Sunday, April 23, 2006

Eucharistic Fundamentalism?

Update: There is a discussion of this post going on at Reformed Catholicism. Feel free to carry on the conversation at either place.

In reading a fellow Anglican's blog today, I ran across this piece on the Eucharist by Rev. Douglas Wilson. He writes,
But Jesus did not tell us to watch and adore. He told us to take and eat, take and drink. And in our obedience, Christ is with us. Christ inhabits the obedience, and the bread and wine are not obedient. Christ is in the participles, in the eating, and in the drinking. Christ is present in His body, and we are that body. As we take the elements and do what we were told to do (which did not include bowing down to them, adoring them, etc.) we are taken by the Holy Spirit and are knit together with Christ and the rest of His body. The elements sitting on an altar by themselves are nothing, and do nothing. But the elements are the instrument that God uses to accomplish His purposes. In order for an instrument to do what it is intended to do, it is necessary to do with it what we were told to do with it, which is eat, drink, and believe.

To take the elements of bread and wine, and separate them from the sacramental action, the sacramental participles, is a mistake of the first order. It is to remove an animated thing from the animating principle, thereby killing it, and then worshipping it as though it were alive by itself.
There are numerous issues here that need fleshing out and it would take a dissertation to do so but let me just hit the key issues I see that are very problematic. The very first thing is that Mr. Wilson gives the impression that God gave him the scriptures to read on his own without the Church. He comes to these opinions without much authority behind him other than his own mere opinion. This is the major Puritan problem that is passed off as sola scriptura and one's private opinion becomes the pure undefiled word that is not tainted by outside sources like an institutionalised Church. Yet this nullifies the Eucharistic development from the Upper Room to Paul's discourse with the Corinthians.

The second thing is the phrase that "Christ inhabits the obedience and the bread and wine are not obedient. Christ is in the participles, in the eating and in the drinking." What the heck does this mean? The scriptures are given to us to read and understand in the context of the Church as a worshipping community and because Mr. Wilson can't figure out how Christ makes himself present with the elements themselves doesn't give him the right to make up new interpretations of presence that are foreign to the historical Church. There is no one who would disagree that the efficacy of the Sacrament is applied through the actual eating and drinking. But, there are those who cannot come to the Eucharist who benefit from the Church's sacrificial offering too. The Church has taught that it is a benefit for the living and the dead. Anglicans, like Andrewes and many others believed no less the same on this issue. The major problem is that Mr. Wilson believes that the elements on the altar are nothing until they are eaten. Well, that's not what the Church has taught by any stretch of the means. Nor does it make sense with the Apostle Paul's own words from 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. The presence of Christ precedes the eating of Him. Whether one is more inclined to look at consecration from an Eastern view with the emphasis on the epiclesis or from the Western view with the emphasis on the words of institution does not make a difference about what the Eucharist IS. The fact that the command to eat was given does not nullify the Sacramental presence of Christ in the elements. Presence is not dependent upon eating, presence is something that God does, not man.

Lancelot Andrewes addressed a lot of these issues in an answer to Cardinal du Perron. The reply of Andrewes is in reference to the work Replique `a la Response du serenissime Roy de la Grand Bretagne, `a Paris, 1620. Perron died in 1618. To this answer, the whole of the xviiith chapter of the First book is subjoined, and numbers within the margins correspond with the several sections of Andrewes’s reply. There are also portions of the xxth chapter and the Fifth book, (which especially relates to the Controversy between Bellarmine and Andrewes on the Invocation of Saints), has been inserted in the places where they are referred to. For a detailed account of this controversy, see Dupin’s Eccl. Hist., xvii Book v. under the head, Card. Perron.

I. Belief of Christ in the Sacrament sub species.
Arguing against Zwingli to Perron Andrewes confirms that Zwingli “To avoid Est in the Church of Rome’s sense, he fell to be all for Significat, and nothing for Est at all. And whatsoever went further than significant he took to savour of the carnal presence. For which, if the Cardinal mislike him, so do we. And so he doth not well (against his own knowledge) to charge his opinion upon us.”

