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Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Elements are Changed by Consecration

I am about to begin writing my chapter on presence within a week or two. I have a couple of things to do on my sacrifice chapter and some other deadlines but I want to begin on the chapter very soon and hopefully have it written by 1 March. That will leave me with my final chapter on Ecumenism in the area of Eucharistic sacrifice for today that I hope to have written by 15 June. The rest of the summer will be my re-write of the whole and my introduction and conclusion. I will also be in back in parish ministry beginning 1 July 07. That being said, I thought I would begin a season of postings on Eucharistic presence along with other things that interest me.

I recently received a wonderful copy of Robert Wilberforce's work The Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. It is beautifully bound in leather and is an original of 1853. In his chapter on the 'Testimony of Antiquity to the Real Presence', he speaks of the schools of thought of the Eastern School. It is this school of thought that includes the writings of Ss. Cyril, Gregory of Nyssen, and John Damascene, in which flows the theology of Andrewes on Eucharistic presence. Unlike numerous English reformers of the C16, Andrewes held tightly to the undoubted truth that the elements in the Holy Eucharist are changed by consecration. I have argued in my work on Andrewes of his christological emphasis of Christ's person and the relationship of his Person to the Eucharist. Wilberforce draws out this school of thought from the Orientals that I have so clearly seen in the writing of Andrewes. Wilberforce writes that
The Holy Eucharist is so intimately related to the doctrine of Our Lord's Person, that it is not surprising that those who defended the reality and union of His two natures, should have bethought themselves of it as a fitting illustration of their meaning. At the same time nothing can show more clearly how general was the belief in that sacramental oneness, by which the inward and outward parts are united in the Holy Eucharist, than that it should have been assumed to offer the nearest analogy to that personal union, whereby Godhead and Manhood are united in Christ. Of course the Personal bond is one thing, the Sacramental another: each is peculiar and without parallel; but they are analogous as regards the mystery of their operation, and the reality of their effects. Of this circumstance the opponents of the Eutychian heresy availed themselves. Their object was to maintain that though Godhead and manhood were truly united in the one Person of Christ, yet that the human was not so absorbed in the Divine nature, as to be altogether lost. They referred, then, to the Holy Eucharist, in which the inward part was allowed to be the real Body of Christ, while yet, they said, the outward elements of bread and wine had still their function to discharge, and were not wholly lost. The chief writer of this school is Theodoret, who dwells upon the truth that the bread and wine, regarded as objects of sense, are unaltered by consecration, and who argues thence that Our Lord's Body and Blood are not lost in that nature of Deity, with which they are united.
This argument stated above is found in Dialogus Secundus where Orthodox and Eutychian are in dialogue. The above paragraph is the exact argument of Andrewes when he discusses the nature of Real presence in the Eucharistic elements. It the above christological formulation of presence that lies at the heart of the mystery of the Sacrament. For the accidents to remain is to maintain the human (earthly) element of the Sacrament while the substantial change is the Body and Blood of Christ (the divine element). The two are joined together into one Sacrament of Life. Therefore, the two natures of the Sacrament are analogous to the theology of the Person of Christ. For the accidents to be assumed into the substance would make Eutychianism the truth of the Nicean debate on christology according to some early Fathers. This analogy of the hypostatic union and the Eucharistic consecration is worthy of theological pursuit and may help the Church in getting beyond the impasse on Eucharistic presence. To deny transubstantiation (as the 'how') and yet hold to the above description of Real Presence is without doubt a testimony of someone who believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the elements. That is the heart of Andrewes' teaching and his influence from the Eastern Fathers on his christology is another testimony of where he stood in relationship to the Catholic Church of antiquity.

4 Comments:

Blogger Brian Douglas said...

Well put Jeff. Andrewes, as you rightly observe, held a position of real presence in relation to the Eucharist but clearly that was not the position of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is one position of real presence only as a moderate realism. The condemnation of transubstantiation in the Articles is not a condemnation of real presense per se but rather a condemnation of transubstantiation as immoderate or fleshy realism. This why the Articles talk about the overthrowing of the nature of a sacrament. To Andrewes way of thinking (and clearly yours and mine) the nature of the sacrament is moderate realist one where Christ is really present but not in some fleshy manner. You do well to suggest that a better understanding of this may go a long way to clearing up the misunderstanding about real presence. Good luck with your writing. Keep up the great work.

3:49 am  
Blogger Pontificator said...

Robert Wilberforce's book is a classic in eucharistic theology and perhaps the most helpful book I have read on the subject. After he published the book and the Anglican criticisms started coming in, he realized that his position was untenable within the CoE and he swam the Tiber.

4:35 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

You might find it useful to search out and read this:

"The Eucharistic Doctrine of Robert Isaac Wilberforce" by E. L. Mascall, *Theology* Vol. XLIX, No. 312 (June 1946). The article is about 4 or 5 pages in length.

9:24 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks Bill! I'll be checking it out.

10:04 pm  

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