Explaining eucharistic "real presence": moving beyond a medieval conundrum.
The need to reestablish the intrinsic relationship of the Eucharist to the resurrected bodiliness of Christ was underscored by Gustave Martelet. In 1972, he proposed that the eucharistic crises of the ninth and eleventh centuries, Protestant dissatisfaction with the eucharistic teaching of the Council of Trent, and the skepticism "shaking the faith of Catholics in the eucharistic Presence" were all linked to a theological break between Eucharist and resurrection. He attributed that theological break to "the lack of a true anthropology of the body." (4)
I begin my article with an overview of the meanings and understandings of body and resurrected bodiliness in the early centuries, and the ways they shaped the explanations of Christ's presence in the Eucharist. It then considers factors that led to a shift from sacramental realism to a naive ultrarealism, sometimes approaching physicalism. After selectively surveying disputes about the Eucharist in the ninth and eleventh centuries, I trace the emergence of a conundrum regarding the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist: if his body is at the right of the Father how can it be present in the Eucharist? With the emergence of the concept of transubstantiation, Thomas Aquinas's emphasis on a change of substance effectively eliminates any localization of the risen body of Christ in the Eucharist and so represents a creative attempt to resolve this conundrum. Turning to the present theological era, I consider how contemporary theological perspectives on body and resurrected bodiliness, (5) on the human personality of Jesus, and on symbolic reality are signposts opening up a new path toward explaining eucharistic real presence. I conclude by constructing the above-mentioned elements into an explanation of real presence that shifts the emphasis from the spiritually--that is, invisibly--present substance of Christ's body to the personal presence of the risen self of Christ in and through the matter of the eucharistic bread and wine, which now sacramentally make his person present, just as his body made his person present during his earthly life.
The Resurrected Body: Paul, Acts, Ambrose, and Augustine
In 1 Corinthians 15:35-54, Paul asks, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" (6) He answers that what is sown is not the body that is to be.
What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.... It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.... Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [the first Adam], we will also bear the image of the man of heaven [the last or new Adam].... We will all be changed.
What Paul says about the risen body of humans reveals his understanding of the risen body of Jesus: the risen Jesus has a spiritual body, radically transformed from the body of the earthly Jesus placed in the tomb after his crucifixion.
Whether Paul's reference to a "spiritual body" (soma pneumatikon) indicates an immaterial resurrection is debated. N. T. Wright, in his study of the resurrection of Jesus, argues that Paul's reference to a "spiritual body" does not exclude its physicality in some sense or other. In an early chapter, Wright insists that the reference to "the resurrected righteous" being "like the angels," in the Syrian Apocalypse of Baruch (known as 2 Baruch), does not support the idea of an immaterial resurrection and is not an antecedent of Paul's reference to "spiritual body" in 1 Corinthians 15.7 In his subsequent analysis of 1 Corinthians 15, Wright emphasizes a distinction between a spiritual (pneumatikos) body and a "soulish" (psychikos) body. (8) He says the "spiritual body" will be "a body which cannot and will not decay or die: something permanent, established, not transient or temporary." (9) He further seems to hold that it will be something that one could touch and see with ordinary eyesight. (10) He understands 1 Corinthians 15 to be "built around Genesis 1 and 2," which "indicates that [Paul] is consciously choosing to construct a cosmology, and within that a future hope, from the most central of Jewish sources." (11) Wright maintains that Christians "go on to the promised state of the final Adam, in which this physical body will not be abandoned, but will be given a new animation by the creator's own Spirit." He insists that "the 'heavenly man' is not one who, unsullied by the world of creation, remains in a purely non-physical state." (12) Wright does not, however, give much attention to how the term "body" was understood in Judaism.
In that regard, one might begin by considering the Semitic words Jesus may have used at the Last Supper and what meanings were intended or conveyed when, after blessing and/or giving thanks he said, "This is my body.... This cup ... is my blood" (1 Cor 11:23-25; Mk 14:22-24; Mt 26: 26-28; Lk 22:19-20). Joseph Fitzmyer has observed that "we have no way of ascertaining the exact form of the words that Jesus pronounced over the bread and the wine at the Last Supper. The question is compounded when one recalls that what has been preserved in the Christian writings of the NT about that event is in Greek, whereas Jesus most probably made use of a Semitic language on that occasion." In Fitzmyer's view, the possibility that Jesus used Hebrew at this part of the Last Supper is "so remote that it is not worth pursuing." In his retrojection, Fitzmyer proposes that Jesus would have used the Aramaic word bisri for body (Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19b) and the Aramaic demi (Mk 14:24) or bidmi (Lk 22:20) for "my blood." (13)
Fitzmyer further explains that the Greek term soma, used in 1 Corinthians and the Synoptics, probably has to be understood not merely in the sense of "body," but even of "self"--a sense found elsewhere in the NT (1 Cor 9:27; 13:3; Rom 12:1; Phil 1:20) and also in classical and Hellenistic Greek. (14) He notes that Rudolf Bultmann caught the nuance well when he wrote, "Man does not have a soma', he is soma." (15)
In the Greek of the LXX soma translates a variety of Hebrew words, but most frequently it is basar, "flesh."... In the OT Hebrew basar, "flesh," carried the connotation not only of "body" (see Ezek 11:19; 36:26; Ps 63:2; Job 4:15), but even of "person" or "self" (Num 16:22; 27:16; Isa 40:5-6; Ps 145:21). (16)
Thus, at the Last Supper, in saying, "This is my body," Jesus would be identifying the bread with himself: "He gives his companions not only bread to eat, but his own self." (17) In other words, Jesus used the term "body" to express what we intend to express when we use the term "self" or "person." (18)
As Fitzmyer observes, "In the late pre-Christian period of Palestinian Judaism 'flesh and blood' is used to designate the human unit or person." (19) "Blood" (in Hebrew dam) was related to and expressed the aliveness of the body that presented the self or individual. In giving directives about animal sacrifice, Leviticus 17:11 declares, "the life [nepes] of the flesh is in the blood [dam]." In the same context, Deuteronomy 12:23 states, "Only be sure that you do not eat the blood; for the blood [dam] is the life [nepes], and you shall not eat the life [nepes] with the meat." One can understand why blood became closely identified with vitality: when it pours out of a living creature, life ends; further, the blood of menstruation and the blood at birth are related to the beginning of new life. (20)
At the Last Supper, the historical Jesus was made present by his living, breathing, physical body (bisri) perfused with life-blood. In speaking of the bread as his body or self and the wine as his outpoured life-blood, he was looking to the future, anticipating not only his death but also the life that would follow that death: "Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I will drink it new in the kingdom of God" (Mk 14:25; cf. Mt 26:29; Lk 22:18).
Over the course of the second century, the church's proclamation of the resurrection to the nonbelieving Hellenistic world would be transformed by the need to respond to the questions raised by gnostic negativity regarding the body, by the Platonic teachings about the migration of the soul, the immortality of the soul, and the notion of cyclical return, and by assertions that God could not reconstruct decayed bodies and that the resurrection of the dead was contrary to reason and nature. Justin Martyr and Tatian found a connecting point for defending the truth of the resurrection of the dead in the Platonic teaching about the immortality of the soul. (21) That marked the beginning of the long and complex process whereby the Platonic concept of the soul was adopted and Christianized--and thereby radically modified in a process that required a purging of unacceptable elements. (22) But in the time before the adoption of the concept of "soul" and the development of the concept of "person," it was the term "body" that concretely designated and mediated the presence of a living self or individual.
The Pauline perspective in 1 Corinthians 15 does not stand by itself in the NT. A passage in Acts of the Apostles had direct influence on subsequent efforts to explain the eucharistic presence of Jesus. In the proclamation attributed to Peter in Acts 2:14-36, the risen Jesus is presented as a Davidic Messiah (Christ/Anointed) enthroned at God's right hand. The existing metaphor about God reigning as king from a heavenly throne was applied to Jesus via an innovative interpretation of Psalm 110:
For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'" Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah [Christ], this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:34-35)
This portrayal has enjoyed remarkable endurance over the centuries. Consider how Christian faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus is professed in the Creed at Sunday liturgies: "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father."
