It is no secret that Lancelot Andrewes denied the doctrine of transubstantiation of the Tridentine theology yet he expressed a view of ‘symbol’ that is often not understood by many who read Andrewes. There is often confusion expressed by scholars when reading Andrewes that they are not sure how definable he is in his sacramental theology. In the conclusion of the second chapter of my thesis I write, “Andrewes is not a ‘symbolic instrumentalist’ in the same sense in which Calvin is defined, rather he is what I have coined an ‘effectual instrumentalist’ who defines instrumentality based upon the continuity of the sacrament with the symbol. There is no hiatus
, the Eucharist IS the Body and Blood and the Sacrifice offered on behalf of the sins of the whole world. There is no doubt in the mind of Andrewes about the reality of the whole Christ in the Sacrament. The Eucharist contains and communicates the reality of all that Christ is for His people. The Sacrament gives us the knowledge of and participation
in the life of Christ.” ©Jeffrey Steel 2005.
I have been trying to put my finger on this concept with more understanding and I remembered Schmemann’s little book, For the Life of the World and his section on Sacrament and Symbol. He said something there that really has caught my attention in trying to nail Andrewes down in sacramental views. It is no secret that Andrewes was steeped in the theology and writings of the patristic Fathers. Schmemann said something that made me stop and consider a possible theory from which to exercise Andrewes's thought on this topic. Speaking of the post-patristic problem of how symbol was understood Schmemann gives his understanding of the problem in sacramental theology.
(I would love to hear from my Catholic friends who read this blog. If you have any insights or thoughts on the view of symbol here, please feel free to comment. Pass on any good books you may have read on symbol as well. I am looking for a copy of Raymond Firth on symbolism to add some more sociological and philosophical thoughts on symbolism.)
For your thoughts, I quote from Schmemann here:
There remained, however, the problem of the signum
whose relation to the “res” of the sacrament had to be defined in a new way. For if it is not a symbol what is it? Post-patristic theology answered this question by defining signum
and it is here that the notion and probably the experience of the sacrament suffered its deepest transformation. In the early tradition, the causality inherent in the sacrament, the sanctification it procures for those who partake of it, is inseparable from its symbolism for it is rooted init. This in no way limits or contradicts the unique cause of all sacraments—their institution
by Christ—for, as we have said already, the institution is precisely the fulfilment of a symbol by Christ and, therefore, its transformation into a sacrament. It is thus an act, not of discontinuity, but of fulfilment and actualization. It is the epiphany—in and through Christ—of the “new creation,” not the creation of something “new.” And if it reveals the “continuity” between creation and Christ, it is because there exists, at first, a continuity between Christ and creation whose logos
, is life, and light He is. It is precisely this aspect of both the instution and sacrament that virtually disappear in post-patristic theology. The causality linking the institution to “signum” to “res” is views as extrinsic and formal, not as intrinsic
and revealing. Rather than revealing through fulfilment, it guarantees the reality of the sacrament’s effect. Even if, as in the case of the Eucharist, the sign is completely identified with reality, it is experienced in terms of the sign’s annihilation rather than in those of fulfilment. In this sense the doctrine of transubstantiation, in its Tridentine form, is truly the collapse, or rather the suicide, of sacramental theology. If this new understanding of causality—as an extrinsic and formal guarantee—breaks the ontological continuity between the sign and the “res,” it also rejects, de facto
, all continuity between “institution” and the normal order of things. It is indeed discontinuity
that is now being stressed and affirmed. Considered as the “causa principalis” of the “signum” as “causa secunda,” institution becomes now an absolute starting point of a sacramental system entirely sui generis
. And the efforts b some recent theologians to bring back into the notion of “signum” the “richness of traditional symbolism” concern the “accidents,” not the “substance” in the doctrine and understanding of sacraments…
It is when they were exalted and glorified as supreme reality
that began the progressive alienation from them of theology, ecclesiology, and eschatology, an alienation which—whether it is understood or not—is at the origin of today’s crisis, the source and the poison of “secularism”…As means of individual piety and sanctification they preserved all their “value.” As catholic acts of the Church fulfilling herself as symbols in “this world” of “the world to come,” of the consummation in God of all things—they were simply forgotten.” Schmemann (144-145).