Showing posts with label Eucharist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eucharist. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Extraordinary ministers should not be ordinary

Recently, bishops showed a great zeal and meticulousness for regulations regarding the coronavirus. This ranged from closing down churches altogether to detailed protocols during the reopening phase. The goal is to benefit the physical health of the faithful. Likewise, such zeal to detail should be given to those norms that protect the spiritual lives of the faithful. After all, the spiritual life is the more valuable of the two. As scripture says, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)

Woman Receiving the Eucharist by FĂ©lix-Joseph Barrias (ca 1840-65)

Meticulous attention is worth giving to spiritual norms. One such norm that is often not followed pertains to extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. It is not uncommon to see lay extraordinary ministers even in small congregations, or even when there is a priest and deacon present. This is contrary to the regulation.

Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) especially addresses proper use of extraordinary ministers. The document is subtitled On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist.  Here are three key paragraphs (emphasis mine):
#151 Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.
We see here that recourse to extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist is not a "participation" mechanism for the laity. It is something to be availed only out of "true necessity." Many churches are not reflecting this.
#154 [B]y reason of their sacred Ordination, the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon, to whom it belongs therefore to administer Holy Communion to the lay members of Christ’s faithful during the celebration of Mass. In this way their ministerial office in the Church is fully and accurately brought to light, and the sign value of the Sacrament is made complete.
Recourse to extraordinary ministers is a concession that does not communicate the completeness of the sign that accompanies distribution of the Sacred Body and Blood by a bishop, priest, or deacon.
#157 If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.
Many parishes by default avail extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist even for modest Sunday congregations or even for daily masses where there are a few dozen attendees, if that. Such unnecessary normalization of extraordinary ministers seems exactly the type of impropriety that Redemptionis Sacramentum warns against.
#158 Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.
Even a priest by himself can get through a several dozen communicants in just a few minutes, particularly if a communion rail is availed. But what is, say, an extra five to ten minutes when such time can also be used for post-Communion prayer.  If one were to argue that the Liturgy is unduly prolonged, the very last part of the Liturgy that should be accelerated is the Eucharist. Christ's Body and Blood are the very "source and summit" of the one, true faith (CCC#1324). It would be easy to compensate, if necessary, to abstain, for example, from multiple verses of song that prolong the mass. Forgoing song altogether in favor of a cantor's Latin chant during processions would likewise award additional time that could be granted to the Holy Eucharist. A concise homily can also help. So could reciting, instead of singing, the Gloria. There are many other ways, if truly necessary, than trying to speed up Holy Communion.

If modern polls are accurate, upwards of two-thirds of Catholics don't even believe in the Real Presence. This is a tragedy. There is little excuse to avoid solutions that would better communicate the reality of the Real Presence. As Redemptionis Sacramentum (154) stated, the true value of the Eucharist is signally announced when distributed by an ordained minister. Limiting distribution of the Eucharist to bishops, priests, and deacons as much as possible is one simple remedy already prescribed by the Church.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Can you go to hell for the "flimsiest of reasons"?
A look at invincible ignorance and a forgotten value of conversion

On the August 27, 2013 Coast to Coast radio show George Noory interviewed Catholic historian
Charles Coulombe on a variety of topics during the last three hours of the show. Coulombe was consistently excellent, had his facts about Church teaching straight, expressed himself succinctly and charitably, and very well-represented the Church to members of an audience that might not otherwise ever hear an accurate portrayal of Church matters.

After listening to the entirety of the interview, I only wished he would have expounded more on one issue. The issue was raised by a caller, Ray in Niles, OH, who asked the following (emphasis mine):
When we say that people who are evil would deserve hell and those who lead virtuous lives deserve heaven, that makes rational sense. But the problem I've always had with the
Church and with Christianity in general is that you're condemned to hell for the flimsiest of reasons. For example, you're required to believe a matter of fact that Christ was divine and the Incarnation. Now let's suppose a person leads a virtuous life but doesn't happen to believe that. That doesn't make them evil. I mean, if I believe, for example, that the Eiffel Tower is in London, England and not Paris, I'm wrong. But I'm wrong about a matter of fact. I'm not evil in making that. Now the Church holds you responsible for knowing things that you can't possibly know. We hold people responsible when we're in a position to say to them, "You acted against your better judgment. You ought to have known better." But if one doesn't believe in the Incarnation, or the divinity of Christ, is one going against one's better judgment?And furthermore, what constitutes a judgment has to do with an accident of birth. People who are born into Roman Catholic families tend to be Roman Catholic. People who are born into Muslim families tend to be Muslim. People who are born in Jewish families tend to be Jewish. And so on. Are they expected to know that the other religion is true? And how can they know that? If you can't know what you're required to believe, then how can you be eternally damned for getting it wrong? That just doesn't make any rational sense.
Coulombe began by pointing out the tremendous number of fallen away Catholics as evidence that people don't necessarily stay where they are. True or not, the caller's ultimate claim was that it was possible, according to Church teaching, that a person unable to know what to believe would be condemned for not believing it. The gist of the caller's question is not uncommon. Coulombe made other fair points related to the fallen human nature of man, and Christ as the escape from a futile position. However––although it is easy for me to say not under the constraints of radio time as was Coulombe––I wished he would have expounded on the concept of "invincible ignorance."

To put it briefly, the caller was incorrect that the Church teaches that a person will be condemned to hell for not knowing something he "can't possibly know."

In Catholic theology, there exists a doctrine commonly called "invincible ignorance" or some similar paraphrase. The Catechism offers descriptions. Beginning in paragraph 846 is the following: "all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body." From there, we read the important subsequent paragraph (emphasis mine):
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. (CCC#847)
That paragraph alone debunks the caller's claim that the Church teaches the condemnation of those who don't formally know Christ. A person who "through no fault of their own" would be considered "invincibly ignorant." In other words, they did not receive a legitimate opportunity to know and believe in the Christ, whom alone is the door to salvation.

Essentially, if a person was invincibly ignorant of the truth of Christ, and if they attained salvation, they would still be incorporated into "the Church which is his Body" (CCC#846), but in an informal sense. Not with their lips or through receipt of the sacraments would such a person express his faith in Christ. But by their "sincere heart" and by their move "to do his will as they know it" (CCC#847) is their expression made. And it should be noted that even this action is done by "grace," which is God's gift, God's initiative. It should also be noted that the Church does not teach such persons certainly "will" go to heaven, but "may" in some way known to God.

In other words, the Church does not teach that God plays little games of "gotcha" and sends someone to hell for a "flimsy" reason, such as a person never having had an opportunity to believe in the usual sense. What constitutes true "ignorance" may only be known to God and the soul in question. Perhaps it is possible even for someone who was preached the gospel explicitly to remain invincibly ignorant due to various emotional or mental impediments. On the other hand, a person who heard the gospel may falsely convince themselves that they did not receive enough evidence (or grace) and proudly claim that they were not adequately evangelized. We could speculate, but defining an ignorance that can vary from soul to soul is not the purpose of this post, if it were even possible.

The theology of salvation and an "informal" faith in Christ is not new. For instance, in the Old Testament, we are told Elijah, who lived long before the Incarnation of Christ, was taken to heaven (2 Kg 2:11). Paul eludes to the mercy shown to him because, as he says, he "acted ignorantly in my belief" when he persecuted Christians (1 Tim. 1:13)  The Early Church Fathers likewise made similar statements about ignorance or informal incorporation into the Church, which is Christ's body. St. Augustine stated, "in the ineffable prescience of God, many who appear to be outside are within," incorporated by "wish or desire," while "many who seem to be within are without." (St. Augustine, quoted in De Lubac, The Splendor of the Church, p. 212). The 2nd century Church Father, Justin Martyr, went so far as to say those who lived before Christ either embraced or persecuted Christ in a mystical way (emphasis mine):
We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others whose actions and names we now decline to recount, because we know it would be tedious. So that even they who lived before Christ, and lived without reason, were wicked and hostile to Christ, and slew those who lived reasonably. (St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 46) 
Father William Most compiled a number of similar citations in this article under the subhead "Broad texts of the fathers" as well as other citations from the Magisterium.

