Ktismatics

2 October 2007

Eucharistic Realities

Filed under: Christianity — ktismatics @ 9:59 am

With a little more effort I could do this post up right, but in fifteen minutes the truck is scheduled to deliver our belongings from France. So in the French esprit I’ll offer an impressionistic post.

The idea of realities can be illustrated in the transubstantiation versus consubstantiation debate. At the Last Supper Jesus held up the bread and said “this is my body;” he held up the cup of wine and said “this is my blood.” And Jesus commanded his followers to “do this in memory of me.” What can this mean? Even after the priest blesses the elements of the Eucharist they still look and taste like bread and wine. The Medieval Catholics believed that a substance can participate in only one reality at a time, so the bread and wine had to change into body and blood. They still looked like bread and wine, but those are only the accidents, the surface properties detected by our senses. In substance, though, they really had changed into the body and blood.

Luther didn’t buy it. Jesus held up the bread and said “this is my body” — that must mean that it was both bread and body at the same time. Luther said that the substance of the thing could participate in two realities simultaneously: bread and body, wine and blood. Calvin took it the next step, saying that the transformation was symbolic, metaphorical — thereby leading to the position that the Eucharist is a conceptual reality in which the material bread and wine are assigned specific religious meanings that commemorate Jesus’s body and blood.

Advertisements

16 Comments »

  1. I always thought Calvinistically (I am sure that isn’t the word), that Jesus had meant symbolically that the bread was his body and the wine his blood. It appeals to my more practical side I suppose.

    Like

    Comment by Erica — 2 October 2007 @ 1:00 pm

  2. I have often wondered about what Jesus meant when he said “do this…”. Is it just possible that he is saying “be broken, be poured out”, since that seems to be something that Paul alludes to?

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 2 October 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  3. It is hard to imagine that, while he was alive on earth before the crucifixion, Jesus meant that the bread and wine he held up were literally his body. It’s almost as if the early church thought of Jesus as having some kind of mystical body already, even before he was resurrected. Or maybe they lost sight of the historical sequence as the Greek perspective on omnipresence and eternity came to influence Christian thinking.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 October 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  4. Clysmatics, I suppose you have gotten BORED of the parody center; we are not entertaining enough we are. Well I have plenty to say about transsubstantiation, but I am not commenting until you come up with your own take on the Inland soundtrack!

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 2 October 2007 @ 3:40 pm

  5. The other day I accused Erdman of trolling, shifting a discussion from Ktismatics over to his blog, but what do we call this — blackmail?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 October 2007 @ 4:19 pm

  6. Clysmatics before I promote you to Enematics, don’t you dare use Erdman as an excuse; why only a few days ago he engaged in a vigorous A Scanner Darkly discussion with us, while you let several days pass without a single, even cursory comment.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 2 October 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  7. Three Cheers for Clarodycenter!

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 3 October 2007 @ 9:36 am

  8. Interesting how obsessed Kleptomatics has become in recent days with getting traffic and hits for his blog. My how the mighty have fallen!

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 3 October 2007 @ 9:39 am

  9. Thanks for your continued patronage, Erdman.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 October 2007 @ 9:51 am

  10. Luther didn’t buy it. Jesus held up the bread and said “this is my body” — that must mean that it was both bread and body at the same time. Luther said that the substance of the thing could participate in two realities simultaneously: bread and body, wine and blood. Calvin took it the next step, saying that the transformation was symbolic, metaphorical — thereby leading to the position that the Eucharist is a conceptual reality in which the material bread and wine are assigned specific religious meanings…

    Doyle – you might be surprised to hear that I’ve never heard this basic summation of the events. That’s completely fascinating. And helpful. Thank you.

    Anyway…it seems like its not great leap from Luther to Calvin in this regard. In fact it seems like Calvin’s move is the next logical step from Luther. As we’ve discussed before, Aquinas discussed how epistemologically its the mind that can “by its nature” apprehend multiple objects simultaneously.

    The more I think about it, now, the more Luther seems like the threshold and catalyst to the modern. The whole thing about how ancient spaces architecturally had something in the center of them would correspond in this regard to how the Medievals believed that a substance can only participate in one reality at a time. The presence of nothing in the center, or for example Bernini’s “Four Fountains” in Rome – as in modern spaces – corresponds to the participation of a substance in multiple realities at once. Interestingly too Four Fountains is considered “cinematic”, and one of the central aspects of cinema is the ability to break from “real time.”