Taken literally, this perspective gave rise to problematic presuppositions about whether, (23) or how, the risen Jesus is bodily present in the Eucharist, particularly by comparison with Paul's understanding. Reflecting a tradition going back to Origen, Ambrose of Milan referred to the risen Christ as Spirit. (24) For him, this means that the body of Christ present in the Eucharist is a divinized "spiritual" body. In his view, it is still a body with flesh and bones (Lk 24:39) that can be touched and seen, but, unlike the "coarser" earthly body, it is more refined and no longer impeded by matter, as when the risen Christ passed through closed doors (Jn 20:19). (25) Such perspectives lie beneath one of the terms by which Ambrose refers to the eucharistic change, namely, "transfiguration." (26)
Augustine, by contrast, retained Paul's terminology, calling the risen body a spiritual body, but explicitly connected it with the imagery of Acts 2:34-35. In an early work, On Faith and the Creed, Augustine notes that the Christian belief that the earthly body is assumed into heaven is offensive to those who maintain that something earthly is not able to be in heaven. He declares: "They do not know our Scriptures, nor how it is said that a physical [animale] body is sown but a spiritual body is raised." He goes on to explain that the body is not changed into a spirit, nor the physical (animale) body into a soul (anima). Rather, "spiritual body" refers to a body subjected to the spirit ("omni fragilitate ac labe terrena in coelestem puritatem et stabilitatem mutata atque conversa") as is appropriate for heavenly dwelling. (27) For Augustine, body subjected to the spirit is the kind of change to which Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 15:44, 51, 52. Augustine further insists that to ask where and how the Lord's body is in heaven is idle curiosity and unnecessary. All that is necessary is to believe that his body is in heaven. (28)
In later works, however, Augustine did not refrain from discussing how the Lord's body is in heaven. He will say that the body of the Lord in heaven was the same as it was when he ascended. It was the body that had been felt by the hands of the disciples when the risen Jesus invited them to touch him because they thought they were seeing a spirit and not a body. In Augustine's understanding, the primary attribute of a resurrected, spiritual body is that it is no longer subject to the corruption of mortality. (29) When mortal flesh has been changed into a spiritual body, it is neither titillated by worldly desires or earthy pleasures nor distracted from contemplation of God. (30) Not needing bodily nourishment, a spiritual body is vivified only by the spirit. It will not have an incorporeal substance. (31) A spiritual body retains its earthly image, but is no longer subject to decline or deterioration. It can move but is no longer subject to fatigue. It is able to eat, but the necessity brought by hunger is absent. (32)
Having applied a literal reading of the Gospel passages about the risen Jesus eating and being touched, Augustine links spiritual body with a continuing physicality or fleshiness. Invoking the perspective of Acts 2:34-35, he localizes the still physical, risen body of Christ. He declares that Jesus "ascended into heaven, [and] to there he raised his body; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead; but now he is there sitting at the right hand of the Father." (33) In his Commentary on John, Augustine writes that Jesus "has ascended into heaven, and is not here [hic]." In his human body--which the Word assumed, to which the Virgin gave birth, and which was affixed to and removed from the cross, wrapped in a shroud, and buried in a tomb--Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father. We are below. In his human body, Jesus
is there [ibi], sitting at the right of the Father; and [as divine] he is here [hic], for his presence of majesty has not withdrawn from us. We always have Christ in his majestic [divine] presence; but, regarding his bodily presence, he rightly told his disciples: "you will not always have me." (Mk 14:7; Mt 26:11; Jn 6:12) (34)
The ascension and glorification of Jesus changed the localization of his body and his humanity from below to above.
Augustine elsewhere explains that, "according to the presence of his beauty [glory] and divinity, Christ is always with the Father; in his bodily presence he is henceforth [jam] above the heavens, at the right of the Father; but according to the presence of faith, he is in all Christians." (35) As Martelet noted, "Augustine accepts from revelation what Neoplatonism would regard as a contradiction in terms." He believes "that Christ is glorified in the world above, in ... physical and corporeal elements which have risen from the universe below." (36)
Augustine's spatialized view of the body of the risen Jesus became a theological problem that his successors inherited. For Augustine, the risen Jesus is related to our world through his divinity, not through his bodily humanity. Commenting on Jesus' response to the "Good Thief," Augustine writes that Jesus
will return ... as he was seen to go to heaven, in the same form and the same substance of flesh.... In that form, we should not think of [Christ Jesus] as if he were present everywhere [diffusus]. For we must avoid so emphasizing the divinity of the man that we diminish the truth of this body. It does not follow that what [namely, the body] is in God, is omnipresent as God is.... One person is God and man, and each is one Christ Jesus. He is present everywhere because he is God; he is, however, in heaven inasmuch as he is man. (37)
For Augustine, the risen Jesus is omnipresent in his divinity but localized in his humanity.
Distinguishing Sacramental Realism and Naive Realism
Augustine's position gave rise to a conundrum that beset medieval theology. If Jesus' glorified body is located in heaven, and if he is ubiquitous not in his humanity but only in his divinity, how can the Eucharist be the presence of the body (and blood) of Christ? If the body of the risen Jesus remains seated at the right hand of the Father, how, or in what way, does his body become present in the Eucharist? As Henri de Lubac has noted, for many thinkers in the tradition of Augustine (including Ratramnus of Corbie, Berengar of Tours, and John Calvin), the localization of the body of the risen Christ constituted the principal obstacle to sacramental realism. (38)
One must be mindful, however, that the expression "sacramental realism" can be used and understood in different ways. Enrico Mazza has noted that Augustine's philosophical background enabled him to make the distinctions that kept him on the path of a genuinely sacramental realism, and to avoid the naive realism that was emerging in his time. (39) Asking how the bread is (Christ's) body or how what the cup contains is his blood, Augustine declares, "these things are called sacraments because in them one thing is seen, another is understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is understood conveys spiritual fruit." (40) Referring to John 6:54-64, Augustine emphasizes that what Jesus said was to be understood spiritually. He told the disciples (in Augustine's gloss),
it is not the body that you see that you will eat; it is not the blood that will be poured out by those who crucify me that you will drink. I have commended a sacrament to you; understood spiritually it will vivify you. Although [a sacrament] must be celebrated in a visible way, it is necessary that one understand what is invisible. (41)
What the senses experience is different from what the intellect understands in faith. Augustine stays on the path of sacramental realism by a synthesis of difference and identity: (42)
If sacraments did not have some participatory likeness [similitudinem] to the realities of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all.... Therefore, just as the sacrament of the body of Christ is in a certain mode the body of Christ and the sacrament of the blood of Christ is in a certain mode the blood of Christ, so the sacrament of faith is faith. (43)
Further, "What you see is bread and the cup, which your eyes announce to you. In what your faith asks to be instructed about, the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ." (44) The sacraments make an invisible reality present and effective. At the table of the Lord, Christ himself is the food. (45) Christ is the food that is not changed into the one who receives it. Rather the one who receives him is changed into him. (46) In receiving the Eucharist well, "you are what you have received." (47)
Much earlier, in arguing against Marcion that the incarnation of Jesus was not a mere appearance and that the body of Christ was truly flesh, Tertullian likewise sought to make clear the sacramental (rather than physical) realism of the eucharistic bread become Christ's body: "[Jesus] took bread and, having distributed it to his disciples, made it into his body, saying 'This is my body,' that is, a figure of his body. It would not have been a figure unless it was a body in truth." (48) The eucharistic bread as "a figure of [Jesus'] body" was not a phantasm or mere appearance; it was his body "in truth." Speaking of the eucharistic bread and wine, Cyril of Jerusalem likewise expressed a sacramental realism:
Let us receive, fully assured that it is the body and blood of Christ. For his body is given to you under the form or figure [typo] of bread, and his blood under the form [typo] of wine, so that by receiving Christ's body and blood you become one body and blood with him. For so we are made Christ bearers, with his body and blood spread throughout our members ... [and] become sharers in the divine nature.... Despite what your senses suggest, your faith makes you firmly certain. Do not make a judgment based on your taste, but rather from faith be certain, beyond any doubt, that you have been deemed worthy of the gift of Christ's body and blood. (49)
For Cyril, the bread and wine are symbolic figures or sacramental signs that fully participate in the reality they symbolize: Christ's body and blood. The symbolic figures, bread and wine, are not simply signs distinct from the reality; they are fully identified with it. (50)
Given a growing lack of philosophical competence among Christian writers, however, the distinctions necessary to understand and explain the sacramental realism maintained by Tertullian, Cyril, and Augustine more and more gave way to a kind of naive realism exemplified by a passage from Theodore of Mopsuestia:
[Jesus] did not say, "This is a symbol of my body and a symbol of my blood," but rather, "This is my body and my blood." He taught us not to attend to the nature of the thing that lies before us and is proposed to our senses, but that through the eucharistic event it is changed into his flesh and blood. (51)
In this statement, Theodore places greater emphasis on identity and gives less attention to the difference between the visible forms and the invisible reality.