In Catholic theology and Biblical language, it is sometimes said a wicked soul will experience "death," not in the sense of temporal death, but the death of the soul, a "second death" (Rev. 2:11; Rev. 20:6-14), where the fires of hell are eternal.

Barring a special revelation, we cannot "observe" heaven or hell in the way we can the environment around us. Keep in mind the Coast to Coast caller's difficulty believing in the idea of hell because of, what was to him, the "flimsy" way one can get there. The caller, though his premise was erroneous, believed if one went to hell for a "flimsy" reason, it therefore didn't make "rational sense." He was not willing to believe such a doctrine based on the unequal proportion between a hypothetical error in ignorance that could result in a disproportionate fate. Keep that in mind in the following thought exercise.

Let's say a man comes home from a long day's work and decides to make himself a bowl of soup. He turns the knob on his gas stove. He had a stuffy nose that day, and didn't smell the gas leak that had accumulated throughout the day. Ignorant of the gas leak, he blows up. In keeping with the reasoning of the caller, should a person trying to cook soup deserve to die? Where is the rational sense in the consequence of death, when the subject was ignorant that death would result from his action? Where is the proportion? Would the caller deny that the man had blown up based on the flimsy reason why the man was killed?

The point of the thought exercise is to demonstrate the fallacy of the caller's conclusion in having a "problem" with the Church, even if his theological understanding of Church teaching had been correct. At best (or worst), he would have to admit that a "flimsy" reason for going to hell would simply parallel the empirical evidence we have of people dying a temporal death due to ignorance.

One may ask, then, if a person may be granted lenience for his ignorance of Christ, isn't it safer not to evangelize? I would answer no. Here's one reason why.

In a previous post, I reviewed Church theology on How the Eucharist benefits the world. In brief, those who receive the Eucharist are receiving something divine into themselves, something supernatural that transforms and effects grace on nature. The very celebration and receipt of the Eucharist draws souls throughout creation and brings grace into the souls receiving the sacrament. Thus, even if someone would be saved in an informal way, as a result of receiving mercy due to his "invincible ignorance," the very absence of that person's formal incorporation to the Church renders that person a non-participant in the sacramental delivery of grace.

An ancient Church prayer reads, "O sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of the life to come is given to us." (cf. CCC#1402). Through all the sacraments, especially through the Eucharist, is received grace to "enlighten and nourish Christian activity." (CCC#2031) Though the Spirit can deliver grace in any way, the Church teaches the power of grace through the sacraments.

The very foundational call of Christian activity is to love God and neighbor. Receipt of the sacraments fosters that love. Thus, in the Catholic theology which we believe based on the promises of Christ, there is a true value to the entire Church and to the entire world when one formally incorporates into the Church. There is a value that extends beyond the converting individual.

And as the Catechism concludes in the section on invincible ignorance and salvation only through the Church:
Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men. (CCC#848)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis and the Media, Jesuits, Eastern Orthodox, Eucharist, Mary, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

After Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pictured) of Argentina was elected Pope Francis I, I found it difficult to locate much first-hand information on this first "American" Pope. Since his Wednesday election, here are some thoughts and references.

In the context of this papal election, the secular media, as is unfortunately often the case when reporting on the Church at all, demonstrated an inability or refusal to view the Church or office of the papacy as a theological rather than political. Even prior to Pope Francis' election, a variety of opiners expressed hope for a Pope whom would reverse Church teaching on contraception, abortion, the male priesthood, or marriage requiring a man and woman.

For example, an NBC staff writer expressed, "Pope Francis will likely keep to Catholic teachings that reject abortion and same-sex marriage, experts said Wednesday." CNN news anchor Suzanne Malveaux said, "Because we know that Benedict was very conservative when it comes to gay rights, when it comes to women being ordained in the church, when it comes to birth control. Many of those things that people are looking to and wondering if the church will, in fact, alter or adjust to the times." Similar statements are not hard to find. Any "expert" whom says the Church is not "likely" to change these teachings is, by the very assertion, not an expert on the Church.

In the minutes following Pope Francis' election, Wikipedia quickly updated the Pope Francis and Cardinal Bergoglio entries with the assertion: "Like most people, he supports the use of contraception to prevent the spread of disease." The footnote link for this claim was inaccessible. The claim itself has since been removed and remains unfounded. This misrepresentation itself was done to Pope Benedict XVI, as covered previously at The Catholic Voyager in What the Pope really said about condoms. On the Kresta in the Afternoon radio show Thursday (MP3), Dr. Janet Smith called such false rumors "wishful thinking."

To state the obvious, it is impossible for a dogmatic teaching on a matter of faith or morals to be "rejected." Sentiments such as these demonstrate a view of the papacy as a political office. Candidates go in and out, bringing to the table or legislatures whichever "laws" are determined. Such rules can be affected by a "vote." But the Church does not operate in this fashion, teaching that such truths are transcendent to manufacturing and are rather identified from reality. Such members of the media do not afford the Church the very views it professes to assert in expressing its teaching on such matters. In other words, in order to understand the Church's teachings, one at a minimum must confront the Church's own basis for those teachings.

Here is an analogy to understand the Catholic teachings on such moral dogmas as are above mentioned. To ask the Church to "reject" one of these views is tantamount to demanding that the Church "adjust to the times" and recognize that three-sided objects should be called "squares." It is, in reality, an impossibility for a square to have three sides. The Church is powerless to change that reality. If you can understand the ignorance required to demand a three-sided object be called a square, then you can understand the ignorance involved in those demanding the Church reject immutable dogma.

At a minimum, even if someone disagrees with the Church's teaching, it would be basic, prudential reporting to notify one's audience that the Church teaches that it is impossible for these teachings to be "rejected." As an apparent strategy, the media sometimes showcases a "Catholic," or perhaps even a priest or religious, whom rejects these teachings to give the impression that the issue remains unsettled in the Church. However, this belies the Church's teaching that dogma is formulated and recognized by the body of the Magisterium, that is, the Pope and bishops in union with him. Dissenters do not effect dogma. The sensibilities of unbelievers do not effect dogma.

Pope Francis brings at least couple "new" attributes to the papacy.
  • First Jesuit
  • First American
Some Catholics are concerned by Pope Francis' status as a Jesuit. This is apparently due to a Jesuit reputation to, perhaps similar to the media, challenge Church dogma. This is not a matter I have studied extensively, but if it is true that some Jesuits have a heterodox bent, this needn't be forced onto Pope Francis as his personal characteristic. After all, Father Mitch Pacwa from EWTN, for example, is a Jesuit and has been an excellent teacher of the faith.

Regarding Pope Francis' Jesuit background are a couple quotes I've come across from respectable Catholic commentators:
An incisive thinker and intensely holy man living a devout life, it is held against him that he is a Jesuit, although he has suffered the slings and arrows of Jesuits of a more "progressive" bent. (The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things on Cardinal Bergoglio, 2007)
He was known in Argentina as the Jesuit who lived like a Franciscan. ... He's a very different kind of Jesuit. He's an old school Jesuit. Think of Father James Schall from Argentina and you begin to get the idea. Bergoglio was persecuted by his leftist Jesuit brethren in Argentina.  There were not champagne corks popping around the corner from where I'm sitting right now at the Jesuit Generalate last night, I'm quite sure. (George Weigel, on Kresta in the Afternoon radio show, March 14, 2013 (MP3))
First American and the Eastern connection
Sometimes you might hear that Pope Francis is the first non-European pope, however, there have been three popes from Africa. One of the things that strikes me most about then-Cardinal Bergoglio's position in Argentina is in the first sentence of his Vatican bio: "Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite..."