II. The external Adoration of the Sacrament.
This second is an act says Andrewes avec gestes et adorations externs. Arguing from how Cyril taught concerning how the Church is to receive the Cup Andrewes explains that they too adore Christ in the gesture of bowing. Touching on how Perron would have the Church receive the Eucharist Andrewes says,
for he would have the party that receiveth it, kuptein, that is, to bow himself, and cast his eyes to the ground; that is, in humble and reverent manner to do it. And so do we. And tropo proskunheseos, after the manner of adoring, amounteth not to adoring: for after the manner, or as men use to do, that adore, is a term qualified, and restrained to the outward manner. In which manner our Church enjoineth it to be received…And we (by the grace of God) hold the Sacrament to be venerable, and with all due respect to be handled and received.
Having corrected Perron’s citation of Augustine from the XCVIth Psalm to the XCVIIIth he writes, “But upon the 98 Psalm these words are, which (I dare say) he means:, No one sets out to eateth that flesh, unless he hath first worshiped, which I trust, no Christian man will ever refuse to do; that is, to adore the flesh of Christ.” He goes on to remind Perron that “for Saint Augustine presently is careful to warn his auditors, that the word manducat there is to be spiritually understood, and he bringeth in Christ thus speaking. Andrewes was agreeing that there is a proper veneration of the physical Sacrament but not a worshipping of it with divine qualities. Andrewes goes on to turn Perron’s own use of Theodoret against him showing that the Sacramental Symbols, after the consecration, go not from their own nature, but abide in their former substance, shape, and kind. Andrewes concludes his answer saying,
And he gains nothing by it; for proskuneitai in the Cardinal’s sense, may be taken pour venerer, (that is, to honour and reverence;) and is to be taken in that sense, and cannot, here, be taken in any other. For the Symbols so abiding, it is easily known no divine adoration can be used to them, nor any other than hath been said.
Andrewes’s stance against divine adoration of the Sacrament is tied to his denial of transubstantiation. Having gone to examine Theodoret Dialogue II for myself, I too find that it is strange that Perron would use this passage that speaks against what he is seeking to argue for. Contextually, Andrewes is correct to argue that the sense in which Theodoret is using proskuneitai is with reference to giving reverence and welcoming respectfully. In that sense, Andrewes agrees with the custom of bowing and venerating (venerationem) the Sacrament as a symbol of God’s divine presence and worshipping the Christ of the Sacrament.

III. Reservation of the Sacrament

Andrewes does not so much as argue against reservation as a theological problem but sees it as a practical issue developed from the unstable times in the early Church when it was not for certain when and where they would be able to receive it again. Arguing from the Council of Saragossa, Can. III in the year 381 and of the Council of Toledo, Can. XIV. in the year 405, those who continue the practice of taking the Sacrament home for their own use are to be corrected upon pains of being cast out of the Church as sacrilegious persons. For the sick, Andrewes argues, the Sacrament ought to be taken to them and is reserved for that purpose but what the original intention of sacramental reservation was for is not needed in his day as there is much opportunity to come to Church to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

IV. Communion under one kind
Not much interaction, but see his sermons. He understands it to be a novel practice.

V. The Eucharist a Sacrifice
According to the Roman teaching of the Mass, the Eucharist serves two purposes: that of a sacrifice and a sacrament. Andrewes did not have a theological problem with the sacrifice of the Mass but actually embraced it with strong Catholic leanings save the doctrine of transubstantiation. He agrees that the Eucharist has a two-fold purpose of that of sacrifice and sacrament. He says that it is a fulfilment of the Old Testament sacrifices and that it was available for the whole Church both living and the dead.