Medieval Disputes about Eucharist as the Body of Christ
As Raymond Moloney has noted, "For the ancient Church 'the corporeal presence of Christ' was a phrase to describe the state that came to an end with the Ascension. When his presence in the Church was spoken of, it was understood in a different mode, a spiritual presence." (52) A shift in the eucharistic language of the West begins with Paschasius Radbertus, the abbot of Corbie, who insists on referring to the sacramental body as the "true" body of Christ. There will more and more be "a tendency to regard Christ's existence in the Eucharist as a kind of re-edition of his historical existence on earth." (53) In his treatise De corpore et sanguine Domini, published between 831 and 833, Paschasius declares, "It is not to be doubted that communion is the true body and blood of Christ." (54) Arguing from the belief that God created all things, he goes on:
No one should be perplexed about this body and blood of Christ that in the mystery is the true flesh and the true blood, since the one who created so wills it: "Whatever the Lord wills he does in heaven and on earth" [Ps. 135:6]. Because he willed to be present, though under the figure of bread and wine, it must be believed that after the consecration these are entirely nothing other than the flesh and blood of Christ. Whence [Jesus] spoke the very Truth to the disciples, saying "This is my flesh for the life of the world" [Jn 6:52]. And, speaking more marvelously, [this flesh in the Eucharist] is none other than that which was born from Mary, suffered on the cross, and resurrected from the tomb. (55)
Paschasius maintains that the Eucharist is rightly called both "truth and figure.... The figure or image [caracter] of the truth is externally perceived; the truth is rightly understood or believed as being interior to this mystery." (56) Further,
[Christ] left us this sacrament, a visible figure and image [caracterem] of his flesh and blood, so that, through them, our mind and heart might be more richly nourished toward comprehending, through faith, things invisible and spiritual. The figure or image [caracter] is what is externally observed, but what is internally grasped is the entire truth and no mere shadow and through this nothing other is made known than the truth and sacrament of [Christ's] very flesh. It is indeed the true flesh of Christ that was crucified and buried; truly the sacrament of his very flesh that, through the priest, by the word of Christ, is divinely consecrated on the altar through the Holy Spirit. (57)
It is within a broader faith context that one professes this presence:
If you truly believe that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, flesh was created in the womb of the Virgin Mary, without [human] seed, so that the Word might become flesh, then likewise truly believe that what is effected [conficitur], by the word of Christ through the Holy Spirit, is his very body [born] from the Virgin. (58)
He adds that "our flesh, too, is restored to immortality and incorruptibility by this mystery. The flesh of Christ, spiritually emboweled [conuiscerata], is transformed into our flesh, so that the substance of Christ may be found in our flesh just as he assumed our substance into his divinity." (59)
Paschasius acknowledged that "the flesh of Christ is made Eucharist in virtue of [ex] the resurrection.... Christ therefore is the bread of angels, and this sacrament is truly his body and blood, which a human spiritually eats and drinks." (60) But Paschasius never explicitly said that the Eucharist made present the risen, transformed body of Christ. He was aware that the sacramental mode of Christ's presence differed from the historical bodily existence of Christ. But he frequently spoke of the Eucharist being Jesus' flesh and blood, without making explicit distinctions between the presence of his earthly, natural body and the sacramental presence of his risen body. That deficiency is exacerbated by references to stories about bleeding hosts and apparitions of Jesus in the eucharistic bread that he inserted in a later edition of De corpore et sanguine Domini. (61) His significant efforts toward sophisticated analysis and terminology thus suffered from a lack of nuance regarding the nature of Jesus' body in the Eucharist and hints of a naive eucharistic realism. Nathan Mitchell has remarked that in Paschasius's rather literal emphasis on eucharistic realism, the bread and wine seem almost like masks or envelopes hiding the flesh and blood of Christ. (62)
In 844, at the invitation of Emperor Charles the Bold, Ratramnus, a monk of Corbie, undertook a response to the "realistic" eucharistic theology of Paschasius. In a work likewise entitled De corpore et sanguine Domini, Ratramnus replied to two questions posed by the emperor. First, is Christ present in the Eucharist in mystery or in truth? Second, is the body of Christ in the Eucharist the same as that born of Mary, the body that suffered, died, was buried, rose, ascended, and sits at the right hand of the Father? (63) As I earlier noted, Henri de Lubac observed that for many Augustinian thinkers, the localization of the body of Christ was, for centuries to come, the chief obstacle to "sacramentary realism" regarding the Eucharist. (64) That is clearly the case for Ratramnus. (65) For him, precisely because the proper or true body of Christ is at the right hand of the Father, it cannot, at the same time, be present in the Eucharist. He therefore distinguishes the true or historical body from the eucharistic body on the altar, which he calls figure or sacrament.
Stating that the proper body of Christ, born from Mary, now sits at the right of the Father, Ratramnus asks what one should think about that which is placed on the altar and received by the people. He answers that "it is an image [figura] because it is a sacrament. What is externally seen has a corporeal appearance [speciem] that the body feeds on; what is understood interiorly has a spiritual benefit that vivifies the soul." (66) Ratramnus thus distinguished the true, proper (i.e., historical), body of Jesus and the eucharistic body on the altar (figure or sacrament):
There are many differences between the body in which Christ suffered and the blood that flowed from his side as he hung on the cross, and the body that is in the mystery of Christ's passion, daily celebrated by the faithful, and the blood received in the mouth of the faithful, so that it might be the mystery of that blood by which the entire world was redeemed. The bread and the drink are not the body or blood of Christ according to what is seen, but rather in the substance of spiritual life that they give. The true body of Christ in which he once suffered presented no other appearance than that in which it consisted. It was what was truly seen, touched, crucified, and buried. Similarly the blood flowing from the side [of that body] did not externally appear to be other than what it was when internally hidden. True blood flowed from a true body. But now the blood of Christ that believers drink, and the body that they eat are one thing in appearance [specie] and another in their significance. Fleshy foods feed the body; minds are fed by the substance of eternal life. (67)
For Ratramnus, the bread and wine on the altar are sacramental figures or images, veiling what they make present, namely, the body and blood of Christ. Truth, by contrast, is the obvious manifestation of a thing, with no sacramental figure or image veiling it. (68) "The body and blood of Christ, which the faithful receive by mouth in the church, are images [figurae] according to their visible appearance, but according to their invisible substance, which is the power of the divine Word, they are truly the body and blood of Christ." (69) Invoking Ambrose, Ratramnus declares, "What is received in the Sacrament is truly the sacrament of his flesh." The true flesh born of the virgin, crucified, and buried "is not mystery but rather the truth of nature." The sacrament of Christ's flesh "now contains its similitude in mystery" rather than in the truth of nature. "It is flesh not in appearance but in sacrament. In appearance there is bread; in the sacrament truly there is the body of Christ." (70)
For Ratramnus, the sacrament manifests, but does not become, the reality that is hidden within:
If that mystery is celebrated under no figure, it would then rightly not be called a mystery or sacrament. That in which there is nothing hidden, nothing removed from the bodily senses, nothing covered by some veil, cannot be called a mystery or sacrament. That bread which, through the ministry of the priest, is made the body of Christ, shows itself externally to the senses as one thing but internally proclaims something else to the minds of the faithful. Externally the bread is what it was [before becoming the Eucharist], keeps its form, has the same color and aroma. Internally however something much more precious and excellent is intimated, something celestial and divine is manifested, that is the body of Christ. It is seen not by the senses of the flesh; rather, it is beheld in the reflection of the faithful soul, received, and eaten. (71)
Citing Augustine, Ratramnus affirms that
what you see is bread and a cup, which your eyes also announce to you. Your faith instructs that the bread is the body of Christ and the cup is the blood of Christ.... We know whence Jesus accepted flesh, namely, from the Virgin Mary. As an infant he was nursed and nourished.... Hung upon a cross, he died and was buried, on the third day he resurrected and, on the day he chose, ascended into heaven; there he raised his body. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead, there he is sitting at the right of the Father.--How is the bread his body? And how is what the cup holds his blood? They are called sacraments because in them one thing is seen and another is understood; what is seen has a corporeal appearance; what is understood has spiritual benefit. (72)
Ratramnus further quotes Augustine's teaching that "just as the bread placed on the altar signifies the body of Christ, it so also signifies the body of the people who receive it." But, for Ratramnus, to say that the bread signifies the body of Christ would mean that the bread is first and foremost a sign of something spiritual that is internally hidden: "It visibly manifests the existing, proper body of Christ, in which he was nursed, suffered, died, buried, and in which he resurrected and ascended into heaven, in which he sits at the right of the Father and will come for judgment." (73) Ratramnus thus declares that "it should not be thought that the Lord's body or blood is eaten by the faithful in the mystery of a sacrament, since faith receives not what the eye sees, but what it believes. The food and drink are spiritual, spiritually feeding the soul and giving abundantly eternal life." (74)
In (856), in a letter to Fredugard of the Abbey of Saint-Riquier, Paschasius Radbertus responded to Ratramnus's position. Paschasius explained the efficacy of the Eucharist in a manner reminiscent of Athanasius's Against the Arians, (75) which argued that humans are able to be divinized because the fully divine Word became incarnate. He analogously argued that, because the Eucharist is the sacrament that nourishes our life in Christ, this life must exist in the Eucharist; otherwise the Eucharist could not communicate it to us:
If life did not exist [in this mystery], then it would no longer be a source of life [nequaquam uitam refunderet]. Moreover, no other food except that from the living and eternal God would give eternal life to those who receive it for their salvation. Wherefore, as Jesus Christ tells us, one who does not eat this flesh or drink this blood does not have life in him [or her]. Therefore the sacrament that confers life has what it gives to those worthily receiving it. If there is life in it, it is the flesh of the one truly living and the blood in which there is truly eternal life. (76)