For those of us hoping to reunite with the Eastern Orthodox Church, this attribute may help. It has apparently been some centuries, perhaps over 1000 years since there was an Eastern Rite pope. I have a particular affinity for a number of early saints mutually recognized by both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, especially St. John Chrysostom from the fourth and fifth centuries, whom I have cited a number of times on this blog and in forums. There remains a mutual foundation upon which reunion can transpire.

For those whom do not know, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Churches went into schism, commonly acknowledged to have taken place in the year 1054. Now, there is a difference between Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Churches, one of which is that the former are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, i.e. the pope. Though Eastern Rite Catholics are in union with the Pope, they practice different forms of the Liturgy and have non-doctrinal differences in discipline or sometimes different spiritual emphases native to different cultures, many of which are viewed as similar to the Eastern Orthodox.

Although the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are in schism, there exists between them a certain familial kinship to the point that many in each Church recognize the validity of each other's priesthood and the ultimate sacrament in each other's churches––the Eucharist.
On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to his Church--profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacrament, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops--cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches. (Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, 1993, #13)
To fortify optimism for the reunion of these two great Churches some day, the following news appeared in today's Catholic World Report:
In a historic development, it was announced today that Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, will attend Pope Francis’ installation Mass in Rome March 19, the first time such an event as taken place since the Great Schism in 1054. (Catherine Harmon, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to attend Pope Francis’ installation Mass, Catholic World Report, March 15, 2013)
When something happens for the first time in almost 1000 years, something for which countless generations have prayed, there is cause for attention and hope.

One piece from Cardinal Bergoglio I have read over is a catechesis he preached on the Eucharist in 2008. In that catechesis, Bergoglio emphasized a critical attribute in understanding the Eucharist, and by comparison the Church, and really much of Catholic theology. That attribute is the nuptial nature of Christ's sacrifice. (See a little about this nuptial character in a prior post Christ, the bridegroom.)

The Cardinal states:
In receiving the Eucharist, we are the ones assimilated to Christ. In this manner, through giving Himself over to be eaten as Bread of life, the Lord starts making the Church. He begins transforming within His Body – in a process of mysterious and hidden assimilation as it is completely given over to the process of nourishment – at the same time, whenever this process can count with the free “yes” of the Church, that assents in faith to the Covenant offered by her Spouse, it transforms into His bride.
There is so much theology loaded into that paragraph. All members of the Church are, in a theological sense, the bride. Utilizing what Pope John Paul II called the Theology of the Body, we can recognize in the union of man and woman a figure of Christ and the Church. The Church "receives" life from Christ, so to speak. And the Eucharist is itself an image of assimilation, which we consume, which by the very form of eating communicates the merger of two entities into one. Yet, as Cardinal Bergoglio points out, unlike normal eating where food is broken down into us, with the Eucharist, we are broken down into Christ. In the sacrament, in the union with the divine Son, we, though fallen, are loved by God, and are raised up through His Son, whom condescended to us, and nuptially joined his Church by his ultimate "giving of himself" on the Cross.

The Cardinal continues, relating the matter to Mary, herself a figure of the Church:
Mary, therefore, is a model of the Covenant, between the Lord and His bride the Church, between God and each man. Model of a Covenant that is company of Love, confident and fruitful abandonment and fullness of hope that irradiates joy.
Here, the Cardinal eludes to Mary assenting to the angel Gabriel's prompt to bear the incarnate Christ, when she said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) One of the reasons Mary figures so importantly in Catholic theology is because of her role in divine revelation as figure of the Church. She sets a pattern by which the bride, the Church, is to follow. When she submits to the divine bridegroom, what is begotten? Life. We, as Church, are called to the same response, the same "yes," as Cardinal Bergoglio wrote above, and by that graced assent, life eternal is begotten.

The complementarity of bridegroom and bride itself relates to the dogmas discussed earlier. A marriage only exists if the "ingredients" of man and woman are joined. This is visible in the natural world, that only a male and female union "bears fruit" in the form of life. The Church has recognized also the spiritual reality of these complementary genders, which effect a true marriage. The matter of contraception is pertinent here as well. In the marriage, the marital act is seen as the giving of the self to the other. Jesus demonstrated the bridegroom's part when he extended his arms and literally gave all of himself to his bride. When a contraceptive is introduced, part of the self is withheld, especially one's fertility, and perhaps other factors such as a willingness to sacrifice with the other to raise a child, which itself fosters the objectification of the other (as predicted by Pope Paul VI in Humana Vitae in 1968). In a way, the denial of the necessary ingredients of man and woman in a marriage is an attack on the Eucharist.

In another letter from 2010, Cardinal Bergoglio wrote emphatically to protect the complementary genders necessary for the institution of marriage.

The future of the Church promises to be, at the very least, fascinating. It has literally been centuries since a retired Pope lived in concert with a current Pope. It must have been an intriguing experience for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to experience the election of his own successor, especially in a world of technology where he could, if he did choose to, watch the dramatic events of the past week unfold. Pope Francis has already spoken on the phone with his great predecessor, and still plans to meet with him in the future. Pope Benedict himself welcomed a large community of Anglicans, themselves a "liturgical" Church, even if the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of their priesthood or Eucharist. Such acts at that by Pope Benedict might that serve as the needed springboard for ecumenism and reunion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. If we do not see reunion in this generation, future generations may look back to Pope Benedict XVI as a catalyst.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is the Eucharist only a symbol of Christ's body?

In Biblical typology, the authors of the New Testament often relate things of the NT in light of the Old Testament. This is called typology. You see Paul speak of this in Romans 5 when he identifies Jesus as the superior antitype of Adam. You see the Pauline tradition in Hebrews (ch 8) speak of this when he compares the sacrifices of the OT to the corresponding superior sacrifice of Christ. You also see Jesus speak of this earlier in the John 6 discourse when he spoke of the bread, the manna, that fell from heaven. One consistent characteristic in the order of typology is that the New Testament antitypes are superior to their Old Testament types. Jesus is superior to Adam. Christ's sacrifice is superior to the OT sacrifices. And the Bread of Life in the NT is superior to the manna that fell from heaven.

Catholics believe the Bread of Life, of which Christ spoke in John 6, is the Eucharist, the true body and blood of Christ in sacrament (cf. CCC#1374). Some faith traditions believe that the Eucharist is symbolic-only.1 They believe the bread is ordinary bread, and participating in the Eucharist is a memorial in the sense of "calling to memory" Christ's sacrifice (not in the sense of the re-presentation of the event according to the Jewish understanding of anamnesis2).

Now, if we apply a "symbolic-only" understanding to John 6, we cause a fatal problem in the order of Biblical typology. The NT Bread suddenly becomes inferior to the OT manna. After all, the OT manna was 1) of supernatural origin and 2) of benefit for physical life. When we insist the Bread in John 6 is symbolic-only, we make it inferior to the OT manna because we say its origin is less-than-supernatural, while denying that it is of benefit for eternal life.

It is Christ himself who made the typological comparison between the Bread of Life and the OT manna in John 6:49-51. And therefore, the symbol-only interpretation must be rejected, among other reasons, on the grounds that it violates the superior nature of NT antitypes over their OT types.

