Tuesday, January 4, 2011
THE ACCIDENTS ARE NO ACCIDENTS
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?