The Eucharist ever was, and by us is considered, both as a Sacrament, and as a Sacrifice. A Sacrifice is proper and applicable only to divine worship. The Sacrifice of Christ’s death did succeed to the Sacrifices of the Old Testament. The Sacrifice of Christ’s death is available for present, absent, living, dead, (yea, for them that are yet unborn.) When we say the dead, we mean it is available for the Apostles, Martyrs, and Confessors, and all (because we are all members of one body:) these no man will deny. In a word we hold with Saint Augustine in the very same chapter which the Cardinal citeth, as far as this Sacrifice of the flesh and blood, before Christ’s coming, by means of the likeness of the repayment that was promised; according to the suffering of Christ, by means of the true sacrifice of himself being handed over; after Christ’s coming [ascension], by means of the memorial celebrated in the Sacrament.

VI. Altars
Andrewes moves from his discussion of Sacrifice to Altars. His point is that since there is little to no difference on Sacrifice, there will be no difference about the Altar. Andrewes writes,
The holy Eucharist being considered as a Sacrifice, (in the representation of the breaking of bread, and the pouring forth the cup,) the same is fitly called an Altar; which again is as fitly called a Table, the Eucharist being considered as a Sacrament, which is nothing else but a distribution and an application of the Sacrifice to the several receivers…So that the matter of Altars, makes no difference in the face of our Church
. Andrewes’s position of Altar stems from his understanding of sacrifice in that the Eucharist is for a twofold purpose: Sacrifice and Sacrament. We offer Christ in the Sacrifice and have applied to us the One Sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. In the Sacrament we feed upon the Body and the Blood sacramentally and receive the forgiveness of sins and the comforts that come with being united to Christ. Hence there is no difference of Sacrifice in Andrewes’s theology from that of the Catholic Church except that for Him the notion of transubstantiation is an opinion of the Schoolmen and not of the essence of faith.

Now the above is much different than what Mr. Wilson wants to argue for and against. So, am I to believe that I can receive the presence of Christ by listening to the participles being read or do I have to do something else? If I must eat and drink, the presence of Christ must be objectively present in the elements if that is the way Jesus determined us to receive His Body and Blood. One doesn't receive by participles but by taking unto themselves the Body and Blood of Christ that is objectively present within the elements. The adoration of Christ in the Eucharist is the bowing down and worshipping the One who, in love and grace, condescends to us in this way. It has incarnational theology running throughout. When we eat, we do not eat bread and when we drink we do not drink wine; we eat the Body and drink the Blood of Christ. I beg to differ with Mr. Wilson that the elements sitting on the altar by themselves are nothing. That is simply beyond comprehension. When do they become something? Only when they touch the wetness of our tongues? Did Jesus say, this becomes my body and blood when it touches your tongue? No, he told them that they were His Body and Blood before he gave it to them. They were the very Body and Blood of Christ that Jesus offered to the Father for death for the life of the world. It is that Body and Blood that were first offered at that Eucharist. So, we don't bow down and adore bread and wine or worship them, we bow down and adore and worship the Saviour who adheres in the elements that have been Eucharistised into the Body and Blood of Christ. As Gregory of Nyssa would term it, they are transelementised. I wonder what Mr. Wilson's prayer of "unconsecration" sounds like after he has prayed the prayer of consecration to "set these elements apart from their ordinary use," as is the custom in most Reformed traditions. I never got my head around that one! So, yes, we are to eat and drink and believe but believe what? That in your eating and in your drinking you eat the Body and drink the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and you offer the memorial of His Sacrificial offering until He returns to gather His Church once and for all. We don't belive in participial verbage, we believe we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in those elements that moved from the altar to our mouths. And we worship and bow down to the Jesus we receive. Adoration and worship are a part of what we are to do: hoc facite in meam commemorationem.

The point that Mr. Wilson obviously wants to make about the necessity of eating and drinking is fine and the Church would agree with him and back him on that fact. The infrequency of communion was a major abuse. But that is altogether another issue than the one that describes what the elements ARE on the altar after the prayer of consecration. Words mean something and Mr. Wilson is one that does not need reminding of that fact. In order for us to receive the benefits of the Eucharist, Jesus must be present in the elements. Since the elements apply anew the forgiveness of sins (covenant renewal) it must be through the instrumental means of the elements when the eating and drinking take place. It is not necessary to remove the doctrine of presence from the elements in order to possess a proper ecclesiology of communal benefits of the Eucharist. This is where Reformed brethren are falling off the wagon in my opinion.