1For example, the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 endorsed the following: "The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming." In Catholic theology, the Eucharist does have symbolic attributes, but not only symbolic. For examples see Council of Trent 13.3; Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, et al.

2See for example, Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann's explanation of the Jewish idea of anamnesis in the article Seeds, Weeds, and Walking the High Wire: The Role of the Remnant - Embodying Israel’s Destiny. He writes in one example: "The holy past is no mere collection of data to be recalled, but a continuing reality to be honored or desecrated."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Christ, the bridegroom (why a priest must be male)

In an era where there remains confusion or ignorance on why the Catholic Church only ordains men to the office of the priesthood, I thought it helpful to delve a little into a dimension of the theology of why this must be so.

In Church theology:
[T]he bishop or the priest, in the exercise of his ministry, does not act in his own name, "in persona propria:" he represents Christ, who acts through him: "the priest truly acts in the place of Christ", as Saint Cyprian already wrote in the third century.[15] It is this ability to represent Christ that Saint Paul considered as characteristic of his apostolic function (cf. 2 Cor 5:20; Gal 4:14). The supreme expression of this representation is found in the altogether special form it assumes in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the source and centre of the Church's unity, the sacrificial meal in which the People of God are associated in the sacrifice of Christ: the priest...then acts..."in persona Christi,"[16] taking the role of Christ, to the point of being his very image, when he pronounces the words of consecration.[17] (Inter Insigniores, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 5b, 1976)
I'd like to further examine the notion that Christ acts through the priest supremely through the celebration of the Eucharist. Without getting into a long apologetic, Catholic theology teaches that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ that transpired on Calvary, extended through time.

CCC#1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different."
One can find many apologetic treatments on why the Church teaches this is so. A couple Scriptural examples include Christ at the Last Supper holding up the bread and saying "This is my body which is given for you" (Lk. 22:19). In the verse, the Greek verb "is" in both instances is in the present tense. The sacrifice of Calvary was thus already extended through time at the Last Supper. Many translations, such as the literal King James, have the words: "lamb slain before the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). This also speaks to the timelessness of the sacrifice of Christ the Lamb (cf. John 1:29). Other examples include the discourse of John 6, in which Jesus repeats phrases like: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:51). Paul echoes the same sentiment when he writes: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16); and immediately after describing the Last Supper: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. ... For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor. 11:27,29). Catholics also call the blessing the "consecration," echoing Christ's Last Supper words when he held up the bread, spoke the words, and told the Apostles to "do this" in his memory.

Going forward with the theology that the Eucharist is truly the single sacrifice of Calvary offered in "an unbloody manner" (cf. CCC#1367), it is vital to understand the teaching of a male-only priesthood with the idea that Christ's sacrifice was a "nuptial" event. Christ's wedding was on the Cross. He was the bridegroom wedded to the Church, his bride.

Even from the most ancient days, God's covenant with his people has been revealed with nuptial imagery. For example, God in reconciling the Israelites' loyalty to the false god Ba'al describes His union with the people of God in nuptial terms:
And there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. "And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, 'My husband,' and no longer will you call me, 'My Ba'al.' For I will remove the names of the Ba'als from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:15-20)
It is no accident that God intermingles his betrothal to Israel as making a "covenant" with them. God makes a "covenant" with Abraham, promising him many descendants (Gen. 17:6-9). This covenant is completed when Abraham demonstrates his faith in God by preparing to sacrifice his son at God's prompt (Gen 22:16-17). Abraham is allowed to sacrifice a "ram" instead (v. 13).

As the late, great Bishop Fulton Sheen said:
Throughout the Old Testament, the union of God and Israel is described as Nuptials. God is pictured as the Husband; Israel as the Bride; and their union is consummated in sacrifice. (Bishop Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married, chapter 11)
The event of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son is a strong foreshadowing of God sending His Son as a sacrifice, with the blood of "a new covenant" (e.g. Lk. 22:20). Reading texts like Hosea in light of covenant and sacrifice, we can begin to see how Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was a nuptial event.

Consider the nuptial imagery in Christ's life leading up to his sacrifice.

He performs his first public miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Notice the inclusion of "wine" in the episode. In addition to holding up wine at the Last Supper and equating it with his blood, wine is a consistent theme in nuptial episodes in Scripture. The Song of Songs, a tale about a bride-to-be longing for her bridegroom, is fraught with references to wine or vineyards (e.g. Sg. 1:2,6,14; 2:13,15; 4:10; 5:1; 6:11; 7:2,8-9,12; 8:2,11,12). Remember the Hosea passage we referenced earlier when God promises a "vineyard" to his betrothed Israel. From such passages, we can view and understand the Eucharist in a new light, and how the people of God are wedded, so to speak, to Christ through the sacrifice.

Christ's Parable of the Ten Virgins describes the Church seeking to enter the kingdom as the bride uniting with the bridegroom: "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom" (Mat. 25:1). Christ even compared himself to a "bridegroom" when speaking to John the Baptist's disciples (Mat. 9:14-15).

John makes reference to rejoicing "at the bridegroom's voice" (John 3:29) which is a strong echo of the excited bride-to-be: "The voice of my beloved!" again from the nuptial Song of Songs (2:8).

Shortly before Christ is crucified, nuptial imagery lines the Biblical text. In Song of Songs, the bride marvels at the fragrant "anointing oils" (Sg. 1:3) of the bridegroom, and the fragrance of his "cheeks" and lips compared to "myrrh" (Sg. 5:13). It was customary in Jewish antiquity for both nuptial parties to be heavily perfumed:
Garments were perfumed to such an extent that an old marriage song (Ps. xlv. 9 [A. V. 8]) could say of the royal bridegroom, "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." Beds were perfumed with "myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon" (Prov. vii. 17). The bride in Cant. iii. 6 was perfumed with all sorts of incense; and noble guests were honored by being sprinkled with perfume or incense (Luke vii. 46; comp. Lane, "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians," iii. 8). It was customary among noble Jews to pass incense ("mugmar") around on a brazier after meals (comp. Ber. vi. 6). (Jewish Encyclopedia entry on Incense)
Myrrh of course is one of the fragrant gifts brought by the wise men to the newborn Jesus (e.g.Mat. 2:11). The bride-to-be in Song of Songs is adorned with the perfume "nard" (1:12), which is the same perfume with which Mary of Bethany anointed Christ's feet (Mk. 14:3; John 12:3) shortly before his Passion.

Even closer to the final Crucifixion, Christ is stripped of his garments (e.g. Mat. 27:31-35), which of course is an action the marital couple does prior to consummation.

Finally, Christ is preparing to breath his last breath on the Cross, and what does he say but: "It is finished," (John 19:30) which can also be translated "It is consummated." The full verse reads: "When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, 'It is finished'; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." The beverage was vinegar or sour "wine" (e.g. ESV, NASB, NJB), the beverage of a wedding ceremony. The marriage of the bridegroom with his bride the Church was consummated.

That understanding does not replace other interpretations of "it is finished," but rather works in concert with them to showcase the richness and depth of holy Scripture. For instance, Dr. Scott Hahn's treatment The Hunt for the Fourth Cup shows how "it is finished" also refers to the completion of the Passover sacrifice meal begun in the upper room.

And so we come full-circle. The priest, when confecting the Eucharist, which is the same sacrifice of Calvary, is the instrument of Christ himself who performs the sacrifice.

When we grasp this reality, we can better understand why in order for the sacrament to be an effective "sign," the priest must be male. Christ's very incarnation as a man accomplishes the masculine function of the bridegroom. It would be an ontological impossibility for this to be performed by a bride. It is Christ who "gives" to the bride on the Cross, begetting spiritual life. A good study of Scripture recognizes the theophanies in life and how they reflect unseen realities. In the role of a man as the giver during intercourse, we can understand how it is an outward sign of Christ the bridegroom who is the "giver" of himself at his nuptial event on the Cross. The outward masculinity points to the ontological reality of a man giving himself mystically for his bride.