Paschasius Radbertus clearly stressed the reality of bodily presence, but his repeated emphasis on flesh and blood ambiguously seemed to indicate a presence of the physical, historical body of Jesus, rather than the transformed risen Jesus. In Paschasius's sacramental realism, the realism tends to overpower the sacramental. Ratramnus better captured the sacramental dimension, but his emphasis on Jesus' body being at the right of the Father effectively undercut "bodily" presence, even as he spoke of its being veiled or hidden in the mystery or sacrament. (77) For Ratramnus, the bread and the wine are primarily signs of the sacramental, and therefore hidden and invisible, divine presence of Christ in the Eucharist: "Internally ... something much more precious and excellent is intimated, something celestial and divine is manifested, that is the body of Christ." (78)
Neither side of this ninth-century discussion engendered any official reactions or repercussions. That would not be the outcome, however, when the two sides of the debate were taken up again two centuries later. In the eleventh century, Berengar of Tours advocated for Ratramnus's perspective and criticized Lanfranc of Bee for adhering to the position of Paschasius Radbertus. In so doing, Berengar went beyond Ratramnus and explicitly denied that the bread and wine are changed to become the body and blood. Instead, for him, they remained signs. For if they were not signs of a spiritual presence, how could they be a sacrament? He insisted that the "substance" or reality of bread did not disappear after the words of consecration. To say otherwise would "oppose all the principles of nature." (79)
Berengar's position, that the bread and wine remained sacramental signs and did not become anything different, was the central problem. At the Roman synod of 1059, he was compelled to profess that
the bread and wine placed on the altar are, after consecration, not only a sacrament but also the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that these are sensually handled and broken by the hands of priests and crushed by the teeth of the faithful, not only sacramentally, but really [in veritate]. (80)
That confession of eucharistic faith, written by Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, enshrined an exaggerated physicalism. It was after that event that Berengar composed his extended, critical response to Lanfranc's espousal of the position of Paschasius Radbertus. In that manuscript, De Sacra Coena, Berengar criticized the creed imposed on him in 1059, declaring that "the body of Christ, after it sits at the right of the Father, cannot be wounded, broken, or crushed." He maintained that the handling, breaking, and chewing are done to the "sacrament," not to Christ's body. (81) Subsequently summoned to the Roman synod of 1079, Berengar was soon required to subscribe to another, more nuanced creedal profession:
The bread and wine that are placed on the altar are, by the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of our Redeemer, substantially changed [converti] into the true and proper and life-giving body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord; and ... after consecration, they are Christ's true body that was born of the Virgin and that, offered for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross, and which sits at the right hand of the Father; and Christ's true blood, which was poured forth from his side, not only by way of a sign and by the power of the sacrament but also in their natural properties and in truth of substance. (82)
The references to "substantially changed" and "substance" in the 1079 confession indicate the direction that the future treatment of Eucharist would take. With the development of the term "transubstantiation," and its use by Lateran IV in 1215, (83) theology sidestepped the question about how the body of Christ at the right hand of the Father could be present in the Eucharist. Martelet saw the net result to be an abandonment of the concept of body in favor of the concept of substance. (84) One might temper that assessment, since the move to the concept of substance was not a decision to abandon the concept of body but an effort to resolve the dilemmas about bodily presence precipitated by the earlier debates.
Some two centuries after Berengar, Thomas Aquinas wrestled anew with the issue of how to explain that the Eucharist is Christ's body and blood. With regard to the body, he maintained that, after the resurrection of Christ, the same body, for which his soul had been the form before his death, was reunited with his soul: "And because the truth of the nature of the body is from the form [i.e., the soul], it follows that the body of Christ after the resurrection would be a real [verum] body, and of the same nature as before." (85) His perspectives on Christ's risen body are similar to what Augustine earlier maintained. According to Aquinas, the body of the risen Christ was "integral" (and therefore included flesh, bones, blood, etc.) and of the same nature as before death, although it was now glorified, incorruptible, and no longer subject to death. (86) Aquinas also considered it appropriate that the body, which the soul of Christ again took on in the resurrection, had the wounds suffered in the passion. (87) Although his body was now "spiritual," it was real and solid, could be touched and seen, and was able to eat and drink. (88)
Aquinas devoted four articles to a discussion of Christ's sitting at the right hand of the Father, (89) but his focus on substantial change in the Eucharist eliminated the issue of the localization of the body of Christ, which was so problematic for many of his predecessors. Aquinas explicitly says that Christ does not come into the Eucharist by local motion, moving from place to place. His body does not leave heaven and then simultaneously become present in multiple places at one and the same time. He instead maintains that "the body of Christ cannot begin to be present anew in this sacrament except by a conversion of the substance of bread into [the substance of Christ's body] itself." (90) The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a substantial presence after a substantial conversion of the substance (what makes a thing be what it is) of bread and wine. (91) Thomas explains that "substance is not visible to the bodily eye; it is not subject to any of the senses or the imagination, but only to the intellect, whose object is what a thing is [the essence of a thing]." (92) Christ's body "is in heaven under its own proper species, and [substantially present] on many other altars under the sacramental species." (93) Thus, the dimensional quantity (stature, mass, weight, etc.) of Christ's body is not localized in the Eucharist. Rather, his body is present as substance, replacing, via a substantial conversion, the substance of bread, but leaving intact the quantitative dimensions and appearance of bread. (94)
Aquinas acknowledges that sacraments are a type of sign, and, as such, they effect what they signify (efficiunt quodfigurant). It is not the sacramental sign that sanctifies humans; rather, humans are sanctified by the sacred reality effected by the sacramental sign. (95) However, in Aquinas's treatment of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, figure and sign are sharply contrasted with veritas, truth or reality. The Body of Christ is present in the Eucharist in truth, not merely in a figure or sign. (96) "We do not understand Christ to be there only as in a sign, although a sacrament is in the genus of sign; but we understand the body of Christ to be here ... in the manner proper to this sacrament." (97)
Aquinas emphasizes that, in receiving the Eucharist, one does not eat the material body of Jesus; for Christ's body is not present materially but "spiritually, that is, in an invisible manner." (98) (One might say that Christ's body is present in a manner akin to the way the soul has been said to be present in a human body.) Given that it is "substantially" present, Christ's body in the Eucharist does not move itself. What moves is the eucharistic species of bread, in which the true substance of his body is present. (99) Aquinas goes on to explain how the quantitative dimensions and appearance, or, in Aristotelian terms, the accidents of bread can remain after the substance of bread is replaced by the substance of Christ's body. (100) The bread and wine continue to look like bread and wine, but they are miraculously now the subject of Christ's body and blood. Their substance (breadness and wineness) has been converted into being the substance of Christ's body and blood. The appearances of bread and wine remain as sacramental signs: "The accidents [appearances] of bread remain in this sacrament so that, in them, one may see the body of Christ, but not in its proper appearance [specie]." (101) His proper appearance is seen only in heaven, not in this sacrament. (102) "It is not in virtue of their essence," Aquinas maintains, "that accidents are not in a subject, but through the divine power sustaining them." (103) He declares that, "in the consecration, the dimensional quantity of the bread and wine are miraculously conferred with being the subject of subsequent forms." (104) That idea provides a signpost for further development.
Moloney has described Aquinas's treatment of the Eucharist as
a complex piece of technical systematics. It is the kind of thought which is somewhat alien to many people today, not least because the grasp of its presuppositions has been so seriously weakened in recent times.... This kind of thinking comes to us from an age of faith, in which the sense that all things are under the hand of God was part of the air that they breathed. Crucial also is the belief that we are talking about Christ in the context of what is sometimes called a high Christology. Transubstantiation makes no sense except where the substance at its heart is that of Christ himself, the God-man, in whom everything is under the dominance of divine personhood and nature. (105)
On the other hand, as Chauvet observes, for Aquinas and the great Scholastics of the thirteenth century, emphasis on a change of substance was a rejection of ultrarealism and physicalism. (106)
Body as the Symbolic Reality of a Human Person
Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, noted some years ago that "the synthesis which Thomas formulated with such brilliance in the conditions of his century must be re-created in the present, in such a way that the authentic concerns of the great doctor are preserved." (107) This observation was offered within Ratzinger's analysis of what he considered Aquinas's new anthropology, summed up in the formula anima unica forma corporis. (108) In that regard, Ratzinger observed,
Thomas does not offer a recipe which can be copied out time and again without further ado; nevertheless, his central idea remains as a signpost for us to follow. That idea consists in the notion of the unity of the body and soul, a unity founded on the creative act and implying at once the abiding ordination of the soul to matter and the derivation of the identity of the body not from matter but from the person, the soul. The physiology becomes truly "body" through the heart of the personality. Bodiliness is something other than a summation of corpuscles. (109)
Ratzinger remarkably re-created Aquinas's formulation by equating the terms soul and person!
