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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Eucharist: The Medicine of Immortality

1 Cor. 10.1-5, 16-17

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same supernatural food 4 and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.


In this passage from St. Paul we find him speaking of the ‘medicine of immortality’ that is conveyed to us through the instrumental means of sacraments. Contextually, Paul is speaking of the Eucharist here and that it has salvation and destruction attached to it as the result of receiving worthily or unworthily. What is meant by his saying this? The answer can only be a direct result of who we receive in the Eucharist; that person is the spiritual, glorified body and blood of Christ objectively offered. This must mean that Christ’s body and blood indwelled the Eucharistic bread and wine. Paul spoke realistically about Christ’s presence in the elements but not ‘naturally’ or ‘corporally’ since he understood that the resurrected Christ now has a glorified body yet physical but altogether different from ours in many ways. (See the Gospels’ accounts of Christ’s appearings after his resurrection.) Yet, when the sacrifice is offered, it is not the sacrifice of the glorified Christ (there can be no immolatus to that glorified Christ) but that same sacrifice of the altar of the Cross prior to his glorification. What is then given to us is the glorified body and blood of Christ who we then feed on as the ‘medicine of immortality.’ Paul goes on to make sense of this in 10.16, 17.

So it is not only a realist view of the sacrament but also a realist view of the communion. Where theologians go wrong, such as Cirlot (p. 137), is that he/they want to interpret the Greek phrase me diakrinon to soma as ‘not discerning the body,’ to be a reference to the ‘body’ belonging to Jesus rather than the Church Body, which is Paul’s critique to the Corinthians. One does not need to interpret verse 27 in this manner in order to argue for a realist position of the Eucharistic presence of Christ since Paul has already accomplished that truth in 10.1-5, 16-17. The problem for the Corinthians is the result of this objective taking, which purpose is to incorporate us into the entire Body of Christ, i.e. the Church: this is the Body who is to be grafted into the ONE who gives us immortality via his glorified and ascended body in heaven. Therefore the weight of the realist position on presence should not hang on 11.27, but those verses in chapter 10.1-5, 16-17. The manner of coming together in division divides us from the ONE whose purpose is to gather us up together in himself. It is within that context that Paul rebukes the Corinthians and tells them that due to this realist reception of the glorified Christ people are sick and some even dying. So, Paul is not asking the Corinthians to distinguish between the reality of the Lord’s body present in the Eucharist, that has been established. The judgment of 1 Cor. 11.27 is the direct result of receiving that objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

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    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

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