Christ, when healing the paralytic lowered through the ceiling (e.g. Mark 2:1-12) relates the outward sign with the inward reality. The crowd doubts that Jesus forgave the man's sins when he said, "Yours sins are forgiven." To show the crowd that the man was truly spiritually "healed" he commanded the man to rise and walk. When the man stood, he showed outwardly the healing that had occurred inwardly.

The sacraments instituted by Christ utilize outward instruments that show us what occurs inwardly. For example, Baptism requires water (cf. Acts 8:36). Water is used to wash. As Peter teaches us, this water is not just for removing dirt, but for clearing the conscience by removing the stains of sin (1 Pet. 3:20-21). The outward sign effects the inward reality.

And so we see how the outward sign of a man brings about the inward reality of the true bridegroom, consummated to his bride on the Cross.1 It would be ontologically impossible for a woman to sacramentally and truly act in persona Christi, the bridegroom.

Here is more from Inter Insigniores:
The Christian priesthood is therefore of a sacramental nature: the priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible[18] and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted upon the human psychology: "Sacramental signs", says Saint Thomas, "represent what they signify by natural resemblance".[19] The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ's role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this "natural resemblance" which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man. (Inter Insigniores, 5c)
This, of course, makes a woman no less human or competent than a man just because she cannot by her nature act in the person of the bridegroom. By the same token, a man is not inferior or less-than-human because he by his very nature cannot gestate human life within himself and give birth. "Male and female He created them," (Gen. 5:2) Scripture says. Paul does not tell us that differences in spiritual gifts are a matter of inequality but rather complementarity within the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27-30). Women and men participate in the "royal priesthood" (e.g. CCC#1268) of Christ, just as men participate as members of the "bride" the Church. Yet these are not sacramental realities as are the priest or the Eucharist which demand the natural outward sign. When we offer sacrifices in our lives, we do not truly and sacramentally make present the one sacrifice of Calvary in the way the Eucharist does.

Inter Insigniores expounds further:
Christ is the Bridegroom; the Church is his bride, whom he loves because he has gained her by his blood and made her glorious, holy and without blemish, and henceforth he is inseparable from her. This nuptial theme which is developed from the Letters of Saint Paul onwards (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:22- 23) to the writings of Saint John (cf. especially Jn 3:29; Rev 19:7,9), is present also in the Synoptic Gospels: the Bridegroom's friends must not fast as long as he is with them (cf. Mk 2:19); the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who gave a feast for his son's wedding (cf. Mt 22:1-14). It is through this Scriptural language, all interwoven with symbols, and which expresses and affects man and woman in their profound identity, that there is revealed to us the mystery of God and Christ, a mystery which of itself is unfathomable.

That is why we can never ignore the fact that Christ is a man. And therefore, unless one is to disregard the importance of this symbolism for the economy of Revelation, it must be admitted that, in actions which demand the character of ordination and in which Christ himself, the author of the Covenant, the Bridegroom and Head of the Church, is represented, exercising his ministry of salvation which is in the highest degree the case of the Eucharist—his role (this is the original sense of the word "persona") must be taken by a man. This does not stem from any personal superiority of the latter in the order of values, but only from a difference of fact on the level of functions and service. (Inter Insigniores, 5e-f)
If one meditates on the divine mystery of Christ as the bridegroom, it is easier to understand why Christ freely chose only men to serve in the office of Apostle. The same can be said of the Apostles who subsequently only appointed men to ministerial offices.

The one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is the same sacrifice as that offered in the Eucharist during the Divine Liturgy. In that sacrifice, Christ is the bridegroom, consummating his marriage to his bride, the Church. This marriage is a new covenant. The priest acts in persona Christi when confecting the Eucharist. Since a sacrament demands the natural sign to truly bring about the reality at hand, any priest participating in the one priesthood of Christ must be a man.

Additional works of interest:
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II
Some Scriptural Arguments For The All-Male Priesthood by David P. Lang, Catholic Culture

1I would be remiss if I did not also point out that Christ as bridegroom is not the only reason why the priesthood can only be fulfilled by a man. Scripture, for instance, also teaches of the headship of a man befitting the role of a pastor and shepherd. The sacrificial Lamb foreshadowing Christ in the Old Testament had to be a male, (cf. Ex. 12:5). Etc... This article is intended to examine the richness of the nuptial nature of Christ and his sacrifice.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why did blood & water flow from Christ's side?

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
Like much of Scripture, the above Johannine verse is fraught with various levels of meaning. Why did blood and water flow from Christ's side? Below are a few meanings as derived from the Church's historical interpretations of the text.

To fulfill prophecyJohn offers an explanation in the immediate context of the verse. In verse 37, he writes: "And again another scripture says, 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced.'" This is a quotation from Zechariah 12:10, a lengthy verse which reads:
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. (Zechariah 12:10)
John is thus identifying Jesus as the prophesied one. He fits the characteristics of the Zechariah verse: He was pierced, He was from the lineage of David, and He was a firstborn, only child. Zechariah even went on a few verses later, describing the day that this man was pierced as the day
there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanliness." (Zech. 13:1)
John's description of the blood and water pouring out Christ's side remind us of the cleansing fountain that would be opened when the victim was pierced.

By identifying Christ as the anticipated Savior, John includes in his otherwise tragic account the good news that life in the form of freedom from sin had come.

To highlight his death/suffering
There is a literal, physical dimension to the idea of blood and water flowing from a dead man's side. Studious theologians and medical professionals alike have offered varying opinions. The Navarre Bible Commentary suggests the mixture of water with the blood could indicate "an accumulation of liquid in the lungs due to Jesus' intense sufferings."1 Understanding this can have tremendous theological depth. It also identifies Christ as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. And it can help us cope with suffering if, even without full understanding, we see our leader and divine Savior innocently accept tremendous suffering.

Many physicians such as those at the Mayo Clinic posit that the water was the fluid located in the pericardial sac surrounding the heart:
Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. (On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ by William D. Edwards, MD, et al)
A diagram of the pericardial wall, sac, and heart, shows a possible point of penetration into the heart that would result in an outpouring of blood and pericardial fluid that John described as water.

If the spear pierced through the outer pericardium wall and into the heart, then the watery fluid and blood could have poured out through the wound. It emphasizes the reality of Christ's death and His very humanity. The idea of the Resurrection was very important to the early Christian community. Paul specifically wrote: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17) Christ truly died and therefore those who saw Him walking about after that saw the Resurrected Christ.

John earlier quoted Jesus eluding to the very idea of the piercing of his heart with an outpouring of water: "He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:38) John also sees in this outpouring prophecy a foreshadowing of the outpouring of the Spirit: "Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive." (7:39) And again in his epistle, he says that the blood and water give the same witness as the Spirit: "There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree." (1 John 5:8)

To signify the waters of Baptism
On John 19:34, St. Thomas Aquinas writes:
Another reason why this happened was to show that by the passion of Christ we acquire a complete cleansing from our sins and stains. We are cleansed from our sins by his blood, which is the price of our redemption: "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet 1:18). And we are cleansed from our stains by the water, which is the bath of our rebirth: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses" (Ez 36:25); "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness" (Zech 13:1). And so it is these two things which are especially associated with two sacraments: water with the sacrament of baptism, and blood with the Eucharist. (St. Thomas Aquinas, commenting on John 19)
You see how St. Thomas understands both blood and water as agents of cleanliness. Though he does not mention it in the immediate paragraph above, the idea of blood as a means of cleansing is very Biblical and very Johannine. For instance, John, who also wrote Revelation says: "[T]hey have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14) and John again: "[T]he blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

And of course, water reminds us of cleansing more obviously: "Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet." (John 13:5)

St. Thomas, writing in the 13th century, follows other Early Church Fathers on the baptismal (and Eucharistic) character of John 19:34. For example:
A suggestive word was made use of by the evangelist, in not saying pierced, or wounded His side, or anything else, but opened; that thereby, in a sense, the gate of life might be thrown open, from whence have flowed forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance to the life which is the true life. That blood was shed for the remission of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies at once the laver of baptism and water for drinking.2 (St. Augustine, Tractates on John 120.2, ca. 406 A.D.)