In his discussion of the ontology and theology of symbolic reality, Karl Rahner cites the Thomist doctrine "that the soul is the substantial form of the body" and declares "that the body can and may be considered as the symbol, that is, the symbolic reality of man." He further maintains that, according to the clear doctrine of Thomism, a human is not, strictly speaking, composed of a soul and a body, "but of a soul and materia prima [prime matter].... What we call body is nothing else than the actuality of the soul itself, and hence its expression and symbol." Referring to Aquinas's formula anima unica forma corporis, Rahner affirms that the body is the symbol of the soul, in as much as it is formed as the self-realization of the soul. (110)
Martelet emphasized that in explaining the Eucharist as the body of Christ, "we must get back to the mystery of the body." (111) Ratzinger and Rahner offer significant contributions to that undertaking in their retrieval of Aquinas's central anthropological idea. Ratzinger's equating of the terms "soul" and "person" and Rahner's perspective on the body as symbol of the soul are signposts toward a path for explaining the Eucharist that Aquinas prepared but never journeyed upon.
Bodily Resurrection as Resurrection of the Person
In receiving the Eucharist, Catholics respond with a creedal "Amen" to the minister's proclamation, "The Body of Christ." What is being affirmed? The localization of the glorified body of Christ in heaven and a sometimes overly physical conception of that "risen body" being present within the Eucharist resulted in a problem still calling for solution.
At the Last Supper, the historical Jesus had a living, breathing, physical body. As noted above, the Aramaic word for "body" likewise meant what we intend when we use the term "self' or "person." In our time, there is a growing theological consensus that "bodily resurrection" is not the raising up of the molecules of the chemicophysical body (which is constantly losing and gaining and sharing new molecules to, from, and with other bodies of all different kinds), but rather the raising up of the personal "self' or identity with its entire, particular, embodied history. (112) In that regard, Ratzinger declared that "the real heart of faith in the resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of the body, to which we have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible." Instead, "the real content of the hope symbolically proclaimed in the Bible" is "an immortality of the person, of the one creation 'man'" that "as such goes on existing, even if transformed." (113) Like Fitzmyer, Ratzinger noted that the Greek term soma can mean not only "body" but also "self." Moreover,
"soma" can be "sarx," that is, "body" in the earthly, historical, and thus chemical, physical, sense; but it can also be "breath" [or] "spirit"; in reality this means that the self, which now appears in a body that can be conceived in chemico-physical terms, can, again, appear definitively in the guise of a trans-physical reality. (114)
In Ratzinger's view, "both John (6.53) and Paul (1 Cor 15.50) state with all possible emphasis that the 'resurrection of the flesh,' the 'resurrection of the body' is not a 'resurrection of physical bodies.'" In contrast to Augustine, and more recently N. T. Wright, Ratzinger maintains that "Paul teaches not the resurrection of physical bodies but the resurrection of persons ... in the different form of the life of the resurrection, as shown in the risen Lord." (115)
Ratzinger also maintains that the continuity of human identity beyond death does not depend on having the same chemico-physical body. In that regard, he notes that the understanding of the soul that developed in Christianity implied a new view of the body. "In Thomas's interpretation of the formula anima forma corporis, soul and body are realities only thanks to each other and as oriented towards each other. Though they are not identical, they are nevertheless one; and as one they constitute the single human being." (116) Following Aquinas, Ratzinger holds that "the material elements from ... which human physiology is constructed receive their character of being 'body' only in virtue of being organized and formed by the expressive power of soul." Even in life, then, a human being is not simply a "physiological unit":
The individual atoms and molecules do not as such add up to the human being. The identity of the living body does not depend upon them, but upon the fact that matter is drawn into the soul's power of expression.... The soul builds itself a living body, a self-identical living body, as its corporeal expression. And since the living body belongs so inseparably to the being of man, the identity of that body is defined not in terms of matter, but in terms of soul. (117)
In brief, the identity of the body is derived not from matter but from the person, the soul. (118) While Ratzinger equates soul and person, he insists on retaining the term "soul," since he sees that as a good, and culturally indispensable, name for the "something" that bears bodiliness beyond death. (119) He agrees with a remark of Gisbert Greshake, rightly understood: "the concept of a body-free soul is, as an idea, a non-starter." (120) Ratzinger adds, "It is thoroughly obvious from this starting point (of Thomas) that man throughout his life 'interiorizes' matter. Consequently, even in death he does not relinquish this connection. Only so can his relation to resurrection be meaningful." (121) This point might be restated thus: the soul has an abiding relationship to the body and integrates bodiliness within its own reality.
In Foundations of Christian Faith, Rahner observed that "we miss the meaning of 'resurrection' in general and also of the resurrection of Jesus ... if our original preconception is the notion of a resuscitation of a physical, material body." Rather than a resuscitation, Rahner considers resurrection to be "the final and definitive salvation of a concrete human existence by God and in the presence of God, the abiding and real validity of human history, which neither moves further and further into emptiness, nor perishes altogether." (122) Relating resurrection to every person's--and thus the "transcendental"--hope to survive in some final and definitive sense, Rahner insisted that
resurrection is not an additional assertion about the fate of a secondary part of man.... Resurrection is rather the term which, in view of man's concrete situation, promises the abiding validity of his single and entire existence. Resurrection of the "flesh" which man is does not mean resurrection of the body which man has as a part of himself. (123)
As resurrected persons in union with God, we will have spiritual or pneumatic bodies, meaning that the "self' will never relinquish or be separated from the "bodiliness" of the historical process through which our individual identities were forged in a lifetime of bodily/personal relationships within the material world. Such bodiliness is no longer bound by time and space. Hans Kiing, Gerald O'Collins, and Edward Schillebeeckx hold comparable positions. (124)
A "Divine Person" Become a Human Person in Jesus
Several christological councils of the early church--Nicaea (325), Constantinople I (381), and Ephesus (431)--were convened in rejoinder to Arius, who denied the full divinity of the Logos and thus of Jesus as the Logos become human (Jn 1:14); Apollinaris, who denied Jesus' full humanity, holding that the Logos substituted for a human intellect; and then Nestorius, who denied the unity of Jesus' divinity and humanity. The Council of Chalcedon (451) countered the position of Eutyches, and professed one and the same Christ in two natures (en duo physesin), divine and human, coming together in one person (prosopon) or subsistence (hypostasin). Jesus' humanity and divinity were said to be united in the divine prosopon or hypostasis of the Logos (125) In our time, theology has sought to retrieve the full humanity of Jesus. As Vatican II declared, Jesus "worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart." (126) Aquinas spoke of Christ as one "in whom human nature is assumed as to be in the Person of the Son of God." (127) "The Word was made flesh, that is man; that is, as if the Word itself is personally man." (128) Walter Kasper moved beyond Aquinas's dialectic:
Jesus' humanity is ... hypostatically united with the Logos in a human way, and this means in a way which includes human freedom and human self-consciousness. Precisely because Jesus is no other than the Logos, in the Logos and through him, he is also a human person. Conversely, the person of the Logos is the human person.... In Jesus through his unity of person with the Logos, the human personality comes to its absolutely unique and underivable fulfillment. (129)
Edward Schillebeeckx similarly observed that
apart from a human-cum-personal mode of being, nobody is "a human being." In faith-language we say that the man Jesus is this person qua human being, thanks to his constitutive relation to the Father, just as--at his own level--every human being qua human being is this person, thanks to his essential relation to the creator-God. For Jesus this implies that his relation to the Father makes him in his humanity Son of God.... Precisely this "being a person" is entirely "of God." Jesus qua human being is this person through being, by virtue of that very thing, "the Son of the Father" ... without any loss of humanity, but on the contrary, through the confirmation, deepening and completion of all that positive human perfection, thus a fortiori, a human-cum-personal mode of being, entails. (130)
As Juan Alfaro succinctly explained, "Christ experienced himself in a human way as an 'I' who really is the Son of God." (131)
Jesus' risen humanity is thus much more than a body localized at the right of the Father. The presence of the Logos is likewise always the presence of Jesus as a risen human person, with the distinctive identity that he established in his corporeal earthly life and ministry.
