostatic sacrament, or Rome's transubstantiated sacrament.

to be continued...

RC Cola said...

part II

I think part of the problem is that so few people really understand what substance and accident are. Substance is not a pin cushion and accidents are not pins we stick into or pull out of the cushion. It's not an egg with an accidental shell. It's not even the clay before sculpting or the canvas before painting. Substance is 'what-a-thing-is'.

Substance is what the thing is, its essence, nature, quiddity, etc. If we believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist--in reality, not just imaginatively--then we are saying that he is present in substance. Even if we want to avoid that word 'substance' we cannot because that what the word means. Substance is 'that which exists in itself;' it is the primary mode of being. Accident is that which inheres in a substance; it is the secondary mode of being.

I'm leaning toward Luther now because it is clear that the accidents of bread and wine inhere even after the consecration of the host. But, believing that Christ is present in reality, the only explanation could be hypostasis--two natures in one being. This makes sense especially considering that Christ exists in a hypostatic union; two natures in one person. There's the symmetry of analogy there.

I don't really respect the Orthodox because they believe in transubstantiation, but refuse to admit the term or that they belive in it. So they have to resort to a case of willful nominal aphasia. That is, they will describe transubstantiation to a t, but when you try to pin them down to call it what it is, they refuse. But they believe in a dictionary perfect definition of it. In this case, they are simply being anti-roman.

I invite any Orthodox to tell me that a) they believe that the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood, b) that the bread only appears to be bread, but is really the body, and the blood is really blood, but only appears to be wine, and then c) tell me they do not believe in transubstantiation, and I will show you a person with purposeful, conscious, willful denial that manifests itself as a type of aphasia. I'm thinking of Timothy Ware in his classic The Orthodox Way.

[N.B. For those of you not familiar with nominal aphasia, it is a neurological disorder that cuases people to forget words for things they know. For example, "I have a little furry pet with a long tail that chases mice and plays with yarn." "You mean a 'cat'?" "Yes!" In the case of the Orthodox, "We believe that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Body and Blood of Jesus become present in the Eucharist, and the bread and wine are not really bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of Jesus." "You mean, you believe in transubstantiation?" "No, you Romanist! It's a mystery and your name is heresy!" "But you've just described transubstantiation to a t!" "No I haven't, I've described a mystery!" "OK, never mind."]

to be continued...

RC Cola said...

part iii


There is simply no way to say that, "This is Jesus' Body" and say "This is Jesus' body...but not in substance" without being 100% intellectually dishonest or delusional. Because if it is not Jesus' Body in substance, then it is simply not Jesus body period--by definition of what substance is. By definition of what 'is' is, Mr. Clinton.

Substance is not physical at all, not in any way, shape, or form. It is metaphysical; what a thing 'is'.

A good example is a newly fertilized human egg. As soon as the sperm penetrates that egg, that is the moment of conception and a new human being is (exists). But to look at it, it shows absolutely no indication to us of being human. There are no accidents that would indicate what its substance is. But try to prove it is not human. Will that fertilized egg grow into a dog? No. An ape? No. An oak tree? No. There is only one thing it can do, and that is develop into recognizable human being. What makes it recognizable as a human? Its accidents. The two legs are accidents. Two arms and ears. etc. But those accidents would not be potentially present unless the substance were there to inform the matter. We recognize that a person with a third arm, or missing an arm is somehow not right. That's because the substance human has two arms, even if the act of having two arms happens to be an accident. (hence, a three-armed person, or a one- or no-armed person is not "less human" because they have different accidents.)

If we understand what Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas meant by substance, the Real Presence must mean that Christ is substantially present. The only choice we have then is to decide if the bread and wine remain substantially present--then we believe in eucharistic hypostasis-- or to decide that only the accidents, but not the substance, of the bread and wine remain. In that case, we are just like the Roman and 20+ rites of Eastern Catholics (and the Orthodox who refuse to admit it).

BTW, I reject Schillebecx's "Transignification" because a) it strikes me as violating the Law of the Excluded Middle, b) because the rest of his theology is totally suspect, and I throw out transignification with the rest of his heresy--"guilt by association." Basically, I don't think Schillebecx has anything to offer orthodox Christians except an example of what not to believe.

Although this is off-the-cuff, I have just realize one weakness of the reason I was leaning toward Luther. I said that it's clear that the bread and wine remain. The problem is that it is clear that the sun rises and sets, and yet it doesn't. So even our sense data, which is the only way humans can know, betrays our understanding of even the simplest things of our daily lives. Could it not be that our senses deceive us when confronted with the deepest mystery in the entire economy of salvation?

I'm still undecided, but leaning toward Luther.

poetreader said...

RC Cola,

Your 3 posts are very thoughtful and interesting, however, I find that I cannot be confined to the categories you lay out, nor can I share your attribution of either duplicity or nominal aphasia to the Orthodox.