For there came forth water and blood. Not without a purpose, or by chance, did those founts come forth, but because by means of these two together the Church consists. And the initiated know it, being by water indeed regenerate, and nourished by the Blood and the Flesh. Hence the Mysteries take their beginning; that when you approach to that awful cup, you may so approach, as drinking from the very side. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 85 on the Gospel of John, ca. 395 A.D.)
These understandings all reflect the confluence of revelation on the flow of water from Christ's side. Going back to the Zechariah prophecy, we are told of the fountain that would wash away sins. St. John Chrysostom speaks of the cleansing of sins as a regeneration. In concert with this understanding of the early Church, the theology of the Apostle Paul identifies regeneration with baptism:
Titus 3:5-6 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
The Greek term there translated as regeneration by the RSV-CE is paliggenesiav. Strong's Concordance defines this as a new birth, regeneration, or renewal. In Paul's understanding, a person is "born again" at baptism, for he says:
Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
If we read Romans 6:4 and Titus 3:5-6 in light of our study of John 19:34, we see many parallels. Paul speaks of this washing "poured out" through Christ just as was the blood and water from the Cross. He also refers to our union with Christ's death at baptism. And we have studied how the outpouring of water from the Cross is signal of Christ's death. Thus, to receive the life-giving waters of baptism is to receive from Christ.

To signify the Eucharist
You see St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and St. John Chysostom all reference the blood as a reference to the Eucharist. The most obvious tie-in to this comes from the Gospel accounts. For instance:
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28)

And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." (Mark 14:24)

And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (Luke 22:20)
Paul likewise recognizes the blood of Christ as that which is in the Eucharistic cup:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)
And incidentally, when a priest prepares the wine during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he pours water into the cup as well reflecting the same mixture flowing from Christ's side! (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, #142)

To signify the birth of the ChurchThe idea that life and salvation poured out from Christ's side in the form of blood and water also communicates the birth of Christ's Church. This truth can be seen when we focus on the location of the outpouring––Christ's side.

In the Old Testament, life was often derived from the "side" of a type of Christ. For instance:
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)
Paul teaches us explicitly that Adam is a type of Christ. (cf. Rom. 5:14) So you see the significance of the "sleeping man" (also an ancient figure of someone deceased, e.g. Matt. 27:52) whose side was opened, and how life came from it. From Adam's side came Eve. And from Christ's side came life for all the Church.

Another example is Noah's Ark.
Genesis 6:16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.
The ark itself was a "vessel of salvation" from the flood. All the creatures and Noah's family entered and exited by this portal in the ark's "side." When we view the ark as a type of Christ, we can even more clearly see how the Church is availed of the true "vessel of salvation" by participating in Christ's side––which again is the blood and water representing the Eucharist and the Baptism.

The Apostle Peter explicitly ties the episode of Noah's ark to baptism:
1 Peter 3:20-21 God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
St. Thomas Aquinas identifies these same figures in Scripture. We see his identification of the Church in John 19:34 if we expand his earlier quote:
That blood was shed for the remission of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies at once the laver of baptism and water for drinking. This was announced beforehand, when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, Genesis 6:16 whereby the animals might enter which were not destined to perish in the flood, and by which the Church was prefigured. Because of this, the first woman was formed from the side of the man when asleep, Genesis 2:22 and was called Life, and the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20 Truly it pointed to a great good, prior to the great evil of the transgression (in the guise of one thus lying asleep). This second Adam bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper's side.
And so we see that in death there is birth. Through John's mention of the "blood and water" we are able to understand so much of what was foretold, and how we, too, participate in Christ's death so that we might be "cleansed from sin."

1The Navarre Bible: St. John, Four Courts Press, Dublin; Scepter Publishers, New York, 2005, p. 190.
2The "laver of baptism" is more accurately a "bath" which is one of the "sacraments" Augustine describes here. A very literal translation of the Latin in the last sentence is: "He tempers (duly mingles) the cup with the saving water; this affords both a bath, and a drink."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Substances: Comparing the Catholic and Lutheran Eucharist

On the Eucharist, the Council of Trent reads:
[B]y the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.
This tidy statement is the basic Catholic understanding that after consecration, the bread and wine during the Liturgy become Christ's body and blood in essence.

Lutherans are often described as believing in "consubstantiation" for their belief that Christ's body and blood are present "in, with, and under" common bread in a "sacramental union." Following are a variety of older and more modern quotes by Lutherans pertinent to this essay:
As regards transubstantiation, we care nothing about the sophistical subtlety by which they teach that bread and wine leave or lose their own natural substance, and that there remain only the appearance and color of bread, and not true bread. For it is in perfect agreement with Holy Scriptures that there is, and remains, bread, as Paul himself calls it, 1 Cor. 10, 16: The bread which we break. And 1 Cor. 11, 28: Let him so eat of that bread. (Luther's Smalcald Articles, 1537, 6.5)

[An uncircumscribed presence] was the mode in which the body of Christ was present when he came out of the closed grave, and came to the disciples through a closed door, as the gospels show. There was no measuring or defining of the space his head or foot occupied when he passed through the stone, yet he certainly had to pass through it. He took up no space, and the stone yielded him no space, but the stone remained stone, as entire and firm as before, and his body remained as large and thick as it was before. But he also was able, when he wished, to let himself be seen circumscribed in given places where he occupied space and his size could be measured. Just so, Christ can be and is in the bread, even though he can also show himself in circumscribed and visible form wherever he wills. For as the sealed stone and the closed door remain unaltered and unchanged, though his body at the same time was in the space entirely occupied by stone and wood, so he is also at the same time in the sacrament and where the bread and wine are, though the bread and wine in themselves remain unaltered and unchanged. (Martin Luther, Confession Concerning Christ's Supper, 1528)

And why could not Christ include his body in the substance of the bread just as well as in the accidents? In red-hot iron, for instance, the two substances, fire and iron, are so mingled that every part is both iron and fire. Why is it not even more possible that the body of Christ be contained in every part of the substance of the bread. What will they [Catholics] reply? Christ is believed to have been born from the inviolate womb of his mother. Let them say here too that the flesh of the Virgin was meanwhile annihilated, or as they would more aptly say, transubstantiated, so that Christ, after being enfolded in its accidents, finally came forth through the accidents! The same thing will have to be said of the shut door [John 20:19, 26] and of the closed mouth of the sepulcher, through which he went in and out without disturbing them. (Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 2.29-30)

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine which we Christians are commanded by the Word of Christ to eat and to drink. (Luther's Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, 8)

Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, "This is my body," even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word "this" indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a "sacramental union," because Christ’s body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament. This is not a natural or personal union, as is the case with God and Christ. It is also perhaps a different union from that which the dove has with the Holy Spirit, and the flame with the angel, but it is also assuredly a sacramental union. (Martin Luther, Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, Luther’s Works 37 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961], p. 300)