Anonymous William Tighe said...


Mr. Wilson does sound rather confused, or at least imprecise. But I wonder if he mae it all up himself, for what he is claiming actually sounds like the classical Lutheran notion of the duration of the real presence -- a notion foreign to Luther, but rather derived from Melanchthon -- which in this view comes into being only when the host or the wine enters the communicant's mouth. And thus the unconsumed hosts and residue of the wine never were Christ's Body and Blood; and hence the most common Lutheran practice of returning unconsumed hosts to the wafer box and the wine to the bottle, to be "consecrated" again at the next Communion Service.

See "Domesticating an Untamed Sacramental Rule" by Keith Killinger, *Lutheran Quarterly,* Vol. VII, no. 4 (Spring 1993), pp. 401-424.

2:13 am  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

A very insightful remark, William. I think you may be on to something. Incidentally, I have argued in the past that Cranmer picked up this very notion in his second book, which is why he did away with sacramental reservation, communion of the sick from the reserved sacrament, and instructed that the remains of the elements after the service are for the curate's use. Some have argued that this is evidence of a Zwinglian shift in his views. I don't think so. I think it represents a Phillipist shift.


7:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, my comment is a bit one-off on the 'making it up' part due to the statement that Jesus is present in the participles. I gather he wants to say in the eating and drinking He becomes present. That seems confusing to me and to the words of Jesus and Paul's development of them as well. He has made the Eucharisti into some 'ordinary' meal and collapsed the vertical into the horizontal where the only thing that matters is what man does by obeying the participles. The whole line of arguing that bread doesn't obey participles is...well, what can one say?

8:36 am  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

Indeed, good point, Jeff. So what's up with the grammar lesson Wilson? But then this is consistent with the Genevan line that the act of eating bread and wine serves as a seal of a Word-mediated grace.


3:00 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Killinger's article is based on a section of his 1991 Th.D. dissertation (*Hoc Facite ... [etc.]*) at the Lutheran School of Theology (Chicago), which is well worth reading. When I read it some years ago I was moved to track down another Th.D. dissertation which Killinger references in both the article and the dissertation: *Origin and Meaning of the Axiom 'Outside the Use There Is No Sacrament'* by Edward Peters (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, 1968) -- a massive two-volume work that is full of detailed information about developments and dead-ends in Lutheran Eucharistic teachng and practice in the 16th Century. Peters demonstrates conclusively that the "axiom" referred to in his title (which from the late 16th Century to recent decades was truly "axiomatic" in Lutheran thinking and was the foundation for the belief that the Presence happened only at the moment of consumption, and this did not happen at all to those of the elements which were not consumed, and thus that any adoration of the elements, even at and after the Words of Institution [a practice which Luther both advocated and carried out] was idolatry [artolatry and oenolatry]) actually originated with Zwingli and passed to Lutheranism via Bucer to Melanchthon.

Thus, while I think it possible that Cranmer's alteration to the provision for the reliquiae in his second Prayer Book may have been a "Phillipist shift" it does not seem obvious that it must have been such, when he could have derived from Zwingli or Bucer (in the latter case, directly) the same conclusion; and, honestly, the idea that the curate shall have it to his own use went beyond anything ever formally authorized by Lutherans, however compatible it may have been with the ideas of Lutheran Orthodoxy on the subject.

11:36 pm  
Anonymous Mark said...


Besides betraying a latent gnosticism, Mr. Wilson's sacramental theology is dangerously Pelagian. For it contains the horrifying implication that the manifestation of Christ in the sacrament is wholly dependant upon faithful reception.