You see, your 3 categories presume a necessity or at least an ability to define a situation that just won't hold still for logic. To do as Aquinas an d Aristotle before him have done and label a distinction that may or may not have any relationship with the real world, may be (and certainly is) useful as a framework to think philosophically, snd to build theories of reality; but there is no way to assert that such a logical structure really represents the mind of God or His pereption of what He has made.

The Orthodox are not being either evasive or dysfunctional, but are heirs to a thought-structure that Western society does not easily grasp. If I could figure out just what the East means by "changed into", I might be able to make that realate to Thomist categories, but I don't think there is a defined meaning to that term, but rather that it is a signpost into a Mystery, just as they would say.

I don't lean toward Luther, nor toward Aquinas. I find both of their efforts to explain to be woefully lacking, and almost impious in their presumption. As theories, they are both interesting and worth thought. As doctrine, they both fall short of truth.

I believe we are left with two bald statements of reality and no assured way of relating them:

This is bread and wine.
This is the Body and Blood of Christ.

How they can both be true may be thought about, but simply cannot be known.

ed

charles said...

Luther did not want to explain the mode of the body and blood of the Eucharist and felt the Words of Christ was enough, "this is my body". However, pressed by opponents of the sacrament, Luther was forced to engage them and give a defense. Luther leaned on scripture in light of the Creeds. NOthing wrong with that. Frankly, I don't see where Luther subcumbed to a 'rationalism' as EO would contend. I sort of think EO's claim to preserve the mystery of the eucharist is a lame excuse to avoid apologetics. Sometimes you must give a defense. Furthermore, Luther's sacramental union remains just as mysterious as the definition of 'trinity in unity'. The Creed could also be dubbed 'rationalistic', but it was a needed defense and has proved timeless-- 'all error is christological'. ?

poetreader said...

Again, Charles, the question, as I see it, is not whether to offer a defense, but whether there is actually something defined enough to defend. It simply is not good apologetics to try to defend what one sincerely believes to be an inadequate statement (even if it is the best one is able to do).
I, for one, will strongly defend my belief that the Elements are, in very truth His Body and Blood. I will also point out with definiteness that what we can see and know is bread and wine in any sense we can really understand. I see neither need nor justification for an attempt to say more than that, or to explain how it can be, and will affirm strongly that any attempt to put the Mystery into words falls far short of the reality, and, for that matter, distorts it.
In so far as I fully understand the Eastern thinking, I believe this to be what they (or at least many of them) are saying, and I would heartily concur.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Charles wrote:

I think the difference between authentic catholicism and modern-day protestantism boils down, in some ways, to the sermon vs. sacrament.

I cannot agree at all. Although some Protestants teach this very things as a divide, it is simply an incorrect perception (the Polish National Catholic Church teaches that true and faithful preaching is a sacrament. I think both St Augustine and St. John Chrysostom would agree with the PNCC).

I like what a poster said on the Haverland thread, "essentials in unity; in non-essentials diversity; and in all things charity".

I am glad that St. Augustine left a comment here; see folks, we get comments from some important people.

We often forget being 'catholic' means submitting and enduring error as much as it does anathematizing at times. ?

You have lost me on that. The role of every Bishop is to banish strange doctrines; and for this reason every Ecumenical Council was held. I think your comment came out wrong; what were you trying to say?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC Cola:

I think that the answer is explained well by one of my favorite Anglicans, Pope Benedict XVI (Alright, honorary Anglican. Think of this way: I have complimented him), which was quoted by Fr. Novak in the article, and in its larger context posted here.

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2008/07/pope-benedicts-anglican-mind.html

Modern physics being what they are, "accident and substance" is outdated. All matter is the same stuff, energy organized one way or another. The identity of the consecrated elements is spiritual, and that is real enough. Apart from its charismatic saving effect, what does the presence of Christ in the sacrament mean? It is not material.

charles said...

Hello Fr. Hart,


I promise to say more later, but by 'sermon vs. sacrament', I was trying to make an ecclesiastical point. I think radicalism tends to reduce truth to something propositional and abstract. Whereas (reformed) Catholicism may see truth as 'incarnated' through a living, sacramental body, i.e., the preaching and prayers of the priesthood. One emphasizes a confession written on paper, the other emphasizes what is assented and proclaimed by a living assembly.

Perhaps I am off topic, but I think these two views of how truth occurs impacts our view of bishops and their associated submission and constitution between one another, etc. ?

Vocella Dieferin said...

I'm very surprised that no one mentioned how the Eucharist at times has become a "Eucharistic Miracle". I'd be much interested to hear a few theories hashed.

Vocella Dieferin said...

Could you please speak a bit to the Eucharistic Miracle?