[W]e defend the doctrine received in the entire Church, that in the Lord's Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially [substantialiter] present, and are truly tendered with those things which are seen, bread and wine. (Phillip Melanchthon, friend and contemporary of Martin Luther quoted in his Defense of the Augusburg Confession, Article X)

For the reason why, in addition to the expressions of Christ and St. Paul (the bread in the Supper is the body of Christ or the communion of the body of Christ), also the forms: under the bread, with the bread, in the bread [the body of Christ is present and offered], are employed, is that by means of them the papistical transubstantiation may be rejected and the sacramental union of the unchanged essence of the bread and of the body of Christ indicated. (Formula of Concord Solid Declaration, VII.35, written by Luther's successors in 1580)

The bread and wine in the Sacrament are Christ’s body and blood by sacramental union. By the power of His word, Christ gives His body and blood in, with, and under the consecrated (blessed) bread and wine. (Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation, #291, 1998)

Q. What does the LCMS [Lutheran Church Missouri Synod] mean by "in, with and under the forms" of bread and wine? A. Perhaps the most succinct formulation of the Lutheran position on the Real Presence is that found in Article VII of the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration: "In addition to the words of Christ and of St. Paul (the bread in the Lord's Supper 'is true body of Christ' or 'a participation in the body of Christ'), we at times also use the formulas 'under the bread, with the bread, in the bread.' We do this to reject papistic transubstantiation and to indicate the sacramental union...between the untransformed substance of the bread and the body of in the Holy Supper the two essences, the natural bread and the true, natural body of Christ, are present together here on earth in the ordered action of the sacrament... (The Immanuel Record, a Lutheran newsletter, Oct/Nov 2008, issue 143)

By the way, in this ecumenical forum, let it be known that Lutherans, according to their official statements of faith, reject “consubstantiation.” We do not believe that the body and the bread, the blood and the wine, constitute a new and unique substance. We reject all such philosophical attempts to parse this miracle, insisting that we must simply accept the biblical language without interpretation, that the bread and wine are still bread and wine and also the body and blood of Jesus. (Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Lutheran Provost at Patrick Henry College and the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, quoted in Tabletalk Magazine, Nov. 1, 2006)

The Church of the Reformation laid great emphasis on learning and skillful reasoning in service of the service of Word and Sacrament. And it also had a proper sensitivity to the burdens placed on consciences in unwittingly requiring people to hold as binding doctrine what is only a matter of theological opinion. It regarded the latter as spiritual tyranny. A famous example of the latter is 'transubstantiation' as an explanation of the mystery of the Lord's bodily presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. Our reformers too affirmed this mystery as integral to the gospel, so that reception would gift, not reward, but regarded transubstantiation as a particular theological theory explaining the Presence-- and not without its difficulties (i.e. the supposed annihilation of the substance of bread). (Dr. Paul Hinlicky, Tise Professor in Lutheran Studies at Roanoke College in Salem, VA. Quote from April 1, 2009 comment posted at
From quotations like these, I'd like to address several things:
  1. Does "consubstantiation" describe the Lutheran position?
  2. The assertion that transubstantiation is an "explanation" of what is really a "mystery" of Christ's bodily presence in the Eucharist, yet the Lutheran position is not.
  3. The use of the term "bread" in Scripture.
Defining the term
Luther and other Lutherans often provide definitions of the Eucharist by including a rejection of transubstantiation. So it is fitting to clarify what the Catholic Church means by the term transubstantiation. In philosophy, the term "substance" (which constitutes the root of the latter half of transubstantiation), basically refers to what a thing is.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the term substance is expounded thusly with regard to the Trinity: "The Church uses the term 'substance' (rendered also at times by 'essence' or 'nature') to designate the divine being in its unity..." (CCC#252)

In the article Thomas Aquinas on Transubstantiation, Dr. Byard Bennett describes substance as "which is what the thing really, truly, fundamentally, actually is." The ancient philosopher Aristotle wrote in his work Metaphysics: "[T]hat which 'is' primarily is the 'what', which indicates the substance of the thing." (7.1a); and "that which underlies a thing primarily is thought to be in the truest sense its substance." (7.3b)

The first half of the term transubstantiation, trans, etymologically signifies a crossing, or to go beyond. When we say we are in "transit," we mean we are crossing from point A to point B. Or if we say we "transplant" a flower, we are moving it from position A to position B. At the heart of this Latin prefix, is a condition A giving way to a condition B.

So in transubstantiation, we see the Catholic understanding that "what the thing is," bread, crosses over to a new condition, Christ's body. What the thing is is now Christ's body. The term does not define how this occurs. It simply means that the bread changes into Christ's body when it is consecrated, even if the outward appearances still look like bread. Hence, the change takes place at the substantial level described above.

Should Lutherans be opposed to the term consubstantiation?
So why are Lutherans often averse to the term consubstantiation to describe what they believe about the Eucharist. Due to the frequent comparison to transubstantiation in Lutheran definitions of the Eucharist, it is possible that the term consubstantiation is too close a resemblance to transubstantiation which they oppose.

Etymologically, the Latin prefix con refers to being "with" or "together." Lewis and Short's Latin dictionary says the term con, when used as a prefix denotes "A being or bringing together of several objects..." And, since substance simply refers to "what a thing is," the term consubstantiation can refer to the occurrence of things brought together.

Consider again how the Lutheran descriptions quoted above consistently describe the Eucharist as a presence where Christ is "in, with, and under"2 the unchanged bread and wine. All of the above, Luther, Melanchthon, and even modern Lutherans willingly use the term "substance" to refer to Christ and/or the bread and wine.

So should modern Lutherans, such as Dr. Veith, reject the term consubstantiation?

Here is where it might get a little tricky. At the first council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the Church faced the Arian heresy, which taught that Christ the Son was not of the same substance as the Father. Arian argued that Christ was of a "similar" substance or essence (homoiousion in Greek) as God. The Church proclaimed that Christ was of the "same" substance or essence (homoousion) as God. The etymology of the Greek words there has "ousion" as substance, and the prefixes meaning similar or same, respectively.

The difficulty comes in translating the term homoousion to Latin. Traditionally, the word the Church has used to describe the "same substance" of the Trinity in Latin is consubstantialem. In that instance, the prefix "con" means "with" in the sense of "same." Christ is with God in that they are of the same essence.

However, if one reads consubstantiation to describe the Lutheran position, one should not understand them to believe the substances of Christ and the bread are the "same." The Lutheran notion regards "with" not as "same" but as a union of two different substances. You can see this in Luther's teaching (quoted at beginning of article) where he insists each substance, Christ and bread, remains its own essence. They are comingled like "fire and iron" or as he said of Christ passing through the "shut door." (cf. John 20:19)

I surveyed some of my colleagues over at the Catholic Forums on the etymology of the term, and it seems that consubstantialem originated as the translation of homoousios (same substance).

Now, Dr. Veith rejects the term consubstantiation on the grounds that it suggests a new substance is created. If one were to read the term as it is used to describe the Trinity, then his objection has some merit. However, if one renders the prefix of the term as "with but not same," then I think the term may be as good as any to summate the Lutheran understanding. The weakness of the term consubstantiation is that it can have a different connotation depending on context. As well, the historical Lutheran description of "in, with, and under" obviously includes more prepositions than just "with" (con). However, using Lewis and Short's definition of the prefix con as "things brought together," then the term consubstantiation seems to fit the Lutheran understanding.