Real Presence Rightly Understood as a Sacramental Presence
The expression "real presence" (realem ... praesentiam) first appeared in 1264, in the document Transiturus de hoc mundo, by which Pope Urban IV established the feast of Corpus Christi. (132) The adjective "real" encapsulated the emphasis of an era imprisoned by a theological reaction against Berengar, and bound by an understanding based on the model of a metaphysical substance, which was, as Chauvet put it, "central for the Scholastic conception of the 'how' of the eucharistic conversion." (133) Christian writers of the early centuries, up to and including Augustine, used terms such as "figure," "type," and "similitude" to highlight the sacramental sign. In the thirteenth century, such usage would be judged insufficiently "realistic." Even more, what the early patristic writers identified as the ultimate reality of the sacrament, "the Church as the veritas of the eucharistic corpus mysticum," was now relegated to secondary status. (134)
It is essential to remember that real presence is a sacramental presence in and through signs: the matter of bread and wine. As noted above, Aquinas acknowledged that sacraments are a type of sign that effect what they signify (efficiunt quod figurant). (135) He likewise insisted that the Body of Christ is present in the Eucharist in truth, not merely in a figure or sign. (136) To repeat an earlier quotation, "We do not understand Christ to be there only as in a sign, although a sacrament is in the genus of sign; but we understand the body of Christ to be here ... in the manner proper to this sacrament." (137) The word "real" emphasizes that Christ's presence is "more than sign," but it does not eliminate the fact that it is a presence in and through what looks like bread and wine.
In contemporary reflection on the sacraments there is a renewed understanding of what Rahner calls "the natural depth of the symbolic reality of all things.... Every God-given reality ... states much more than itself: each in its own way is an echo and indication of all reality." (138) Rahner's position that "the body can and may be considered as the symbol, that is, the symbolic reality of man," follows from his basic principle of an ontology of symbolism: "all beings are by their nature symbolic, because they necessarily 'express' themselves in order to attain their own nature." (139) Expression "is the way in which a being communicates itself to itself in knowledge and love." (140) It is the way in which one comes to know and possess self.
In Rahner's view, the whole of theology is essentially a theology of symbols. The theology of the Logos is the supreme form of it. "It is because God 'must' 'express' himself inwardly that he can also utter himself outwardly," in creation and incarnation. (141) The absolute symbol of God in the world is the incarnate Word. Jesus is the presence and revelation of what God is in himself and also "the expressive presence of what--or rather who--God wished to be, in free grace, to the world." (142) His humanity is not something in which God dresses up and masquerades--a mere signal of which he makes use. Rather, Jesus' humanity is the self-disclosure of the Logos itself. The humanity of the Logos is what appears when God expresses and exteriorizes Godself. (143)
For Rahner, the church is "the persisting presence of the incarnate Word in space and time" and thus "continues the symbolic function of the Logos in the world." (144) The sacraments are actualizations of the church as the primary sacrament, expressing the symbolic reality of the grace of God within space and time. Given that sacraments effect what they signify and signify what they effect, theologians ever more
try to show that the function of cause and the function of sign in the sacraments are not linked merely de facto by an extrinsic decree of God, but that they have an intrinsic connection by virtue of the nature of things--here, their symbolic character, rightly understood.... The sacrament is precisely "cause" of grace, in so far as it is its "sign'" and that the grace--seen as coming from God--is the cause of the sign, bringing it about and so alone making it present.... In a word, the grace of God constitutes itself actively present in the sacraments by creating their expression, their historical tangibility in space and time, which is its own symbol. (145)
As Chauvet declares, "the symbol touches the most real aspect of ourselves and our world. It touches us to the quick." (146) For example,
There are circumstances--bereavement for example--where words, powerless or out of place, can do nothing but yield to "body language." The rose offered, the kiss exchanged, the simple silence filled with a presence express better than any discourse the uncrossable chasm that separates me from the friend in distress--"I cannot put myself in your place.... I am not you"--and simultaneously, in this breach of otherness that they show, the truth of my presence to this person--"I am with you." (147)
Such is the depth of the symbolic gestures that sustain us in ways vital to our lives.
Jesus understood the power of symbolic action, such as breaking and sharing bread and drinking wine together at a meal. In proclaiming the kingdom or reign of God, he did not simply tell sinners and outcasts that God loved them and would be merciful to them. Rather, he invited those whom others rejected as sinners and outcasts to eat and drink with him, and endured the criticism and scorn it caused. His symbolic gesture powerfully actualized the reign of a merciful and loving God searching for, welcoming, and celebrating with those who were lost. As he faced death, he fittingly chose the elements of a meal, bread and wine, to be the material of his self-giving.
The matter of bread and wine are symbols of Christ's presence in the way the body is the symbol of the soul or person, rather unlike the way a flag indicates that an admiral is aboard a ship. But the conversion of the matter of bread and wine into the subject of the personal presence of the risen Christ is not an end in itself. When Jesus broke bread and said, "take and eat," and took a cup and said, "take and drink," he had another conversion as his goal. He was initiating a meal at which those assembled in his name would eat the bread become his body and drink the wine become his life-blood in order to be changed into what they received and thus become the Body of Christ within history. As Rahner noted, "The first truth of the eucharistic doctrine is, 'This is my body,' not, 'Here I am present.' ... It is not because Christ is present that we offer him as our sacrifice and receive him in communion, but the other way round." (148) He recalls that it was once said that the popular understanding of the Mass was that people thought of it "merely as the consecration of the host in the morning for 'Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament' in the evening." In that regard, we cannot forget that Jesus said, "take and eat." The real reception of the real body of Christ in the Eucharist is only the sign and the means--and hence sacramental sign--for the union with Christ in grace, faith, and love.
Chauvet emphasizes that "the Christ who comes-to-presence in the bread and wine does not suddenly fall 'from heaven.' ... He comes from the [liturgical] assembly--and this is why the grace of the Eucharist is Christ, head and body." (149) Men and women, all sinners, form the body of Christ. In the Eucharist done in his memory, Christ is present "not like a 'thing,' but in the gift of his life and his coming-into-presence." (150) The meanings of bread include food, meal, and sharing. (151) The eucharistic bread exists to be broken and shared: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one body" (1 Cor 10:16-17).
We are reclaiming what Augustine and the later Aquinas emphasized: the intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the assembly becoming the Body of Christ. Augustine reminded his community that "you are what you receive." (152) In his commentaries on First Corinthians and the Fourth Gospel, Aquinas retrieved the causal relationship between Eucharist and church that had faded in the centuries after Augustine. (153) In the Summa theologiae, he declared that the Eucharist is the greatest sacrament precisely because it effects the unity of the church through the communion of all members to one head, Christ. (154)
A Personal Self-Presence in the Matter of "Bread and Wine"
Eucharistic understanding has always involved a dynamic process of development. An understanding of bodily resurrection as a resurrection of the person, which for Jesus includes his human personality, makes it possible to move beyond the medieval conundrum. In the Gospel narratives, the risen Jesus has a transformed mode of existence no longer bound by time and space. We read that he is not immediately recognized (Lk 24:13-35; Jn 20:11-16) and suddenly appears (Lk 24:36), even in rooms where the doors were locked (Jn 20:19, 26). Acknowledging that "what" is resurrected is not simply the same kind of molecular, chemico-physical body one had in life, but the same personal "self' or identity that one established as a historical, corporeal person--in brief, a transformed, resurrected bodiliness--opens a new path toward explaining eucharistic real presence.
As noted earlier, the likely Aramaic words of Jesus at the Last Supper, "This is my bisri" and "This is my demi / bidmi" (Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20) meant not just body and blood but also self and life. Jesus thus pledged that, whenever we eat and drink in remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, his living self will be present personally in and through the materiality of bread and wine. The risen Jesus, in whom the Logos became a fully human person, is present in his full humanity, with his resurrected bodiliness. To say this moves beyond Augustine who restricted the body and the humanity of the risen Jesus to heaven: "He is present everywhere because he is God; he is, however, in heaven inasmuch as he is man." (155) We can instead say that the eucharistic, personal presence of Jesus as the risen Christ includes all that he was and became as an embodied human person in his earthly life and ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension--the final fullness of his human existence taken into eternal union with the divine. The eucharistic presence of the risen Jesus is not limited to his divinity, while his humanity remains localized at the right hand of the Father. Rather, he is present in his transformed, risen humanity, with its resurrected bodiliness ever united to his divinity.
Martelet declared that "the glorified Christ gives himself completely [body and blood] in the Eucharist of history." (156) One might add that the matter of the eucharistic "bread and wine" now do what his physical, living body, suffused with blood/life, did. The molecules remain the same, but they have become the bearers of a different reality. Like the body of the historical Jesus, the molecules now make his living, resurrected self present not only to us, but also in us and through us. Through the resurrection, Jesus, as the Word become fully human, is now eternally with God but also present to us "as he makes a fragment of the world [bread and wine] into an expression of his person." (157)
The Eucharist involves a presence that supersedes that of Jesus' historical, earthly body and blood through which the identity of his life was originally composed. Given the transformed life of his resurrection, Jesus' self-giving in the matter of the eucharistic bread and wine involves and makes present the definitive personal identity established in Jesus' corporeal history--all that he was and became as embodied and alive in his earthly ministry, his dying on the cross, and his resurrection. In the materiality of eucharistic bread and wine, Jesus, as the Word become a human person, makes present and gives his risen, living self in person.
