Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Eucharist: Earthly and Heavenly Realities

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Presently I am labouring in translating the chapter on the Eucharist between S.Robert Bellarmine S.J., and Lancelot Andrewes. Due to Andrewes' Latin and his odd way of not thinking or writing in complete sentences, believing that the reader will remember the verb 3 sentences prior, makes this an arduous project. Yet as I slowly advance, I have a number of questions that have come up in my mind:

Are the Fathers, prior to the C6 understanding the word 'nature' and what came to be the controversial word'substantia' (in an Aristotelian metaphysic from the C13 and later), in fact speaking of the same thing with these two words? Thus, when Ambrose speaks of a change in the nature of the elements is he actually talking about the 'substance' as Bellarmine argued? Andrewes argues that Bellarmine is reading 'substantia' back into nature and there are a number of ocassions where Andrewes' argument seems to fall due to a lack of much force. (Possibly this is due to his own struggles with his understanding of the Fathers who consistently speak about a change in the nature of the elements after the benediction.)

Now, I ask this question because of the nature of the Sacrament of the Eucharist consisting of two realities per S. Irenaeus. In Contra. Haer. Book iv. cap. xviii.6 Ante Nicene Fathers Vol. I., 486 he writes,
‘For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.’
Now I have heard it argued from one Roman Catholic who said that the earthly element was the humanity of Christ. But I am not so sure that is Irenaeus' point when he is speaking of the Sacrament itself containing an earthly and heavenly reality. The example that he gives concerning our own bodies of corruptibility and incorruptibility would seem to suggest that we possess the resurrection but we still live within a body that will die. So, is S. Irenaeus saying that the Sacrament, which consists of two realities, maintains its earthly reality by substantially remaining bread but its nature changes in that it is no longer common bread after the consecration?

Unlike Pope Gelasius and Theodoret, Irenaeus is not here speaking so much about Christological issues as the two prior were but about the nature of the Eucharist itself. Pope Gelasius says,
‘Certainly the sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive are a divine reality, because of which and trough which we “are made sharers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1.4). Nevertheless the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to exist. And certainly the image and likeness of the Body and Blood of Christ are celebrated in the carrying out of the Mysteries. Therefore it is shown to us with sufficient clarity that we ought to think about Christ himself as we think about that which we profess, celebrate, and receive in his image, namely, that by the work of the Holy Spirit they pass over into the divine substance while nevertheless remaining in their own nature [Lat. In hanc, scilicet divinam, transeant sacto Spiritu perficiente substantiam, permanents tamen in suae proprietate naturae]. Thus, they show us that this principal Mystery, Christ himself, whose efficacy and power they truly represent, remains one, because he is entire and true, in the druly remaining [natures] in which he exists.’ O'Conner, Hidden Manna.
Theodoret writes,
You are caught in the net you have woven yourself. For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they are become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped as being what they are believed to be. Compare then the image with the archetype, and you will see the likeness, for the type must be like the reality. For that body preserves its former form, figure, and limitation and in a word the substance of the body; but after the resurrection it has become immortal and superior to corruption; it has become worthy of a seat on the righthand; it is adored by every creature as being called the natural body of the Lord.
My point in the question being addressed here concerns the possibility of S. Bellarmine reading Aristotelian views of substantia back into the early Fathers who defined the 'nature' of the Sacrament itself as possessing two realities i.e. heavenly and earthly--the heavenly 'the Body and Blood' of the whole Christ (divine and human) and the earthly part from the fruit of our hands, (bread and wine)? Andrewes follows S. Irenaeus, Gelasius, and Theodoret on this when he illustrates this within his Christological hermeneutic that seems to shape his Eucharistic theology in some sense.

These are Saturday morning thoughts and I wonder what you may think of the above questions and issues!


Blogger KosmicEggburst said...

It could very well be that Bellarmine is reading the two realities back into the church fathers here as you suggest, and that would be a fair assessment.

If we understand a sacrament to be primarily the drawing near of the real presence, and heaven is being entered into by the recipients, the species of bread and wine are important as far as being the rightful means of the conveyance of this grace.

One would think that Aristotlian influences that focus on the physics of the species become insignificant in comparison to the activity of the union itself. So, it seems the glory of the perichoretic union in the eucharist is what is marveled, and anything else is secondary or even being off-center.