The conclusion of Protestant historian Philip Schaff is similar. The term is accurate insofar as the context of what is meant is made clear:
The Lutheran Church ... teaches consubstantiation in the sense of a sacramental conjunction of the two substances effected by the consecration, or a real presence of Christ's very body and blood in, with, and under (in, cum, et sub) bread and wine. The word consubstantiation, however, is not found in the Lutheran symbols, and is rejected by Lutheran theologians if used in the sense of impanation. (Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 6.2 The Augsburg Confession)
What takes away the "mystery" of the sacrament?
As I said earlier, the term transubstantiation does not signify how Christ's body becomes bread and wine. The term merely asserts that what were once common bread and wine are now truly Christ's body and blood, substantially, in essence.

Of note on this point is the 1672 Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem (aka The Confession of Dositheus), a synod of the Orthodox Church, which defends the term transubstantiation as follows:
So that though there may be many celebrations in the world at one and the same hour, there are not many Christs, or Bodies of Christ, but it is one and the same Christ that is truly and really present ... being changed and transubstantiated, becometh, and is, after consecration, one and the same with That in the Heavens. (6.17e)

Further, we believe that by the word “transubstantiation” the manner is not explained, by which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord, — for that is altogether incomprehensible and impossible, except by God Himself, and those who imagine to do so are involved in ignorance and impiety, — but that the bread and the wine are after the consecration, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, nor by the communication or the presence of the Divinity alone of the Only-begotten, transmuted into the Body and Blood of the Lord. (6.17h)
I would contend that the above text accurately frames and defends the term transubstantiation. The incomprehensibility and the mystery of the sacrament are not lost or threatened by use of the term transubstantiation as Dr. Hinlicky asserts in (quoted at beginning of article).

It is also worth mentioning the following. If it were true that Catholics threatened the mysterious pedigree of the Eucharist if it is described as changing into the body of Christ, then why would not the Lutheran description of "sacramental union" or "in, with, and under" not do the same? After all, Luther wrote, " the bread and wine in themselves remain unaltered and unchanged" and "out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place." I submit that these descriptions are no more or less an "explanation" of the Eucharist or a threat to the mystery of the Eucharist than transubstantiation.

If anything, some of the deduction Luther posed to defend his notion of "sacramental union" included conjecture such as: "[Jesus] took up no space, and the stone yielded him no space, but the stone remained stone, as entire and firm as before, and his body remained as large and thick as it was before." None of the physics of the matter are provided in the Biblical text, yet Luther describes as fact physical characteristics of the scene not specified.

But my point is, if the Lutheran positions of "sacramental union" or "in, with, and under" are not explanations of a mystery, than neither can be transubstantiation.

A final thought on the term "bread" in Scripture
Luther more than once defended the idea that the substance of bread "remains" in the Eucharist by citing 1 Cor. 10:16 and 1 Cor. 11:28. The passages read:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)

Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Cor. 11:28)
So the rule Luther posits is this: If after consecration the term bread is used to describe what is in question, then common bread therefore remains present.

First, I think it is worth reading on to the next verse in chapter 11:
For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. (1 Cor. 11:29)
So the distinction is made by Paul. What he is calling bread is to be "discerned" as Christ's "body." I submit that although Luther claimed to take Scripture at face value,3 Paul only tells us to identify what is labeled bread as "his body"--not "his body in and under the bread." In fact, Christ Himself used the term "bread" synonomously with His "flesh":
I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:51)
No one would argue from John 6:51 that because Christ said one had to eat "this bread" which He "shall give" that is "His flesh" that there must have been common bread scourged by Pilate and crucified with Christ.

In the same way, at the Last Supper, Christ held up the bread and said: "This is my body which is given for you." (e.g. Luke 22:19) So what did Christ give on the cross? His body. And likewise, no one argues from the Last Supper account that because the text uses the term "bread" and a moment later stated that it would be "given for you" that common bread was scourged by Pilate and crucified with Christ. Leading up to the 1 Cor. 11:28 verse, Paul references this very incident (v. 24).

In both 1 Cor. 10 and 11, Paul references the consecrated bread, not pre-consecrated common bread. What we can properly say is that the consecrated bread = Christ's body. By using the term bread in the first half of the equation, we are not meaning common bread. This is the context in which Paul uses the term bread. He makes a distinction when he says in 1 Cor. 10:16 of the "bread which we break." He is labeling the item as such, teaching a nuanced doctrine for which some of Jesus' disciples actually departed (John 6:58-66). And Paul said of this consecrated bread that it must be "discerned as His body" as opposed to "discerned as His body with or under common bread."

So I disagree with Luther that Catholics do violence to Scripture and that his interpretation leaves the Scripture inviolate.

Hopefully, I've clarified the use of some of the terms in the discussion and presented some reasons why Lutherans and Catholics espouse what they do regarding the Eucharist.

On an interesting note, I should point out that for all of Luther's polemics against the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, he considered Catholics to have an acceptable understanding of the Eucharist. Comparing transubstantiation to his own teaching, Luther wrote:
I therefore permit every man to hold either of these views, as he chooses. My one concern at present is to remove all scruples of conscience, so that no one may fear to become guilty of heresy if he should believe in the presence of real bread and real wine on the altar, and that every one may feel at liberty to ponder, hold and believe either one view or the other, without endangering his salvation. (Babylonian Captivity, 2.24)
He ends the section in the same way:
I permit other men to follow the other opinion [transubstantiation], which is laid down in the decree Firmiter. Only let them not press us to accept their opinions as articles of faith, as I said above. (2.36)
What makes this interesting is, in between, he writes sometimes scathingly of the Catholic notion of transubstantiation, calling it "a monstrous word for a monstrous idea" (2.27).

I do think it is an important issue, however, as Luther implies in his very act of vehement opposition to the Catholic teaching. Part of the importance lies in the notion of the Eucharist as "sacrifice." As I mentioned earlier, what is "given up"? Luther, contrary to Catholic teaching, did not consider the Liturgy to be a sacrifice (cf. Babylonian Captivity, 2.37ff, esp. 2.69-70). The question is, what would God have us understand in His revealing of Himself in the sacrament of the Eucharist? But that may be a discussion for another day.

EDIT 6/11/11: I was since referred to the following quote from Martin Luther in which, if this is an accurate translation, he uses the term "with" to describe Christ and the bread/wine in the Eucharist:
We proved above in our comments on Luke that these words, “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” cannot be a trope, because the expression “in my blood” has the same meaning as “through” or “with” my blood. For Christ’s blood cannot be such an insignificant thing that it yields only a sign of the new testament, as the calves’ blood did in Moses’ time. Neither can “blood” be a trope, for the cup cannot by virtue of a sign of the blood, or ordinary wine, become so important a thing, viz. the new testament.
Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther's Works, Vol. 37 : Word and Sacrament III. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1999, c1961 (Luther's Works 37), S. 37:III-336

1Dr. Hinlicky is also in error to describe the Catholic understanding as an "annihilation of the substance of the bread." The defining texts of the Fourth Lateran Council or the Council of Trent do not address the matter. And St. Thomas Aquinas, a key figure in the early Catholic use of the term of transubstantiation, specifically rejected the notion that the bread and wine are annihilated, but rather converted. He writes:
"[I]n this sacrament, the substance of the bread or wine is not annihilated. ... since in this sacrament the whole substance is converted into the whole substance, on that account this conversion is properly termed transubstantiation." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.75.3, 8)
2It should be noted that I was unable to find a quotation of Luther's using the phrase "in, with, and under." Though it may have been his understanding (his colleague Melanchthon used the phrase), I only found him using "in and under." The Lutheran tradition has historically used the longer "in, with, and under" verbiage.

3Luther wrote regarding his own interpretation of the Eucharist: "But there are good grounds for my view, and this above all - no violence is done to the word of God, whether by man or angel." (Babylonian Captivity, 2.25)