Secondly, the "analogy of faith", i.e, the disicpline of interpreting Scripture by Scripture, presents enormous problems for such a view. I Cor. 10, as you pointed out, is an enormously important passage for eucharistic theology. And it is quite clear that for St. Paul, the cup of blessing and the bread become partakings of the body and blood of Christ within the act of consecration ( "The cup of blessing WHICH WE BLESS...the bread WHICH WE BREAK...). Of course, Mr. Wilson and other Puritan brethren disagree with this exegesis- and are thus reduced to performing theological cartwheels to dodge its clear implications. But let them retain their presuppositions. If they do, they will have to concede that that "spiritual rock" which followed our fathers in the wilderness, only "was Christ" when they drank of the water that gushed out of it ( which, if you think about it, is a pretty silly idea, since rocks do not normally exude water and, being inclined to indolence, regard any manner of movement to be a nusiance ).


1:44 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Gnosticism was something I thought about too but decided to take it out. But it does have many tones from that bell.

7:15 am  
Anonymous Mark said...

I have just read through Mr. Wilson's article at his Blog/Mablog blog.

It is abundantly clear that what animates Mr. Wilson-and other Reformed apologists I have read, such as Jim Jordan-is a concern for maintaining the integrity of the second commandment in the church's liturgical worship. Hence, their repugnance at the idea of the presence of Christ in the sacramental species, which, if true, justifies the piety that informs the of worship of Christ in the sacrament. In other words, they fear that locating the body and blood of Christ in the blessed bread and cup, per 1 Cor. 10:16, would make them into talismans of a sort. ( Of course, Wilson does posit a "covenanted" presence of Christ made present in the church's sacramental actions. Would he then allow for some kind of adoration of Christ, abstracted from the bread and wine? )

Part of the problem lies in Mr. Wilson's crude handling of the relation of Christ to the bread and cup, which he defines as a "local" presence-a notion that was rejected by both Aquinas and Newman. It sounds to me as if he understands it in terms of a metaphysical entrapment of Christ within the DNA of the bread and wine. Otherwise, why would he complain about seeing them as manifesting Christ "on the altar" in themselves?

He does speak of the instrumentality of the bread and wine, but, in reality, the only instrumentality his theology acknowledges is found in the sacramental action, for it is the faithful and obedient eating and drinking which manifests Christ. The bread and wine are just there. ( Of course, he truncates the eucharist in terms of an act when he limits the sacramental action to faithful reception ).

He definitely recoils at the idea of Christ being manifested in inanimate physical objects. Hence his assertion that Christ is present in our non-corporeal and abstract obedience. I have no problem with the notion that Christ is indeed present in the sacrament, considered as an action. But Mr. Wilson needs to come to terms with the robust theology of I Cor. 10, where the Apostle pinpoints a mysterious conjunction between Christ and a non-obedient stone.


7:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great comments Mark; Thanks!

10:00 pm  
Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...


Keep up the good work!

9:33 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home

    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Societas Sanctae Crucis

About Me

My Profile


  • To the Theotokos
  • My Parish Church
  • Taking Jesus to the Streets
  • The Angelus
  • Steel Family News
  • Anglicans For Life
  • My PHD Supervisor
  • Diocese of Durham
  • N.T. Wright Bishop of Durham
  • Bishop of Beverley FiF PEV
  • Forward in Faith
  • Religious of orthodox Tradition
  • Our Lady of Walsingham
  • Church of England
  • Church Times
  • C of E News
  • New Directions
  • Anglican Comm News Service
  • CaNN Classical Anglican News
  • Anglican Mainstream
  • Catholic World News
  • Zenit News
  • First Things
  • University of Durham
  • St. John's College
  • Touchstone: Mere Comments
  • American Chesterton Society
  • G.K. Chesterton
  • The "Colossal Genius"
  • C.S. Lewis
  • Dr. Marianne Dorman
  • Bishop Lancelot Andrewes
  • Theologia
  • The Paul Page
  • Renaissance Music
  • Wodehouse
  • Project Canterbury
  • Rosemary Pugh Books
  • Pusey House Oxford
  • Comm of the Resurrection
  • Anglicanism
  • Alexander Schmemann
  • Traditional-Anglican
  • Trushare Great Links
  • Books and Books
  • Paedocommunion
  • Summa Theologica
  • Didache
  • N.A.Patristics Society
  • Visit Olde World Family Heritage
  • Cardinal Newman Writings
  • EWTN
  • Vatican Library
  • Tune in to Ancient Faith Radio
  • Anglo-Catholic Central
  • Women for Faith and Family
  • Catholic Culture
  • Being better Dads.org
  • Anglicana Ecclesia
  • Catholic Societies