The concept of transubstantiation has never referred to a molecular change but to a change in substance--understood as that which makes something be and be what it is. As Aquinas declared, "In the consecration, the dimensive quantity of the bread and wine are miraculously bestowed with being the subject of subsequent forms." (158) Adapting the idea that the dimensive quantity of the bread and wine can become the subject of subsequent forms, eucharistic conversion can be understood as the matter of bread and wine, "having been made eucharistized food by the prayer of [Jesus'] 'word,'" (159) which now makes present Jesus' resurrected living self. This parallels the way that, before his death and resurrection, Jesus' living, molecular body and blood made his historical self or person physically present.
Eucharistic presence emanates from and depends on the decision and promise made by Jesus. Whenever an assembly of his disciples gathers in remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, the materiality of bread and wine make his living self personally present in the very way his corporeal body and blood made his living self present during his earthly life. The bread and the wine inherently and irreversibly change into something radically different in the eucharistic celebration. Expanding Aquinas's insight, the dimensive quantity of the bread and wine become the subject of the personal presence of the living, risen self of Christ. They make the living self of the risen Jesus personally present, with his risen bodiliness--all that he was and became as embodied and alive in his earthly ministry, his dying on the cross, and his resurrection. The molecules of what were previously just bread and wine now function materially as his living body and blood did at the Last Supper, making the living self of Christ present to us and within us. As Aquinas emphasized, one does not eat the material body of Jesus; for Christ's body is not present materially (or locally, as in a place) but "spiritually, that is, in an invisible manner." (160) Aquinas was referring to the bread and wine converted or transubstantiated into the "substance of Jesus' body and blood." The same holds true if one shifts the emphasis from the spiritually or invisibly present substance of Christ's body to the personal presence of the risen self of Christ, in and through the matter of the eucharistic bread and wine.
Bernard P. Prusak
Villanova University, Villanova, PA
(1.) Louis-Marie Chauvet, The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body, trans. Madeleine Beaumont (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2001) 85.
(2.) Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 66, in Sources chretiennes (hereafter SC) 507, 306. All translations are mine unless otherwise indicated.
(3.) Mysterium fidei no. 4, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents.
(4.) Gustave Martelet, The Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World, trans. Rene Hague (New York: Seabury-Crossroad, 1976 ) 121.
(5.) Bernard P. Prusak, "Bodily Resurrection in Catholic Perspectives," Theological Studies 61 (2000) 64-105.
(6.) Biblical passages are cited from the New Revised Standard Version.
(7.) N. T. Wright, Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) 161-62.
(8.) Ibid. 282.
(9.) Ibid. 347.
(10.) Ibid. 348.
(11.) Ibid. 346.
(12.) Ibid. 353.
(13.) Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Gospel according to Luke (X-XXIV): Introduction, Translation, and Notes, Anchor Bible 28a (New York: Doubleday, 1985) 1393-94.
(14.) Ibid. 1399.
(15.) Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, vol. 1, trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Scribner, 1951) 194.
(16.) Fitzmyer, Gospel according to Luke 1399-1400.
(17.) Ibid. 1399.
(18.) It is important to keep in mind that the concept of "person," so familiar to us, was not operative in the NT. Our concept presupposes the development that followed Boethius's definition of person--about 500 years after Jesus' death and resurrection--as "an individual [and thus, incommunicable] substance of a rational nature" (Boethius, Liber de persona et duabus naturis contra Eutychen et Nestorium 3 [PL 64 1343]).
(19.) Fitzmyer, Gospel according to Luke 1400.
(20.) B. Kedar-Kopfstein, "dam" Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. 3, ed. G. Joannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans. John T. Willis and Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Ml: Eerdmans, 1978) 234-50, at 240. Blood (dam) "is the bearer of personally differentiated life, the vital element in the individual. Thus the word is semantically close to nephesh to the extent that this can denote life as such" (ibid.). When a person's life is saved, it is termed nephesh-, when a person's life is lost, it is called dam (Lam 2:12; Ezek 3:18-20).
(21.) Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 18-19 (SC 178-84); Dialogue with Trypho 6, in Patristische Texte und Studien (hereafter PTS) 47.81-82; (Pseudo?) Justin, On the Resurrection 8 and 10 (PTS 54.120-22, 126-28); Tatian, Oration to the Greeks 6, 13, 15 (PTS 43.15-16, 30, 32-33).
(22.) Katharina Schneider, Studien zur Entfaltung der altkirchlichen Theologie der Auferstehung (Bonn: Borengasser, 1999). Schneider documents how the need for a firmer foundation led to the development of arguments focused on God's omnipotence, and on the teaching that creation from nothing (ex nihilo) is grounded in God's sovereign creative will. The decisive argument for the reasonableness of the resurrection of the dead maintained that God's will for creation was inextricably linked to God's will for the ultimate fulfillment and salvation of humanity. Given that God willed to bring humans into existence in order to reflect God's image and likeness within creation, it was fitting that God bring humans to complete and ultimate fulfillment by raising them from the dead into eternal union with God. The fulfillment of humanity is what God is about, and in that regard God is not bound to the laws of nature as the Hellenistic critics claimed.
(23.) See Henri de Lubac, Corpus Mysticum: L'Eucharistie et l'eglise au Moyen Age; Etude historique, 2nd ed. (Paris: Aubier, 1949) 149.
(24.) "In illo sacramento Christus est; quia corpus est Christi: non ergo corporalis esca, sed spiritalis est. Unde et Apostolus de typo ejus ait: Quia patres nostri escam spiritalem manducaverunt, et potum spiritalem biberunt; corpus enim Dei corpus est spiritale, corpus Christi corpus est divini spiritus; quia spiritus Christus, ut legimus: Spiritus ante faciem nostram Christus Dominus" (Ambrose, De mysteriis, chap. 9, 58; in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [hereafter CSEL] 73.115, italics original).
(25.) "Non ergo per incorpoream naturam, sed per resurrectionis corporeae qualitatem impervia usu, clausa penetravit. Nam quod tangitur, corpus est: quod palpatur, corpus est: in corpore autem resurgemus: Seminatur enim corpus animale, surgit corpus spiritale', sed illud subtilius, hoc crassius utpote adhuc terrenae labis qualitate concretum" (Ambrose, Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam 10.169, in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina (hereafter CCSL] 14.394, italics original, indicating a quotation]).
(26.) Raymond Moloney, S.J., The Eucharist (Col legeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995) 107, references but does not supply the following quotation from Ambrose on the transfiguration: "Nos autem quotiescumque sacramenta sumimus, quae per sacrae orationis mysterium in camem transfigurantur et sanguinem, 'mortem Domini annuntiamus'" (Ambrose, Exposition on the Christian Faith [Defide ad Gratianum Augustum] 4.124 [CSEL 78.201]).
(27.) On Faith and the Creed 6.13 (CSEL 41.15-16).
(28.) Augustine emphasized that one should not imagine the Father sitting as if he had a body, with Jesus to his right. Rather, "to the right" refers to the highest state of beatitude where justice, peace, and joy prevail. The image of God sitting refers not to the position of bodily members but to the power of judgment, which will be especially manifested in the last judgment. Ibid. 7. 14 (CSEL 41, 16-17) (PL 40.188).
(29.) Epistle 205.2 (CSEL 57.324-25).
(30.) Ennaratio in Psaimum 75.5 (CCSL 39.1040).
(31.) De Genesi ad litteram 12.7 (CSEL 281.389).
(32.) Epistle 205.4 (CSEL 57.326-27).
(33.) Sermon 272 (PL 38.1246).
(34.) In Ioannis Evangelium Tractatus 50.13 (CCSL 36.439); cf. 30.1 (CCSL 36.289).
(35.) Sermon 361.7 (PL 39.1602).
(36.) Martelet, Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World 124.
(37.) Epistle 187.10 (CSEL 57.89-90).
(38.) De Lubac, Corpus Mysticum 150; see Martelet, Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World 127.
(39.) Enrico Mazza, The Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and the Development of Its Interpretation, trans. Matthew J. O'Connell (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1998) 155.
(40.) Augustine, Sermon 272 (PL 38.1247).
(41.) Augustine, Ennarratio in Psalmum 98.9 (CCSL 39.1386).
(42.) Mazza, Celebration of the Eucharist 156.
(43.) Epistle 98.9 (CCSL 31 A.233).
(44.) Sermon 272 (PL 38.1246).
(45.) Sermon 329.1: Mensa magna est, ubi epulae sunt ipse dominus mensae. Nemo pascit convivas de se ipso: hoc facit Dominus Christus; ipse invitator, ipse cibus et potus (PL 38.1455).
(46.) Confessions 7.10.16 (CCSL 27.104).
