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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thoughts from the Thesis: A Catholic Critique

Image and video hosting by TinyPicI had a discussion with my friend Dr. Joel Garver through Instant Message (as we often do) and I shared with him some of my thoughts on what I was presently working on in my chapter, Eucharistic sacrifce. He had some good insights to my thoughts as Joel often does with most things theological. This text is taken from the middle of a longer discussion so some of it may not make sense right away. Hence, the comment portion of blogging!

The Bible does not distinguish ‘faith’ and baptism in the radical way that the Reformers tended to divide the two. Baptism is implied to do the same thing that faith does. The reason for this is that baptism is a sacrament, which in the Roman world meant a vow of loyalty upon entering the army. The sacrament commits a soldier to be loyal to the empire or emperor. Viewed this way, baptism is our vow or pledge of loyalty to Christ. Thus, it is not something ultimately distinct from faith. We are justified by faith and by baptism, because the two are the same thing. This has implications for the way the sacrifice of the Eucharist is to be viewed. The real problem has much more to do with a suspicion about material means as an over-reaction against [an alleged] Catholic tendency to idolize the material elements themselves and thus turn them into mere objects manipulable of divine presence; then couple that kind of suspicion with a reformed theology that tends to want to peer into divine decrees, then grace becomes something that operates in a different plane from that of embodied history. On another level in reformed theology, the sacraments only affect the intellect, which one finds in Perkins who talks about Christ being present in the sacraments as an intellectual object to be grasped as true since sacraments for him are primarily visible words, a teaching tool.
William Perkins, Reformed Catholic, (Cambridge, 1598) 186. ‘[When] the elements of bread and wine are present to the hand and to the mouth of the receiver; at the verie same time the body and bloud of Christ are presented to the minde: thus and no otherwise is Christ truly present with the signes.’
As a result of the above theology found in some English reformers such as Perkins is where I have found the uniqueness of Andrewes most balanced. He allows us to go beyond the impasse of the last 450 years to get to the heart of the liturgical rite of the Church. The quotation below gives another example of Andrewes’ critique of the voices against the notion of the Eucharist as sacrifice in the Church of England. Here we find Andrewes in direct opposition to Perkins.
Remember Him? That we will and stay at home, think of Him there? Nay, shew Him forth ye must. That we will by a sermon of Him. Nay, it must be hoc facite [this do]. [It is not mental thinking, or verbal speaking, there must be actually somewhat done to celebrate this memory. That done to the holy symbols that was done to Him, to His body and His blood in the Passover; break the one, pour out the other, to represent klw,menon, how His sacred body was ‘broken,’ and evkcuno,menon how His precious blood was ‘shed.’ And in Corpus fractum, and Sanguis fusus there is immolatus.]
Andrewes is not reducing the sacraments to something that merely affects the mind with God's presence because that is not the purpose of the Eucharist at all. For Andrewes, the Word affects the mind and transforms the will (by the Holy Spirit) and the Eucharist is the instrumental means for forgiving sins actually committed. Something had to be done; not to the mind but for the offering. Something must be presented as the Christian offering. That offering [immolatus] is Christ's one offering in memorial to God the Father. Baptism washes away original sin and the Eucharist is the means where sins actually committed are forgiven and washed away. He commented in one place where he spoke of the Eucharist as the renewal of the baptismal rite. This is the point where I have found Andrewes most helpful in getting the Catholic Church as a whole beyond the imapasse of the 450 year debate on the sacrificial nature of 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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