    :)

    Hhhmmm…I also find it fascinating that Erica associates Calvin with her “practical side”!

    Doyle – what did you mean by: maybe they lost sight of the historical sequence as the Greek perspective on omnipresence…?

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 October 2007 @ 11:46 am

  11. Ktismatics:
    Thanks for your continued patronage, Erdman.

    Is this a passive aggressive maneuver?

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 3 October 2007 @ 1:08 pm

  12. “it seems like its not great leap from Luther to Calvin in this regard. In fact it seems like Calvin’s move is the next logical step from Luther.”

    Calvin probably thought so too, though I’m not sure Luther would have. Even Calvin didn’t go as far toward a symbolic understanding of the sacrament as I make it out here. In modern parlance it’s the distinction between the signifier and the signified that’s in question here. In a fully symbolic interpretation the signifiers (the bread and wine) are totally separable from what they are intended to signify (the spiritual benefits of Jesus’s death and the believers’ fellowship together through Him). It seems that Calvin believed that the signifiers possessed within themselves the power to signify — that the elements of the Eucharist possess the power to bring believers into fellowship with Christ and one another. Zwingli, who was a contemporary of Luther, was more purely symbolic in the modern sense than was Calvin. Anyhow, the trajectory was moving in that direction starting from Luther, even though from our current vantage point Luther’s idea of consubstantiation isn’t much different from Catholic transubstantiation.

    Luther was a “both-and” sort of fellow. Both physical bread and spiritual body. Man is both sinner and renewed, both old man and new man. The right understanding is to keep both poles in tension, possibly moving toward a higher synthesis that embraces both. In this regard Luther is the forerunner of the German-influenced version of modernity running through Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, and Marx. So the space between the two poles is empty and central.

    “Or maybe they lost sight of the historical sequence as the Greek perspective on omnipresence and eternity came to influence Christian thinking.”

    I mean they lost sight of Jesus-as-man being a physical human being who moved through time, and replaced him with the spiritually eternal Jesus-as-God whose death and resurrection took place outside of time. In which case he could be standing there in bodily form saying “this is my body” and he could be in effect watching his own actions from some place outside of time where his death and resurrection have already taken place. Something like that anyway. It took a few centuries for the early Church to arrive on a consensus that Christ on earth was fully man and fully God at the same time, that on earth he lived within the physical and temporal limitations of humanity. Before that it might have been believed that Jesus had a kind of magical body on earth, such that he could both be this guy standing here and the transubstantiated bread he held in his hand.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 October 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  13. “Is this a passive aggressive maneuver?”

    It wasn’t my conscious intention, but the fact that you asked the question makes me reconsider.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 October 2007 @ 3:13 pm

  14. I mean they lost sight of Jesus-as-man being a physical human being who moved through time, and replaced him with the spiritually eternal Jesus-as-God whose death and resurrection took place outside of time.

    But what about the fact that the bread and wine…and the community of followers…exist as physical beings in time and space? The whole point of transubstantiation as opposed to consubstantiation – the way you presented it – is that the actual physical sensible substance of the bread and wine only participates in one reality at a time…and that’s precisely Aquinas’ distinction between the powers of sense (sense apprehends objects in sequence and one at a time as they are sensed) and of intellect (intellect can apprehend multiple objects at the same time…as if in a tower looking down from above).

    …??

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 October 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  15. Yes, you’re right. Maybe it’s more a matter of Church tradition, which the medievalists respected perhaps even more than the Scriptures. For a thousand years before Aquinas the Church believed that the priest was divinely endowed with the ability to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood. So maybe Aquinas was more intent on explaining that traditional understanding than trying to reconcile it with the events of the Last Supper, which seem pretty well bound in the space and time to 1st century Israel.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 October 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  16. So maybe Aquinas was more intent on explaining that traditional understanding than trying to reconcile it with the events of the Last Supper…

    I think I’d buy that one more easily, to be honest. Although I’d say that Aquinas’ “contextuality” was something he probably sort of took for granted, whereas now for us its some big huge debate. And I think I’d prefer to refer to the text of the scriptures rather than the events of the Last Supper; although not so much because of a preferred focus on tradition over “Solar Scriptura” as much as simply because the text is more directly what we have with us…if we are going to refer to the question of our contextual tradition in relation to some original event in question (recorded in a text).

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 October 2007 @ 4:18 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: