Sunday, October 16, 2005

Trans trans trans what?

[I was perusing a thread about the Real Presence over at Papal Ponty's and decided to make a few comments in reply to an unabashedly liberal priest ("Spirit of Vatican II"). If I'm reading him aright, SoV2 claims a non-ordained Communion is Christian enough for him, since all transubstantiation really means is the transformation of our worship into a genuine mystical union with the Paschal Mystery. I disagree. I didn't intend it become such a lengthy reply, but there you have it, a lengthy-ish consideration of transubstantiated worship. Let me know what you think.]

There is much to learn from SoV2’s liberal fundamentalism.

First, we see the rigidly exclusionary logic of liberal theology. “Since the Eucharist is a communal celebration transformed into the Paschal Mystery-for-us, then it can’t be anything else, least of all sentimental, outdated, medieval notions of extra-communal Adoration.” Whatever transsignification occurs in the Eucharist does not occur at the exclusion of the real, enduring, substantial Presence of Christ in the Holy Gifts. The Mass effects an enduring transubstantial transsignification, not one element of which precludes the other.

Second, I find it just as ironic (but not delicious like BHM-ref’s tack, rather bitter and nauseating) that while liberal sacramentology always aims to “deepen” or “liberate” our view of the sacraments with (much hipper) talk of "transsignification" and "existential transformation" and "broader truths beneath narrow words" and “entering the paschal mystery” etc., it actually evacuate the Church's *total-ly* Eucharistic nature. By reducing (really, just condescendingly modernizing) "transubstantiation" to the transsignification of a particular ecclesial *action*, such talk actually truncates the Eucharist from the total, enduring, liturgical life of the Church and reduces it to a particular, temporal, anthropological act of the Church, rather than what it is: the ultimate *fulfillment*, the climax, of what the Church is at every moment. Liturgy is (literally) the “public act” of a community driven and filled by an ongoing inner work: the eucharistization[1] of humankind. United on every level of being with Christ the Holy Offering, we ourselves become a holy offering to the Father. The Eucharist, and Eucharistic adoration, is but the maximal exemplar of the Church's fundamental sacramental constitution, a structure which finds expression in numerous other practices. Icons, for example, are not venerable only when they are made, or brought into a church, or held up – all discrete actions – but are venerable at any moment precisely because they are manifestations of Christ ever-present and ever-active in the whole Church. Adoring an icon, therefore, is not a mere, discrete action of the Church or of a Christian, but is a sacramental node, a sudden bulge, of the larger, *ongoing veneration* we give to all things in an ascent to the adoration (latria) of God. So too with the Eucharist: it is not merely adorable in the discrete action of consecration or reception, but rather endures as a temporal, iconic "fixture" of Christ's transtemporal, propitiatory Presence with/in the Church, whole and entire *IN each local church FOR each individual Christian*.

Presumably, SoV2 recognizes the fact we must adore Christ in our hearts before, during and after receiving the Eucharist. As temples of the Holy Spirit, and as people allowing Jesus to cleanse us as His temples, I presume SoV2 recognizes the enduring, substantial Presence of Christ *in us* who have received. His Eucharistic endurance in us is the “fuel” that remains from Mass to Mass; He is the food that never empties as we feed on Him in our hearts; otherwise our theosis proceeds in jumps and starts. We can adore him in our hearts not by mere psychological recall, but in fact because of the perhaps embarrassingly literal fact that Jesus lives, grows and reigns in us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. But, following SoV2’s thinking, does the Eucharistic Christ-in-us evaporate after we’ve consumed Him and the liturgical dust settles? I doubt he would say this. Hence, why does he deny the perfectly obvious corollary: that because Christ “abides” in the Holy Gifts even beyond the epiclesis, we can adore Christ outside the liturgy. For, just as Christ-abiding-in-us is God’s supreme means of divinizing us, of “Christifying” us, so too is Christ-abiding-in-the-Gifts God’s supreme way of unceasingly sanctifying even the stones and soil that make up a church. As I said, confining the Eucharistic transubstantiation to a temporal liturgical action not only fractures the totality of the Church-as-perpetually-worshipping Body, but also in fact sever our existential, embodied connection to the very places we worship. The church itself, and its grounds, become consecrated as the property of the King who abides there. We do not go to Mass, then, to “conjure Christ” (à la transsignification), but to *encounter* Him as He awaits us in the Gifts He Himself prepared.

Third, SoV2’s scrutinization of Trent’s Latin trees misses its whole sacramental forest. Notice, and notice very well, that Trent, with the Catholic Tradition generally, teaches the adoration of *the Eucharist as realized in the Holy Gifts*, but does NOT teach adoration of the Eucharistic assembly or its discrete actions (which is the view of transubstantiation you expressed). By focusing adoration on the discrete communal action itself, SoV2 has effectively turned the Mass on its head: the actors and the actions become central; the Lord offered to us in the Host becomes peripheral; once "we" are "finished" with our sacramental "act", the Lord wisps away into the heavens again. Precisely by "freeing" Christ from the "beck and call" of transubstantial consecration and adoration, you have actually imprisoned him in our actions.

Finally, it should go without saying, SoV2’s nonchalance about ordained or unordained Eucharistic presiders has not even a toe to stand on in light of the biblico-patristic record. Without a bishop, or his personally commissioned presbyter, there is no Eucharist. Period. Of the non-denom Lord’s Supper he attended, SoV2 says, “I think it was a Eucharist much as Christ intended.” How nice. SoV2 is free to think what he likes about what he likes; despite how much varnish it gets in light of his ordination, SoV2 is not fooling anyone with the sophistical charade of thinking with the Church.

[1] Did I just coin that word? No [as I discovered {bottom} after brief research]! As longtime FCA readers know, I have a penchant for creating (usually unsuccessfully) neologisms, like "the Interneterati". Another miss!

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