Thursday, August 17, 2006

S. Gregory of Nyssa and Andrewes on Presence

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Catech. Orat. Cap. xxxvii

‘Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was once, by implication, bread, but has been consecrated by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh. Therefore, from the same cause as that by which the bread that was transformed in that Body was changed to a Divine potency, a similar result takes place now. For as in that case, too, the grace of the Word used to make holy the Body, the substance of which came of the bread, and in a manner was itself bread, so also in this case the bread, as says the Apostle , “is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer”; not that it advances by the process of eating to the stage of passing into the body of the Word, but it is at once changed into the body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, “This is My Body.” Seeing, too, that all flesh is nourished by what is moist (for without this combination our earthly part would not continue to live), just as we support by food which is firm and solid the solid part of our body, in like manner we supplement the moist part from the kindred element; and this, when within us, by its faculty of being transmitted, is changed to blood, and especially if through the wine it receives the faculty of being transmuted into heat. Since, then, that God-containing flesh partook for its substance and support of this particular nourishment also, and since the God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity for this purpose, viz. that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be deified, for this end it is that, by dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He transelements the natural quality of these visible things to that immortal thing.

It is the last sentence that I have found very interesting in my recent translation of Andrewes' Responsio ad Bellarmine. Here is a translation of some of Andrewes' thoughts:
But he says, the thing itself still, though nameless, is used by the Fathers against which our Jesuits deny that the Fathers ever dealt with the matter of Transubstantiation. The matter of Transubstantiation is for him a change of the substance. And he summons several witnesses to this matter. And this still, (whether there is a conversion of the substance) not long before the Lateran Council the Master of the Sentences himself says, I am not able to define. Indeed all witnesses speak about an alteration [mutatione], a replacement [immutatione], a change about [transmutatione]. But in the Substance or of the substance there is nothing mentioned. But also the preposition there Trans we do not deny: we also allow for the elements to be changed. We truly look for Substantial, we discover it nowhere.
Continuing on in a discussion of Ambrose Andrewes says,
Now Ambrose says nature is changed: and indeed it is changed. For there is one nature of the element and another of the Sacrament (which the Cardinal is not ignorant); we ourselves do not deny that by the blessing the element is changed: that now bread having been consecrated may not be bread, which nature fashioned; but, that benediction consecrated it and even changed it by the act of consecration.
There will be a lot for me to discuss here in due course.

Note: This is my translation of the work and if used elsewhere, please note this. This work has not been translated before. Thank you.


Blogger Pontificator said...

Is Andrewes simply complaining about words?

What is the real difference between transubstantiation and St Gregory's transelementation?

What is the real difference between transubstantiation and the eucharistic change Andrewes wants to advance?

3:37 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...


I think that is the real mystery behind it all. It often seems that Andrewes doesn't like the fact that Trent dogmatised a term yet it has to much more than that. I just translated the following:

Indeed by approaching the all-powerful words, the nature is to be changed, that, the element which was bare before, now may become the divine Sacrament, yet the substance remaining, which it previously was...Certainly there is unity between the visible Sacrament and the thing [rem] of the invisible Sacrament, which there is between the humanity and divinity of Christ, where, unless you wish to understand [this] as Eutychius, humanity is not transubstantiated into divinity.'

I am continuing on as we speak with the translation. I'll let you know if I discover more! This is tough work; pray for me!

9:20 pm  
Blogger Death Bredon said...

The Orthodox occssionally use the term "transubstantiation," but they also use several other terms interchangeably.

They resist the dogmatization of any particular term, especially "transubstantiation" because doing so would implicitly make Aristole's metaphysical linguistic framework part of the Faith, which it isn't and because doing seems to be an attempt to rationalize or over-explain the central Mystery of the Liturgy.

What the East is really saying to the West is, "Don't hitch your wagon to any particular secular philosphy or science, as those are not revealed truths and they obscure the inherently revealed and mysterious (mystical) nature of Faith by too much humanism."

And experience shows that the Western Church has gotten burned for ingorng the Greeks: (1) The near dogmatization of the once, hip and with it, cutting edge astronomy of Aristotle really hurt Rome's image when Gallileo discovered a new scientific paradigm of astromony. Moral: the Church can't keep up with science so it shouldn't try. Makes you look hip for a while, then stupid later when science moves on. (2) Domatization of the term "transubstantiation" really helped fan the flames of the Reformation, which defintiely harmed the Western Church, because the word is so patently patient of misunderstanding and error, even among very educated laymen and clerics to this very day! Moral: Even in systematic dogmatics, the Church should avoid dogmatizing certain conception/linguistic frameworks, especially ones that are diffult to understand/use and that sound like they are rationalizing away a Mystery of the Faith.

So, I suspect Anderewes is simply following in the Reformation flow in arguing against the dogmatization of a term, not really repudiating the properly understood meaining of that term (which seems to be the same as that of his terminology). Semantics can make a practical difference, i.e., unnecessary schisms.

12:47 pm  

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