In a comment on a recent post about Extended Communion Bosco Peters wrote the following which I think deserves a fuller rather than a ‘comment’ type response:
“You write "the sacrament is received not as the body and the blood of Jesus".
This appears to go against what our liturgies teach.
We receive the bread and wine as Christ's body and blood, his person and his life.
I can never quite work out why those who have no difficulty finding God's Word in the human words of the scriptures, and Christ's presence in their proclamation, make such heavy weather of Christ's presence in other ways. And whilst they do not make much effort to minimise God's ability within scripture, God's ability in the eucharist appears to need careful analysis.
The formularies to which Anglican clergy assent include:
Praise and glory to you creator Spirit of God;
you make our bread Christ's body
to heal and reconcile
and to make us the body of Christ.
You make our wine Christ's living sacrificial blood
to redeem the world.
NZ Prayer Book p.541”
In response to Bosco Peters initially I observed that much hangs on the word ‘as’ and on reflection prompted by his comment I think ‘as’ can bear my statement about the eucharist dropping the negative qualifier to become, “the sacrament is received as the body and blood of Jesus”!
But here I would not understand the ‘as’ to bear the full weight of a Transubstantiation understanding of the eucharist. Bosco Peters rightly makes the point in another comment that Roman Catholics no longer understand Transubstantiation in Aristotelian categories (substance/accidence) where he says:
“I suspect you are using "substance" and "transubstantiation" with the Aristotelian categories in mind.
You will have to search widely to find many theologians who still hold to such philosophical concepts.
"Transubstantiation" is now used normally in Roman Catholicism as a synonym for Christ being really present in the eucharist - fully in the bread, fully in the wine, rather than an adherence to Aristotelian categories.
Such a belief of Christ's presence is consistent, I posit, and my quote demonstrates, with Anglican formularies to which we assent.
The bending over backwards, as I indicated, to demonstrate Christ is present everywhere EXCEPT in the bread and the wine of holy communion, is a tendency I cannot make sense of.”
Now I want to engage with what Bosco Peters’ says in these two comments not to win a debate but to (try to) better understand the mystery of communion!
One way to engage would be to ask questions – questions, that is, to get any reader thinking, as well as myself. Here are some questions:
(1) If we have moved on from Aristotelian categories, in what manner do we now understand Christ to be ‘really present in the eucharist – fully in the bread, fully in the wine’?
Notes: I agree that such talk is consistent with Anglican formularies. I also understand it to be close to the Lutheran position known as Consubstantiation (in which the bread remains bread yet Christ is fully within it).
(2) Do all words in our NZPB bear equal weight?
I note that the words cited above from page 541 are from a prayer provided for ‘The Day of Pentecost’. That is these words are part of options which may never be used by a priest otherwise regularly and properly using the main Eucharistic prayers, none of which in my estimation is quite as explicit in its use of ‘make’ language. Does the language of ‘assent’ mean we assent directly to the apparent theological commitment of these words or assent to our formularies as expressing a broad theology representative of theological diversity in our church? Could ‘assent’ mean that we assent to a meaning for these words weighed against other Eucharistic understandings in the NZPB, understandings which (I suggest) enable us to legitimately understand ‘make’ in the Cranmerian terms I originally posted on?
(3) Is there an analogy between God’s Word in the words of Scripture, or Christ’s presence in proclamation and Christ’s presence in the sacrament?
This question arises because many would hold that the words of Scripture are always God’s Word, and Christ is necessarily present in proclamation of Christ; but bread and wine are mostly bread and wine (for breakfast, lunch and dinner!) except in the context of the Eucharistic meal, celebrated by the community of faith under the presence of an ordained presider. To this bread and wine something happens which is of a different order to God’s Word/words of Scripture and Christ’s presence/proclamation … or, so the argument would go!
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