Thursday, August 02, 2007

Andrewes: Eucharistic Presence and Incarnation

I have been tied up with my new title parish in the C of E by trying to get my mind and body into the rhythm of Church life and out of full-time academia. Thankfully, I am now back to serious writing and thinking in order that I finish my PhD as well. I have done some re-reading of Andrewes' sermons on the incarnation and find his explanation of Eucharistic presence described within the categories of the incarnation to be fascinating and quite in line with the Orthodox in many ways. Yet, Andrewes maintains the emphasis of the Western Church that communicates the realness of that objective presence with the elements themselves. A particular emphasis of this is seen in his sermon on Isaiah 7:14 and his description of God's name Immanuel. Below are some thoughts that I typed up after reading this particular sermon. I would love to hear what the readers here think about it! So, leave a comment or two!
Presence for Andrewes is much like his understanding of the nature of the incarnation. For instance, what Andrewes says about the incarnation is that it is ‘nisi credideritis non intelligetis’ that is, ‘to be believed, is otherwise not understood.’[1] Reason is not able to comprehend the mystery of the Eucharist but faith in what God can do embraces the mystery. God is able to do that which our reason is not able to reach. As the working of the mystery of the incarnation was ex Spiritu Sancto, so the presence of Christ in the creaturely elements of bread and wine is also from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it was Andrewes’ theology that taught a view of God who was above and not bound by nature that makes the reality of Christ’s presence in the actual elements to be a real presence. Therefore faith rests in ‘tota ratio facti est in potential facientis’ which is ‘the power of the doer is the reason of the thing done.’[2] Hence we have Andrewes stating once again his absolute surrender to the power of the supernatural in the nature of God.

Yet it was God’s condescending love towards us when he took on flesh and was conceived in the Virgin’s womb and brought forth in our nature that makes his presence in the Eucharist effectual for our salvation. In the incarnation we are brought forth in love, honour, and due regard since it is where God’s love condescended to by going to the very root of our defilement to cleanse us and set us right again.[3] The incarnation is the healing of our nature and this honour was bestowed upon us by his dishonour in taking on sinful human flesh. As the incarnation and the pariet (bringing forth) makes his love appear in bodily form, so his condescending to us in the holy sacrament reveals his ongoing love and presence with us. As Jesus was thesaurus absconditus as the incarnation of God’s love so that hidden treasure is pariet in the Eucharistic elements.

When Andrewes speaks of the Eucharistic presence it is in the language of the name of God with us Immanuel. The incarnation is where God comes amongst us and is made one with us and in the Eucharistic rite history past, present and future is recapitulated and summed up as one in Christ. It is the 'knitting together' of the two natures where the human and divine becomes one thing, univoce again. Andrewes describes this union that has taken place between us and God as a new ‘kind of Trinity—God, we and Christ.’[4] Since it is Christ who makes the Trinity one with us it is Christ who makes God to be with us in the flesh. This union with us is knit together so closely with Christ that Andrewes describes the union with the imagery of clothing. As Christ wears the name Immanuel so he wears us. This wearing is a comfort and a glory to us.[5] The result is that when Christ is named we are also named with him.

What is seen in baptism by Andrewes is our being brought forth from the womb of the Church and our baptisms moving us in a God-ward direction. By baptism we are brought forth as children of God. In this rite we come to participate in the divine nature of Christ who was brought forth from the Virgin’s womb to participate in our nature. And in this sense of being knit together with Christ, God shall be with us.[6] As a result of Andrewes’ description of the name Immanuel and all that this name means for us as creatures that are fitted to the oneness of God—a oneness only now experienced in the presence of the flesh of Christ in the Eucharist—it is evermore realised in the Christian feast. Andrewes describes this oneness in relationship with the incarnation saying,
Namely, that we be so with Him, as He this day was ‘with us;’ that was in flesh, not in spirit only. That flesh that was conceived and this day born, (Corpus aptasti Mihi,) that body that was this day fitted to Him. And if we be not with Him thus, if this His flesh be not ‘with us,’ if we partake it not, which was soever else we be with Him, we come short of the Im of this day. Im otherwise it may be, but not that way which is proper to this feast.[7] This, as it is most proper, so it is the most straight and near that can be—the surest being withall that can be. Nihil tam nobiscum, tam nostrum, quam alimentum nostrum, ‘nothing so with us, so ours, as that we eat and drink down,’ which goeth, and growth one with us. For alimentum et alitum do coalescere in unum, ‘grow into an union;’ that union is inseperable ever after.[8]
For us to be ‘with God’ now is for us to discover his ‘with us’ in the sacrament of his Body—the Body in the sacrament is the Body that was conceived and brought forth from the Virgin’s womb and Andrews emphasises that the Eucharist is especially for God’s being with us. The doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is communicated in the shadows of the incarnation that describe what it means for God to be with us in this rite.
This then I commend to you, even the being with Him in the Sacrament of His Body—that Body that was conceived and born, as for other ends so for this specially, to be “with you;” and this day, as for other intents, so even for this, for the Holy Eucharist. This, as the kindliest for the time, as the surest for the manner of being with.[9]
What we have in the Eucharist is the preparative to that Day when Christ will come to be with us again in the flesh. Andrewes stated that immediately after Jesus gave them the Eucharist, ‘He prayed straight that they that had so been with Him in the blessed Sacrament—‘Father, My will is,’ My prayer, My last prayer, ‘that where I am they may be also.’[10] Therefore, for Andrewes the Eucharist carries with it not only the recapitulation of time in the incarnation, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, but also the eschatological hope of what it means for God to be with us in the flesh again. For Andrewes, just as Jesus is with us ‘in the flesh’ by way of his real presence in the Eucharist so also will we be with him when he comes in the fullness of his kingdom. For Andrewes, this is the hope set forth in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