  • Mary:Grace and Hope in Christ
  • SSC England and Scotland
  • King Charles the Martyr
  • Catholic League Unitas
  • Catholic Union
  • Conf of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Society of Mary
  • Priests for Life
  • Anglican Blogs

  • TitusOneNine
  • Anthropax
  • Sacristan
  • Curate Repose
  • Whitehall
  • Apostolicity
  • The Patristic Anglican
  • All Too Common
  • Prydain
  • Thinking Anglicans
  • Drell's Descants
  • A-C Ruminations
  • emergent like slime
  • Open Thou our Lips
  • Haligweorc
  • The Confessing Reader
  • Dr. Leander Harding
  • Tex Anglican
  • St. George the Martyr
  • The Oxford Movement
  • Continuing Anglican
  • Wyclif.net
  • Third Mill. Catholic
  • Anglican Eucharistic Theol
  • Fr. Brian Douglas
  • RatherNot Blog
  • Full Homely Divinity
  • St.Peters London Docks Blog
  • In Hoc Signo Vinces
  • Anglican Wanderings
  • Timotheos Prologizes
  • Global South Anglican
  • Deaconess
  • Liturgical Links

  • 1549 Book of Common Prayer
  • 1550 Merbecke
  • 1559 Book of Common Prayer
  • 1570 Roman Mass
  • 1637 Scottish Prayer Book
  • 1662 English Prayer Book
  • 1718 Nonjurors Communion
  • 1928 Book of Common Prayer
  • 1962 Roman Mass
  • 1962 Roman Propers
  • 1969 Roman Mass
  • 1987 Anglican Use Mass
  • Pearcy Dearmer Everyman's History of the Prayer Book
  • The Liturgy of St. James
  • The Liturgy of St. Chrysostom
  • The Liturgy of St. Basil
  • Lectionary Central
  • Catholic Calendar
  • Common Prayer Calendar
  • The Roman Breviary
  • Anglican Breviary
  • Cantica Nova
  • The Music Makers
  • Catholic Liturgy Site
  • Directorium Anglicanum
  • Catholic Blogs

  • Numerous British Catholic Blogs
  • Carpe canum
  • Ignatius Insights
  • Ancient and Future Catholics
  • Catholic Pontificator
  • Random Thoughts
  • Fr. Newman's Web page
  • fides et ardor
  • St Paul Centre for Theology
  • Canterbury Tales
  • The Shrine of Holy Whapping
  • Sacramentum Vitae
  • Cardinal Schonborn
  • Pertinacious Papist
  • Ratzinger Online
  • The New Liturgical Movement
  • Scripture and Tradition
  • Against the Grain
  • Mark Shea
  • ad limina apostolorum
  • Dappled Things
  • Amy Welborn Old Blog
  • Amy Welborn New Blog
  • Catholic Catechism
  • Benedict Blog
  • Mike Aquilina
  • Libertas et Memoria
  • Video melior
  • Orthodox Blogs

  • Energies of the Trinity
  • Orthodoxy Today
  • Monachos
  • Onion Dome
  • This Is Life
  • Orthodoxie
  • Chrysostom Web Page
  • Society of Chrysostom
  • Cathedra Unitatis
  • Our Life in Christ
  • Orthodox Way
  • Exploring Orthodoxy
  • Everything Orthodox
  • Parish Web Sites

  • Durham Cathedral
  • St. Peters London Docks
  • St. Silas London
  • St. Mary Mag Middlesex
  • St. Augustine London
  • St. John the Evanglelist Berks
  • St. Pancras London
  • St. James the Great Darlington
  • St. Mary Bletchingley
  • St. James Paddington London
  • St. George Hanworth
  • St. Helens Auckland
  • St. Mary Magdalene Sunderland
  • Archives