Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Yesterday, Fr. Z at the What Does the Prayer Really Say blog, made some comments about what a former Episcopalian, turned Catholic, reverting to the Episcopal Church had to say about what he believed the Catholic Church teaches on a number of areas, his premises all wrong.

When it came to the Most Holy Eucharist Fr. Z lambastes his misunderstanding of transubstantiation:

The former Episcopalian who became Catholic but reverted to the Episcopal Church ridiculed what he believed to be the Church's teaching that "the bread and wine physically change into his body and blood during the Eucharist without any palpable evidence of it."

Father Z writes the following: "In fact, Roman Catholics do not believe that the bread and wine physically change during the Eucharist. The change, referred to as Transubstantiation, is sacramental and metaphysical, not physical. The "substance" of Christ's body is a reality apart from its "accidents" or specific physical manifestations. It is this substance which is present under the accidents of bread and wine. If "physical" is understood in the sense of "accidents" (or that which is empirically verifiable), then in Roman Catholic dogma, physically speaking, the bread and wine remain bread and wine."

Father Z has succinctly stated the Catholic Church's understanding that the bread and wine become the "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" of Jesus Christ. But this is not a "physical" changing of the bread and wine, but a "metaphysical" change. The "substance" the meaning, purpose, reality, changes, but the "accidents" remain, the look, smell, feel, taste, of the bread and wine.

But the accidents are no accident! In a sense we can say that the bread and wine once consecrated become metaphors for Jesus Christ, not similes, but metaphor. Remember your English class, a simile is when you say Jesus is like bread or He is as wine. A metaphor is when you say, Jesus is Bread; Jesus is Wine. You notice in the metaphor I capitalize Bread and Wine, but in the simile, I don't.

So what are the qualities of bread? It nourishes--Jesus nourishes. It is the staff of life--Jesus is the Staff of Life. It unites people who break and share it--Jesus unites people who receive Him, crucified and risen!

We could also get into the details of how wheat is made into Bread and How Jesus is "made" into our Savior and makes our salvation, by being crushed in the sacrifice of the Cross and "raised" to new life in the resurrection.

What are the qualities of wine? Wine brings warmth and joy to the heart--Jesus brings eternal warmth and joy to the heart. Wine unites people in being poured out and shared--Jesus pours out His life for us, especially on the cross, as we share Him in Holy Communion. Wine has a medicinal quality, brings healing when poured over wounds--Jesus heals us of sin and division.

We could also get into the details of how grapes are turned into wine. They are crushed, as Jesus is on the cross, etc.

We could go on and on about the significance of the metaphor of bread and wine, not only as it is Jesus, but also shows forth the one sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

So, we believe that bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Crucified and Risen Christ at every Mass. But we also believe that Jesus is Bread and Jesus is Wine at every Mass! Capice?


Marc said...

Great post (both your's and Fr. Z's). I like your exposition about simile and metaphor - I never thought of it that way before!

The Mystery of the Eucharist is similar to the Mystery of the Incarnation itself... How can the Second Person of the Holy Trinity become Bread and Wine? Well, the same way the Second Person of the Holy Trinity can become fully Human while continuing to be fully Divine!

Here's St. Iraneus on this point: "In the same manner in which you ascribe to the Eucharist only the value of a symbol, so also the incarnation is reduced (by you) to mere appearance: there is not more flesh in the one than in the other. The incarnation does not differ from the Eucharist."

Going back to the difference between simile and metaphor. When speaking of the Incarnation, one wouldn't say that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became like man [simile], but that he actually became man [metaphor].

I don't think I'm making sense here...

SqueekerLamb said...

Marc, you and St Iraneus make PERFECT sense!

For many of us humans, it's difficult to believe what we cannot physically touch, feel, see, or hear. To say that which to the physical senses is bread & wine, is actually something else is diffuclt to believe.

Kind of reminds me of people thinking were are just bodies without a soul, i.e. we are just physical beings. Ya' know I believed that for a long time, because I had nothing to convince me otherwise.
If the unbelievers would not put up walls and be open to the possiblity, then God will show them in they way that they need to be shown. He'll fix their unbelief if they'd just LET Him. God knows how to deal with the Doubting Thomas's of this world, if they'd only quit thinking that they know it all and just ALLOW Him to do His work.
Ya' know, Doubting Thomas didn't poo-poo Jesus and brush Him off. He took Jesus up on His offer to touch Him. If we'd be like Thomas and do things His way, then we'll also have our doubt and unbelief removed and be crying 'My Lord, and My God' at each and every elevation of the Eucharist.
So, if what Fr. Z, FrAJM, and Marc, and St. Iraneus have written is the way someone reading this needs to have it presented to them, then I hope they take heed, andnot look a gifthorse in the mouth.

J. Peliks said...

One would do well to review the history of the controversy of "exaggerated realism" as played out in the case of Radbertus Paschasius (d. 865) and Ratramnus (d c 868).

Jesus us not literally present, but sacramentally present under the forms/accidents of bread and wine.

SqueekerLamb said...

Forgive my ignorance, but what is the difference between literally present and sacramentally present?

pinanv525 said...

I took part in a public forum on religious topics at a small liberal arts college once. There were representatives from most denominations and Judaism on the panel. After several presentations, the floor was opened for general question and answer from the public. At one point, a little Baptist lady was grilling the very naughty Catholic Priest member of the forum. She asked him, "Fr., do you really believe that bread is Jesus?" To which he replied, "Ma'am, it is easier to believe it is Jesus than it is to believe it is bread." Hilarious! The audience roared with laughter. Undaunted, however, she later said to the Priest, "I cannot imagine that you actually believe in Infant Baptism." To this he replied, "My dear lady, not only do I believe in it, I have seen it done!"

J. Peliks said...

If you were LITERALLY climbing the walls, you would be holding on to the walls with your fingers and toes, leaving the floor behind.

If you were LITERALLY crying your heart out, your tears would be full of cardiac muscle and blood.

If Jesus were LITERALLY in the chalice, you would see hair, skin, etc.

LITERALLY is one of the most frequently mis-used words we have . . . Literally.

Frajm said...

S L, I think the point is not Jesus is not physically present in the sense of dead flesh and extracted blood. He is present, Body, Soul and Divinity, truly present, but in a sacramental, metaphysical way.

SqueekerLamb said...

The term 'metaphysical' is a helpful translation of the term 'sacramental'. Thank you.

(Just for the record, I did and do believe in the Real Presence...didn't want anyone to think I had knelt on hard marble for what I thought was only a simile.)

So, if something in the Church isn't considered by the church to be sacramental, then it isn't considered to be metaphysical, and therefore it is just physical..is that line of thinking correct?
If that is correct, then how does the church consider/view a marriage that it convalidates but isn't then sacramental? What's the difference between a sacramental Matrimony and a non-sacramental convalidated marriage in the Church's eyes?