In all, it is a very interesting topic to explore, as Andrewes frequently spoke on the timelessness aspect of the eucharist, simultaneously referring to the anamnesis and prolepsis inherent in the rite.

6:01 pm  
Blogger Pontificator said...

Jeff, I would be surprised if Bellarmine had not read back his understanding of substance into Irenaeus (or whoever). It would have been virtually impossible for him not to have done so. Ditto for Andrewes. A heck of a lot of reflection, had occurred between Irenaeus and Bellarmine.

6:12 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Al, I agree that there was a heck of a lot of reflection from I. to Bel. This begs the question then of who is reading the Fathers correctly here. Andrewes says to Bellarmine that he falls into Eutychus' heresy if he denies the 'earthly' element of the Sacrament, i.e. the bread and wine both accidentally and substantially. I also think that the insights of Christology have a very important impact on our Eucharistic theology particularly due to the fact that we receive the whole Christ when we receive the elements.

Lots to think about!

7:06 pm  
Blogger Pontificator said...

Maybe they are both reading the Fathers (which ones, though) rightly---and wrongly. Bellarmine's goal, of course, was not to repristinate the teachings of any one of the Fathers but to defend the teaching of the Church as dogmatically defined by Lateran IV and Trent. As a Catholic he was committed to the conviction that the same Spirit who spoke in the Fathers also spoke in ecumenical councils. Andrewes, though, is still a Protestant seeking to return to Scripture and Fathers in defense of the Church of England's separation from the Catholic Church.

7:21 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Al you are absolutely correct and hence this is why Andrewes argues for these three 'frames' of 400 years and speaks of Bellarmine's view as being new and recent since it wasn't within the prior the sets of 400 years leading up to Lateran IV. That is Andrewes' argument about the novelty of Transubstantiation.

9:40 am  
Anonymous A Wandering Thomist said...

Not to change the subject, but do any of the Latinists reading this have any theories as to why Andrewes' Latin is so poor? The guy is not known for being a dullard, after all -- and Newman himself thought very highly of Andrewes' ability to compose in Greek. If he could compose in Greek (which I'm told is a much harder language to master than Latin is), why is his Latin so difficult/weird/bad?

7:12 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

Wandering Thomist,

It's not that his Latin is bad Latin, it is that it is complex Latin. He's actually a great Latinist; I'm the poor one! He just has odd sentence structures that were popular in his own day. If you've read any of Andrewes' sermons, and had to read sentences two or three times, double that in his Latin. That's all it is.

9:11 am  
Blogger Brian Douglas said...

I think Andrewes is deliberately distinguishing the terms 'nature' and 'substance'. Substance is more applied to the change which occurs in elements when the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. This is the thinking of Aquinas, based on Aristotle, and known as transubstantiation. Andrewes does not seem to mean that. When Andrewes uses the word 'nature' he is really not referring to any change in the substance of the bread and wine but what some have called an 'instantiation' whereby the nature of Christ is present in the bread and wine. Other have called this 'moderate realism' which suggests that Christ is really present but not in any corporal manner. It is important to note that Aquinas clearly excludes such a corporal manner as well. You might be interested to have a look at the Andrewes case study on my web site. Go to http://web.mac.com/brian.douglas.

Hope this is useful to you,

Brian Douglas

11:39 am  
Blogger Jeff said...


Thank you very much for a reference to your site and your blog. I am glad to know someone else out there doing this sort of study. I shall be adding you to my links on my web site.

I think you are correct that Andrewes clearly denies transubstantiation outright. This denial is mainly due to the fact that he does not 'find the word substance' in the Fathers and therefore rejects it. Yes, he has a case to be made using the nature of the hypostatic union of the person of Christ to describe his theology of the Eucharistic presence. I have defined Andrewes as a 'transelemenationist' because I clearly argues for 'a change--trans' in the elements themselves and argues for an objective presence within the elements themselves. I do not seem him as a receptionist; a label that could be attached to Cranmer. His realism seems to be an objective realism such as when he uses phrases like ad cadaver.

I would love to dialogue regularly with you on these issues. I am preparing to go away next week to write the rough of my chapter on Andrewes' Eucharistic Sacrifice in his theology and the way he approaches memorial as a godward act as well as something that we remember. He seems to attach this to the 'ascension' offering from Leviticus, which I find interesting in light of the Eucharistic memorial to be 'covenant renewal.'

I look forward to future discussions!

all the very best wishes,


1:24 pm  

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