(47.) Sermon 227 (PL 38.1099).
(48.) Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.40 (CCSL 1.657).
(49.) Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses mystagogicae 4.3 and 4.6 (SC 126 bis, 136, 138).
(50.) Moloney, Eucharist 99-100.
(51.) Fragmenta commentarii in Evangelium Marci 26.26 (PG 66.714). See Moloney, Eucharist 101, 111-12 n. 31.
(52.) Moloney, Eucharist 123.
(53.) Ibid. 124.
(54.) Paschasius Radbertus, De corpore et sanguine Domini 1.1-2 (Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis [hereafter CCCM] 16.13).
(55.) Ibid. 1.44-52 (CCCM 16.14-15).
(56.) Ibid. 4.44-46 (CCCM 16.29).
(57.) Ibid. 4.74-84 (CCCM 16.30).
(58.) Ibid. 4. 86-90.CCCM 16.30).
(59.) Ibid. 19.11-15 (CCCM 16.101-102).
(60.) Ibid. 5.24-33 (CCCM 16.32).
(61.) Ibid. 14, 30-119 (CCCM 16.86-89).
(62.) Nathan Mitchell, Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass (New York: Pueblo, 1982) 80.
(63.) Ratramnus, De corpore et sanguine Domini 5 (PL 121.129-30).
(64.) dc Lubac, Corpus Mysticum 150.
(65.) Martelet, Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World 131-32.
(66.) Ratramnus, De corpore et sanguine Domini 94 (PL 121.168).
(67.) Ibid. 69 (PL 121.155-56).
(68.) Ibid. 7, 8 (PL 121.130).
(69.) Ibid. 49 (PL 121.147).
(70.) Ibid. 57 (PL 121.150-51), emphasis added.
(71.) Ibid. 9 (PL 121.131), emphasis added.
(72.) Ibid. 93 (PL 121.167-68).
(73.) Ibid. 96 (PL 121.168).
(74.) Ibid. 101 (PL 121.170).
(75.) Paschasius Radbertus, Against the Arians 2.70 and 3.33 (PG 26.296 and 394).
(76.) Paschasius Radbertus, Epistle to Fredugard 41-48 (CCCM 16.146).
(77.) Ratramnus, De corpore et sanguine Domini 101 (PL 121.170).
(78.) Ibid. 9 (PL 121.131).
(79.) Jean de Montclos, Lanfranc et Berengar: La controverse eucharistique du XIe siecle (Leuven: Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniensis, 1971) 88, 123-24, 184-85.
(80.) Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus jidei et morum, ed. Heinrich Denzinger, rev. Peter Hunermann, 43rd Latin and English ed., ed. Robert Fastiggi and Ann Englund Nash (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012) no. 690.
(81.) Beringerius Turonensis, Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum 3.769-75 (CCCM 84.211).
(82.) Enchiridion symbolorum no. 700.
(83.) Ibid. no. 802: "transsubstantiatis pane in corpus, et vino in sanguinem potestate divina."
(84.) Martelet, Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World 127, 135, 143.
(85.) Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae (hereafter ST) 3, q. 54, a. 1.
(86.) ST 3, q. 54, a. 2 and 3.
(87.) ST 3, q. 54, a. 4.
(88.) ST 3, q. 54, a. 1, ad 2; a. 2, ad 1; a. 3, ad 2 and 3; q. 55, a. 6.
(89.) ST 3, q. 58, a. 1-4.
(90.) ST 3, q. 75, a. 2; also a. 4.
(91.) ST 3, q. 75, a. 1-4.
(92.) ST 3, q. 76, a. 7, resp., emphasis added.
(93.) ST3, q. 76, a. 5, ad 1; a. 8, resp.
(94.) ST3, q. 76, a. 1, ad 3; and a. 5.
(95.) ST3, q. 60, a. 1 and 2; q. 62, a. 1, ad 1.
(96.) ST 3, q. 75, a. 1, resp.
(97.) ST3, q. 75, a. 1, ad 3.
(98.) ST3, q. 75, a. 1, ad 1 and 4.
(99.) ST 3, q. 76, a. 6.
(100.) ST3, q. 77, a. 1-3.
(101.) ST 3, q. 75, a. 6.
(102.) ST3, q. 76, a. 8.
(103.) ST3, q. 77, a. 1, ad 2.
(104.) ST 3, q. 77, a. 5, resp.
(105.) Moloney, Eucharist 142.
(106.) Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence, trans. Patrick Madigan and Madeleine Beaumont (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995), 384-86.
(107.) Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, trans. Michael Waldstein, ed. Aidan Nichols (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1988) 181; Eschatologie--Tod und ewiges Leben (Regensburg: Pustet, 1977) 181.
(108.) Ratzinger, Eschatology 180; ST 1, q. 75, a. 4 and 5; q. 76, a. 1, 3, 4, 7.
(109.) Ratzinger, Eschatology 181.
(110.) Karl Rahner, "The Theology of the Symbol," in More Recent Writings, Theological Investigations 4, trans. Kevin Smyth (Baltimore: Helicon, 1966) 221-52, at 246-47.
(111.) Martelet, Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World 143.
(112.) Prusak, "Bodily Resurrection" 64-105.
(113.) Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, trans. J. R. Foster (1968; New York: Herder & Herder, 1970) 268-69.
(114.) Ibid. 276-77.
(115.) Ibid. 277.
(116.) Ratzinger, Eschatology 178-79.
(117.) Ratzinger, Eschatology 179.
(118.) Ibid. 181.
(119.) Ibid. 252-55.
(120.) Gisbert Greshake and Gerhard Lohfink, Naherwartung, Auferstehung, Unsterblichkeit: Untersuchungen zur christlichen Eschatologie (Freiburg: Herder, 1978) 179.
(121.) Ratzinger, Eschatology 258.
(122.) Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, trans. William V. Dych (New York: Seabury-Crossroad, 1978) 266-67.
(123.) Ibid. 268.
(124.) Prusak, "Bodily Resurrection in Catholic Perspectives" 73-82, 89-92.
(125.) Enchiridion symbolorum no. 302
(126.) Gaudium et spes no. 22.
(127.) ST 3, q. 2, a. 10, resp.
(128.) Quaestiones disputatae 5, De unione Verbi incarnati, a. 1.
(129.) Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ, trans. V. Green (New York: Paulist, 1977) 248.
(130.) Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesus: An Experiment in Christology, trans. Hubert Hoskins (New York: Seabury, 1979) 656.
(131.) Juan Alfaro, "Gott" IV. Gott Vater," Handbuch theologischer Grundbegriffe, 2 vols. ed. Heinrich Fries (Munich: Kosel, 1962) 1:603, cited in Kasper, Jesus the Christ 248.
(132.) Enchiridion symbolorum no. 846.
(133.) Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament 388-89.
(135.) ST3, q. 62, a. 1, ad 1.
(136.) ST3, q. 75, a. 1, resp.
(137.) ST3, q. 75, a. 1, ad 3.
(138.) Rahner, "Theology of the Symbol" 239.
(139.) Ibid. 224, 246.
(140.) Ibid. 230.
(141.) Ibid. 235-36.
(142.) Ibid. 237.
(143.) Ibid. 239.
(144.) Ibid. 240.
(145.) Ibid. 242, emphasis original.
(146.) Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament 123, emphasis original.
(147.) Ibid. 124, emphases original.
(148.) Karl Rahner, "The Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper," in More Recent Writings 287-311, at 309-10.
(149.) Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament 390, emphasis original.
(150.) Ibid. 404.
(151.) Ibid. 406.
(152.) Sermon 227 (PL 38.1099).
(153.) Comm, on 1 Corinthians 11.7; Commentary on John 6.7.2, 4, 6.
(154.) ST3, q. 73, a. 2 and 3; q. 79, a. 3; q. 80, a. 1 and 9; q. 83, a. 4, ad 3.
(155.) Augustine, Epistle 187.10 (CSEL 57.90) (PL 33.836).
(156.) Martelet, Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World 177.
(158.) ST 3, q. 77, a. 5, resp.
(159.) Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 66 (SC 507.306).
(160.) ST3, q. 75, a. 1, ad 1 and 4.
Bernard P. Prusak
Bernard P. Prusak received his JCD from the Lateran University with studies in liturgy at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of St. Anselm. Now professor of historical and systematic theology at Villanova University, he specializes in ecclesiology, Christology, and sacramental theology. His recent publications include The Church Unfinished: Ecclesiology through the Centuries (2004); "An Eschatological Ecclesiology--Open to the Future and Possibility: Crucial Prerequisite for Ecumenical Rapprochement," in Believing in Community--Ecumenical Reflections on the Church (2013); and "The Ecumenical Household as Domestic Church? Ecclesial Threat or Pastoral Challenge and even Resource?," in The Household of God and Local Households (2013). In progress is a monograph tentatively entitled "Retelling the Christian Story."
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