[1] Andrewes, Works, i. 138.
[2] Andrewes, Works, i. 139.
[3] Andrewes, Works, i. 141.
[4] Andrewes, Works, i. 146.
[5] Andrewes, Works, i. 147.
[6] Andrewes, Works, 150-151.
[7] Is. 8.8
[8] Andrewes, Works, 151.
[9] Andrewes, Works, 151-152
[10] Andrewes, Works, 152.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes......I believe it was St Augustine who said "Crede et Monducasti" Believe and thou hast fed! Or somthing to that effect.


10:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we approach the Blessed Sacrament from the point of view of Incarnation rather than transformation certain problems are solved by appealing to Christology rather than metaphysics. For example if it is incarnational rather than transformational then the bread and wine remain true bread and wine just as our Lord's humanity remains true humanity and wasn't changed into something else. But just as the Person of Christ was true divinity as well as true humanity, so the sacramental reality of the Holy Communion (corresponding to the hypostasis of Jesus Christ) is Jesus Christ himself but also true bread and true wine. So the Sacrament is both true material elements unchanged and truly Christ in one reality. If we stick with the seven councils' Christology and apply those formularies to the Blessed Sacrament we remain true to the figure of Christ known to the Patristics and we may avoid some problems. I agree that trying to say "how" it happens is a big problem, but incarnation is much more a description of what happened in the coming of Jesus Christ than "how" except to say that his first advent was natural and supernatural at once

Mary's Fiat and the Blessed Sacrament

"And Mary said, Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."

If the Blessed Sacrament is incarnational rather than transformational our Lady may be the key to understanding, as well as appropriating it. If it is incarnational rather than transformational (May it be that transformationalism has more in common with western progressivism than it does with the Patristics?) then every Eucharist is an Annunciation requiring the Church's fiat, "Let it be," recapitulating Mary's fiat: "Let it be unto me according to thy word." The event that occurred in the womb of the BVM occurs in the womb of Holy Mother Church at the celebration of the Holy Communion. Thus every "day of obligation" is so because it is a duty that proceeds from the priestly office of Holy Mother Church requiring the assent of her children. It is absolutely necessary that the faithful be present and attend to this event of offering up and worship. Both orders - Lay and Clergy - are the sine quo non of the finale which is being "made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him." Thus our office is not a lonely one, but a happy one that Jesus compared to a wedding celebration.

There is the liturgical dialogue between the priest and the faithful in the mass which calls for collective assent:

Priest: "Lift up your hearts." (A call that requires an act of assent.)

Faithful: "We lift them up unto the Lord." (Assent given.)

Priest: "Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God." (A call that requires another act of assent.)

Faithful: "It is meet and right so to do." (Assent given.)

Priest: Turning back and facing the altar (and thus facing east) with the people behind him he brings the gathered congregation to the throne of grace.) "Is is very meet, right and our bounden duty..."

Might this liturgical dialogue recapitulates the dialogue between the angel and our Lady:

Angel: "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee..." (A call that requires an act of assent.)

Mary: (Here is a sacramental interlude - a moment of Mary wrestling with the angel.) "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"

Angel: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (An explanation and a call that also requires an act of assent. The Holy Ghost is the agent of the epiclesis in the Incarnation; the same is true for the blessed sacrament - "bless and sanctify, with they Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures…”) Might this also be a description of the epiclesis?

Mary's fiat: "Let it be according to thy word." (Assent given by our Lady and the Incarnation is realized in her "yes" which corresponds to the faithful's "It is meet and right so to do."

Glenn Spencer+
All Saints Parish
Charlottesville, VA

12:19 am  
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7:19 am  

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